Wee List: 26 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

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Philly parents gift guide 2017

Because you see the value in experiences over things, or because you can’t fathom adding to the tidal wave of toys in your house, or because you want to give your UPS guy a break, or because some of the best, most meaningful gifts out there aren’t Dinotrux or Hatchimals or those weird finger animals that are (allegedly) going to be all the rage this year: Whatever your reasons, here are some great gift ideas for Philly parents — gifts that won’t end up in a giant pile of stuff in your playroom.

Tickets to one of the many awesome shows this year
There’s Peter Pan and Snow White at The Arden. There’s The Nutcracker. There’s Annie at the Walnut Street Theatre, and also The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley and StinkyKids the Musical. There’s a ton of Broadway musicals (for older ones) at The Kimmel. There’s The Golden Dragon Acrobats and Junie B. Jones at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center. There’s also the sing-along, princess-themed holiday show (complete with meet-and-greet princesses) at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on December 17, which might be nice for a Hanukkah or early Christmas present.

Classes: Cooking, gymnastics, music, dance, art, karate …
Whether you want to introduce your kid to breakdancing or cooking or tumbling or Brazilian martial arts, y’all know you can always find a class in this city to that’ll do it. (Hint, hint, grandparents: Classes make for great gifts!)

That (gently used?) guitar or piano might just be the gateway to a lifelong passion. Though as the owner of mini drum set — a gift from my mother-in-law to our two-year-old (thanks, Mom!) — I might suggest thinking long and hard about which instrument you pick.

A choose-your-own-book outing 
Yes, getting a book is not necessarily super new or exciting to most kids, even the bookworms. But the chance to go and pick out any book she wants from Head House Books or Joseph Fox or Barnes and Noble? Awesome. A trip to choose a book will become a lovely literary outing because your kid will want to study 100 books before making a choice. Throw in a hot cocoa afterwards, and you’ll have a thrilled little kiddo. (If you’re really into this idea, your gift could also be letting them choose a book a month, or bi-monthly, or some such.)

A choose-your-own-event pass
Kid gets one concert or sporting event or Fill-In-The-Blank-On-Ice of his choosing. (So … yes. Paw Patrol Live, here you come!)

This coloring book.
A 40-page, Philly-focused coloring book for your very serious colorer. (It was created by Meg Saligman Studio, which is best known for creating a bunch of the city’s most well-known murals. And all proceeds go to supporting public art!)

A park day
Within 100 miles, there’s HersheyparkDiggerlandSesame PlaceStorybook Land, Sky Zone 

An overnight at a cool place
They get to sleep on the floor of somewhere awesome (the Philadelphia Zoo offers overnights, as does the Academy of Natural SciencesAdventure AquariumElmwood Park Zoo and the Franklin Institute), and you get … a sore back. But it’s one night, and your kid will love it and remember it forever.

A year-in-the-life video
I’ve yet to meet a little kid who isn’t obsessed with looking at photos or watching videos of himself. Every year for our kid’s b-day, we put together a 10- or 15-minute slideshow of photographs we’ve taken throughout the year, and set it to music. (You can do this with Mac’s Photo app, or on any number of websites.) It’s a major hit each year; Luke constantly asks to watch his videos. (Bonus: These are nice keepsakes for the parents, too, especially if you — like me — can’t get your act together to do baby books.)

A “mix tape”
Introduce the thrill of the mix tape to a new generation. You can do it old-school and make a CD with all their favorite music (assuming you still have a CD player somewhere in your life?), or create their own special playlist in your computer or phone, or even download all their tunes on an old iPod. It’s very exciting for a three-, four- or five-year-old to have the ease of their faves in one album, and to own all their own music. (Also, since you’re making it, you can be sure to leave off the songs that annoy you the most. Sorry, Fleet Foxes!)

A pair of ice skates
The most expensive part of the awesome pop-up rinks at Dilworth and Penn’s Landing? Skate rental. ($10 a pop.) Buy a pair of used skates on Ebay or Craigslist or at a second-hand sports shop, and your kid can hit the skating rinks all winter without costing you a fortune.

Kiwi, Doodle, Cricket, Tinker and/or Koala Crates
These things are just cool. And getting special treats in the mail never stops being exciting … especially when that special treat is a fun, STEAM-focused activity (that’s science, technology, engineering, art and math) that comes in a box every month.

While admittedly, the kid might not appreciate the ease and savings a membership to one of the museums or play spaces around here, they do tend to understand when you tell them it means they can go to their favorite place (Please Touch Museum! Kroc Center PoolNest!) all the time. Another great grandparent gift.



Does this post seem familiar? You might have seen a similar version on Be Well Family, a part of Philadelphia Magazine’s Be Well Philly. Wee Wander is a collaborator with Be Well, and posts twice monthly over there! Feel free to check out other posts!