I’ve been racking my brain for months, and I’m still stuck. Anything I want to give my niece as a gift, she already has. I can feel my chest getting tight with stress just thinking about it.
Giving gifts to kids can be tricky. I want to give something meaningful, but also something that’ll strengthen our relationship and that won’t get shoved under the bed and forgotten about in a week.
Here’s the problem.
I know that research shows less stuff is better for kids. The more stuff we’re surrounded with, the more cortisol (stress hormone) our brain produces. Too much stuff leads to an inability to focus, and lower levels of gratitude, imagination, cooperation, and creativity.
I don’t want to give her a doll when she already has 10, and anything else won’t be meaningful.
Here’s the good news.
There is a type of gift that can lower stress levels, strengthen our relationship and have a positive impact on her overall happiness into adulthood.
Enter experience gifts.
Happy people also have meaningful relationships with others and the strong social skills and high emotional intelligence needed to form them.Greater Good Magazine
How do you create meaningful relationships and strong social skills? By spending quality time with adults. Quality time doesn’t happen very often. Adults are so busy, often looking at their phones or multitasking when spending time with kids. To have a dedicated day for just a kiddo and an adult who loves them to spend together is a remarkable thing that’ll make an impact for years to come.
What are experience gifts?
Experience gifts for kids are what they sound like. Instead of giving a toy or a physical item, you give them more of what they want, more time with you. You might take them to the zoo, bowling, or out on a dinner date and to a park. They can be gifts for the whole family to enjoy together, or gifts for a special one-on-one time with your kiddo.
This may not sound like a big deal, but when my boys have received experience gifts, they talk about it for months (and even years). Every time we pass a particular restaurant, my son says “That’s where Grammie and I went on our date!”
What physical gift has your kiddo received that’s still their favorite years later? They might have one or two, but most toys get shoved in the corner or under their bed, forgotten about in less than a week.
The best experience gifts don’t have to be expensive, they just need to include the gift of time with you. My sister and brother-in-law took my son on a date. They went to visit the playground in the mall, got pizza in the food court, and he spent the night at their house. This wasn’t an expensive date, but he would’ve much rather spent this time with them than receive any physical gifts.
My mom takes my son on a special birthday date every year instead of giving him a physical gift. He talks about his date all year long and starts to ask about their next birthday date three months before his birthday. We can’t drive past their favorite restaurant without him saying “That’s where Grammie took me on our date!” They’re building memories that he will treasure his entire life.
Benefits of experience gifts
- You create memories that kiddos will treasure forever.
- Experience gifts offer an amazing time of connection with your kiddo and strengthen your relationship.
- Forming a deeper connection with adults, laughing together, and enjoying quality time lowers stress levels.
- Experience gifts can make learning a fun experience or spark interest in a new hobby.
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Best experience gift ideas for kids
- Make an apron and pull together your favorite recipes in a cookbook. Spend some time cooking or baking together.
- Online Cooking Class by Kids Cook Real Food to teach your kids to cook so your family can thrive with healthy foods
- Visit a park and have a picnic
- Go on an adventure to a state park
- Tickets to a children’s museum
- Aquarium tickets
- Zoo tickets (If you have an annual membership to a zoo, be sure to check the association of zoos to see if you get a discount when you visit a different zoo. Many zoos give reciprocal discounts.)
- Concert tickets
- Magazine subscription
- Visit a national park (If your kiddo is in 4th grade, you can get a free pass.)
- Tickets to a sports game
- Go bowling together
- Go out to dinner together
- Get ice cream together
- Movie night- give either movie tickets or grab a blanket and popcorn and enjoy your favorite movie at home
- Tuition for a class they want to take (banking, art, pottery…)
- Sports lessons (swimming, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf) This can be for a sport they love or give them an opportunity to try a new sport.
- Dance, gymnastics, or martial arts lessons
- Horseback riding lessons
- Sleepover with a friend
- Musical instrument lessons
- Art supplies and time crafting together
- Board game and family game night
- Come up with 12 date nights, make a coupon for each one, and put them in an envelope for each month of the year. Go on a date once a month.
- Expensive experiences: Trip to Disney, scuba diving, destination vacations
- Go rock climbing
- Go fishing
- Take them camping
- Visit an arcade
- Skiing or ice skating lessons
- Theatre tickets
- Mini Golf
- Water park or amusement park tickets
- Trampoline Park pass
- Explore the woods or a local park
- Visit an escape room
- Science Center
- Roller skating
- Hot air balloon ride
- Indoor skydiving
- Annual Subscription to a box such as Kiwi Crate or Little Passports
- Treasure Hunt or scavenger hunt
- Train ride
- Make a gift certificate for their favorite summer camp
- Make a gift certificate for a special day together. This doesn’t have to include expensive activities. Make a fort in the living room, eat a picnic in your backyard, or go camping under the stars.
- Plan your family vacation and give it as a Christmas gift. If you use your Christmas budget for the vacation as well, you may be able to afford a few extra fun things that you wouldn’t typically do on vacation.
- Plan a road trip. Pick a destination, but find all the fun places to stop along the way. You never know when you’ll find your new favorite place to visit.
- Hot chocolate date at a coffee shop
- Rent kayaks (for older children) and kayak (or canoe) a river for an afternoon
- Sewing Lessons
Above all, remember this.
Experience gifts can be a fun way to get special time with just one kiddo or it can turn into a great experience for the entire family. Whether you’re thinking about day trips, new extracurricular activities, or checking out what local classes are offered, experience gifts are the perfect way to strengthen your connection with your kids and create memories that’ll last a lifetime…just like my son, who’ll start asking how much longer until his special birthday date with Grammie…three months before his birthday.
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What would you add to our list of experience gifts?