No Toys Please: 10 Toddler Gift Ideas That Won't Create Clutter

Skip the toys, and give the toddler in your life a gift that keeps on giving.

If you have little kids, particularly if you have more than one, you might feel like you're drowning in a sea of plastic that lights up, sings songs and makes noise. With a toddler birthday looming, the thought of receiving more toys that will be played with for a day or two then tossed aside might make your blood pressure rise. You're not alone -- plenty of parents feel they're at capacity when it comes to the toy situation in their home. 

Here's the good news: One-year-olds, 2-year-olds and even 3-year olds typically don’t have the awareness of toy commercials and marketing that older children do, so it's unlikely you'll hear specific requests for birthday gifts (that is, unless it's Frozen-related), making it perfect age to give non-toy gifts. Here are 10 ideas to get you thinking outside the toy box with unique and fun age-appropriate gifts toddlers will love. 


Classes provide opportunities for toddlers to develop intellectual, social, and gross and fine motor skills while having fun in a stimulating environment. For little ones, music, tumbling, basic sports like soccer, art, swimming, and beginning dance and movement classes are favorites.

Zoo, Aquarium and Museum Memberships

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If your favorite toddler lives near a zoo or children's museum, consider the gift of membership, which can be enjoyed year-round. Typically, these institutions offer a variety of membership levels as well as gift cards that can be put toward the cost of membership. 

One-on-one Time

If you’re a close aunt, uncle or grandparent, give the toddler in your life the gift of one-on-one time. Make a special date for the park and ice cream or another simple outing. The little one in your life will be thrilled with the individual attention, and mom and dad will love the break.

Savings Bonds

So maybe it won't be remembered as the coolest gift ever, but a savings bond or other monetary gift toward a savings account or college fund will fill a need without creating clutter. Savings bonds are backed by the U.S. government and earn interest over a period of up to 30 years. They are available in denominations as low as $25. Learn more about giving savings bonds as gifts. 

Gift Certificate to a Restaurant

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Most little ones love the excitement of eating out at a restaurant. If you're going to give a gift card, choose an establishment that caters to families with young children. 

Tickets to Special Events

Toddlers are curious and new experiences tend to be big hits with the under 3 crowd. Kiddie concerts, special story times, festivals, performances and more will delight a toddler who is fully engaged in learning about the world around him. 

Passes to Local Tot Spots

The kid industry is booming, and communities and businesses are happy to serve parents and little ones who want places to go that are age-appropriate, safe and fun. Give your little one a pack of passes to a local playspace, splash pad, pool or other toddler-friendly attraction. 

Educational Apps or Music

Check with mom or dad first, but an iTunes, Google Play or Android gift card that can purchase educational apps or music might be the perfect choice for a toddler who loves electronics or dancing (or both). 

Nature-inspired Gifts

Toddlers love exploring outside and getting dirty. Foster this love of nature with a gift that keeps them engaged for weeks or even months. Seed kits allow little ones to learn the basics of gardening and watch plants grow. Bird feeders are another great way to get toddlers outside and interested in the world around them -- they can provide hours of fun for the budding birdwatcher. 

Magazine Subscriptions

Imagine how excited the toddler in your life will be when she receives a special delivery in the mail every month or so. There are several magazines subscriptions to choose from even for the youngest children. A few examples include: Babybug Magazine, filled with colorful content for young toddlers; National Geographic Little Kids, for the animal-loving little one; and ChopChop Magazine, for the chef-in-training.

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