Give your kid an experience as a gift and make memories instead of clutter

Give kids memories for the holidays. It saves on decluttering later and it may just be something the whole family can enjoy. (Photo: OdySea Aquarium/Tim Pannell image courtesy Spotlight Event Marketing)

Every holiday season, I ask my three daughters, “What was your favorite gift from last year?”

Sometimes they remember the big-ticket items. A computer, for example. More often than not, they can’t remember a single item. 

They do, however, remember the experiences.

The tickets they got to see a funny YouTube star do a show. The play we went to as a family. The guitar lessons. The season passes to water parks.

We lean heavy on gifting experiences for this reason: They turn into memories instead of clutter.

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Bonus —  experiences turn out to be a gift for you, too, because they mean quality time with your children (or a welcome respite while they’re blissfully engaged).   

So, if you’re new to the whole experiences-as-gifts thing, or you just need inspiration, here are some ideas on what to give this year. 

Membership passes

Aquarium memberships are the gifts that your kids can experience for the whole year. (Photo: OdySea Aquarium)

Splurge for a family membership or pass to your local zoo, science center, children’s museum, water park or aquarium. Memberships are often priced so that they pay for themselves after two visits a year. You can also get day passes for state and national parks.

Concerts and shows

Concert tickets to see Pink or another major musician would be your kid's favorite gift of the holiday for sure. The hardest part will be waiting to go! (Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Figure out which musicians your kids are always singing along with and which YouTube stars they’re endlessly streaming and then check to see if the act is on tour near you. Also, watch for the “live” show of your kids favorite morning shows, like Sesame Street Live, or special shows like Monster Truck Jams and Disney on Ice.

Theater and art performances 

Consider gifting kid with tickets to a play this Christmas. (Photo: Disney Theatricals)

When you introduce children to theater, you introduce them to music, dance, voice, stage design, costuming, makeup and more. Splurge and buy tickets to a larger venue show for $40 to $100 or be amazed at the magic that smaller venues likes schools and town-run venues can produce for $10 a ticket. 

Take your child to see: 

  • Children’s theater
  • Orchestra 
  • Symphony
  • Ballet 
  • Puppet shows

Sporting events

Does your child have a favorite sports team or player? Get them tickets to watch their favorite player like the Indiana Pacers' star player Victor Oladipo. (Photo: The Associated Press)

What’s your child’s favorite sport? Tickets to see a major league sports team is a splurge gift but it will be a memorable one. You can package your tickets with a team jersey or some other memorabilia. And don’t forget about minor league teams and college ball. 

Bowling, arcades and other activity centers

Give a child a day or an evening out with family or friends that he or she will remember. (Photo: David Schacher/Main Event Entertainment)

Think about what your child already begs you to do. Is it to go back to the art studio where their friend had a birthday party once? Or maybe they want to hit balls at the batting cage or jump around at the trampoline park. Buy special passes, memberships or gift certificates to THAT PLACE. You are instantly elevated to your child’s hero. Here are some ideas that might jog your memory:

  • The combo bowling/arcade venue
  • A trampoline park
  • Amusement park
  • Batting cages
  • Mini-golf course
  • Arcades and gaming centers
  • Rock climbing

Lessons

Cooking classes for kids are a great gift for children who are learning their way around the kitchen. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lessons are a great way to test the waters of your child’s commitment toward their latest obsession. They get to try horseback riding or dancing to see if it’s a good fit before taking the plunge. 

If your child never suggests anything, do like I did with my middle daughter when I surprised her with guitar lessons five years ago. She’s still taking them, by the way.  

Consider trying classes for:

  • Baking or cooking
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Tennis 
  • Gymnastics
  • Voice
  • Coding
  • Art
  • Photography
  • Golf
  • Horseback riding 

A special trip 

Has your kid ever been on a plane? This holiday, consider giving them a first-in-a-lifetime experience. (Photo: Vasyl Dolmatov, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Has your kid ever been on a plane or seen the ocean? Maybe this is the time give them that first-in-a-lifetime experience. You can splurge on a family trip to a Disney park or Universal Studios or book a beach vacation and try snorkeling. Or, don’t spend all your savings, and book a weekend trip to explore a different part of your state. If you’re kids are old enough to appreciate it, a vacation out of the country to soak up some culture could be just the thing.  

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