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Give Yourself a Present This Year: Clutter-Free Kids’ Gifts

Spare yourself the stuff with these ideas.

The holiday card pictures are done, the tree is up, and your parents have been asking what to get your kids since last week. If you’re already dreading what your home will look like come December 26, you’re not alone. Look, when we decided to raise a kid in the city, we knew we were making some trade-offs.


Our living room is also our playroom because we live in a Center City apartment. But we also have the world at our fingertips because we live in a Center City apartment! So why not take advantage of all those amazing resources right in your backyard? This year, we’re calling for a gift makeover. What do you get for the kid who has everything? We say: not a thing. That’s right, leave the mall right now. Here’s what we suggest instead.

Adopt an Animal

The animal lover in your life can pick an animal from Elmwood Park Zoo, The Philadelphia Zoo, or Adventure Aquarium to “adopt.” The money you spend will go towards the animal’s care, and your kid will get a special adoption certificate to commemorate the donation. Depending on the venue and level of support you choose, kids can also get perks like plushies, tickets, and more. Each time you go to the zoo or aquarium, you can go visit your special animal and see how they’re doing.  On a global scale, you can adopt an endangered species through the World Wildlife Fund in your child’s name.


Philly has countless kid-friendly museums and other attractions, so pick a favorite and give your kid a year-long gift of learning, playing, and exploring. There are just too many great memberships to name, but whether your kids love museums, animals, or theme parks, you’re sure to find something perfect.

And for your littlest kids — in case a cultural institution is not your baby’s speed — try an indoor playspace membership. If you are lucky enough to live near Nest, it will quickly become your home away from home as your baby grows. The indoor playspace is a life saver on bad weather days, and the classes– ranging from newborn to kindergarten– offer something for everyone, whether you’re looking to find your village or nurture your child’s interests. What’s nice about this gift is that it basically pays for itself, and it also ensures some quality family time for you and your kids.


Another ideal gift for the parent in your life: a Supporting Membership to Philadelphia Family. (In fact, our members get discounts on membership at some local attractions, including the Please Touch Museum, LEGOLAND, the Philadelphia Zoo, and more)

Learn a New Skill

Is there something your kid has always been interested in, but never got the chance to really explore? Sign them up for a session of classes where they learn a new skill, and you are giving them the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe it’s learning a new musical instrument at Philly Music Lessons or letting their start shine bright at Music Theatre Philly. Maybe it’s woodworking at Philadelphia Woodworks or sewing at Butcher’s Sew Shop. Whatever they’re curious about, this gift could be something that begins a lifelong passion and instills a sense of confidence and self-reliance in your child.

Punch Cards

Maybe a membership or a full class session is a little too much commitment for your kid’s schedule, but classes you can drop into whenever you have time might be perfect. Lots of children’s programming has punch cards that allow you to do just that. For your littlest ones, try Baby Wordplay storyplays or music classes with Rhythm Babies or Music Monkey Jungle. And kids at all age levels will enjoy getting some extra energy out with an Open Gym pass at InMovement.

Event Tickets

Instead of making clutter, buy tickets for an experience that will make memories. Disney on Ice will dazzle the littles, or maybe they prefer a day at the ballet with The Nutcracker. You could also buy season ticket packages for a local theater that has children’s programming (Walnut Street Theatre and Arden Theatre Company both have kids’ subscription programs) or for your kid’s favorite Philly sports team (Flyers’ “Santa Sacks” come with a Gritty ornament).

Special Day

Plan a special day just for your kid. Maybe that means a one-on-one spa day with a fancy tea afterwards. Or maybe it means a train-themed day trip to Strasburg Rail Road, or a history-filled day around Old City. The possibilities are endless and completely depend on your kid’s interests, and having memorable quality time where it’s all about them will be way better than a toy they’ll stop playing with by the new year.

Treat Gift Card

Look, you’re occasionally going to cave and get them a cake pop when you’re picking up your daily latte anyway, so why not make them feel special and let them “buy it themselves” with a gift card? Pick a favorite treat like bubble tea or fro yo that will give them a fun outing with their friends. Or maybe they will even be generous and treat you!

Giving Back

The holidays are not just a time to get shiny new presents, but also a time to be thankful for what we do have and to teach kindness and giving. There are so many ways that kids can help give back during the holidays. You can adopt a family or adopt a troop and put together a care package with gifts and cards for them. Or if a more tangible gift closer to home is more understandable for your child, consider making a gift to their classroom—most teachers have wish lists of craft supplies and books, and a gift you make to the class is something they will be able to use and enjoy with their friends at school.


If you’re missing the whole holiday toy shopping experience, but wanted to avoid more toys in your home, go shopping for someone else. You can talk about different organizations that help children (for example, the Support Center for Child Advocates gives toys to kids who were involved in cases of abuse or neglect, while CHOP’s toy drive goes to their Child Life program to help brighten life for kids at the hospital). If those are hard discussions, consider more general need-focused organizations like Cradles to Crayons or the Plaid Pajamas Project. Kids can also direct their gift to a charity of their choosing—for example, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation allows you go give the “gift of research” to help find a cure for childhood cancer.


Photographs courtesy of Nest Center City. Nest supports the Philly Family community.

Contributing Writer