It’s way too easy to get swept up by consumerism. That’s why when our daughter was born in January, my husband and I consciously decided to avoid accumulating too much stuff. We decided to give her wrapped presents for Christmas, like toys and clothes, and experiences for her birthday, like special trips and activities.
So, if your house can’t take one more plastic, electronic or loud object, skip the toy invasion altogether by looking at these experiences to gift a child.
1. Event tickets
Any mom knows it’s critical to have activities planned outside of the house in between nap times. There’s something about keeping a toddler cooped up at home that creates whining, tantrums, and just plain boredom. They are undoubtedly on better behavior when engaged in activity elsewhere.
The trick is to keep the days interesting by getting a change of scenery. I love taking my daughter to the children’s shows at our local theater. Whether it’s a small troupe putting on a performance, or a nation-wide touring group stopping through our fair city, there is an event happening nearly every month that appeals to my child. To make sure we don’t miss out on an interesting show, I keep my eye on the events calendar throughout the year to see what’s new and noteworthy.
Saving money on toys and stocking up on tickets instead means we’ll have multiple fun events to look forward to in the year to come, and countless memories to be made.
Note: Don’t have a local performing arts theater? Movie tickets work just as well!
2. Class registration
Before becoming a mom, I’d heard that having children was expensive. I always assumed that meant it was pricey to feed, clothe, clean, and generally keep the kids alive. While all of that is true, I’ve also come to find that activities and extracurriculars really add up to break the bank! On top of all of our other monthly expenses, it can be hard to justify the cost of music, gymnastics or karate class on a regular basis.
By allocating some of our gift-giving budgets towards classes, registering becomes a no-brainer. She gets to learn from experts among her peers and have fun to boot! That’s way better than purchasing a toy she’ll forget about after a few weeks.
In addition to classes, memberships to the children’s museum, community pool, zoo or other fun local attractions are all great experiences to gift a child.
When I think of the perfect vacation, I’m sitting on a beach, book in my left hand, and a fruity drink garnished with an umbrella in my right. Alas, as a parent, this fantasy is reserved for the few and far between opportunities where my husband and I get to take a couple’s trip sans kiddos.
While vacation with children looks quite different, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun. On the contrary, there’s nothing else like seeing your child’s face light up with excitement when you present a special outing.
In our case, a little research revealed that Peppa Pig, one of our daughter’s favorite cartoon characters, has a Peppa Pig World within driving distance from my home. Y’all, it turns out Peppa Pig World is just a storefront in a mall, but what seems insignificant to an adult can be truly magical for a child. My daughter was overjoyed to see all of the characters up close and personal on set.
Now, in addition to more traditional family vacations and getaways, I’m going to look for unique destinations that aren’t necessarily exotic or expensive but make great experiences to gift a child.
Best way to gift an experience
But Katie, what if my kid throws a fit that they can’t open their “experience present” right then and there?
It goes without saying that many children may balk at not having as many, or any, gifts to actually open on Christmas morning. To avoid an epic meltdown, consider wrapping a small token or accessory to get them excited about the big gift.
For example, if you’ve scheduled a trip to Disney World, buy and wrap a custom pair of Mickey Mouse ears with his or her name monogrammed on them. The ears will serve as a giddy reminder for the fun that’s ahead, especially if the trip is a few weeks or months away. And if that doesn’t work, you can always explain to your child that their upcoming experience is a very special gift and that all good things are worth waiting for in this life.
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Katie McCall is a lifestyle portrait photographer, content strategist, and producer based in San Antonio, Texas. When she isn’t behind a camera or laptop, she's exploring the world with her husband, darling one-year-old daughter and tiny pup. If you’d like, please follow their adventures on Instagram (@hersideproject)!