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In addition to our our Top Twenty Toys, we also like to give our children useful tools. These aren’t necessarily tools in the sense of hammers and screwdrivers, although we’ve given those too, but something that can be used to accomplish a task or purpose.

Here are some of our favorites:

Light: headlamp, flashlight, reading light

I just asked Samuel to name the one tool that has been his favorite gift and his answer was a headlamp. Our guys use these all the time for camping and backpacking, but also for feeding cows, or doing any chores in the dark. Along the same lines, but not quite as adventuresome are reading lights and light wedges. I keep one in my suitcase and another in my nightstand for reading when the rest of the room needs to be dark. They also work well in the car and kids love them. You can also never go wrong with a good flashlight.

Cookbook/Kitchen Tools

On Honeybee and Ladybug’s 11th birthdays, they each received an apron and a Recipe Notebook that had page protectors and dividers for the basic types of recipes: Breads, Soups, Salads and Sides, Main Dishes, and Desserts. I put copies of simple family favorites in each section. They loved this gift and continue to regularly add recipes. It cost nearly nothing to make and has given them a sense of satisfaction as they learn to cook. We have also given cookbooks, especially to Sweet Pea who loves to cook.

Other fun things are cake decorating tools and special baking pans. Mimi was the french bread making champ at our house for years and a friend gave her these nice pans.

Magazine Subscriptions

Kids love getting mail! At various times our children have had subscriptions to Ladybug, Spider, Muse, Our Big Backyard, American Girl, Money, Kids National Geographic, and others.  We also enjoy Family Fun magazine, which is a great bargain.

Tools: toolbox, pocket knife, cleaning tools

We’ve given a toolbox for the car with tools necessary for quick repairs, a toolbox with general tools, and even a toolbox with a small hammer, level, and picture hanging supplies. A pocket knife is a great gift for a responsible child.  In our home, the small broom hand vacuum are considered lots of fun.

Knitting/Sewing/Crafting: sewing machine, knitting supplies, books

My girls all love to knit and are in the midst of some great projects.  Last year we gave them a simple sewing machine to share which was a huge hit.

Nature: gardening tools, bird feeder, binoculars

Russ loves to garden with the kids and we all enjoy having a bird feeder.  Binoculars are a great gift; we have three pairs that are always in demand.

Office Supplies

Laminator, stapler, jumbo paperclips, label maker, page protectors, scissors, a ream of paper, pens and pencils — what’s not to love? A child with a label maker can be a great assistant when it comes to organizing.

Education: globe, map puzzle, sign language DVD

I can’t help myself, I love things that teach my kids and stimulate their minds.

Travel/Camping gear: sleeping bags, lantern, rolling suitcase, travel games

Kids love to have their own sleeping bags and suitcases, and fun travel games help pass the hours on a long road trip.


A number of years ago my parents took all of their children and grandchildren to see The Nutcracker in downtown Seattle.  It was a fabulous and memorable gift. How about a concert or dinner out at a special restaurant?  What about taking a class together, or going to a ceramics painting studio?  Not only can we give our children a life experience, we’ll build memories that will last a lifetime.

Questions: What non-toy gifts have you given your children, or would like to give them?

Have a great start to your week, friends.


  1. Kate Sumpter (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

    When each of the girls turned 6 years old, my parents took us to see the Nutcracker. When I turned 10 I got to go again with my youngest sister who was 6. Not only did I enjoy the first time with parents, but the second time was more fun getting to enjoy it with a sister.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

      That is a lovely tradition – our youngest five haven't seen it. Maybe some day…

  2. Kim (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

    No ideas to share, but I LOVE the magazine subscription idea. Our oldest is very much into animals and would love Nat Geo Kids, and the youngest is a sports nut. I'm sure he would love SI for Kids. We wanted to get them something to read, and this feels more like the "gift that keeps giving" than a book (which we will still be giving.) Thanks, Lisa!

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

      I'm so glad you like it, Kim! My kids always enjoy magazines. Last year my parents gave me Real Simple for my birthday, and although sometimes it takes me weeks to read it, it is such a lovely pleasure.

  3. Catie (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

    I just finished reading your Top Twenty Toys 2012 and received some great ideas for my girls! Thanks! :) I love the flashlight/reading light idea in this post. Also the magazine subscriptions.

    I just came across your blog and you have a new follower. Love it!

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

      Thank you so much, Catie! I'm glad you like the posts.

  4. Joelle (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

    Practical gifts have become my oldest daughter's favorite gifts. She asks for things like humidifiers, down blankets, etc and is ecstatic to receive such things. A bedroom so cold it gets frost on the inside might have something to do with some of her requests :) Cookbooks also always rank high. For school one year my youngest daughter did a home-ec cooking course. The cook book I bought as her text (Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks) brought great joy when she realized it was hers to own.

  5. Jessica Pair (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

    We always give books to our kids for Christmas. Usually we also buy films from their favorite directors; my kids love Miyazaki, Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. This Christmas we decided to give something they need. Our son has Sensory Processing Disorder due to High Functioning Autism and doesn't like to sit on the toilet. We bought his choice of bathroom decor for our new house and are putting together a bathroom box (containing Scratch and Solve Hangman, Bananagrams, a book, a challenging dot-to-dot and a timer) to keep him occupied while he sits. Our daughter is getting a quiet time box because she has difficulty lasting an hour for quiet time. Also, we got our daughter a Babycakes Mini Cupcake Maker, an apron, and a recipe binder, which I was inspired to make by your blog. I loved the idea when you first posted it, but I wanted to wait until my daughter was a bit older and was showing more interest.

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

      Jessica, I love your creative gifts – and I'm so glad you like the cooking idea. My girls love their recipe binders and having special cooking tools.

  6. Emily (Reply) on Monday 10, 2012

    We live just under an hour from a major city, and so we give a family membership to a new place each year (and sometimes repeat a past favorite). We've done the aquarium, the zoo, an art museum, a nature/science museum. The kid love it, and we get free field trips for a year. It is fun to visit and revisit the same place and get to know the different sections of a museum really well. It works for us!