Christmas morning with the author’s son. (Jamie Davis Smith)

Children are dropping letters in the mail to Santa and letting parents know what they want for the holidays. For many parents, however, the idea of bringing toys into the house that aren’t likely to be played with past New Year’s Eve has them looking for alternatives. The good news is that there are plenty options for great gifts. Last year, we shared this list of 20 ideas, and this year we have 15 more bright ideas.

  1. Exercise equipment: While children might not appreciate the gift of good health, they can appreciate fun that makes them fit. Try a mini trampoline for indoor use or go for a larger model for outdoor use. Or consider a moon bounce. As with trampolines, small ones may fit indoors (measure your ceilings before buying) or large ones can be used outdoors. If bouncing isn’t your thing, try a basketball hoop (even a small indoor version), a jump rope, or new two wheeler. There are Backyard Ninja kits and colorful river stones and hilltops that can be used to create in-home obstacle courses.
  1. Journal: Nearly every child likes to draw or write. Any simple book with paper will do, but kids will love a real journal with a lock or personalized with an initial or photo. Fans of “Iggy Peck, Architect” and “Rosie Revere, Engineer” will love this “Peck & Revere Journal” designed for noting down bright ideas. Many kids love the “Wreck This Journal” with creative prompts throughout.  The “Who Is? Journal” based on the popular Who Was? series is a great journal that prompts kids to record the story of their own lives. Older kids will like “642 Things to Write About” with tons of writing prompts on just about every topic.
  1. Conversation questions: To spark conversation and funny stories, try some guided questions. The Family Dinner Box of Questions is a fun way for kids to ask questions and to get everyone talking. These free printable questions can be used to make a Key Jar that kids can unwrap. Kids will love getting the opportunity to talk about themselves as a gift!
  1. Multi-cultural treats: Many families consume their fair share treats during the holidays. Try something different like a box of snacks from Universal Yums that is full of treats from a different country. Order one box to enjoy throughout the holidays or get a monthly subscription. Boxes may include “local” twists snacks you may already know, as well as treats typically only consumed in the country.
  1. A box of awesome: The gift of an Awesome Box is a great idea for anyone on your list. The box of photos and notes is co-created by friends and family. Once you start a box, you can send invitations to anyone and they can design a card with a photo on one side and a note on the other. Once complete, Awesome Box prints the cards on high-quality paper, packages them up, and sends them to the lucky recipient. Any child would love to receive a box of notes from the important people in their lives. Or, create the cards yourself and fill a box with family memories from the past year. Photos can be uploaded right from your phone or Facebook.
  1. Clothes: Clothes are a necessity, but they don’t have to be boring. Does your teen want an expensive pair of jeans or sneakers? Does your little girl want a frivolous furry fest? Do your kids clamor for every Pokémon shirt they see? The holidays are a great time to splurge on these types of clothing items. Specialty clothing your kids need for activities like dance, soccer, or even playing in the snow make great gifts. For very little ones, Hi Little One makes completely customizable adorable clothing.
  1. Pocket knife and tools: If you have ever seen a group of Cub Scouts happily whittling away at a stick, you know how much joy children get from handling something grown-up and making something with their own hands. Other children take pride in having their own hammer to help with projects around the house. As long as your child is old enough to understand safety parameters they will be delighted with a gift that shows you trust them and that they can use to help out around the house or create.
  1. How-to and then do: Does your child love to help you make cookies? Try a pastry cookbook, along with a package of ingredients and an apron. Has your child shown an interest in photography? Try a book like “Photo Adventures for Kids” along with something kid-friendly like the Polaroid Snap Touch Instant Share that allows users to print or share directly from the camera. The possibilities are endless from gardening and building projects to coding and travel planning.
  1. Book of their artwork: Many kids create artwork at an astonishing rate — and get very upset if they find one of their masterpieces in the trash. Solve your clutter problem and address your child’s attachment issues with a book of their artwork. Snap a photo of any piece of artwork then print a book of their artwork. Check out an Economy Photobook like this one from Mpix if you think the book will take a beating.
  1. Furniture: While kids likely won’t be excited about a new living-room sofa, they would love their own kid-friendly piece, like a comfy beanbag chair, a new desk, or a kid-sized table for play and snacks. This Learning Tower from Little Partners is popular with the toddler and preschool set to allow kids to safely “help” in the kitchen. Or, try something fun like a race-car themed bed that will last for years.
  1. Jewelry: Many children love the colorful jewelry sold at toy stores. If your budget is a little higher, consider a customizable option from the Isabelle Grace Jewelry Mini and Just for Kids collections so that your child can have a necklace that reflects her personality. If you are looking for an heirloom piece, try starting a charm bracelet that you add to each year. Boys might like faux dog tags, a shield initial tag, or a pair of cuff links that they can use into adulthood.
  1. Music: Find a way to incorporate music into your holiday giving. Make a new “mix tape” on a CD or phone of your child’s favorites. Or, take the opportunity to introduce her to all new music. Another option is to create a personalized song, such as those available from Instasong that you can create online in about three minutes. Try a kid-friendly Karaoke machine like a Singing Machine that has a large screen from which kids can read lyrics and comes with a real microphone.
  1. Pictures galore: Most kids love seeing photos of themselves and their families. It may be difficult to pass off that framed family portrait you have been wanting as a gift for your child, but check out these fun options like a photo growth chart, statuettes, and even wall clings made from your photos.
  1. Books and beyond: Books are an obvious non-toy gift, but think beyond the ordinary for the holidays. If you are always on the go or your older child reads a ton, try a subscription to Audio Books that syncs your reading progress across multiple devices. Younger kids will enjoy a personalized book that can put them in any story from a Christmas adventure to a Frozen or Star Wars story. If you get lucky, you may be able to get an autographed copy of new release by checking your local bookstore or calling the publisher. If you are really lucky, you may be able to find your child’s favorite author in person. Or, go the more traditional route with a boxed set of books for little kids, choose from a set of classic series that come with a personalized book band with the recipient’s name or make your own set like this one from Puffin Classics.
  1. Anything they need: Think creatively about upcoming purchases that can double as gifts. Will your son need a new bike helmet? Does your daughter have a camping trip in the spring and needs a sleeping bag? Are your paints and crayons in need of replacements? The holidays are a perfect time to give these things to your children. If you feel a little guilty buying something for the holidays that you would purchase anyway, consider an upgrade such as a backpack with a character if you would normally buy a solid color or a bike helmet with a Mohawk or fun animal ears.

Jamie Davis Smith is a D.C. mother of four and photographer. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Books to read with kids this holiday season