10 intentional last minute holiday gifts for teens and kids

The holiday season is upon us and chances are you may have a few gifts left to get for the kids on your list. While toys play an important role in child development–like encouraging learning, imaginative play, and creativity–they can also pile up quickly during the holidays. So what's a last minute shopper to do when the clock is ticking, to avoid buying junk that'll be forgotten in a week? Below are ten intentional last minute gifts for children and teens, to give at Christmas or anytime of year, really. And not a single one is a toy!

1. The gift of record keeping

With the New Year starting just a few days later, Christmas is the perfect time to introduce a child to journaling or keeping a personal diary. For kids new to this habit a fill-in-the-blank or a Mommy & Me journal is a great start. Don't forget the pens to go along with it.

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2. The gift of personalization
Who doesn't love something that was custom made just for them? Kids are not the exception. A few years ago my daughter receives a personalized necklace from her Nonnie and loved it. It's still one of her favorite accessories to wear. Other ideas for personalized gifts are blankets and pillow cases, or a travel cup.

3. ​The gift of craftsmanship

​Teaching a child one of your own skills like sewing, carpentry, or pottery is a gift that keeps on giving. You will bond with them while they learn to create something out of raw materials, and maybe one day they will even pass it down to their own children. This year, my oldest two learned to crochet and have been making scarves and hats to gift to family members. It's gonna feel like the Oprah show come Christmas morning; "You get a scarf and you get a scarf!" but seeing everyone wear items they made with their own two hands will be such a special thing.

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4. The gift of adventure
​Last year, we put together an adventure box (inspired by this Facebook post) with twelve adventures (one for each month) to enjoy as a family. Some of the things we did were a visit to the zoo, a day at the beach, a camping trip, and a family road trip. While this gift may required a little more planning, it was most certainly well received by the children. You don't always have to spend money either, take advantage of free events/opportunities in your city, ours has free museum days on Thursdays and a wonderful outdoor theater that's free to the public. No matter the type of adventure, one thing is for certain...the memories you'll create all year long, will exceed the value of whatever you would've spent on the toys and usual stuff.

5. The gift of time
The best thing we can give anyone, especially our children, is our time. As parents we are often busy. Sometimes all our kids want is our undivided attention, without work, household chores, or other distractions getting in the way. Give them the opportunity to choose an activity to do with just you once a month. It doesn't have to be complicated and it's okay if the activity is the same every time. Just think of it as your own little tradition! Set some ground rules for yourself and your kid, like "no phones out during our us time." In my family, the kids take turns each month having dates with daddy and I, although we'll typically take the two preschoolers at the same time. Our rules is that the activity they choose can't cost more than $25 (we're a large family after all!) So they tend to choose simple things like a spa day at home, gaming marathon, renting a new movie, or riding our bikes to the park. You can even make a little coupon book that the child can redeem as they like.

6. The gift of literacy
There is no denying that children today are surrounded by technology and busy schedules. Being able to slow down enough to enjoy a good book, is becoming more rare. Cultivating a love for reading at a young age opens the door to a world of magic, discovery, and exploration. My recommendation is to go with a series, so kids will feel motivated to finish a book and get on to the next one. My teens are currently into the Shadow & Bone series. The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer is a wonderful choice for younger kids and you can never go wrong with graphic novels.

7. The gift of sustainability
​Kids love to be outdoors and play in dirt. Why not turn this desire to get messy into a new hobby that can benefit your child and the earth? An herb garden or succulents are perfect for beginners, even if they've never cared for a plant. Gardening teaches many lessons, including responsibility and patience. In the end, seeing that little seed grow will make all their hard work so worth it! January and February are a perfect time to start seeds indoors, which you can then transfer outside in the spring. For the sake of the environment, consider planting a pollinator garden that will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees to your yard.

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8. The gift of song
If you didn't know this about me, I used to be a music teacher. I sing and play piano and ukelele. Music is my love language. I strongly believe that music has the power to transcend cultures, borders, and language barriers. It is the one universal language that can be understood by everyone and can often communicate what spoken words cannot. Raising a young musician is now easier than ever. There are many great online courses available and even apps that teach you step by step. My oldest has been learning to play guitar on his own through YouTube tutorials. If your child has no musical experience and is interested in guitar, consider this former music teacher's recommendation and go with a ukelele. It's a rather easy to learn instrument, lighter, and easier to hold. And with only four strings, it is much less frustrating than guitar. Once your child masters the island strum, there is no limit to how many songs they can play! Having my son learn the uke first, made the guitar a smooth transition.

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9. The gift of nature appreciation
Have you ever gone on a hike or a walk to the park with a child? They will often stop to pick up sticks or to closely look at critters they find. Mother Earth calls to our children and they know it. They enjoy being outdoors and exploring. Help them cultivate an appreciation for nature by feeding their curiosity and sense of wonder. Encourage nature exploration by making a basket filled with a few field guides, binoculars, a reusable water bottle, a hiking bag, and a good stack of nature books to take along on hikes.

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10. The gift of History
Compiling our children's history is (in my opinion) one of the best gifts we can give them. Even if your child is older and you didn't keep track from day one, it's never too late to start. Write down whatever details about their milestones that you remember. Make it extra special by finally printing all those photos you have stored on your computer or your phone. A mini printer like the Canon Ivy or HP Sprocket are perfect for turning your Instagram posts into memory book entries. As your child gets older, these personal storybooks will become a cherished heirloom that they will be able to look back on. It will give them a sense of belonging as they learn where they come from and where they've been. I recommend using a fill-in family history book to make things easier.

I hope you found these last minute gift ideas helpful, and that they inspire you to gift the children and teens in your life unconventional gifts with intention this holiday season. Hooray for a holiday with more purpose, less clutter, and no waste!