Our Favorite Non-Battery Toys & Gifts

The holiday season is fast approaching, and wish lists are being built! I know there’s a call for experience-based gifts over physical toys, but truth be told, at the risk of my house bursting at the seams with more things, I still love to gift my kids with some toys come Christmastime. 

Each year, I try to pick out the kinds of toys that I hope will be played with throughout the year and that can grow with my kids. Generally speaking, these are non-battery toys that open the door for imaginative play. I also like to give my kids practical, non-toy gifts. (For example, they receive a new pair of rain boots each year.)

If you’re looking for ideas for your own kids, or if you have relatives who want to give physical gifts instead of experiences, these are some of my favorite non-battery toys and other practical gifts!

Our Favorite Non-Battery Toys & Gifts

  • Magnatiles – For the kid who loves to build! The magnets in them help the units stick together, which makes building castles and towns a snap. (Pun intended– they make a great noise when they click together!) This is one of the few toys I genuinely enjoy playing with when my kids ask me to join in. What’s great about this toy is that there are so many extension packs, you can gift these year after year and never have too many.
  • Wooden train track – This may only apply if your child actually has an interest in trains, but this is HUGE in our house. Similar to Magnatiles, this is the kind of gift where once you have a basic set, you can just keep expanding with each gift-giving opportunity. We also love accessories to the track itself, like wooden city pieces and new train cars.
  • Play food – We have a toy kitchen in our house that just never loses its appeal, but we also keep things fresh with new play food for the kids to “cook.” Have you seen the foods that come in pieces you can “chop” apart and velcro back together? Those are a big hit… especially when your little mad scientist chefs make up crazy hybrid foods. We also love the Melissa & Doug felt sandwich kit for endless lunchtime combinations.
  • Books/personalized books – We never say no to a new book! Books are my number one go-to gift. What’s really intriguing my boys right now are personalized books with their names worked into the stories. Bonus points if you find one of those sites that lets you use their own picture in the illustrations!
  • Hooded towels – I know I’ll only get a few more years out of this kind of gift before my kids outgrow wanting an animal hoodie on their heads after bath time, but for now, they love these things! So far, our collection includes a dinosaur, duck, lion, panda, crab, alligator, and more– and they fold up perfectly in the linen closet instead of cluttering the toy box.
  • Socks – I say this in all seriousness: WE LOVE SOCKS. Santa brings my kids new pairs of funny socks for their stockings every year. They always get the giggles seeing what kind of crazy socks Santa comes up with. I also look forward to receiving new socks for myself each year. Who doesn’t want new socks?!
  • Snacks – This is a favorite in my house for the baby stage, but it easily applies to any age. Any baby who isn’t fully aware of what this gift-giving nonsense is all about always receives useful baby gear like diapers or wipes, but to make it special for them, I wrap up their favorite baby-safe snack. They definitely recognize the box of teething crackers or Puffs, which is exciting for them. Older kids can get a bulk order of their favorite snack all wrapped up– like the year I (accidentally) ordered my husband 12 packages of his favorite macaroni and cheese brand…
  • Mylar balloons – This is totally an honorable mention idea, but last year, my parents brought giant, dinosaur-shaped balloons over as Christmas presents for my boys. It was such an unexpected and funny gift that they went crazy for! If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box idea, a big mylar balloon may be it!

What sort of things do you love to gift your kids?

Erica Tran
Erica lives in Kenner with her husband Michael and her three sons, Benjamin, Joshua, and Elijah. After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost toys and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. There's not a lot of free time between working, reading and writing, and chasing her kids, but in those moments she's usually sprawled on the sofa in casual denial about just how messy her house is.


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