2020 Holiday Gift Ideas for when Grandma asks what to get your kids


Remember six months ago when we were all decluttering? Yeah, the last thing any of us need to do this holiday season is shop for MORE toys to either angrily step on or throw in the trash. 

This holiday season, whichever holiday you celebrate, here are some gift ideas for practical gifting during a pandemic.

In recent years, there’s been a popular trend to attempt to buy more practical items by gifting in the following categories: 

Read. Need. Want. Wear.

Books, jammies, favorite snack – that all sounds good doesn’t it?! 

I’ve also heard of families adding the following gift categories:

Go or Do, as in a hobby or experience-related gift.

2020 has been nothing if not an experience. But what can you Go and Do during COVID?

Fellow Omaha mom created this amazing mini guide for gift giving experiences in Omaha last year. 

While you won’t go wrong with the Zoo or other memberships listed there, here are a few other activity-related gifts to consider in 2020:

  • Airbnb experiences: Now that not as many of us are traveling, AirBNB has Experiences people can book to enjoy right from their own homes. Experiences are activities designed and led by locals, and they host adventures through town tours, cooking lessons, and animal encounters.
  • Family craft night with project supplies from places like The Makery or Create if local. Or you could suggest everyone buy their door hanger or gingerbread house making supplies before showing up for a virtual Zoom party. 
  • House of R:  This venue in Rockbrook Village also provides on-site themed – and COVID-safe – experiences for both kids and adults. You can also order “experiences to go,” such as boxes titled “Bored Busters” and “Teacher Appreciation.” If anyone ends up booking the Boho Unicorn Tea Party, though, don’t forget to invite me! 
  • Smallcakes: Deliver a DIY cupcake kit to friends or family. My in-laws did this when we couldn’t gather in person this Spring, and then we did a video call so they could partake in the decorating, if not the cupcakes themselves. Feel free to substitute your own favorite bakery.
  • AlphaLit:  Make the memories extra merry and bright with a decor set up that includes these new-ish to Omaha light up letter displays. What to get for the person who has everything? A giant light-up funny message! 
  • Cameo: Have you seen the videos online featuring celebrities wishing your friends a happy birthday or anniversary? For a fee, you can choose from many famous folks – think about the look on your parent’s or teen’s face when their celebrity crush wishes them Merry Christmas with this online service!

Once we’re a bit more clear to Go and Do in the world as we used to, one idea I think would be so fun is to gift my family with a pre-made Date/Activity Board, with one per month activity pre-planned throughout the year. Maybe typing that out will help me remember for 2021! 

More ideas for non-toy gifting this year:

  • Hobby/Sports Equipment: does your son need a new baseball bag for the spring season? Football gloves to do some pretend play in the basement? Get them now—sports stuff (or league registration fees)  totally counts as a gift! 
  • Outdoor items: Think bikes, scooters, helmets, slides, climbing domes, inflatable pools, etc.
    • If you’re from a large family and are blessed to have extended family members getting gifts for you or your kids, don’t forget to mention that your kids always appreciate items for spring and summer play. While bubbles and sidewalk chalk may not be practical now, they will come in so handy. 
      • Semi-related note: If your kids love inflatables, start the hunt for clearance holiday yard decorations for next year’s Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc. 
  • Graphic tees: Recipients of all ages can appreciate a funny slogan or picture on a shirt. If you don’t already know a local vendor or two, check out this local Facebook group full of all kinds of adorable and affordable designs to purchase.
  • The Gift of Streaming: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, or other streaming service fees for a year would be a great gift as we all get ready to spend winter indoors. 
    • ProTip: if you have Amazon Prime and don’t have a FireStick for your smartTV, go ahead and add that to the list for your husband, father, etc. 
  • Printable lessons and/or coloring sheets from Etsy: Keep toddlers and school-age kids busy with themed worksheets. Pair with some cool markers or colored pencils for a gift that’s perfect for a lazy Sunday at home or travel time in the car. 
  • Bedroom decor: Both younger and older kids would like this. Think fun night light, light fixture, rug, alarm clock, pillow, bookshelf, desk, bunk bed, comforter, picture frames, etc. 

  • Local items like candles, snacks, clothes: Shop here for all kinds of Nebraska made goods. 
  • Jewelry box: Did you know that Learning Express here in Omaha will personalize these and other items for free?!
  • Bandaids: If you’ve ever met a toddler, you know. 
  • Piggybank
  • Camping supplies: What fun a new family-size tent, fishing pole, and other gear would be to open! My kids play with our outdoor lantern all the time, and we’ve never even been camping.

Now, I’m nothing if not practical, but I also realize that most grandparents are not. I say that lovingly, but knowing they may want to buy some toys, consider these as practical ideas for your own shopping experience, or give grandparents help with theirs.

Practical-ish gift ideas

practical-ish gift ideas

  • Balancing stepping stones for indoors
  • Magic Kit
  • Butterfly Garden or other nature-related activity
  • Floof 
  • Play tent 
  • Fort Building Supplies
    • My family has this set, which we were so grateful for during quarantine that Santa had brought to us. 
    • The Nugget Couch gets a lot of love for fort-esque indoor play. They’re not taking orders to arrive before the holidays, but you can enter their lotto to win one or pre-order one for early 2021. 
  • Subscription boxes: There are so many out there. Kiwi and Raddish are two popular ones.
  • Magazine subscriptions: National Geographic Kids, Highlights, LadyBug, Sports Illustrated for Kids are all still alive and well (and cheap!) Adults would like this gift, too!
    • Note: If books are preferred at your house, you could consider putting a spin on it by pre-wrapping one book per month in a box to open with all 12. Also, check out Prime Book Box, a new subscription service through Amazon, which looks to be a great option for all ages. 
  • Craft supplies
  • Glow sticks

Local parenting coach Danielle Bettman with Wholeheartedly has also released a gift guide full of age-appropriate ideas. 

Ways to Give Back

In addition to shopping some of the local links and in-person stores from above, you can also shop at AmazonSmile to send a small percentage of your purchase back to your favorite nonprofit. 

How about a family service challenge? Who can collect the most food items for a local food pantry? Toiletries for a nonprofit whose mission you support?   

Even if this year has you living with anxiety or income instability, you can (and you will!) provide a memorable Christmas for your family. 

Low to no cost plans:

  • Delivery service gift card (GrubHub, etc.) or drop off a home-cooked meal
  • Offer to babysit or dogsit for a friend or family.
  • Have a skill or passion, like decluttering or organizing? Gift that service! Better yet, regift your used toys to your family or friends with younger kids who could benefit. 

My passion is giving people good gifts, so need more ideas? Let’s chat! 

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Blair Bonczynski is a wife to one, mom to two. Born and raised in the Metro area, she finds great joy in playing intramural sports, listening to a good audio book, figuring out ways to save the environment, and indulging in a craft beer every now and then. She spends her days working as the marketing and communications coordinator for the Archdiocese of Omaha Catholic Schools Office, and she spends her nights playing with her kids and picking up toys at home. She is constantly discovering the joy in the little things.


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