I’m currently all for experiences over physical gifts as I literally don’t think we could wedge one more thing into Jamie’s playroom. His play area has even expanded to a landing upstairs and enough is enough. I think we need to focus even more now on doing things with him and creating memories rather than cramming our house full of more plastic. (plus we have a huge amount to tick off our bucket list). If you’ve read my blog before you will know that we already do an awful lot with him and perhaps one experience may be no different to him than the last one. But if we can keep doing amazing things and letting him know that it’s an extra special treat then hopefully it will be appreciated for that.
Experiences Not Plastic Gifts
If you do go for any of the following ideas, as a Christmas or birthday present, I’m sure there’s plenty of fun ways to present this to them. You could wrap the ticket up in lots of layers, or buy a series of clues for what you are doing. Perhaps hide the clues around the house or create a game around it. So what are my ideas for non-toy gift ideas for kids? Read on to find out……
25 Great Non Toy Gifts – Without Leaving the UK
#1 – Family Friendly Festival Tickets
The UK is not short of family-friendly festivals. Some of them book up really fast and tickets are available right now for a lot of them. Why not take a tent or a caravan and spend the weekend soaking up the fun? My top picks would be Latitude in Suffolk, Camp Bestival in Devon and the Just So Festival in Cheshire.
#2 – Music classes
Jamie now owns a ‘grown-up’ guitar and a piano. I think that playing an instrument is a great thing for any kid to do. Music classes could be a good gift idea for your budding musician of the future. At 4 Jamie has a great readiness to learn. Perhaps you could buy them a ‘proper’ musical instrument as a gift with the promise of lessons?
#3 – Walk an Alpaca
There are a few places in the UK where you can take an Alpaca for a walk. I’ve totally sold myself on this one just by browsing a few websites, they are so cute! Jamie is mad on animals and would love to do this. Plus it gets them outside and exercising at the same time. Win! Win! Why not look at Charnwood Forest Alpacas in Leicestershire, Beacon Alpacas in Yorkshire or Lucky Tails Alpaca farm in Warwickshire.
#4 – Birds of Prey Experience
Jamie was only 3 when he first had a proper birds of prey experience and he loved it. He was so sweet with them stroking them and talking to them. I don’t think he now remembers his experience so it would be lovely for him to do it again soon. The choice of places that offer experiences is vast. Jamie, for example, tried it at Centre Parcs. For me I think the more outdoors you are for this experience the better so look for somewhere out in the countryside and also look for somewhere that allows the children to fly owls. They are the most likely to want to be stroked and are such amazing calm animals. They are also less likely to fly off and are light on the hand (well glove!).
I like the look of the family owl encounter at Baytree garden centre, near Spalding.
#5 – Junior Animal Experience
I can’t wait for Jamie to be old enough to have a junior experience at a zoo. It’s something that I know he will love as he adores animals and it would be a great learning experience. Most have a minimum age of 6 or 7. There are all sorts of experiences out there such as meet the Meerkats, zookeeper for a day, big cat encounters and more. If anyone ever comes across anything for under 7’s please do let me know.
#6 – Annual Pass to their Favourite Attraction
Is there somewhere that your kids are always asking to visit? Is there somewhere where you go a lot? It may be time to invest in an annual pass. It would make the kids year to know that they can go as much as they want. Nearly all major attractions offer annual passes. There can be some great savings made by purchasing one.
Twycross zoo, for example, offer an annual pass for £60 for an adult and £40 for a child. Not only does this allow you to visit the zoo as much as you like in 364 days but it also allows you free entry into 10 other zoos across the UK. How great is that?
#7 – Hotel stay at a Major UK Theme Park
Themed rooms. They are Jamie’s dream. He loves them and I must admit I do as well. They are so expensive though but if you get yourself on the attractions mailing list then you can be ready and in the know for when they have their sales (usually in January).
As this is one of the more pricey of my suggestions why not ask other people, wanting to buy your little one something, to chip in as well? Before he gets too old for Cbeebies we would love to stay at Alton Tower’s new themed hotel. They have all sorts of themed rooms from Postman Pat to In the night garden and from Swashbuckle to Octonauts.
#8 – Something Sporty that they’ve never done before
I would love for Jamie to experience some new sports soon. I think it would be really fun to book for him to do something a little different to what he’s used to. As he’s only four there is probably quite a limit on what he can try but young children can have a go at archery, kayaking with their parents, ice skating with the help of penguins and other such characters or go junior tubing at an indoor ski slope.
#9 – Young Driver Experience
Again there are a few places across the UK offering young driver experiences. I have found one from the age of 5 where they can drive around in a 2 seater electric car for 20 minutes. The cars are fitted with an automatic braking system to avoid collisions. Jamie thinks he has to be 17 to drive a car, he would be over the moon to be able to do this. They get to drive on a mini road system with junctions and roundabouts.
#10 – Luxury Glamping
Or any kind of glamping. Maybe once you’ve tried luxury glamping you will never try ‘regular’ glamping. I am sure this will be an appreciated thing to do. Jamie loved our first ever glamping holiday and has been nagging ever since to go again. This time we would love our own facilities and heating of some kind. There are some really magical places to book in some stunning locations.
#11 – Stay in a Castle
It’s a win win if your child loves Princesses or Knights because staying in a real castle means that they can live out their fantasies. Imagine their faces when they see that you’ve booked to stay at one. There are some really magical castles waiting to be stayed at.
#12 – Steam Train Journey
Most kids I’m sure love a ride on a steam train. We are lucky in the UK to have so many places still running steam trains. If your kids love Thomas the tank engine why not book for them to have a ride at one of the many places across the UK.
Or for a longer journey you could book on the Whitby to Pickering route with North York Moors. This train travels through some of the most beautiful scenery that the UK has to offer. The journey one way takes about an hour and a half.
#13 – Search for Fossils
Why not book a holiday somewhere where there are fossils to be found on the beach? Not only are you teaching your kids something about history but I’m sure it’s a memory that will last. Plus you will hopefully find something to take away and remember the holiday by. You could book to stay along the Jurassic coast from Dorset to East Devon. Other places are just south of Robin hoods bay up in north Yorkshire, LLantwit Major in Wales and more.
#14 – Go Whale or Dolphin watching
Believe it or not, there are a few places along the UK coastline where you can go on a cruise to spot a dolphin and/or whales. Whitby whale watching has a great graph on their page stating the best times to go out to sea to hopefully see these amazing sea mammals. Some of the boats even have toilets, big bonus! Remember though that sightings can’t be guaranteed and wrap up warm, it can get very cold out at sea.
#15 – Sleep under the stars ?
This is probably one for the summer months but our boy is obsessed with the stars. To try and explain death, to our then 3 year old, we told him that his Grandad had died and had gone to be with the stars but would never be able to come back. He loves to go out in the dark and gaze up at his Grandad. This would be an ultimate experience for him and I know it’s one I loved doing as girl guide when I was young.
There are very few places now in the UK to get a really good view of the stars. Sadly street lighting and pollution are hiding our stars away. The National trust have published a useful list of where to stay to get the best views of the stars.
#16 – Spend the night in a Museum
Have you ever seen the film ‘Night at the museum’? It’s a great film and should be on everyone’s family film bucket list. Inspired by the film there are now a few museums that actually allow you to stay over night. Most sleepovers at museums in London are for children aged 7+. You can even sleep with the dinosaurs at the Natural history museum. Kids can enjoy a torch-lit trail of the dinosaur gallery, create their own dinosaur t-shirt and enjoy a live science show with a museum expert. When you wake up, and before the museum opens to the public, you can dig into a delicious breakfast and a live animal show.
#17 – Hire a Boat on the Waterways of the UK
Why not give your kids a whole new view of the UK that can only be seen by boat? Our nation is full of waterways and boat hire companies. From canal boats to large boats, there’s something to suit everyone.
#18 – Indoor SkyDiving
Kids from the age of 3 children can experience indoor Skydiving. What fun! Ever since Jamie saw his cousin sky dive for real he has wanted to do it himself. There’s a lot of years to live until he can do this for real so for now this experience could be for him. You are suspended in a wind tunnel by a 120mph wind. The flight itself doesn’t last very long, however, the experience itself isn’t too expensive and the overall visits lasts for nearly 2 hours.
#19 – Go Karting
I keep meaning to take Jamie but we never get round to it and I know that he’d love to go. He is a really good driver and can navigate a coin-operated quad bike with ease. Not all circuits allow really young children to drive themselves, however, there are some out there and others allow children to ride with an adult. Why not book for a few family members to go and you can all have a race? Some tracks are indoors and some are outdoors.
Days out with the kids is a great website to check. Simply enter in go-karting and your area and it will show what age kids can go-kart at each location.
#20 – Themed Photoshoot
You could actually make a photo shoot fun for your kids. There are quite a lot of photographers now offering themed photoshoots. Your child could see themselves transformed into a superhero, fairy, elf or almost anything their heart desires. The bonus is you then get some lovely keepsakes.
#21 – A Meal at a Themed Restaurant
Why not make eating out really fun and book a meal for you all at a themed restaurant? The one I know my boy would love is the Rainforest café in London. The Bubba Gump fish co. based on the film Forrest Gump also looks like a lot of fun. Hard rock café, Planet Hollywood, Sticky Fingers and All star lanes are also fun family-friendly restaurants.
#22 – Afternoon Tea
Jamie has done this twice already and loved it both times. Sure he was a bit of a fidget but the staff didn’t mind and he was in food heaven. Both places we booked offered a smaller selection of food for him and they both spoilt him as much as ourselves.
#23 – Tickets for Cirque De Soleil
My husband treated me a few years ago and took me to see Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall. Jamie is fascinated by shows and all things to do with the circus. I am sure he will love this as it’s incredibly stunning and breathtaking. While they do tour the UK at arenas the ultimate would be to see them again at the Royal Albert Hall. Why not push the boat out and book a family adventure package? On their Ovo tour you will go on a hunt for the ‘missing egg’, the kids will have their faces painted, there is food and drink, premium stalls near the stage plus drinks and sweets in a private room during the interval. wow!
#24 – Adopt an Animal and then take them to meet it
Most zoos and animal parks in the UK offer animal adoption. There’s a variety of keepsakes your child will be given in return and then you could really make their year by taking them to meet their adopted pet. Although if you adopt a lion I doubt they will be allowed to stroke it! Many sanctuaries also offer animal adoption or there are national charities such as the WWF where you can adopt an email, although they won’t be able to meet them as they offer adoptions overseas.
#25 – Tickets for Disney on Ice
Jamie loved Disney on Ice so much last year that we are going again this year. If you all love Disney as much as we do then seeing them skating on ice can be a magical experience. This option can apply for any show that your child may love to go and see. A trip to the theatre or an arena is a great gift option.
25 Great Non Toy Gift Ideas for Children – Christmas and Birthdays
I hope you enjoyed my round-up post. Do you have any more non-plastic gift ideas to add to the list? Please comment below. Why not subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates? Or keep in touch on social media. We are very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not pin this post for later? Simply click on the image below and maybe give us a follow as well.