There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing someone interacting with love, care, and joy with your offspring. When friends and family want to take my kids to the park, spend time showing them the details of changing the oil filter in their old truck, or come along for a hike or trip to the beach, my heart just bursts with joy.
Part of the joy of being part of this crazy human race is being able to bring joy to others. And a large part of this in our culture has become through sweets and other food-related treats.
I understand the sentiment behind it: That happy smile that lights up their eyes when they see their favorite cookie produced from your purse, the look of content as they catch the drips of the ice cream cone before losing them to the dust below, the full tummy and ecstatic taste buds after eating a bag of chips, spending a cold winter day in the kitchen with you, whipping up brightly colored frosted sugar cookies.
But our children’s health is a mess. And it’s getting worse.
So as their parent, I’m eternally grateful that you love them. It brings me joy knowing that you want to treat them. So I’d like to help you get started with 12 non-food treats.
I know you care about my children’s health. You might not understand how fast these little treats add up, or the impact that a little treat can have on an already struggling health issue.
So here are some ideas.
Here are 12 ideas for non-food treats that you can give my children
My children will love them, I promise.
1. A Bike Ride
If you ride a bike, or don’t mind spending some time in the fresh air while they ride theirs, a bike ride is a favorite amount my little ones. Bonus if you toss their bikes in your pickup and bring them to the BMX track, the bike trail in the redwood forest, or to that trail that Mom never has time to bring them to but they love exploring.
2. A trip to the zoo, museum, or other kid-friendly attraction
With this, it’s more the engagement that you provide and that they’re in an environment that is accepting that children want to touch, look, talk, and explore than how fancy or flashy the place is. Don’t feel like you need to pay a lot for a trip to Disneyland, my child will feel just as loved (possibly more, since you won’t be stressed) in our local park where you play tic-tac-toe with them with sticks in the sand or in the simple children’s museum with the bubble exhibit.
3. Take them to the Lake, River, or Ocean
Water is calming and revitalizing for everyone, and allowing them to get a little messy and wet (just bring a towel and change of clothes) is a gift to both the children having a blast, and the parents receiving the tired children who are then ready for bed at the end of the afternoon.
4. Teach Them to Play a Game
We all remember that favorite uncle who would patiently play checkers with us while the rest of the adults sat around and gabbed during family reunions. The patience need to teach children to play games, and then to continue playing round after round, is a gift that lasts much longer than an afternoon.
Some of my favorite games:
- Tic Tac Toe
- Connect 4
- Ladder Golf
5. Visit an Animal Shelter
For the animal lover, a stop by the animal shelter on the way home from school is way more fun than a stop by the ice cream store, and it takes the same amount of time. The joy of giving and loving on animals is healing and will leave her with a smile much longer than a slushee , popsicle, or ice cream would.
6. Fly a Kite
Have you flown a kite lately? The new ones they have now are a cinch to get up in the air- none of the running and running that I remember as a kid. Fifteen minutes of kite flying is a wonderful treat for children. You can toss a kite in your trunk and hit a local open field on the way back from soccer practice, and experience the thrill of watching the kite soar in the air in just a few minutes, for pennies a visit.
7. Buy them a Balloon
For those who want something physical to give as a gift, balloons cost about the same as the leading junk food (the dollar store has them sometimes!) and are delightful for little ones to get and you to give.
8. Take a Trip to the Library or Book Store
With our without a purchase, this trip is always a treat.
9. Do a Science Experiment
Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes?
Testing the density of different objects?
For the science-minded child, this treat engages their hunger for knowledge. For the giver, these take just a few minutes, and cost very little.
10. Wash the Car With Them
Let them spray with the hose, get soapy, and get a clean car at the same time – this is a fantastic non-food treat for even older children. Everyone likes spraying stuff with the hose ;)
11. Plant a Flower
Whether it’s helping you out in your garden, or making a trip to the local hardware store to pick up a 6-pack of marigolds, planting flowers is a treat for everyone.
12. Involve Them in Your Hobbies
What really nourishes children and makes them feel special is when we invest time, energy, and care into them. A candy bar might give a momentary feel-good response from the sugar, but a sense of belonging and knowing that you took the time and energy to show them something is what really provides long-lasting happiness.
Hobbies can include:
- Working on the car
- Bird watching
- So much more!
Whatever your hobbies are, it’s likely that you’ll have a new fan when you share them with my child – that’s the real treat, for both of you.
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I just give pencils, stickers, erasers, and sometimes the glow in the dark bracelets from the dollar store. I am guessing this blog post was written to close friends or family, not your blog audience or for acquaintances. Because I couldn’t imagine someone sending their kids to the zoo with someone they don’t know well enough to trust with their kids’ lives.
When I see kids at church, I have pencils, stickers, etc to hand out to them. They don’t know me that well, and I would never consider giving their kid food or taking them to the zoo. But a little treat like stickers makes them smile big!
Yes! Stickers are some of my favorites, I should add this :) And yes, if I don’t know you, please do not take my child to the zoo ;)
Great start on this topic. I face this every time we bring kids to grandparents. Problem is, food is a way of communicating affection. I would love to see a post that are some simple, delicious treats that kids will still feel good about eating but aren’t going to make them ill. Warmed fruit in honey over yogurt. Special fruit, like watermelon, cherries, grapes etc… If the Grandparent knows that at home a treat, like ice-cream is something that could make the child sick or grumpy. Have you seen the test they did at a birthday party where they watched the children’s behaviour on different foods? Emotions are so affected by what we eat! Here’s the link, http://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/think-food-doesnt-affect-behavior-read-and-watch-this/
Emotions are affected by what we eat! Interesting link, thanks for sharing.
As for treats that won’t make them ill – that’s so individual. I provide hundreds of healthy recipes on this site, but food allergies and sensitivities are so different. My kids are even affected by fruit – they love fruit, but if they get an all access pass, they’ll be going to the bathroom a LOT the next day and the baby will get a diaper rash. Non-food treats are best for us.
My kids love a new toothbrush. Also, a box of band aids that you allow them to use at will.