The Ultimate List of Experience Gift Ideas For Kids

The Ultimate List of Experience Gift Ideas For Kids

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While the focus of the holiday season shouldn’t be on gift-giving it is still a big part of our celebrations. Trouble is all those new toys bring a lot of stuff into our homes and don’t necessarily give more happiness. Is there another way to show our love? Here’s a list of experience gift ideas for kids. Instead of gathering dust, these gifts will become treasured memories.

child at Christmas

What are the best experience gifts?

In a hurry? Here are our top 10 experience gift ideas for kids.

  1. Geocaching
  2. Monthly Treat Club
  3. A year of dates
  4. Getting messy on purpose
  5. Making something together
  6. Movie passes
  7. Family Art Night
  8. Invitation to Hogwarts
  9. Mail Order Mystery
  10. Escape Puzzles

This is a long post. Use the table of contents to jump to the sections that interest you the most.

It is Beginning to Look Like Christmas

Everywhere I turn I see advertisements for Christmas gifts. We don’t watch cable television, but the ads are everywhere. They are in flyers, in our mailboxes, magazines and newspapers. There’s even a deluge of gift-buying guides in our Pinterest feeds.

To be honest it leaves me feeling grumpy. I hate the constant bombardment from every company I’ve contacted. Telling me that Christmas will not be complete unless I spend money on their product.

And it’s only the beginning of November. We haven’t even reached black Friday yet!

But Here’s the Problem

Stuff weighs us down. Clutter is suffocating. It’s more to clean up and it’s more to organize.

Do we Really Need More Stuff?

When you are a parent it is even harder. Toy manufacturers are targeting your kids with perfectly crafted advertising campaigns. Unluckily for us, they excel at making even the most boring toys look exciting. Remember the Hatchimals?

The trouble is that too many toys can be overwhelming for children. I know, because when I drastically reduced my boy’s toys they were much happier and so was I.

I’m not the only one. The parents at the library confirm my suspicions that most families have too many toys already. We are drowning in toys.

And you know what? More toys do not bring more happiness. There is a fascinating reason for this. It is something economists call The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. Interested to know more? Jump straight to the explanation at the end of the post.

In short, this law says there comes a point where the MORE we get the LESS satisfaction we gain. It is actually measurable!

But Christmas is a time of gift giving. It’s an opportunity for family and friends to show their love for each other with gifts. There is nothing wrong with this. But do we want or need more toys? Particularly if those extra toys lead to less joy and not more.

Call me Grinch if you want, but the whole situation has me wondering. Do we need to do things a little differently this year?

How about if we find a way to give gifts and yet keep our homes free from an overwhelming amount of stuff?

Experience gift ideas pin

What can I give instead of toys?

Could we changed our gift focus? What would it look like if you gave your kids memorable experiences with you instead of toys? Sound good?

This is something I started doing when my boys were in their late tweens. I wished I had figured this out much earlier. It all started when I began dreading Christmas. That is when I realized I was well and truly caught in the “more is better” trap. I knew that something had to give. So, I drastically changed the way I did Christmas.

One of those changes was to give experiences instead of toys. This worked so well that I have never looked back. I must admit it took a bit of getting used to and I had to get quite creative. It isn’t always easy to find good experience gifts. To be honest, some of the things I tried were real duds.

Still, I got the hang of it and now I am a pro. I kept track of what worked and what did not. Today I am sharing my epic list of kid tested experience gift ideas.

How Can I Give Experience Instead of Gifts?

Before I share it with you, I just want to talk about how to give experiences. The great thing about physical gifts is that you do have a nice pile of wrapped gifts under the tree. So, how do you gift wrap experiences? Obviously, you can’t, but there are a few tricks that will give you something to wrap and put under the tree. I have included many ideas to inspire your creativity and get you started.

A word of caution: A word of caution: this list may completely change the way you do Christmas. It could also drastically reduce the number of toys that come into your house. Ready?

What Are the Best Experience Gifts for Kids?

Experience gifts for kids do not have to be lavish (although they can be)! They just need be something that you can do together. Something that will create memories and be fun to do.

Experience gifts can help us.

  • Inspire creativity.
  • Fulfill a dream.
  • Follow a passion.
  • Encourage discovery.
  • Learn a skill.
  • Pass on a tradition.
  • Experience adventure

Tip: All these experience gifts ideas are geared towards kids. But you could adapt many of these ideas for adults too!

39 Experience Gift Ideas for Kids

Experience Gifts that Get You Out of the House

1. Outings

Our boys loved going out on special outings as a family. Their favorite place to visit was the waterpark at the West Edmonton Mall. A family day pass would delight them. Other ideas include.

  • Indoor rock climbing
  • An amusement park
  • Art museum
  • Animatronic Dinosaur park
  • Indoor gym
  • Aquarium
  • Skating rink

Need something to wrap? Pop copies of the tickets into a gift bag. (It might be wise to keep the original tickets safely tucked away. You don’t want them to be accidentally tossed into the recycling!)

2. Explore the Outdoors 

Get everyone outside and enjoy some family time with this experience gift idea. You can simply go for a hike or do something different. Try

How to Wrap It: Print out the scavenger hunt, or our printable invitation. To take it one step further, you can create a small outdoor adventure bag. Start with a small canvas bag. Jazz it up with some outdoor adventure patches. Fill it with a small water bottle, a flashlight and small first aid kit. A small pack of wipes are helpful and maybe a bag of trail mix.

3. Go Geocaching 

Join the world’s largest treasure hunt!It is fun. You get to hunt for hidden treasure! What’s not to love? Kids love it, and it gets everyone outside. Best thing of all? It is free to sign up. Create an account here and download the app.

Need something to wrap? Make a simple geocaching kit to wrap up. Start with a small canvas bag. Decorate with some geocaching patches. Pack a small bag of little treasures to swap out when you find a cache. I love these semi precious gems, but kids will probably love something like mini erasers. You also need a log book and pencil. A flashlight and small pack of wipes are helpful. A small first aid kit to go is also a good idea.

4. Events

 Tickets to a play, concert or sports event are exciting and make for great memories! I still give my adult boys tickets to Broadway shows and live theatre. We usually go out for a meal together to make for a complete evening out.

Need something to wrap?  Print out copies of the tickets and wrap those.

5. Plan a camping trip 

Kids will love this experience gift idea. If you aren’t ready to head for the wilderness,  try camping in your backyard. Don’t have a tent yet? There are all kinds to choose from. All these tents have great reviews and there is something for every budget.

How to Wrap It: Fill a box with some camping things. How about the ingredients for smores? Flashlights, simple compass, or a book of ghost stories. Not sure your kids are ready for spooky tales? This book of campfire fun for kids has loads of good ideas.

Can’t quite face camping? Believe me, I totally understand! Try this adorable indoor campout kit with free printables. It would be so much fun, and you don’t have to worry about bugs! This is my kind of camping!

6. Ice Cream for Supper

Who wouldn’t like ice cream for supper once in a while? Find an ice cream place that makes fancy sundaes and go all out. Maybe you can share the biggest one they have. Don’t live near one? Do it yourself and set up an ice cream Sundae bar with all the fixings. Invite everyone to go make the sundae of their dreams!

Need to Wrap It? Fill out one of our printable invitations.

7. Playground Crawl

This is another one that is great for younger kids and is best if you live in an urban area. What is Playground Crawl? In a nutshell, you make plans to visit every playground within a specified distance of your house. You pack up all your usual park paraphernalia and lots of food. Then spend the entire day, moving from one park to the next.

Need to Wrap It? Fill out one of our printable invitations and wrap it with a small day pack and sunhat that can be used on the day.

8. Go to a Posh Tea Room

Dress up in your finest clothes and go for a special date to a posh tearoom or fancy restaurant. It is not something you do each day and is sure to be an experience to remember.

Need to Wrap It? Fill out one of our printable invitations and pair it with a tie or a new hair decoration.

9. Try Some Foreign Cuisine

Take your children to an ethnic restaurant and try food from another culture. This is probably better for older kids who have developed an adventurous palate. Take it step further by learning more about the country and customs when you get home. The library is a good place to start.

Need to Wrap It? Fill out one of our printable invitations and pair it a kid’s book about other countries like this one.

10. Do something new

This is the time to try something you have never done before. Perhaps it will become a new family pastime. Whatever you choose, it will probably be an experience to remember. It could include things like

  • Paintballing
  • Laser tag
  • Escape room
  • Roller skating
  • Glow in the dark bowling

The great thing about these places is that they have all the equipment for rent. This means you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of stuff just to try it out.

Need to Wrap It? Pair one of our printable invitations with a brochure or flyer

11. Get Your Kids Behind the Camera

Most kids love cameras. There is something magical about capturing a moment in time and preserving it as an image. Point and shoot digital cameras have made photography so much easier, and cheaper, that children can start taking pictures at a very young age. There are all kinds of fun things you can do with them. Things like photo stories, picture safaris, or picture time capsules. For details, see the chapter “Camera Fun” in my mini book Unplug.

Need to Wrap It? Fill in the printable invitations and pair it with an inexpensive digital camera.

12. Go on an Adventure

These are outings that involve something a little more adventurous. There are all kinds of exciting adventures for families to enjoy. Obviously, it depends on where you live, but adventures might include things like

  • Helicopter ride
  • Digging for Fossils
  • Horseback trail riding
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Boat ride
  • Rafting down rapids
  • Visiting a copper mine
  • Zip lining
  • Visit to an Aerial park
  • Hot Air balloon Ride

Need to Wrap It? Most of these adventures will advertise with flyers or brochures. Wrap one of those brochures with a small day pack and sunhat to use on the day.

12. A Night at a Hotel

This may not sound like much, but for my kids it was the biggest treat ever. I would look for a hotel with an amazing pool (maybe even a water slide) and book it for a night. Enjoying the pool, watching pay per view kid’s movie and dining on junk food was my boy’s idea of bliss!

Need to Wrap It? Fill out one of our printable invitations and pair it with some new PJs (or swimsuits) if the hotel has a pool.

Experience Gifts Ideas that Encourage Creativity and Build Skills

13. Cooking class for kids 

Most kids love to bake and cook. It is a fun activity to do with them and you are teaching an important life skill. How is that for a parenting win? Does your family have a top-secret recipe? Now is the time to pass it onto the next generation.

No family recipes? Try Kids Baking DIY Activity Kit with premeasured ingredients. Try cake pops, granola bars or a bug cupcakes.

Need something to wrap? Pair a kid sized apron with a printed invitations to bake.

Need some easy recipes to try with your kid? Try these.

14. Sign them up for a class 

Do your kids have any interests? Classes are a great way to encourage children in their hobbies. It also lets them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy. Look at what is on offer locally. The library can be a good place to find out information. In our little town we have martial arts, art, yoga, jewelry making, puppet making, musical theatre, all manner of music classes and gymnastics for kids.

Need something to wrap?  Print out the flyer and wrap that. You could also include a page from a calendar with the days marked. If the class requires specific supplies, buy them, and wrap those.

15. Plant a Garden

Most kids love planting and growing seeds. Me too? There is something almost magical about planting a seed and watching it germinate. So, let’s give them the opportunity to plant a garden. It is a fabulous experience gift idea. Maybe they will even eat the vegetables they grow. Want to do something extra special? Try making a runner bean tepee or sunflower house to use all summer? Don’t have  garden? Plant something in a pot or try balcony gardening.

Need to wrap it? Pair some seeds that grow easily with some kid size tools. A Word of warning! Not all garden tool sets are equal. There are loads of “play sets” available, a poor-quality set will be frustrating. After checking dozens of sets I settled on this one. Made from glass-fiber-reinforced polypropylene, so they are lightweight, strong, and non-rusting. Pair it with one of these growing starter packs. There are 6 different options to choose from.

16. Swimming Lessons

Swimming lessons are a great experience gift in themselves. But learning to swim is a valuable life skill and is great exercise.

Need to Wrap It? Put the class schedule in a swim bag with some fun goggles, a new swimsuit and maybe a special towel.  

Experience Gifts with Membership Benefits

17. Library Card 

I have worked in a library for six years now. I can tell you that younger children are always thrilled when they get their very own library card. This is the ultimate clutter-free gift. It will get your kids books, movies, audio books, music, and magazines and none of it stays in your house. 

Need something to wrap? Pair it with a cute book bag and a written promise to visit the library at least once a month.

18. Mysteries by Mail

Sign your kids up for a Mail Order Mystery. Choose a mystery for the year. Your kids will receive monthly deliveries of “Perplexing puzzles. Curious clues. Twisting plots.” The idea is that the storyline develops in installments. These are aimed at children aged 8- 13, but they have a few mysteries that are suitable for 6–9-year-olds. This service is based in Canada, but they ship worldwide.

Need something to wrap? Order early and wrap the first installment. If the next installments come before Christmas, put them aside to “arrive” monthly. The company puts numbers on the outside of the parcel, so you can keep them in order.

19. Memberships

 Local attractions such as zoos, museums, water and theme parks, art galleries, aquariums, and botanical gardens often offer seasonal passes for families. This is the experience gift idea that keeps on giving through the year.

Need something to wrap? Put the pass cards into a gift bag.

20. Give the Gift of Music 

Give tweens and teens a subscription to  Amazon music unlimited. They get access to 70 million songs and can make their own playlists.

Need to Wrap It? Create a card announcing the membership. Include the username and password. Go a step further and buy an Echo Dot which has a great sound and will connect with your Amazon music.

Tip: The Echo Dot often goes on sale on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I got mine for under $20.

21. Subscribe to a Kid’s Magazine 

Kids love getting mail and you’ll be building their reading skills too. Plus, most kids’ magazines include activity and craft ideas for kids. Try Ranger Rick, HighlightsNational Geographic For Kids, anything in the Cricket magazine family or Discovery Girls. Donate used magazines to an organization that helps families or children.

Need something to wrap?  Buy the current issue locally and wrap that.  Tell them that they will be receiving a new one each month.

22. Give the Gift of Stories

This one is for older kids. We know that it is important to keep reading to kids even when they can read themselves. However, I found it harder to read chapter books aloud to my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I loved sharing the stories and spending time with my kids. Still, it took longer to read one or two chapters and I was often tired at the end of the day.

Then we discovered audio books! Listening to professional narrators reading our favorite stories was so much easier! I wanted the connection time though, so we would listen together. Often, I was the one insisting on one more chapter!

You can buy and download audiobooks onto your devices and play. You can also play books through an Echo Dot. If you want to go a step further, consider an Audible membership. Kids can choose one book a month, so you can build up quite a library.

Need to Wrap It? Create a card announcing the membership. Include the username and password. Go a step further and buy an Echo Dot which has a great sound and will connect with Audible.

Tip: On a budget? Many libraries offer audio books through their digital resources. Wrap up a library card with instructions for downloading and playing books.

23. Monthly Treat Club 

Choose something your child loves to eat or do and create a monthly club around that. It could be a cookie, craft, special snack, or movie of the month. Every month they receive a different treat to enjoy. By the way there is no rule that says these must be homemade. Many store-bought cookies are delicious. You know the kind that are too sugar laden/expensive to get everyday? They are perfect for an occasional treat.

Need something to wrap?  Wrap the first installment and pop in 11 coupons for each successive month.

Experience gift ideas pin

Experience Gift Ideas That Come in A Box

24. A Day in a Box

I just love this homemade experience gift idea and it is perfect for younger kids!  Basically, you find a little box. Attach a notice on the top. Then fill the box with little notes and pictures that explains what will happen on the special day the day.  It is so creative! Firstly, you and your child get a special day together, and secondly it avoids more toys. Get all the details here. This one is easily wrapped.

25. Create a Movie Night Kit 

Fill a gift box with everything you’ll need. Popcorn, a microwave popcorn maker, and fancy reusable cups with straws. Don’t forget gift cards for movie rental and pizza delivery.  This one is easy to wrap.

26. A Year of Dates 

Your kids want to spend time with you. This is like the day in the box but is a monthly date. You prepare 12 envelopes, one for each month. Inside each are the details of a date. This is another brilliant DIY experience gift idea. You can find the details here. Try cooking a recipe of the child’s choice, a fun science experiment, or going on a nature hike.  This one is easily wrapped!

Experience Gift Ideas to do at Home

27. Plan a family art night

 Pick a date, print out an invitations to get creative. Check out this epic list of family art projects you can do together. Make a special night of it by serving snacks and mocktails.

How to Wrap It: Fill out our printable invitation and put in a box with some fancy new art supplies.

28. Invitation to Hogwarts!

Invite your child to spend some time at Hogwarts with an afternoon of magical science experiments. Attend potions class, explore magical creatures, or enjoy some herbology. You can even try your hand at charms and transfiguration! Isn’t that an amazing experience as a gift?

Need to wrap it? Customize and print a Hogwarts letter. Pair it with a wand and you are good to go!

29. Give One-on-One Time 

How many of us mean to spend time with our kids each day, but don’t quite get around to it? Make it easy with these printable play activity cards. Each card has a suggestion for one simple play activity. They do not need any preparation or special materials, so you can get going in a moment’s notice. And the best part of these play activities is that they’ll bring you closer to your kids in just 15 minutes a day.

Need to wrap It? Download a set of play activity cards, and put them into a container. See some suggestions here.

30. Introduce Your Child to Journaling 

Buy a journal and take turns writing back forth about what is going on. It is a great way to connect and find out what is going on in your kid’s heart and mind and life. Any journal will do, but I like these as they contain prompts, coloring pages, and free creative space. This makes it easy to get journaling.

This one is easy to wrap.

31. A donation to a charity

 Has your child raised money for a cause that is close to their heart? Have they expressed concern about wildlife or children in need? Why not donate to a charity in their name? My favorite charity is Kiva.

Need to Wrap It?  Many charities will give a card for gift donations that you can give. If not, Canva has loads of card templates you can adapt to create your own.

32. Host an un-birthday celebration

Invite your child to host an un-birthday party in your home. Let them help plan the theme, menu and activities.

Need to Wrap It?  A personalized invitation with a specific date and details would be enough. If you want something a little more, wrap up a party decoration kit.

33. Escape Puzzle Night

Have you discovered the Ravensburger Escape Puzzles yet? They are more than just a puzzle. You read the story, assemble a puzzle, solve the clues, and figure out your escape. There are a whole series of these. It is the perfect experience gift idea for tweens.

Need to Wrap It? You could just wrap the puzzle of course. Why not fill out our printable invitation to go with one of the puzzles and some snacks?

34. Get Really Messy (On Purpose)

Invite your kids to put on some old clothes and come with you to make a huge mess on purpose. We have 25 gloriously messy science experiments to get you started. Or some other messy play ideas. But you could wait for a wet day and go play in the mud or slide down some mucky banks. I grew up near a river with sandy banks. Our idea of bliss was a day spent sliding down the sand banks. We got so dirty!

Need to Wrap It? Fill out one of our printable invitations and pair it with some new towels. You are going to need them for clean up afterwards!

35. Make Something Together 

Do you like making things or arts and crafts. Find some simple projects that you and the kids can make together. Make it easy on yourself by purchasing ready made kits that already have everything you need. Here are my favorite Art and craft kits and some ready made Science based kits

Want to make this a monthly event? Try a coding subscription box You will get a new coding project in the mail each month.

As a supplement, consider giving one of these books to inspire new projects year-round.

Need to Wrap It? Wrap ready made kits. Otherwise, gather all the supplies you’ll need for the project.

Gift Certificates and Coupons

36. Gift Certificates 

My boys love gift certificates to fast food restaurant, Google play, or Prime video. These cards give experiences that don’t bring home more stuff.

Need something to wrap? Pop the gift cards into a cute pillow box.

37. Movie passes 

Movie passes are perfect for those horribly miserable days when you just need to get out of the house.

Need something to wrap? Use a cute pillow box and put it in the tree branches

38. DIY Coupons 

An book of coupons that your children can “spend” at any time is always popular.  A week without chores and a batch of favorite cookies were the top favorites at our house. As far as my boys were concerned, those were the best experiences in the world. Any of the ideas in this post could be put on a coupon.

To make things easy for you I have created some cute coupons for you to use. Grab your free printable here.

Need something to wrap? These are great for stocking stuffers. Otherwise, put them in a pretty gift box.

39. Buy a Small Extravagance

I am very frugal and found lots of ways to do thing inexpensively. However, occasionally I would buy  my boys a small extravagance as a special treat. It didn’t happen very often, so it was always a special occasion when it did. I found that these made really good experience gifts. Here are some suggestions.

  • Those exquisitely decorated cupcakes that cost a fortune.
  • Luxury soap, bubble bath, or creams from a specialty store.
  • Makeup from a high-end store.
  • Customized face painting applied by an artist.
  • Specialty ice cream. The kind that costs triple the cost of the no-name stuff.
  • Professional art materials from an art store

Need to Wrap It? Gift cards are the best way to give these kinds of things. When it comes to extravagance, my boys liked to pick out their own treats! The ice cream was gifted via a coupon!

This is the end of my list of experience gifts for kids. It is a continual work in progress, and I will be adding to it as I think of other things.

This next section talks more about we should limit the number of toys for our kids.

Why Should We Avoid Too Many Toys?

There is a secret that toy makers do not want you to know. More toys do not bring more happiness or provide more play value. In fact, there comes a tipping point where they do the opposite.

We’ve all seen this in playing out in our kid’s lives. Let me ask you a few questions. How many toys do your kids actually play with day to day? Count the number that are sitting unused on a shelf, in the closet, or under the bed. Despite all those toys, do you hear your kids complain they have nothing to do?

You may find your self wondering if you’ve been a bad parent. I want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with your children. They aren’t ungrateful or greedy. You are witnessing something called The Law Diminishing Marginal Utility.

What the heck is The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility?

This is an economics term. As consumption increases, the happiness gained from getting more of the same declines.

Let us give an example using chocolate. The first bit of good chocolate is divine right? In fact, it’s so good that when we’ve finished it, we will often take another. The second bite tastes wonderful but is not quite as satisfying as the first. We can continue to eat it but reach a point where the extra bites do not add anything to the experience of pleasure. Furthermore, consuming more can eventually take us in the opposite direction. This effect is so well established that it is referred to as the “law of diminishing marginal utility.” 

What does this mean for parents?

As the number of toys increases the satisfaction or happiness gained from each new toy goes down. There comes a point at which children become overwhelmed. This decrease in happiness is measurable. Until receiving more toys provides zero increase in happiness.

Have you ever seen a child open a huge pile of gifts? the first few gifts obviously bring a lot of excitement and pleasure. However, you quickly reach a point where you see the light go out in your child’s eyes. After that unwrapping any more presents becomes mechanical and joyless. This is the law of diminishing marginal utility kicking in.

I have tried to find a reason for this phenomenon. What is it about the human brain that causes this phenomenon?  So far, I have not been able to find any studies or theories. I suspect that our bodies intuitively know that excess is not good for us. So, it is our brain’s way of trying to protect us from that excess. Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to listen to that intuition and keep consuming anyway.

Another Reason to Give Experiences Rather Than Toys

There is another reason that new toy fails to give as much play value as we hoped for when we shelled out the cash for it. Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been studying this phenomenon for two decades.

We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.

DR. THOMAS GILOVICH

New things (including toys) are exciting at first, but kids quickly get used to them being around. Then they start to fade into the background and become almost invisible. This is particularly true of novelty toys that can only really be played in one way. Open ended toys tend to provide a bit more play value, because there are many ways to play with them. This means they don’t fade into the background so quickly.

Why Are Experience Gifts the Best Gifts?

There is an assumption that a physical object will give more pleasure than an experience. The thought is that the object lasts longer. Surprisingly enough, scientists have found this is not the case. In fact, the overall satisfaction with things goes down over time. This is due to law of diminishing marginal utility and the process of adaptation.

But here’s the interesting thing, this does not happen with experiences. In fact, experiences seem to provide increased satisfaction over time. Experiences become part of our identity. They become a part of us. It makes sense doesn’t it? In many ways we are the sum of our experiences.

But wait there is more! Shared experiences connect us to each other. Think about it! You are more likely to feel connected with someone that took an amazing art class with you. Rather than someone who happens to have bought a set of expensive art brushes.

When we share experiences with our kids, they become a shared memory. They become part of the stories that we talk about to each other later. This is powerful stuff. I can’t tell you how often my boys’ express gratitude for the things we did together.

Need Proof?

Think back to your childhood. What do you remember the most? I bet is probably an event.

I know I had plenty of toys when I was growing up, but I don’t really remember many of them to be honest.

But I do remember the weekly “seeing and doing” outings with my family. My parents had very little money and we did not have a car. Still every Sunday we went exploring in our small town. We wandered along the old Roman road to see where it went. Explored the train station and watched the trains. Spent the day at the ruined Norman castle. And walked along part of the Pilgrims way.

These experiences are part of my childhood and live on in my memories. I also remember the family gatherings and the way it felt to spend time with my extended family. Reminiscing about them is part of what connects me with my siblings and parents. Those experiences have brought us far more joy than any toy ever did.

Should We Stop Buying Any Toys?

The bottom line is this.  Giving your kids more, more, more stuff for the holidays or birthdays is probably not the best use of your money. Sure, it’ll give your kids some joy in the moment, but in the end, it will not give them lasting happiness. In fact, it may do the opposite.

To be clear, I’m not telling you to ban all toys. Go ahead and get your kid some toys this Christmas! But remember that the more toys they get, the less they’ll appreciate any of them.

Related: Try the Kid Approved Four Gift Rule as a Simple Way to Reduce Toys

My boys are adults now. They will sometimes reminisce and share stories from their childhood. I love to hear them talking. They have never talked about a specific toy they got. What they talk about are the experiences that they had and the things we did together.

Gifts of experience will provide your family with strong connections and shared memories. Those are the things that stick with you for a lifetime.

Still Not Convinced?

Ask your children this question. What was the thing you liked the most about last Christmas? Then listen to their responses. Do they talk about a specific gift or do they talk about something you did together? They may say “The presents!” But unwrapping gifts is a shared experience of sorts. It is unlikely that they will mention a specific toy, unless it is something you play with together. This tells you everything you need to know.

Some Final Words

We parents have one main goal. We want our kids to grow up to be good people and have a happy childhood. What could be more important? Toys are a part of that for sure. But the bottom line is this, more toys will not bring more happiness, but family experiences will. So, what does this all mean? Surprise your kids with a few well-chosen toys, but focus on giving experiences. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did

Experience gift ideas pin