2020 Non-Tech Holiday Gift Ideas

Delaney Ruston – Today I have 22 non-tech ideas for holiday gifts. These presents give you ideas of ways to inspire your kids and teens to unplug, move, read, explore, and have fun.

Now more than ever, inspiring outdoor play is critical, and here are some gifts to consider in that realm:

1. Pickleball set —  My daughter and I played for the first time a couple of weeks ago and laughed so hard. I started out missing the ball left and right, but after half an hour, I was so much better — talk about a game with a fast learning curve! Then our family of four went out to play last week, and now the whole family is sold. My husband calls this sport, “Ping pong on a tennis court with a Wiffle Ball.”

Seattle, where we live, has a fair number of courts around, but if you don’t have access to a court, you can also get a set like this one that comes with a net.  

2. Another fun activity I have been doing with my family is old fashioned darts. We play a game where we take turns trying to hit the numbers 1 through 6 in order. Whoever does that first wins. It is a great 20 minutes of fun. Here is a dartboard like the one we have. I ordered darts separately; it was interesting to learn about all the various weights of darts. This set is awesome for younger kids — it is reversible, and one side is for magnetic darts, and the other is for sticky balls. I had many hours of fun myself as a kid with a similar sticky ball set — and now a set that comes with both!

3. Frisbee golf has risen in popularity these days. The other day I was lucky to meet a group of guys playing the sport and willing to teach me about all the different types of discs used in the game. Each disk makes a different flight pattern. There are more basic sets like this one here. (Make sure to find a place to play that is not lined by prickly bushes. The guys who were playing spent more time retrieving their disks from the bushes than I saw them throwing a disc, but we all had fun laughing about it.)

4. Consider a little adventure kit including such things as a headlamp, a book, and the makings for s’mores. Here’s a headlamp for reading books, writing in bed, or hikes that go into the evening. There are, of course, higher-end ones such as this one.

5. Hammocks continue to be an awesome gift. Two sisters in our neighborhood used to hang their hammocks on trees at our corner reading and saying hi to people, and always made me smile. Alas, they are off at college, but it was so wonderful when they were there. Here is an example of one Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock. They say that kids also love using the “nest” as a swing. Of course, you can find many less expensive ones too.

6. Binoculars. I have been watching a lot of animals outside our home, in our city, in a way that I never did before. I’ve always loved birds, but now that love has grown exponentially. Obuby Real Binocular for Kids are a serious but not professional pair. They are shockproof and waterproof and come in 13 fun colors. (Recommended for 3+)

7. Birds on a Wire Color Changing Mug. The birds on this mug change color when you add a hot beverage.

8. Another thing I gifted recently is this beautiful pack of 3-D bird Playing Cards. Each card is mesmerizing.  

Books about the outdoors.
9. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is about a 13-year-old boy who survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness and only has a small hatchet to survive his harrowing, almost two months alone in the woods. He learns respect for nature, how to overcome obstacles and an appreciation of life. (Good for ages 10 – 13)

10. No Summit Out of Sight by Jordan Romero is about the youngest person to climb the seven summits. It is an inspiring story about what a young person is capable of achieving. (Good for 12+)

Create a gift set that combines creativity with acts of kindness;

11. Dip Pens. Tessa had her birthday in November, and I had such fun getting her this dip pen. For me, the highlight was buying a few of the super arty little boxes of ink. I included a set of folded card stock so she could make cards if she got inspired. This short YouTube video is a great way to see if your son or daughter might like having a dip pen. (I love that it has a bit of history in it). With the pens, I also gave her blank cards meant for decorating.

12. Consider adding this book to the set: “Thanks a Thousand” A. J. Jacobs. I have enjoyed hearing A.J. speak over the years. He has worked on so many interesting projects, and he has such an upbeat attitude. In this book, Jacobs goes on an adventure to thank every person, near and far, that was involved in producing his morning coffee. His adventure  “…reveals secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected.”

I am a huge fan of gifts that continue throughout the year.

13.For younger kids, Science Expeditions hits the mark. Everything that we can do right now to foster interest in science is, in my opinion, particularly fantastic. Little Passport has all sorts of themes that can come monthly. 

14. For kids and teens consider magazines such as Stone Soup which has been around since the 1970s, and is written and illustrated by kids through age 13. They have print and digital versions. 

Create kits for upping their chef skills. When youth have their unique little skills, it is a great self-confidence booster.

15. The kit should be something they like to eat. Do they love Pad Thai? Find a basket and buy some of the main ingredients from a recipe like this. It is all about three main ingredients for the sauce: Tamarind (this is the brand I use), fish sauce, and brown sugar.

16. Making sushi is quite easy and fun, and there are plenty of sets out there to buy. We make it all the time with avocado and carrot and cucumbers. Here is a cute simple set. We cook 2 cups of short brown rice in 4 cups of water. When it is done, we mix about ¼ cup heated seasoned rice vinegar with four tablespoons sugar until the sugar dissolves and then stir this into the rice, and voila — and so wonderful to have all that nutritious fiber.

17. Most kids love potstickers and wontons, and it’s not that hard to make homemade ones. You make it with a bamboo steamer and the wonton wrappers.  

Also, consider adding a book about topics related to screen time, things they care about. I know, I know, so many of our kids aren’t reading that much, but if the book is by their bed (particularly those nights screens are out of their bedroom), they might just reach for it one day! Reading books is great for many reasons, including the fact that it is a low-dopamine activity. To learn more about low-dopamine activities, listen to my podcast onbrain biology.

18. If you have a child who enjoys Minecraft, consider a novel centered on it. Minecraft: The Island: An Official Minecraft Novel. (Ages 8 to 12)

19. If some fun tech device is on your list, consider adding in The Circle by Dave Eggers. It is great for older teens. Even if they watched the movie, this book still delivers because it is so on the mark. Here’s a bit about it: “When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. …” But then what happens?

20. For movie buffs, the film director Chris Nolan has written books about the making of his films.
If your child enjoyed the movie Inception, they might like reading this book (I am getting it for my son Chase and he was instructed not to read this TTT, so the surprise is not spoiled here.) Inception: The Shooting Script by Christopher Nolan. A bit about the book:“In a conversational preface, Nolan discusses with brother and frequent collaborator, Jonah, the genesis of the idea for the film and the decade-long process it took to write it.”

21. The RBG – I Dissent Board Game could be perfect for all those tough negotiators out there — i.e., our kids who make strong cases for things like more screen time. How about channeling all that negotiating and debating into a fun family night. 

22. A gift that we can never recommend enough – An Alarm Clock. I’m always advocating for single-function alarm clocks rather than having the phones in the bedroom being used as alarm clocks. Who knew they make ones now that wake you up with the scent of your choice, like this one (and please ignore their suggestion to use their clock as a phone charging device).

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