valentine's day 2023

45 (Non-Candy) Valentine’s Day Gifts for Kids

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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The focus of Valentine’s Day is often centered on significant others, whether you’re shopping for a grill-fanatic husband or a puzzle-enthusiast girlfriend. But love takes on many different forms, so why not celebrate the love you have for your little ones as well? While candy is typically a surefire hit, anything from a cuddly teddy bear to a classic bedtime story can be a thoughtful, inexpensive way to express your appreciation for your kiddos — so we’ve rounded up 45 great options that are just as sweet as sugar (even though, with one too-cool exception, they don’t contain any). Many of the Valentine’s Day gifts below are things we’ve written about before or are from some of our favorite brands, so they’re sure to delight your kiddo. And if you’re still searching for the perfect gift for all the other special someones in your life, check out our one-stop shop of all our Valentine’s Day gift guides.

$10 and under

Start off Valentine’s morning with mini heart-shaped waffles that will get your kiddo psyched for the day. They can even help you make them.

Plus-Plus’s oversize blocks are some of our favorite toys for 3-year-olds because they encourage open-ended play and help develop fine-motor skills. This tube, for kids 5 and older, contains 70 mini pieces that come together to create three hearts, but your builder can construct whatever they please. The possibilities are truly endless. (Because they come in a convenient tube, they’re also great for travel.)

Your little sweetheart will be delighted by this pop-up Valentine featuring Snoopy and Woodstock exchanging their own love notes.

This 18-pack comes with three cheeky animal designs that your kiddo can distribute to their classmates.

For the kid who’s obsessed with the Little Blue Truck series of books, they’ll want this Valentine edition in their collection.

This little sticker book is filled with old-timey bears, doggies, and kitties, all a-glitter with the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

If your little one prefers stickers for their skin, this set of Valentine’s Day–themed temporary tattoos comes with 168 pieces — more than enough to share with friends and classmates.

LOL Surprise continues to dominate kids’ wish lists, and this miniature vending machine includes candy-character dolls and matching accessories (but no actual candy).

Photo: Retailer

Kazz Alexander Pinkard, executive director of Hit the Books, an after-school nonprofit in Harlem, says he sees “many of our young boys and girls running to books like Hair Love because they feel like it depicts them.” This heartwarming tale of a dad learning how to create an extra-special hairstyle for his daughter was even adapted into an Oscar-winning short film.

Former Strategist senior editor Peter Martin bought these cute crocheted hair clips to keep his 21-month-old daughter’s hair out of her face. He likes that the designs are “not overly girlie” and that the alligator clips are “easy for [him] to use.”

This classic children’s book captures the bond between parent and child by following the story of two hares, Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, as they use larger and larger measures to describe how much they love each other — including to the moon and back. The cheaper board book is ideal for toddlers, but you can also spring for a fancier hardcover version for older kids.

Shel Silverstein’s timeless story of a little boy and the tree that loves him is a poignant and bittersweet tale that might inspire a kid-friendly conversation on what it means to give — and to receive.

$9 for 4

This color-changing mood locket can hold precious pictures of family, friends, or pets.

Multiple educators have recommended Frog and Toad Are Friends as a great book for children who are just starting to read alone. Maggie Levine, a children’s librarian with the Boston Public Library, calls it and other titles in the Frog and Toad series an “absolute classic” for the gentle depiction of love in friendship.

Hot Wheels Cars, 3-Pack

A track-ready three-pack of Hot Wheels cars is sure to send any speed-loving kid’s heart racing.

If your child is a fan of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, they’re sure to fall in love with this short and sweet Valentine’s Day–appropriate sequel.

If your tween or young teen has developed a liking for someone special, help them make sense of their new feelings with this sweet and humorous graphic novel.

This mini fidget-popper key chain can be attached to your kid’s backpack and provide a little respite during a busy day at school. It also comes in other shapes and colors, so you can pick one to best suit your child’s tastes.

$25 and under

For the older kid, try this new “trick” fidget toy (another hot holiday item) that’s like a “magnetic skate park for your thumbs,” according to the brand.

Putty is a little less messy than slime (more on that below), and Crazy Aarons — a favorite of tween boys — makes some fun concoctions, including this “surprise” edition that’s embedded with six different (nonedible) sweet treats.

For the youngest of Valentines, this silicone pacifier clip with rainbow hearts would make a sweet, practical gift.

As would this three-pack of extra- large, extra-thick burp cloths patterned with hearts, triangles, and a chevron design.

Steiff Fynn Teddy Bear

A snuggly teddy bear is a tried-and-true Valentine’s Day gift. Former Strategist senior editor Anthony Rotunno can’t get enough of the stuffed animals from Steiff, a “140-year-old company [that] invented the teddy bear — a known crib staple.” He adds that the toys “last (and can even get more valuable with age),” making them a great gift your child will cherish for years to come.

For something a bit plushier, here’s a rose-pink version of Snuffles, one of Gund’s most beloved bears going on 40-plus years.

If they’re too old for stuffed animals, they might get a kick out of the iconic digital pet of the ’90s. Your child will learn to feed it, clean up after it, and make sure it’s well-loved.

Friendship bracelets are fun to make and even more fun to give away.

Lisa Goldstein, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, calls The Prince and the Dressmaker “a frothy, fun, and joyful fairy tale that also deals with the subtlety of gender identities.” Centered on Prince Sebastian and his best friend and dressmaker, Frances, Goldstein says the book “is full of acceptance and beautiful fashion, like frilly dresses, and colors that are like rainbow sherbet.”

Conzy Stuffed Baby Doll

This adorable and soft plush doll is destined to become a lifelong BFF.

‘Love Letter’

Board-game designer Will Sorrell says this game is one of his favorites to gift to people. Involving “risk, deduction, and a sliver of luck,” the goal is to get your “love letter into the hands of Princess Annette while thwarting the advances of competing suitors.” It’s a “fun and fast” game that takes “no more than 20 minutes to play,” according to Sorrell, and is suitable for two to six players ages 10 and up.

This DIY kit contains everything you need to carve and print your own custom rubber stamps, including a carving tool, ink pad, and a variety of helpful templates.

From $18

The Nickelodeon show PAW Patrol is such a hit among younger kids that this watch made our list of the hottest holiday toys this past Christmas. It features “four interactive learning games that help kids recognize patterns, identify animal tracks, and pick the right tool for the job” and even includes “sound effects and popular phrases from the show, plus a clock, timer, stopwatch, and alarm.”

If your kid is shaping up to be a miniature master chef, this recipe book will help them whip up a cornucopia of sweet treats.

Your kid will love flexing their creativity by stringing together these wooden heart and butterfly beads to form their own unique necklaces.

$50 and under

Instead of a teddy, consider a plush bunny from Jellycat, which makes the softest, cuddliest stuffies. This one has floral printed ears and feet, making it extra sweet. (In addition to Valentine’s, it’s also perfect for celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. A double win!)

A holiday as festive as Valentine’s Day is yet another excuse for wearing matching family pajamas. Here’s a unisex sleeper for baby from Little Sleepies made from smooth bamboo viscose and printed with hearts and sweet treats. You can also find matching PJs for adults, too.

For even more heart-themed patterns to choose from, head over to Strategist favorite Hanna Andersson, which also has PJs for the entire clan, including grown-ups and pets. We particularly like this playful pattern of Xs, Os, and hearts, which reminds us of a friendly game of tic-tac-toe.

For the crafty kid, this crochet kit comes with everything they need to get stitching an adorable penguin doll, including a hook, needle, yarn, stuffing, and step-by-step video instructions (accessed online).

In our sweep of the best dollhouses on Amazon, reviewers gave high marks to this Calico Critters cottage for its “remarkable” attention to detail: “I can tell you, Calico Critters does not disappoint when it comes to detail and craftsmanship,” one writes. Another parent of a little boy who loves this house reports that it’s a solid pick for kids of either gender because “it’s not plastered with pink and/or purple.”

The slime craze shows no signs of slowing down, so we’re certain this brightly colored Playfoam will provide hours of sensory delight.

When we went searching for the best headphones for kids, Dr. Darius Kohan, director of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital, suggested these award-winning corded BuddyPhones. The soft padded cups on the ears and a durable plastic frame means they’re comfortable and able to withstand any flinging and bending. Plus, your child can customize them with an included assortment of fun stickers.

Yes, this is candy, but candy they make themselves. Rather than just buying them a big box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, this food-science kit will challenge your kid to create their own crystal rock candies, lollipops, chewy jelly candies, and more.

These funky heart-shaped Babiators sunglasses will keep even the smallest kids looking fly and shield their eyes from the sun. They feature flexible rubber frames and shatter-resistant lenses, perfect for curious, adventure-seeking toddlers.

$75 and under

Photo: retailer

If your child is a little more wild at heart, gift them this enormous plush tiger that Rotunno included in his roundup of jumbo-size stuffed animals.

Laura Phillips, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, is a big proponent of providing kids with lots of opportunities to play dress-up, as it “can nurture their imaginations while also developing language, thinking, and social-emotional skills.” Young children who love to dance and perform will surely delight in this tulle swan cape and hat.

Photo: Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

We first discovered this darling nameplate bracelet from Melanie White’s unisex children’s jewelry line when we put together our guide to kids’ gifts from Black-owned businesses. It comes in a range of finishes, from sterling silver to 14-karat gold, as well as different sizes to accommodate newborns all the way up to preteens.

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45 (Non-Candy) Valentine’s Day Gifts for Kids