Take a look inside your kid’s bedroom or activity chest. What do you see? Gadgets, dolls, action figures, game screens, gizmos, toy cars, or if you’re really not very clear on this whole parenting thing, poker chips and a blowtorch. Sure, they’re fun. But toys get old quickly. More importantly, what are your kids learning from these toys, besides how to bet on an inside straight or burn down an abandoned building?
Thankfully, there are plenty of gifts for kids that aren’t toys. Not only do they provide hours of fun, but they also help kids develop their own imagination and creativity, as well as critical thinking skills and scientific reasoning. Love your work, Pokémon, but how are you going to help a kid learn about photosynthesis, entrepreneurship, or European literature?
We’ve found 20 ingenious, unique gifts for kids that aren’t toys and they are every bit as fascinating and fun as the most colorful or irresistible toy but encourage interaction and real learning.
Educational Gifts for Learning
Mention the word “school” and some kids are likely to groan or complain. But mention the word “fun” and you can secretly trap them into a learning situation before they even see what’s happening. These educational gifts for kids open entire avenues of new thought and learning about subjects they didn’t even know they were interested in. Tricking kids into education: That’s the most magical thing of all.
Boss Club Subscription
It’s never too soon to turn your kid into a profit center! Boss Club offers several learning kits designed to teach them the thrill of entrepreneurship, with packages organized around their own unique interests: dog treats, cake pops, bath bombs, soap, fudge, and presumably more. Each package comes complete with raw materials, instructions on manufacturing them into products, guidance on packaging and advertising, and step-by-step tutorials on firing the accountant.
Up and Away Subscription Box
International travel isn’t always within the realm of possibility for many kids (especially right now). Instead, let the nations of the world come to them. The Up and Away box is a multicultural experience that sends learning materials about the history and culture of faraway lands every two months. The peoples of the earth will show up at your house without your having to convert it to an Airbnb.
THiNK OUTSiDE Box Subscription
Pry your children away from their miniature screens and video games with a learning subscription geared toward the Great Outdoors. The THiNK OUTSiDE box sends a bunch of materials and resources for learning about nature and includes activities that incorporate the entire family. Your kids will develop skills like navigation, stargazing, building shelter — basically everything except sucking the venom out of a rattlesnake bite.
Superpower Academy Subscription
The Superpower Academy produces subscription learning boxes that devote equal attention to educational and emotional intelligence. Each month, Superpower Academy sends your child a box containing a “secret mission.” They use storytelling, adventure accessories, coloring books, and special tools to stimulate creativity and inspire children to make sound, thought-out decisions. The box also includes a magazine for parents, so they won’t feel jealous or left out.
Raddish Cooking Subscription
There’s more to cooking for kids than shoving a food unit inside a microwave and counting to 60. The Raddish kit comes with step-by-step, easy-to-follow recipes that will expand their palettes and inspire more confidence in the kitchen. It also contains historical and cultural background information, laminated recipe cards, access to online recipes, kid-friendly kitchen tools — everything but Gordon Ramsey shouting about how they’re making Swedish meatballs all wrong.
Little Sous Cooking Subscription
Similarly, the Little Sous box provides a kid cuisine experience centered on making healthy, responsible food choices and cooking them up on their own. The Little Sous subscription box includes recipes, instructions, food-centered activities, kid-friendly kitchen tools, stickers, side projects — everything but Gordon Ramsey shouting about how they’re making banana bread all wrong.
Little Passports Subscription
A fine catchall education subscription package, Little Passports offers a series of modules for kids from ages 3 to 9 and a little older. Everything from geography, science, the arts, history, and social science is covered by the Little Passports subscription. It’s sure to spark a sense of creativity and excitement about learning, without the need for bribery.
Educational Gifts for Science
No more letting your kid fry an innocent slug on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. Modern science subjects cover an enormous range of topics and concepts, many of which allow insects to continue leading trouble-free lives. Here are some unique gifts for kids that aren’t toys that will build your child’s interest in science.
Teenii STEM Physics Science Lab: Electricity and Magnetism Experiment
What child isn’t enthralled by magnets? Even more, what kid doesn’t feel the drive to wield the power of electricity on their own? One of the more complete and original STEM gifts we’ve come across, the Teenii science lab teaches all the guiding principles of magnetism and electricity, with a mind-blowing array of meters, lights, tiny electrical conductors, and instructions on experiments that harness the power of magnets and max out your utility bill.
Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family Friendly Experiments from Around the House
Scientist and mom Liz Lee Heinecke has written a book that outlines simple, fascinating, and fairly safe experiments kids can conduct in the privacy of their own parents’ kitchens. They’ll learn the principles of physics with marshmallow slingshots, throw eggs to learn about the law of motion, construct their own microbial zoos, make their own Petri plates, and even get a head start on astrophysics by making bottle rockets. Not included: industrial cleaning products or home insurance policies.
Groovy Lab in a Box Subscription
An award-winning educational tool made in partnership with Popular Mechanics, this scientific laboratory subscription helps children bone up on their STEM skills, refine critical thinking, and get a clearer understanding of advanced scientific subjects. Topics include electricity, birds, astrophysics, chemistry, gravity, hydroponics, botany, and more. Not yet announced: how to bargain with robots after the A.I. apocalypse, which frankly will require more finesse than science.
Light-up Terrarium Kit
Terrariums are making a comeback! The modern terrarium isn’t the same old boring glass home for pea sprouts and fungal growths we all grew up with. This one replicates the natural growing environment — and glows in the dark! There’s an LED lamp that gives the entire garden, soil layers, and decor a healthy, almost disco-ball sheen. It comes with wheatgrass and — you had to see this coming — chia seeds. However much we try, we’ll never escape chia seeds.
Disgusting n’ Gross Science Activity and Experiment Set
Part of the magic of youth is discovering new and innovative uses for boogers, slime, and intestinal waste. This box full of scatological delights teaches kids about things like “gels and cross-linked polymers,” all with the most revolting, stomach-churning substances known to humankind and adored by developing minds. Not to be confused with the above-mentioned cooking kits.
Bitsbox Coding Subscription
Prepare your kids for full functionality in the tech revolution with this fantastic web development subscription box. Your children will learn all the concepts and operations that drive programming languages. They’ll select the app they want to build from a huge array of choices, perform the coding through the Bitsbox website, and even share their final product on their mobile devices. Not included: Trolls leaving hateful comments in the troubleshooting section.
Coding for Kids with Minecraft
Minecraft, we’re sure you’re aware, is one of the most successful video game franchises of the past decade. As tech-savvy adults, we can’t begin to explain the first thing about what Minecraft actually is. But the kids get it, and this program helps them design their own video games using Java on the Minecraft platform. It also comes with “live mentor assistance” to help kids deal with their parents’ dumbfounded state of confusion.
ELEGOO UNO R3 Robot Car Kit
Let your kids discover the mobility potential of artificial intelligence with this comprehensive, step-by-step kit for building their own robot cars. It contains every single tool, electronic device, and assembly piece they’ll need to build a fun and functional toy while learning some of the basic principles of robotics in the process. Future editions may include a robot Uber passenger that complains about the route and doesn’t tip.
Gifts for Creativity
There’s no more important aspect of raising a child than building their imagination. Well, all right: Nutrition’s important too. And safety. Can’t overlook safety. Also cleanliness. And economic responsibility. Oh, all right, fine: There are lots of important aspects to raising a child. But imagination’s way, way up there. Here are some gifts for kids that aren’t toys that help spur your child’s creativity.
Lulu Jr. Illustory Book Making Kit
An award-winning creation kit that lets kids write, illustrate, and publish their very own book. More than just an in-home project with templates and colored markers, this kit helps kids actually publish their work in the form of a real, hardcover book you can order after they’re finished. Going on a book tour and answering pesky journalists’ questions are strictly optional.
Lulu Jr. My Comic Book Making Kit
Lulu Jr. also makes a publication kit for kids who like comic books. This irresistible project helps children develop characters, establish settings, and create words and artwork for their stories, with pencils, pens, guides, and more. Like the Lulu Jr. Illustory kit, your child will have the opportunity to receive a real, published edition of their comic book, as well as a multimillion-dollar script option from Marvel Studios. (Your results may vary.)
Book By You
What child hasn’t dreamed about being the lead character in a novel? Heck, what adult doesn’t? Help your kid blur the line between fantasy and reality with these custom books that put them in the center of the action. Your kid will be the star of adventures ranging from epic fantasies, probing mysteries, or even genuine classics like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and How I Turned $5000 Into Five Million in Real Estate.
MarbleSpark Personalized Books for Younger Kids
Of course, extra-young kids probably don’t yet have the literary appreciation for long-form narratives with lots of words. That’s why MarbleSpark produces picture books that include your child as important lead or supporting characters, featuring lovable characters like superheroes, Santa Claus, a bird named Featherbottom, and God (who is never an easy “get”).
Green Kid Crafts Subscription
Combining the disciplines of art and science, the Greed Kids Crafts box is a monthly delivery of experiments, projects, tools, and supplies that stimulate and support STEAM education in creative and colorful ways. A typical box might include an art lab, a tree installation, a weather station, a sound lab — practically everything that will interest kids or adults who really need to go back to basics.
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