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#SocialParenting: “Experience” Gift Ideas for Kids

#SocialParenting: “Experience” Gift Ideas for Kids

At times, the material aspect of the holiday season can be overwhelming, especially for kids. How do you maintain a healthy balance when it comes to gifts for small children?

Gifting “experiences” – like swimming lessons, sports activities, museum passes, etc. – can be a great alternative to material gifts for children. The concept of experience gifts vs. material gifts has been a hot topic in the Bright Horizons Online Community and with our social media friends and families. Today, the Family Room bloggers are sharing their go-to ideas for experience gifts – gifts they’ve given others and gifts their own children have enjoyed in the past.

Do you have ideas that would make great gifts for children or family members that aren’t necessarily toys, clothing or material things? Share your ideas in the comments area below, with others on the Bright Horizons Facebook page or in the Bright Horizons Online Community.

Holiday & Birthday Gifts for Kids: “Experience” Gift Ideas

Kids at the moviesTickets to a show. We’ve discovered a great children’s theater series at a local university. The theater is small so there’s not a bad seat, but feels big enough that it’s a special time out for the kids. I’m trying to get better at keeping it simple during the holidays, and giving experience gifts is a great way to do so. For ticketed shows, look for performances in smaller venues in smaller cities nearby. It will be much more manageable, far less expensive, and until their at least 5 years old, many kids won’t last past intermission anyway.- Kris-Ann, Progressive Mom and Media Mom, and Jessie

Special activities. For Christmas and birthdays, my sister sometimes gives my daughter an activity. Last year she gave her gymnastics lessons, this year swimming – all dependent on what my daughter is interested in doing. She takes her to the lesson and it’s such a great thing for them to bond over. Plus, it gives me an 1-2 hours to myself, which is a gift for me as well! – Allison

Go to a kid’s event. For the second year in a row, we will be heading to American Girl just after the new year, in time for The Girl of the Year to be released. Last year, I arranged to have the store open up an hour early just for my local Moms Group and I’m doing the same thing again this year. It’s an incredible way to experience a normally chaotic and busy store in a calmer, more personal way. – Mary, Organized Mom

Sporting events. Last year, we gave my daughter and my father tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters together. We drove them to the venue and picked them up. It was a huge hit and they both had an amazing time and are asking for tickets again this year! I don’t think we’ll do the Globetrotters again, but I am looking for shows or concerts that can be “wrapped up” this year. – Heather

Prepare for the event.  For older kids, give them something they can do to plan for the experience. If the experience is a trip, for instance, buy books about the destination. – Media Mom

Get everybody involved. Each year we’ve taken the day off to go do something special as a family as part of Liam’s birthday celebration. We talk about different things we could do in the weeks leading up to his birthday so he gets to weigh in and get excited about the day.  We always have a special shirt or button for him to wear as the birthday boy. That special day together has become a favorite family tradition for all three of us. We have taken somewhat of an “experience gift” approach to Liam’s birthday – Kate, Rookie Mom


Little Girl at a Painting Class



  1. IndianTyohar February 27, 2015 at 3:04 am

    I really like these thoughts! A real great thanks to provide us with a very important idea.

  2. Sarah December 6, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Love these ideas! I am focussing on time and experience gifts this Christmas – I have bought my daughter a recipe book by her favourite TV chef and done some “coupons” for her and I to spend time together cooking out of the recipe book. Son is getting a skateboard and “coupons” for trips to the skate park with Dad 🙂

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