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Experience Gifts for Kids: What To Give the Kid with Enough STUFF

Movie night

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I don’t like to think of myself as a hoarder. But when I look at all of the secret places where toys are stashed throughout my house, I can’t help but reconsider my hoarding status.

I’m not a fool. When I had kids, I expected they’d come with their fair share of stuffed animals, noise machines, and small (practically microscopic) doodads that I would eventually step on and cuss…a lot.

I couldn’t have prepared myself, though, for how immense their collection of belongings would be. We’ve even tried to create a playroom in our home, but somehow the endless collection of baby dolls and blocks seem to multiply and spill out across the house.

(Side note: I think the toy cloning happens while we’re sleeping–if anyone has any additional input, please advise!)

Don’t get me wrong, I want our girls to have nice things to play with, but the problem is that when birthdays and other holidays arrive, we’re continuously stumped about what to buy. After all, what are the right gifts for the child who already has TOO MUCH STUFF??

What we’ve come to find is that experience gifts for kids is actually the ideal alternative to battery-operated torture devices that will run amuck in your home.

From theme park tickets to craft projects, purchasing non-toy gifts for kids is not only an ideal way to press the breaks on the toy insanity, but it’s also the perfect way to spend some great quality time with your little ones.

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Why Are Non Toy Gifts for Kids Important?

My girls are obsessed with “surprise eggs.” If you’re a fellow parent attempting to raise children in the Youtube-era, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The problem is that you can buy a LOT of surprise toys before you realize the truth of the situation:

Those kinds of toys are filled with junk that will be tossed away as soon as the fun of opening them has fizzled out.

This past Christmas, our girls’ wish lists were filled with one variation of these “surprise” products after another. 

While we inevitably ended up purchasing a couple of them, my husband and I couldn’t bring ourselves to spend a buttload of money on useless crap that would find its way to the trash can sooner rather than later.

We decided instead that this was the year we would take back Christmas.

Instead of spoiling them with an endless collection of toys, we chose to focus on something more important–family gift experiences for kids (and adults!).

The Importance of Family Gift Experiences

What exactly do I mean by family gift experiences, you might be wondering? Well, in our case, we chose to focus on shopping for something we can do together: camping.

Rather than buying fifty million electronic toys that will probably delay their social development anyway, we went with alternatives like binoculars, sleeping bags, and games that could be played in nature.

Then, right after Christmas, we all went on our first family camping trip.

It was incredible sharing this time together with our little ones. Even better, they weren’t even asking for the other new toys that we had to leave behind at home!

Purchasing experience gifts for kids, or even Montessori toys for babies, fosters an environment that’s grounded in development, creativity, stronger relationships, and education.

Not only will you have fewer toys scattered throughout the house, but you can find comfort in the positive effects these alternative presents are providing your children.

Gifts for the Child Who Has Everything: The Top 10 Experience Gifts for Kids

Now that we’ve covered the “why” regarding non-toy gifts for kids, it’s time to dig into the “what”:

What types of experience gifts for kids will your child actually enjoy?

I know what you’re probably thinking. It doesn’t matter how pretty I make the packaging or exciting I make the opportunity seem; there’s no way my kid’s going to just forget about the fact that there are fewer toys for them to open.

You might be surprised how much they’ll actually like our top 10 experience gifts for kids! 

After all, research has shown that people find experience gifts to be more thoughtful than material gifts. And while your child might be too young to focus how thoughtful a gift might be, they will definitely remember the experience you had together for years to come. 

1. Tickets to an Aquarium or Zoo

What kid (or adult, for that matter) doesn’t like being near live animals?

If you have a cool zoo or aquarium in your local area, why not get your little ones tickets to check it out? Many of these types of locations even offer annual memberships that will keep the fun coming all year long!

2. Subscription Boxes for Kids

The great thing about subscription boxes for kids is the vast collection of different options available. Whether your son or daughter is into technology, science, crafting, reading, or more, you’re sure to find the perfect box to fit their interests.

Some of the most popular options available include:

  1. KiwiCo: Each box comes with various science, technology, art, and math (STEAM) sets for interactive learning, along with a book that’s on theme with the box.
  2. Little Passports: From geography to science, Little Passports boxes include toys, kits, and books about different subjects and cultures from around the world.
  3. Green Kid Crafts: Every box includes 4-6 STEAM activities involving nature.
  4. Bitsbox: Bitsbox is perfect for little coders! These kits include a variety of technology and computer-themed and/or coding kits.

3. Movie Tickets + At-Home Movie Nights

Is there something special your child’s been wanting to see? Then why not treat them to a movie night at the local theater? 

Another option would be to put together an at-home movie night kit. It could include things like a new movie, an at-home popcorn maker, and candy.

4. DIY Coupon Books

Who says that experience gifts for kids have to be for a single thing? Instead, why not give your little ones a whole bunch of options to choose from?

A DIY coupon book is a great way to give your child a wide range of different non-toy gifts for kids. You can even find companies that create easy-to-use coupon book templates to help get you started.

Are you stumped for ideas about what to include in the book? Here are some of our favorites:

  1. One Day with No Chores for Kids
  2. Movie Night
  3. Trip to the Library
  4. Lunch at their favorite restaurant
  5. Stay Up Past Their Bedtime
  6. Favorite Meal for Dinner
  7. Ice Cream Date

5. Magazine Subscriptions

One of the great things about magazines for kids, like Highlights and National Geographic Kids, is the wide range of different activities they offer. 

My girls receive an annual subscription to Highlights, for example, and there are always cute activities, games, stories, and educational opportunities in every issue.

A magazine subscription as an experience gift for kids is also something a little bit different than just handing them a book. 

Plus, it comes every month, so they have something to run out and check the mailbox for!

6. Science Kits 

Do you have a budding scientist on your hands? Are you raising the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie? If so, they’ll love the different experiments they can perform with a science kit!

One of the secretly great things most parents love about science kits is the fact that your child will be having tons of fun and learning at the same time. Just be sure not to tell them they’re actually doing something educational!

7. Tickets to See a Live-Action Favorite Character 

Whether it’s Disney on Ice or Peppa Pig Live, there’s sure to be a character-based show your little ones would love to see! 

There’s something so magical about taking a favorite character off of the tv screen and seeing them in person, and it’s a joy for you, mama, to see that little face light up when Peppa comes to life…

8. Skill Learning Classes

Has your child been asking about horseback riding lessons or piano classes? Do they have a special interest in learning to cook or bake? 

Their birthday or Christmas could be a great chance to make those experiences happen for them!

It’s fairly easy to track down gift cards (or make your own) for these kinds of classes. Plus, taking your child to their class of choice will give you time together to bond. 

Sharing in something that they love together gives you more to talk about and more chances to engage with them on their level. 

Cooking gift experience
Does your kid enjoy cooking or baking? How about cooking classes as a cool gift experience?

9. Pets

In keeping with our quest to find non-toy gifts for kids this past Christmas, we got a bright idea–why not get them the pet that they have been begging for?

If you agree as parents that your child(ren) is mature enough and ready for a pet, and that you are on board with this commitment, then giving a pet could be a great option for your family.

While animals can be a controversial option (Please don’t buy a pet you plan just to give away once the novelty has worn off!), they can also be the piece de resistance when it comes to experience gifts for kids.

Not only are pets cute, cuddly, and fun to play with, but they also teach our children lessons in responsibility and care.

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10. Tickets to a Theme Park

Okay, all you Disney parents out there, this one’s for you! What child wouldn’t love to receive tickets to a theme park as a gift? 

Many parents choose to announce this gift through material gifts such as giving a Disney suitcase or matching t-shirts for the whole family. These material gifts can be low-cost and can get the child excited for their upcoming experience!

Added bonus: this is an ideal family gift experience that parents will love just as much as the kids. 

AKA me…I would love this gift (wink wink).

Experience Gifts for Toddlers

While non-toy gifts for older kids don’t seem so hard to make a reality, finding experience gifts for toddlers isn’t always as simple.

Thankfully, though, our awesome community of moms has helped us build a list of great gifts for 2 year olds that any toddler on your list will love:

  1. Piggy Banks: Piggy banks are a classic way to teach your kids basic money-saving techniques and responsibility with money. Plus, they’re adorable!
  2. Plush Night Lights: Is your little one scared of the dark? This soft nightlight is a great way to help put them at ease with an experience gift for kids that they’re sure to love.
  3. Memberships to Children’s Museums: this one benefits your child AND you! Spending quality time at the science or art museum is a go-to for us in terms of family bonding. It really is the perfect gift for toddlers.
  4. Musical Instruments: Whether it’s a toy piano or a set of natural-wood instruments, allowing your kids to make some music is always fun. Just don’t forget to add some earplugs to the shopping cart, as well!
  5. Water Spray Sprinklers: Are you looking for a simple way to have some outdoor fun? Spray sprinklers are fun, affordable, and easily hooked up to your garden hose.
Grandparents Social Experience
Don’t forget to let grandparents and aunts and uncles in on the fun gift experiences!

Toy-Less Presents that Parents Will Love, Too

Given the rush of our day-to-day lives, it’s not always easy to find the time to carve out special family moments with your loved ones.

Despite the everyday chaos, it’s important to find ways to spend quality time together that you and your children deserve. 

In fact, did you know research shows that there are great benefits of family time for parents and kids, such as:

  1. Reduced stress
  2. Better self-confidence
  3. Improved conflict resolution
  4. Enhanced mental health
  5. Better adaptability

Instead of just focusing on experience gifts for kids, why not think about options the whole family will love?

Some of our favorite ideas for a family outing experience include vacations, cooking classes, or a family adventure book. Whatever you end up choosing, however, just make sure it’s something that will appeal to the whole family.

Giving Memories Instead of Gifts (Because Toys Won’t Last Forever!)

It’s always fun to see the look on your kids’ faces when they open up a toy they really love. Excitement aside, are they really going to remember the surprise egg (those damn things!) they got for their 6th birthday? 

It’s sad to say, but probably not.

What they will remember, though, are the first dance lessons they ever took, the family trip to Disney, and the movie nights spent curled up on the couch munching on popcorn.

And if you can’t quit the idea of material gifts (we understand!) consider purchasing gifts that give back to help put your mind at ease about where your money is going.

But if you still you want to create memories that will last a lifetime (and we hope you do!) give experiences over gifts. While your kid might mourn the 25th baby doll she didn’t get for a few minutes, the joy they’ll feel spending time with their parent(s) will make it worth it in the end.

And the great news is that you can also recommend experience gifts for kids to grandparents and aunts and uncles! Kids love spending time with their extended family members, so why not get them in on this great idea?

If your family is anything like mine, then they are always dying to get their grandkids nieces something they really want. Suggest an experience gift they can do together over yet another gift certificate your kid won’t know what to do with.

You and your partner will get the day off, and everyone will have a good time. Win/win!

What types of experience gifts for kids have you given your little ones? Which were their favorites?

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