Aisle after aisle of toys beckon kids with noisy music, flashing lights and their favorite characters plastered on the side. Most kids have plenty of items on their wish lists, but once they get those prized toys, they quickly lose interest. Instead of buying another random toy destined to get lost in the corner of the playroom, opt for a more meaningful gift for the next holiday or other gift-giving situation. Those meaningful gifts are likely to become the most memorable things received as your child grows up.
1. Meaningful Artwork
Decorate your child’s walls with meaningful art related to their childhood or family life. These pieces of artwork become treasured keepsakes they can take with them when they eventually move into their own home.
Try one of these artwork ideas:
Watercolor or sketch of a childhood home, which can be done in Photoshop or similar programs based on a photo of the home
Framed key to the child’s first family home
Family tree painting featuring names of relatives
Enlarged image of your handwriting with a sentimental message, such as “I love you”
Map of the state where you live or where your child was born with a heart over the city
Shadowbox with the child’s picture and an item related to an interest, such as a favorite toy truck or an old pair of ballet shoes
2. Charm Bracelet
Charm bracelets for kids create an ongoing gift option that becomes more meaningful to your child over time. Start with the bracelet itself and a few charms. On subsequent birthdays, holidays and other gift-giving occasions, give your child new charms to add. The charms can represent interests, milestones or achievements in your child’s life. Choose a charm bracelet with their birthstone in it or a design that represents an activity they do.
3. Homemade Quilt
Instead of donating or selling your child’s old clothes, turn them into a quilt. Cut squares for the quilt from your child’s favorite shirts. This lets them still see the graphics from their favorite superhero shirt or the pattern from a shirt they wore on picture day, even though they don’t fit anymore. The quilt becomes a functional scrapbook of your child’s favorite clothes and childhood memories.
A variation on this idea is to cut a section of the shirt slightly larger than an artist’s canvas. Wrap the section of fabric around the canvas, with the main graphic centered. Attach the shirt remnant to the canvas, and hang the artwork on the wall.
4. Matching Jewelry
Matching jewelry that both you and your child wear creates a special connection even when you’re apart. Bracelets work well for this idea. You can find a variety of materials and styles, so you can get something that works for both you and your child. Beaded bracelets are often gender-neutral, making an ideal option if your child is the opposite gender of you.
Alex and Ani bracelets come in a variety of styles and designs, including bangle and wrap-style bracelets. The wrap design lets the bracelet fit securely on various sized wrists. Buy two of the selected bracelet: one for yourself and one for your child.
5. Memberships and Experiences
Actual real-world experiences are often more memorable than toys and other physical objects. Toys eventually break or become boring, but memories of taking a cooking class with your parent or visiting a museum often last. This gift option earns bonus points if you gift your child a first-time experience. You might give them tickets for their first ever concert or take them to their first ever baseball game, for example.
When possible, choose an experience you can do together. A family membership to a local museum, zoo or similar attraction is one example. Another idea is to take a class or lessons together with your child. This helps build that bond with your child and have fun together while learning a new skill.
6. Family Scrapbook or Recipe Book
A book that captures your family’s past is a sentimental gift that your child will appreciate more with each passing year. Compile a scrapbook with images and keepsakes from your family’s history. Include handwritten pieces from aunts, uncles, grandparents and other significant family members.
For the child who enjoys cooking or for an older child who is ready to move out on their own, a collection of family recipes is a custom gift option. Handwrite or type all the family favorite recipes so your child can recreate the dishes on their own. If you have old recipes from grandparents or other relatives, scan the handwritten recipes and print them as-is for a sentimental touch.
7. Journal to Your Child
Give your child the gift of memories by writing in a journal. Make periodic entries that describe your child at that point in life. Include big life events and everyday family rituals you do together. You can include drawings or photos in the journal. Give the book to your child at a milestone event, such as a particular birthday or high school graduation.
8. Planted Tree
A tree is a lasting gift that your child can see year after year or revisit long after they move away from home. Let your child pick out the type of tree and help plant it. A fruit tree is a fun option, because your child can eventually harvest the fruits. If you don’t own land yourself, consider planting a tree at a grandparent’s house. Another option is to connect with a local park, school or other public area to see if you can donate a tree and plant it yourself. Take your child to visit the tree at the special location periodically.
9. Family Heirloom
When your child is old enough to appreciate his heritage, consider passing down a family heirloom. Keep in mind that kids don’t always fully understand the value of a prized family possession. Providing a display case or setting boundaries for using the family heirloom can prevent disappointment over a lost or broken item that means a lot to you.
A teen or adult child may be better equipped to care for a treasured family possession. As kids get older, they begin to appreciate those connections to family more than they did when they were younger.
Examples of family heirlooms to pass on include:
A piece of jewelry from a parent or grandparent
A vintage Christmas ornament from your childhood
A toy you cherished as a child
Your favorite blanket from your childhood
If you opt to pass down a piece of jewelry, take it to a respected jeweler for cleaning and repair. An experienced jeweler can inspect the piece to ensure the clasp, chains and other components are in good working order.
10. Donation or Charity Work
Giving your time to those in need is a powerful gift you can give a child of any age. Gathering supplies for those in need, donating time or volunteering with an organization close to your heart teaches your child to think beyond himself. They’ll learn how to help others and gain a better appreciation for what they have.
The gesture doesn’t have to be a huge, involved project. Something as simple as donating canned goods to the local food shelter or serving a meal at a homeless shelter is a suitable option for kids. Incorporate the charitable efforts into your annual holiday or birthday celebrations to create a meaningful tradition.
11. Parent/Child Dates
More than anything, your child wants and needs time with you. Both family activities and one-on-one parent and child dates help nurture your bond.
Family time doesn’t have to be a big trip to Disney World or a huge, expensive event. Something as simple as hosting a movie or game night at home does the trick. This time is a meaningful gift you can give your child every month, week or even every day. Spend a dedicated amount of time without any electronic devices or other distractions, just enjoying your child. Let them decide what you do to make it even more special.
If you want to turn this idea into a physical gift, plan a year of dates with your child. Choose one activity to do with your child each month. It might be going to a movie or going to your child’s favorite ice cream shop. Create a simple coupon or invitation for each monthly date, and put each one in a separate decorated envelope with the month written on the outside. Your child gets to open up a package full of date invitations, but wait until the actual date to let her open the envelope. This helps build the suspense.
12. Hobby or Skill Supplies
Toys lose their appeal quickly once the next shiny thing comes along, but tools and supplies to support an interest or hobby can have a lasting appeal to your child. These gifts encourage your child to further explore a specific talent or skill, which can turn into a meaningful pastime or even a career.
Some hobby or skill supply ideas include:
A musical instrument
Equipment for a sport, such as dance, martial arts or running
Books with information on a specific hobby or skill
13. Homemade Items
Whether you’re a crafty person or not, a homemade item is a great gift idea for your child. It may not look like something you would find at the store, but isn’t that the point? A homemade gift item shows your child that you put your love and energy into creating something just for them, and that’s about as meaningful as it gets.
A simple stuffed animal, such as a sock monkey or an animal made out of felt, requires only basic crafting skills. This is something even a young child can appreciate. Another simple option is a fleece tie blanket. This option doesn’t require any sewing at all and gives your child a way to snuggle up with you even when you aren’t with them.
Your personal skills and talents may work well for creating a homemade gift. If you’re a musician, write a song just for your child. If you’re handy with video, compile clips of your child and special video messages from you and other family members. If you’re a talented woodworker, build your child a display shelf they can hang no matter how old they get or where they live. These items instantly remind your child of you and your love.
14. Engraved Jewelry
The gift of engraved jewelry is a keepsake your child can keep forever. The engraving makes it one of the best customized gifts for kids because your child can always look at the message you chose just for them. Most jewelry stores can engrave any piece of jewelry for you, with options ranging from the inside of ring bands to bracelets and necklace pendants. A locket is a suitable option because you can also slip a special photo inside the locket to make the jewelry even more special.
Choose something meaningful to engrave on the jewelry, such as:
Your child’s full name
Your family’s last name
Your child’s special nickname or term of endearment from you
A special date, such as her birth date or her adoption date
A short phrase you say to her, such as “I love you more” or “I love you to the moon and back”
Lyrics to a poem, lullaby, song or nursery rhyme you say together often, such as “You’re my sunshine”
Initials of everyone in the family
Keep in mind the size of the jewelry piece dictate how many letters you can engrave. The engraving cost often depends on the length of the word or phrase. Choosing a specialty font can also increase the price.
Some jewelers have engraving equipment to turn an image into an engraved design on a piece of jewelry. If you go this route, consider using an image of your hand-written message, your fingerprint or another symbolic image your child will appreciate.
Tips for Choosing Meaningful Gifts
With so many options for meaningful gifts for kids, it can be difficult to choose. What works for one family might not make sense for another. Choosing a gift that has meaning and appeals to your child can be a challenge balancing act.
Follow these tips for choosing a meaningful gift for your child:
More is not Always More: Keep your gift giving simple. Giving many meaningless gifts is a waste of your time and money. Instead, focus on a few things that pack a sentimental punch.
Gauge Your Child: No two kids are the same. One child might love a shadow box of their old ballet shoes and photos while another finds it boring. Even two kids in the same family might have different reactions to meaningful gifts. Take stock of each child’s interests and personalities to find a gift they can appreciate.
Time the Gift Right: Some gifts are better suited to a particular age. A young child won’t appreciate the significance of a piece of family heirloom jewelry, nor have the skills to keep it safe. If your child doesn’t seem old enough for a particular gift idea that you love, keep the idea in your back pocket for a few years down the road when it is better appreciated.
Match Gifts to Values You Want to Instill: Show your child what to value based on the gifts you give. If helping others is an important value you want to pass on to your kids, choose charitable work as a gift option. If you want your child to value your family’s heritage, center gifts around family heirlooms and celebrating things about the family’s past.
What type of meaningful gifts line up with your child’s interests and age level? The next time you have an opportunity to give your child or grandchild a gift, skip the toy aisle and tap into your creativity to create a meaningful gift they’ll tell their own kids about one day.