Gifts for Kids That Aren’t Toys

America, the toy epidemic has gotten out of control! Kids these days have more enough toys to share with the entire neighborhood, yet when birthdays come around, friends and family inevitably get them more. Because what else would they do? They love your kid and want to show them love through a gift. 

The good news? We can give kids amazing gifts, but that won’t take up any precious space in the house! Giving a birthday “experience” has been gaining traction these last few years and offers many ways to give a truly personalized gift to that cool little girl or boy in your life.

Favorite Birthday Gift Experiences for Kids Around Grand Rapids

We’ve compiled a list of birthday gift experiences inspiration, and we hope it helps you find your next perfect birthday gift!

(Tasked with throwing the perfect kid-size birthday party? Our West Michigan Birthday Party Guide can help you find the perfect venue.)


Kinder Pony Program at Karin’s Horse Connection

Horses. What child doesn’t want a horse in their life? While it’s not always prudent to get them an actual horse, a visit to Karin’s Horse Connection is just as thrilling, and a little easier on the pocketbook. You can give your school kid a date with a pony for “30 minutes of however your kid likes to spend it: ride your pony indoors or outdoors on trails, brush, saddle, feed your pony, and meet the other farm animals.”


Put their certificate in a beautiful horse card and you’ll have won their birthday!

Arts & Carafes Studio

This idea is for the creative kid in your life. At Arts & Carafes they can learn to paint a beautiful picture they can take home – and it doesn’t matter their skill level! The paintings they offer are really cute and they can even give your birthday kid a “mommy & me” class if you wanted.



The Mud Room

My 8 year old has been begging to take a class at The Mud Room. She saw me bring home a painted bowl a few weeks ago and has been desperate to get in there and make her own. If you know a kid who loves art in a 3-D medium, they would dig a class or camp at The Mud Room.

the mud room art classes for kids grand rapids

Holland Community Aquatic Center

Michigan kids are born with swimming in their veins, it seems. Or if they aren’t, they quickly learn how to navigate the water. Give them a class, or just some day passes to the super fun Holland Community Aquatic Center.

The birthday kid will love the Splash Zone (indoor water park), 150-foot Water Slide, Diving Boards, Water Cannons, a Vortex Pool and MORE!

Holland Community Aquatic Center

Sky Zone Grand Rapids

A trampoline park gift certificate is THE GIFT for the kids with endless energy. Mom and Dad’s eyes will light up when they see this, too, as it means that they’ve just received a break from the hard task of keeping that kid busy every day!

It’s nearly every kid’s dream to fly – and you can make their dreams come true with a gift of Sky Zone!


Flees Martial Arts

Most kids would agree that taking a martial arts class would be pretty exciting. Learning to do all the moves they see on TV and in the movies? — A class at Flees Martial Arts is an easy win in the birthday gift category. Pair this with the uniform that Flees suggests and the birthday kid will be bowing thanks to you. (And will be eager to show you every move they learned, the next time you see them!)


Other Clever Birthday Gift Ideas for a Kid

Memberships to Museums and Attractions

A museum membership doesn’t take up a lot of space at home, but it sure does take a lot of energy out of that busy kid! Many local museums or attractions are either catered to kids or have kid-friendly aspects to them, and they offer different membership plans. If a family membership isn’t in your budget, simply getting them a one-day pass for them and their family would be fun.

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a magnet for little kids, as well as the Children’s Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens. My kids loved the Grand Rapids Public Museum, where they could ride the carousel after walking around in the “old world Grand Rapids” exhibit. In summer we had a blast picnicking outside John Ball Zoo before heading in to see all the animals and climb on play structures scattered throughout the zoo. I let my daughters loose with my phone camera at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and we had a lot of fun talking about the things they saw and what it reminded them of, and what kind of art THEY would like to make.


An Activity With You

Chances are, that special kid in your life would enjoy an outing with you. And the fun part? You can pick something that you would both enjoy together!

If you’re into creating, try a class together.

Entertainment kids would dig a movie or concert tickets. (Flicks’ Free Family Movies is one idea!)

If your child likes glam, you could get manicures or pedicures together. My sister has offered to give my kindergartener an ear piercing outing for her birthday, as my daughter has expressed interest in wearing earrings.

Love the theatre? CARE ballet is a great stage idea, as these shows are specially geared toward little kids. Musicals are great fun at The Civic Theatre.

Another fun making idea is ArtEngage–you could paint, or create a Lego masterpiece together. Or play around with their science-geared activities.



Following on the heels of “activity with you” are sporting events. Get a set of tickets for them to see the West Michigan Whitecaps in action. The Grand Rapids Griffins and Grand Rapids Drive are also great adventures. Be sure to give them vouchers for snacks, too!

Would your preschooler rather be part of the action? Sign them up for their favorite sport!

Day Camp Whitecaps Game

Summer or Day Camp

This is a gift that will have mom and dad thanking you, too. (Or if you’re mom and dad, here’s your top gift idea!) Camps are great ways for kids to explore their interests without making a big commitment. We’ve got ideas for Spring in our Spring Camps and Classes Guide, and our Summer Camps Guide will be updated for 2017 soon. (Tip: check with mom or dad first before booking a camp.)


Classes, Classes, Classes

Learning opportunities are everywhere and these are great ways for preschoolers to start learning social skills away from home.

Swim Classes. This is what I gave my nieces for Christmas! I learned the name of their favorite swim facility and gave them money toward a class. Find ideas in our Favorite Swim Lessons Near Grand Rapids post.

Gymnastics is a healthy class that wears my kids out. It’s easy, you don’t have to buy a lot of equipment or uniforms for it, and anyone can do it.

Your aspiring dancer or artist may benefit from one of the places in our Top Voted Dance Classes and Music Lessons list.

For a budding musician, check out our Top Voted Music Lessons and Programs Around  Grand Rapids.


Tell us, what gift experiences have you given to a kid that were a big hit?

Pin this image for future reference!

Birthday Gift Experiences for Kids



Benchmark Email

Click on our sponsors!

By | 2017-05-12T14:41:06+00:00 March 7th, 2017|Categories: Elementary, Guides, Middle School, Preschool|1 Comment

About the Author:

April H
April is a stay-at-home-working-mom hybrid who balances her time between managing a household and using her editor brain to find all the typos in her friends’ emails. In her occasional free time she enjoys reading, quilting, antiquing and photography. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and three children.

One Comment

  1. Deb Landman March 9, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

    13 years ago I gave Learn to Skate ice skating lessons to my daughter, now she’s working to be a professional skater. PATTERSON Ice has lessons

Leave A Comment