By Contributing Writer, Victoria Osborn
What are some gifts of experiences you have enjoyed both giving and receiving?
I’m one of those people who is strictly against Christmas anything before Thanksgiving. We don’t decorate, listen to Christmas music or do anything of the season until Thanksgiving is over.
The reason is I adore Thanksgiving and the fall season so much and I don’t want to rush it. I love all that Thanksgiving stands for — good food, family and a season of gratitude. So for that reason, I wait until after the dishes have been cleared to start pulling out the decor.
The one pre-Thanksgiving Christmas prep and planning I DO work on is shopping for gifts. I plan my Christmas budget long before the season begins, in fact we set money aside all year long. I use my intentional gift giving guide and scout for good deals throughout the year, many of which usually come between September and November.
If your house is anything like mine, your children probably have a lot of toys, more than they really need. Trying to stay on top of the toy clutter is an ongoing battle and the truth is that our children really don’t need all those toys. In fact I have found when I pack away or do a massive toy purge leaving only a few well loved toys, they actually enjoy playing with them more.
I want to cultivate a season where my children’s focus isn’t on the gifts but rather on the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas. When I think back on my own childhood Christmas, I can really only recall a few knock-out gifts but I remember almost all of the time spent together as a family. So to help keep the excessive toy clutter at bay, I’m directing my children’s very generous grandparents to gifts of experiences.
Experiences really are wonderful gifts because not only are they fun and enjoyable but they also provide memories you will cherish together as a family for years to come. Below are some ideas of different experience gifts that I know just about everyone will love.
Guess what? Kids LOVE getting something in the mail, and I bet you do do especially when it breaks up the bills and junk mail. There are so many fun subscription services out there today. From the standard magazine subscriptions (my son loves getting National Geographic Kids in the mail), to fun craft and activity boxes, there are so many fun things to choose from.
Monthly subscriptions are a great gift idea because they keep giving all year long. This year I have asked both sets of grandparents to gift a year subscription to Little Passports and Green Kids Crafts. Not only are they fun and engaging but they are both filled with learning and exploratory activities.
Don’t forget about you too! Is there a magazine you really love reading? Or are you slightly obsessed with your monthly Stitch Fix? If a family member asks what they can give you, don’t hesitate to share. These are also great gifts to give too!
Going to the zoo, children’s museum, or aquarium are some of my family’s favorite activities but they can get expensive fast. An annual season pass to a local attraction is always a well loved gift because they can be used over and over again too.
Plus a lot of the time when you become a member to a certain attraction, you also get additional savings inside the event too. For example every year my mother purchases a zoo membership for our family. Along with her purchase she receives monthly coupons to be used inside the zoo for meals, additional attractions that cost money, gift shop discounts or even first looks to new attractions opening.
During the holiday season a lot of local attractions provide discount deals on their membership passes so now is the perfect time to take advantage of those. Don’t forget seasonal attractions either. Do you live near a water park or amusement park that your family visits a lot over the summer? You can gift passes to those during the holidays too!
Now that my kids are starting to get older, it’s fun to take them to sporting events or other fun events like the circus, Sesame Street Live, a special concert, sporting event or Disney on Ice. These are the fun events that usually only happen once a year but the tickets can be pretty expensive.
To make giving an event ticket even more fun, you can create a special theme box. For example my husband loves going to baseball games, we are a Kansas City Royals family here, so whenever I surprise him with tickets to the game I fill a small box with a new shirt or baseball hat, sunflower seeds (he’s allergic to peanuts), and a few other small tokens that relate to the theme. This can easily be done with a circus themed box or whatever the special event is.
Does your family have a favorite restaurant you like to eat at? Or a favorite ice cream shop? Or maybe you like to go to the movies occasionally? Gift cards to your favorite eateries and treat shops are always a fun gift and they are so useful too.
My family budgets to eat out at least twice a month (sometimes Mama needs a break from the kitchen!) but when we know we have special gift cards to our favorite, kid friendly places, it makes eating out even better. My husband and I also receive a handful of gift cards to use on date nights too which is such a blessing. Plus it’s kind of a win-win because Grandma sends us out to dinner then she gets a night with the kids :) which brings me to my final suggestion…
The Gift of Time
In our busy, fast paced society, quality and intentional time spent with the people we love is such a valued gift. Almost all of these gift suggestions are natural ways to build in quality time together as a family or special one-on-one time with a grandparent or relative.
Kids LOVE it when they get the undivided attention from a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle. What a special treat for them to know they get to spend a special afternoon alone with mom or dad, grandma or grandpa. It almost doesn’t even matter what they are doing as long as they are getting that special attention.
This doesn’t even necessarily need to be a gift that costs any extra money either, just maybe a little planning. My kids love spending the weekend at their grandmother’s house and we try to rotate so they each get a night to themselves.
Giving gifts of experiences is a wonderful alternative to material objects that most likely will be forgotten about once the Christmas decor is down and the season is over. These are gifts that will be cherished for years to come through memories that are made. Plus I guarantee these types of gifts are just as much fun to give and to receive by all.