Giving kids the gift of experiences, not just stuff

Something I’ve been hearing more and more about over the past few years is that people — specifically parents — are asking friends and relatives to refrain from buying things for their children for the holidays or birthdays, but instead they are asking for experiences. This can mean something like passes to the local zoo, museum, or aquarium; dance, karate or gymnastic classes; piano or art lessons; a family pass to the recreation center; tickets to a play, concert or movie: or pretty much anything else you can dream up. The point is to give the children experiences rather than just stuff.

I like this idea a lot, especially because my children already have a lot of “stuff.” Experiences can be so much more valuable, yet setting aside the money for classes, lessons, etc. is often overlooked in the family budget. Not only are the experiences fun for your kids, but they are usually just as enjoyable for you as parents too. Just look at the expression on the little boy’s face in the picture above! I love watching my kids experiencing something new, magical or just plain fun. The amazement on their faces is priceless. In fact, we are going to see The Nutcracker this weekend and, although Ava has already been a few times, this will be Julian’s first time and I know both of their faces are just going to light up during the show. :)

I’m not saying that “stuff” can’t be memorable too. I’m sure we can all recall a particular toy from our childhood that we wanted more than anything and once we got it, we were the happiest kid on the planet. ;) I’m just saying if you are feeling overwhelmed by the clutter and amount of stuff your kids already have, asking for the gift of an experience might be something to consider and something you won’t likely regret.

While we’re on the subject of clutter-free gifts, you can give your friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green like Planting a Tree (you could even plant your own Christmas tree like Lisa from Condo Blues is going to do!) and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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17 thoughts on “Giving kids the gift of experiences, not just stuff

  1. I love this. A dear friend gave each of our kids a full day with her for their birthdays this year. Today was the day for our 5 year old, and she took him to the movies and ice skating, and out for lunch. He was so overjoyed to have the whole day to himself with her…the other kids can’t wait for their turns. It was the most wonderful gift and I love that they understood that.

  2. I am a huge fan of giving experiences instead of things. I think we give our kids way too many things these days and they don’t even appreciate half of them. Experiences are something that kids will remember long after their finished with the toy du jour. :)

  3. I think this is great advice everyone should follow. Having all of these material items is not what gifts, birthdays and the holidays are about. You’re truly right – experiences are much more meaningful and often educational. Experiences are what children remember years from now, not the gifts that are wrapped under the tree and end up in the garbage after they break within a short time. Thanks for this reminder!

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  6. Absolutely a great idea! One year I gave one of my sons guitar lessons for a year. It was definitely a gift he loved and one that enhances his life!

    We also try to attend a holiday concert as part of our gift to each other. We make memories when we share music together.

    I’ve been working toward this idea with our extended family. I’ve made it as far as “consumable” gifts for and from them…hopefully, next year they’ll take the leap to experiential gifts!

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  9. Amy, I am having a hard time with that One Million Acts of Green application. It won’t let me put in my state. I tried to get your grandparents to take you kids somewhere for your birthdays way back in the 1980′s instead of just buying your more stuff. Then Grandma had her stroke and that was the end of that. I will do that with Ava and Jules when we move out. ;)

  10. my mom used to take my sisters every year to see “A Christmas Carol” at the ACT theater. it was a tradition i’ve seen been able to repay, i took her to see it last year as her gift. I definitely remember watching the play year after year and not the rest of… whatever i got for christmas.

    (we all had music lessons anyway already, mom considered that important and as a singer-songwriter to this day i’m very very glad mom didn’t skimp on shelling out for private lessons!!)

  11. I love it! We too have headed more that direction – especially for birthday presents. We have taken the kids jet skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, etc. for their birthday presents vs. giving them gifts and it’s been a GREAT change.

    We haven’t quite gotten there for Christmas yet, but I’m all for it.

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  13. The gift of experiences is such a great idea. My kids got way too many toys this year, as they do every year. In the end, experiences are what we remember, and what we learn the most from. Thanks!

  14. Yes I totally agree that kids these days should not just get stuff but experiences as well. Presents that are thoughtful are good too, and in my opinion the best present a father or mother can give is their love and attention. Bringing them over to Disney World is a pretty good present too. Nevertheless, we remember experiences better than that gadget we got years ago as we grow up. Great article!

  15. I totally agree we have been doing something similar with our kids where we say they have $250 and from that they get to take the family out for a trip and have a gift that way we all get to enjoy each others company.

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