Gifting Experiences

With Christmas fast approaching, our kids are filled with images and commercials advertising the “newest, coolest” thing to hit the market. Despite the fact that their toy chest is already filled with excellent toys, they still play with the cardboard box they came in. Or as in the case of my daughter Jasmine, who is four, she makes up characters for her fingers and has a conversation between them…with her fingers! She doesn’t even need toys! But I digress.

Last Christmas season I wanted to try something different. I didn’t want to gift my kids with endless toys that would soon be broken, forgotten or donated. My husband and I decided to give them the gift of experiences.

Disney on Ice!

So what exactly does that mean, to give “experiences”? Instead of numerous toys under the tree, there was a noticeable lack of wrapped presents. We gifted our kids horseback riding lessons, swim lessons, gymnastics, dance lessons, and a Disney On Ice show. We, and other family members, bought them the small things they needed for each of these lessons. We included maybe one other small present from us, like a face painting kit, but other than that nothing else was under the tree. We wanted to them to cherish these memories and have fun with them. I wanted the gift excitement to last well beyond Christmas day and into the following months.

Horseback Riding Lessons!

So when Christmas day rolled around were there any cries of indignation at the lack of presents? Were there any, “Did Santa think I wasn’t good enough this year?” Nope. Some of the little extra gifts were from Santa, so he still visited our house, but overall they really understood and loved the idea of getting these experiences.

My children were thrilled Christmas morning when they opened up a small tootsie roll-shaped present and found it contained goggles and a voucher for swimming lessons. The same thrill repeated itself when they opened a package from their grandparents containing cowgirl boots and a voucher for horseback riding lessons. Next was a clothing box with a gymnastics leotard and tights, and a voucher for ballet lessons.

They played gleefully with their small toys in their stocking and eating their treats, while discussing what they thought lessons would be like for each of the activities.

The rest of Christmas day was spent watching 24 hours of A Christmas Story, eating treats, reading, and simply spending time together. There was no disappointment at a toy that someone got but the other wanted, there was no fighting and it was just peaceful.

In fact, they loved the swim lessons so much that they requested that those lessons continue and didn’t feel the need to do gymnastics or dance lessons. So not only did they find a passion, but now they are water safe!

I so thoroughly enjoyed watching them learn, become confident, and have so much fun with these experiences. I could watch their world expand as they were able to try new things. And unlike with toys, we as parents were actively involved in this experience. The scope of their joy was not focused on the toys but rather on the lessons and our enthusiastic approval.

It brought us closer as a family and was money well spent.

What are your gift giving alternatives to toys?

2 Responses to Gifting Experiences

  1. Great ideas!

  2. I love this idea so much as we struggled this past Christmas when creating wish lists for our boys. We didn’t want any more toys. Books are always welcome, but this year we included museum memberships, a zoo membership and passes to local parks.

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