Giving a meaningful gift takes a bit of thought. The greatest gifts are those that keep giving long after the wrapping paper has been recycled. These gifts are not always tangible things but are often experiences, subscriptions, memberships or classes.
Gifts that get families together are another great option for Christmas. Old-fashioned board games or a personalized home movie theater box are great ways to create lasting childhood memories.
So, if you’re looking for some gift-giving inspiration for kids this holiday season, here are some ideas to add to your list.
1. A subscription box
A subscription box is a fun way to inject a little fun and learning into your kid’s Christmas gifts — options like KiwiCo crates offer "lines" for different age ranges, from infants up to teenagers, that teach art, science and engineering through projects and activities (for about $20 a month). Or you could try Little Passports, which introduces your child to a new country and its customs each month (for about $20 a month). Check out our full list of kid-friendly subscription boxes for more options.
2. A new family board game
I’m not very competitive, but I’ve never laughed harder than the game nights our family shared when I was growing up. Of course, the options have expanded greatly in the past few decades. Try Richard Scarry’s Busy Town, Eye Found It ($28 on Amazon) for little ones or Codenames ($20 on Amazon) for a family with teens. If you're looking for more ideas, check out our list of family-favorite board games.
3. An Instax camera
We might all be snapping away with digital cameras and phones, but it’s wonderful to introduce a child to the beauty of a camera with instant film. Instax cameras ($69.99 on Amazon) are durable enough to hold up to a kid’s bumping, and the gift of one is bound to bring out their creative side.
4. Magazine subscription
As a kid, I loved getting Ranger Rick magazines. There is something special about receiving something in the mail every month when you’re young. Get kids hooked on adventures with National Geographic Kids or Little Kids ($20 for 10 issues) or even Ranger Rick ($19.95 for 6 issues).
5. Conversation starters
Sometimes getting families to talk about deeper topics can be tricky, but a box of conversation starters can be a fun, game-like way of breaking the ice at the dinner table. Designed by a parent to help strengthen family relationships, the Our Moments box ($18.95 on Amazon) is perfect for mealtime discussions or even for road trips with your kids.
6. Sponsor an animal or charity
The holidays are an excellent time to remind your kids that other children around the world don’t have as much as they do. Sponsoring a child or buying an animal for a family or village in another part of the world might not seem like an exciting Christmas gift, but both options provide an opportunity to open up conversations about geography, education, poverty and the ways different people survive around the world. If you choose to sponsor a child through a charity such as Plan International USA, your kids will be able to write to your sponsored child throughout the year, making it a gift and ongoing learning opportunity.
7. Zoo or children’s museum membership
Admission for the whole family to go to the zoo or to a children’s museum adds up very quickly. If you’re looking to give a gift that the whole family can enjoy together, a zoo membership or aquarium membership is a great option. While some of these places may not be fully operational due to COVID-related restrictions, buying a membership for the future will help these organizations survive and will be something for the kids to look forward to.
8. A class
When I was little, my parents usually signed us up for a class we had been hoping to take as a Christmas present. Making an extracurricular activity, such as an art or dance class, a Christmas present makes it feel more like a treat than a requirement.
9. A family movie night box
When kids are young, movie nights are gold and any accoutrements are especially novel. Even if your family already has a Netflix or Hulu subscription, putting together a special box filled with popcorn, treats and slippers for everyone can help turn a simple and inexpensive family activity into something special.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2018, and updated in December 2020.