If you’re looking for non-toy gift ideas for kids who love the outdoors, check out our curated (and growing) list. These items might just inspire them to spend even more time outside!
Most of the time, kids don’t need more toys. They usually have plenty already! But they do still like getting gifts, so consider some non-toy gifts that will also help them spend more time outdoors.
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Non-toy gifts for outdoorsy kids
FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
Headlamps: For hands-free after-dark adventures, consider a headlamp!
This Foxelli headlamp allows you to adjust the size of the headstrap and the angle of the light, shines up to 180 lumens and has several different light modes. It is also rechargeable! (This Foxelli model is AAA battery-powered, in case you’re worried about forgetting to charge your headlamp ahead of time!)
Though often “the brighter the better” applies to headlamps, this may not be the case for young children. Because of their tendency to look straight into their own light, or shine it in someone’s eyes (especially when talking to them), it’s best to keep the lumens lower on the scale (under 200). Look for adjustable straps and consider ease of use.
Flashlights: There are so many flashlight options, it’s hard to recommend just one. We have had a good experience with the Coast HX5 — perfectly pock-sized, easy on/off switch, and plenty bright. It even has a clip for belts, belt loops, pockets or lanyards. And at 120 lumens, it’s bright enough without being too bright for little eyes. (For more flashlight recommendations, look at the end of this post.)
Daypack/Backpack/Knapsack: Letting them carry a few items of their own helps inspire responsibility and pride. The Osprey 10L daypack is on the smaller size, perfect for day hikes with littles.
When choosing a pack for casual daytrips, I look for four main features: adjustable straps, snack pocket, side pockets for water bottles and an easy-to-access main compartment.
Hydration packs can be a great tool for bikers, hikers and runners alike, when stopping to remove a water bottle may impede the flow of your adventure. Consider how much water you will need for your excursion, finding the balance between too much (heavy) and not enough (thirsty). Some children like the mechanics of a hydration back (ie., bite valve), others don’t. Another feature to consider: the on/off ‘switch’ for the water flow. This can be an key feature for children, as they have been known to chew through their bite valve. And remember that hydration packs are generally smaller than regular day packs, and may not have room for much more than snacks + one layer. Bigger is not necessarily better, as the lenght of a pack is also important: too long and it will interfere with mobility.
Camelbak is a good brand to consider, due to their sizes and ease of use for kids. The Mini MULE is a good fit for ages 3-12, and the Charm is a good fit for youth ages 10+. (Several colors available for both.)
No matter what kind of nature-related scavenger hunt you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered!
Walkie talkies are a great way to stay connected and encourage a little more independence outdoors. For hiking, camping, or even just backyard play, these two-way radios keep everyone within reach. These walkie talkies are rechargeable (no more hunting for AAA batteries!) and have a range of “about 0.2-0.8 miles in urban densely populated areas; about 0.5-1 miles in open areas/mountains”.
This weatherproof notebook is a great option for nature journals. Not too big and not too small, it “won’t turn to mush when wet and will repel water, sweat, grease, mud, and even survive the accidental laundry mishap”.
KNIVES & TOOLS
A pocket knife is great for whittling or making a perfect marshmallow stick. The rounded edges of this Opinel knife make it more appropriate for younger children, but please remember that this is still a knife with a sharp blade!
Multitools cover all the bases with a variety of tools, from knives to tweezers. Victorinox is well recognized for their ‘swiss army knives’, with a history of quality. This pocket knife* is a great entry point for kids, with 8 main functions: key ring, toothpick, tweezers, large blade with rounded tip, nail file, nail cleaner, Phillips screwdriver 1/2, wood saw. Kids may not need/use each and every feature, but they will love having so many options! It’s a great tool to bring hiking or camping.
For a bladeless multitool, consider this Leatherman (also with 8 main features). It includes scissors, needlenose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutters, a flat-head screwdriver, a phillips-head screwdriver, tweezers, a nail file, and a carabiner/bottle opener.
Emergency whistle: A whistle is both an survival tool and an opportunity to practice restraint! (Not to be used in the house, only outdoors in case of an emergency!)
Parachute cord: Use these lengths of paracord to practice your knots, build a shelter or make a craft.
FUN ON WHEELS
Trick scooter: If your child enjoys scootering and wants to take it to the next level, consider a trick scooter. We’ve had endless fun on neighborhood roads, skate parks and pump tracks.
Balance bike: Many budding cyclists have had found success starting with balance bikes. They help develop balance and confidence, preparing kids for future pedal bikes. The 12″ size is a great place to start. Strider is a well-recognized quality brand, but look to Banana for a more budget-friendly option.
FOR BACKYARD FUN
WINDOW BIRD FEEDER
This window bird feeder allows you to observe and feed birds from a much closer vantage point. Swap a screen for a window and let the entertainment begin!
Whether lounging in the backyard or relaxing at the campsite, hammocks are a fun way for kids to enjoy the outdoors in a more sedentary way. Look for ones that are adjustable and easy to put up and take down. The Wise Owl Outfitters hammock is a great option for kids, and you can consider an Eno hammock for the whole family.
A combination of swing and ladder, this apparatus can be attached to the beam of an existing swing set, or other locations if properly installed.
My kids always loved their wheelbarrow and enjoyed “helping” in the garden (even if it was just one stick at a time).
ROCK CLIMBING GRIPS
Many kids love to help in the garden, and having their own set of garden tools give them a better sense of pride and responsibility. This set includes a hoe, rake, shovel and leaf rake.
For kids who love pretend play and love to get dirty, a mud kitchen is a great addition to outdoor spaces.
Slackline: A slackline is a great addition to any backyard or campsite. Practice your balance in the fresh air.
Zipline: Your backyard can become an adventure park with this zip line kit.
Sledding is such a fun winter activity! You can increase the fun factor (and comfort) with one of these snow tubes: flamingo, penguin, ice dragon, polar bear, or unicorn.
FOR NATURE EXPLORATION
To take a closer look at nature (and insect’s eye view), a magnifying glass is a helpful tool. This two-pack allows children to share the experience with a friend!
Written for the beginner naturalist, this field guide will help your kids identify the trees they see on their adventures big and small.
FOR CAMPING ADVENTURES
To help bring a little more light to your after-dark outdoor activities (reading in a tent, etc.), consider a lantern. This solar inflatable lantern is battery-free, takes up little storage space and can handle being dropped by little hands. In case of charging issues, you can also consider this inexpensive AA-battery-powered lantern.
(They’re also handy to have for late-night boardgames during power outages!)
Kids love to have their own place to sit — around the campfire or while reading in the backyard. Foldable and portable, camping chairs are a great addition to your gear arsenal. This Coleman chair is lightweight and good for kids 3-7. This Alps chair is meant for adults but is low to the ground and very sturdy, suitable for a range of ages.
FOR NATURE LEARNING
KNOT TYING KIT
From a bowline to a buntline hitch, your kids will learn 23 essential knots with this knot tying kit. The waterproof cards come with two practice ropes and two carabiners and are a perfectly portable for any outing!
NATIONAL PARKS MONOPOLY
I underestimated how much playing a board game would inspire my kids! They absolutely love the National Parks edition of Monopoly and their “bucket list” of parks to visit has continued to grow.
For your budding videographer and adventurer, consider a GoPro action camera. Whether attached to a helmet or a friend, they can capture their latest “trick” or favorite trail. This is a great way tool for getting older kids excited to spend more time outside!
KAYAK or PADDLEBOARD