Zero Waste with Kids: 10 Sustainable Gift Ideas

Kids usually cannot get enough of audio theaters/radio plays or fun audio books 😊 ©Klara Rüttel

Many people ask me about zero waste with kids. Since we don’t have any (and don’t plan on having any), I a bit at a loss. Even though I do keep my eyes and ears open and try to remember everything sustainable parents tell me, I am afraid I still don’t feel qualified to give advice!

This is why I am always incredibly grateful when fellow zero wasters offer to share their wisdom on my blog!! ❤️ Today Klara, mom of three kids, shares her top ten gift ideas for Christmas that also apply for any other gift-bearing occasion.

#1 Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Stainless steel water bottles and food containers come in all colors, shapes, and sizes

As soon as children start to eat, they will also need to drink. A water bottle is perfect when you are on the road, especially since young children cannot manage the timing of their needs. Klean Kanteen offers small bottles with kid-friendly lids. The older the child, the bigger the water bottle can be.

#2 Stainless Steel Food Container

Be it for kindergarten, school, or a field trip: every kid should have a safe food container. Before you buy one as a present for somebody else’s child, check with the parents first. Maybe their kid already has one, or maybe the parents have a specific size in mind. After all, the container should fit the kid’s appetite and backpack.

#3 A Bamboo Toothbrush

Yes, there are also bamboo toothbrushes for kids

A child should start brushing their teeth (or having it brushed) as soon as they have their first tooth. Many children haven’t seen a wooden toothbrush and love it! Parents, too, will be grateful for this present, especially for Christmas. Not only adults, but kids, too, tend to munch on a lot of sweets during the holidays, so the toothbrushes comes in very handy! A bamboo toothbrush really benefits the child, the parents, and the environment!

#4 Kid-Friendly Audio Theater, Radio Dramas, or Audio Books

©Klara Rüttel

Many kids simply love audio theater. They can oftentimes be downloaded from the internet directly onto a MP3 player—no packaging, no trash, no scratched CDs in the room later. Do check with the parents in advance so you can get the right format for the right player. You should take the age and interests of the kid into account, too.

#5 Doing Fun Things Together

Depending on the personality and how close you are, spending time together can be a great gift. It doesn’t have to be anything extra-special either. Things that are normal for adults can be a big, memorable adventure for a kid, letting them feel taken seriously and all grown up!

  • a train ride (younger kids are usually happy about the ride itself, older ones often prefer a destination)
  • buying groceries and preparing a meal together
  • bring the kid to work
  • “cocktail” hour (without any alcohol, duh! You can order your drinks without a straw and use your own reusable glass or stainless steel straw instead—what an adventure! The reusable straw could be part of the gift—how cool is that?!)

Do take the age and personality into consideration! Kindergarteners are often tired after a few hours, while elementary school kid’s love to spend the night.

What is appropriate for what age?

Babies and Toddlers

For those young kids holidays can be very stressful: a never-ending stream of strangers who want to cuddle you, (blinking) lights and noises everywhere, people who shove items after items into your face expecting you to be happy about it. This can be too much for adults too!

The younger the child, the less they understand what those holidays mean. Don’t tell your kid to always cave in to what other adults expect. They don’t have to instantly unwrap every present or give out kisses.

So what can you give such a cute, tiny human? I personally recommend #1, 2, 3, 7, or 8.

Kindergartener

This is when they become interested in holidays. They start to enjoy the special time of the year, but might still be overwhelmed by too many presents. Your kid might enjoy an adult reading them a story more than unwrapping the 20th present.

If you think your child is going to be showered in presents, talk to family members and friends to see if they can spread the presents out over the year. Check out gift ideas #1 to 9!

Elementary School Kids

This is the age bracket that really looks forward to Christmas. They count down the days and even hours! All the traditions surrounding Christmas like decorations, Christmas tree, etc. start to mean something to them. Especially the presents. They start writing letters to Santa and to prepare presents for others.

Kids this age might start to wish for things that either come in plastic packaging or that you might not agree with. It helps to reflect on how important it truly is or if there might be a reasonable compromise (e.g. buying it secondhand). Maybe you can spark their enthusiasm for #1-5, 7, 8, or 10?

#6 An Old Calculator

©Klara Rüttel

Don’t ask me why, but kids are crazy about calculators! They love pressing the buttons, using it as a phone, a remote, walkie-talkie, scanner, till… If you have one of those lying around in a junk drawer, well, it could actually spark more fun than it has even done before!

Disclaimer: A calculator is not a toy and could contain small parts which can be a choking hazard. Please only let your kid play with it under supervision.

#7 Wooden Toys

©Klara Rüttel

Wooden toys can be incredibly long-lasting. I know kindergartens with wooden toys that have been played with for well over 30 years. Some wooden animals are very small and are not suitable for babies! If you are lucky, you can even find hand-crafted wooden toys without any plastic packaging at markets and sometimes even toy stores.

#8 Your Attic Might Be Home to Unknown Treasures!

Grandpa still had the castle at home, the playmobil figures were faithful companions from when our kid’s godfathers were young, and the other buildings were once binders. ©Klara Rüttel

What were your favorite toys when you were young? Chances are that those toys are still somewhere in the attic or basement of your parent’s house. Boxes full of Lego bricks, doll houses, or Playmobil figures are timeless classics. Go on a treasure hunt and you might just find some gems to pass on to the next generation.

#9 Blackboard and Chalk

©Klara Rüttel

Many kids just love to draw and paint, and that can mean you go through paper fast. If you don’t want to restrict your kid’s creativity, but you just can’t stand by to see all the trees being sacrificed for art, a blackboard and chalk might just be the solution for you. Blackboards come in all sizes, and small ones are perfect to keep your kids busy when on the road. Chalk are often sold in cardboard boxes, and you can just use a cotton rag to wipe the blackboard.

#10 Dice Cup Plus Six Dices

So many games are released every year. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that is a bad thing. However, dices are just so very versatile and many classic games like Yahtzee always bring back memories for many family members.

Dices are often made from plastic, but there are more materials to choose from: wood, glass, metal, or bones (not vegan!). You can buy loose dices in game and comic book stores. You can even get lucky at a medieval fair. Dice cups also come in wood and leather (again: not vegan!). Don’t hesitate to consult the almighty internet for games you can play with dices for all ages!

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