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9 Ways to Give the Gift of Experiences to Your Kids

On Christmas morning, everyone has their own traditions. It’s funny because when my husband and I talk about our Christmases as kids, it’s not the gifts we remember. We remember the traditions. We remember having Christmas morning breakfast with the people we love. We remember Christmas dinners with family. We remember being all together.

So this year our family has talked about giving experiences rather than toys. I know it’s fun for young kids to see the bottom of the tree overflowing with presents, but there really is so much more to Christmas. If you still buy and wrap gifts to give, I’m not disagreeing with you at all! I love to buy, I love to wrap, and I love to see their faces while they open it all.

If you are considering doing Christmas a little differently this year, here are a few “gift” ideas to give your kids a meaningful experience, whether they are young or old:

1. Theme Nights

Pick a theme (Grinch, Polar Express, White Christmas, Nativity, etc.) and have a meal, movie, craft, book, put on a play, or whatever works for your family that revolves around this theme. I’d love a Silent Night but so far I’ve had no luck with getting my troops on board!

  • Attend your community plays, Christmas parades, concerts, Nativity presentations, etc.
  • Read a Christmas story each night before bed.
  • Have the whole family participate in the Advent calendar.
  • Unwrap or add to the Nativity scene each night along with reading Scripture or singing songs.
  • Watch a Christmas movie every Friday or whatever night works for your family. Check out ABC Family’s 25 days of Christmas line up.
  • If your children are small, take each child on a date and go shopping for the other sibling(s). Sometimes taking a small child to a store and walking out with absolutely nothing for them but making them choose something for their brother or sister is a good lesson/experience in and of itself. Plus, they get to learn the art of giving and watching the sibling’s excitement when they open the gift they picked out.
  • Baking is always a good idea! You could bake a birthday cake for Jesus or bake gifts or make small things to take to neighbors and sing Christmas carols as you deliver.

2. Mini Vacation

Time together is a memory they’ll always have. There are usually lots of great places to go near where you live that people visiting your town would go…so why haven’t you been there? Some mini vacation ideas are:

  • Camping
  • A plane ride and getaway
  • Somewhere, anywhere tropical
  • Skiing
  • A national park
  • A cruise
  • Disney World (We asked for gift cards for a trip to Disney that we took in February.)
  • A weekend getaway (for each child) to the grandparent’s house—and all the parents said, “Amen!”

3. Lessons 

Let them learn something that will last a lifetime. A lot of people would like to try new things, but just won’t spend the money on themselves. Help them mark something off of their bucket list or just open your kids’ eyes to something new! Some ideas are:

  • Guitar
  • Cooking
  • Photography
  • Piano
  • Singing
  • Swimming
  • A new language

4. Tickets to a Live Performance­

Give the gift of a splurge! Again, these are fun things to do, but people rarely spend money on their own enjoyment. Research what your city and community has to offer!

  • Concerts
  • Plays
  • Festivals
  • Live children’s shows

It’s funny because when we talk about our Christmases as kids, it’s not the gifts we remember.

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5. Season Passes to Parks or Attractions

A yearly subscription is the gift that keeps on giving. You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s a lot of work to have fun!” Event admission, paying to park, paying for snacks, and traveling to get there can all add up. Give a “package” that takes the planning and financial stress off of their shoulders and let them actually enjoy the fun!

  • The Zoo
  • Museums
  • Amusement parks
  • Theme parks
  • Magazine subscriptions for adults
  • Highlights subscriptions for kids

6. Gift Certificates for Dinner and a Movie

Together is a great place to be. An evening out is special for even kids. Treat them to a restaurant or night out that they would love but probably never do for themselves! Depending on their age, as a family you can get dressed up and go together or send them out on their own for a special night. If they have kids of their own, offer to babysit while they go out! Woohoo!

7. A Year’s Worth of Family Activities

Enough said! Give 12 envelopes, one for each month of the year. Each envelope contains a variety of “gifts” such as:

  • A gift card for anything from eating ice cream to dinner out.
  • An outing idea (free admission to a museum on Sundays, etc. Check local area for promotions, deals, etc.)
  • Service “tasks” like bake brownies and take them to the fire station.
  • Anything free coupled with ice cream or a slushy is great!

8. Practical Gifts

They’ll thank you later! Every year my family gives everyone socks. Sounds so un-exciting, but if I’m being honest I love that I don’t have to spend my own money on something like socks! Who wants to do that? Giving practical gifts might not be thrilling, but the older we get the more we appreciate them! It’s a good thing to teach your children to enjoy practical gifts early on. They are the ones that keep on giving! Some practical ideas are:

  • Clothes or shoes
  • Open a savings account or college fund in their name and add to it each year
  • Art/craft supplies
  • Tool set
  • Grocery store or gas station gift cards (my kids love slushies and Little Debbie cakes, so they can get them with these gift cards!) Plus, kids eat a lot!
  • Gas/oil change gift cards

9. Give Back

It’s always better to give than receive! Giving your time is just as memorable as who you are spending that time with. Volunteering your time at a shelter or giving a meal to a family who cannot afford much is a wonderful experience at a low personal cost. Some ideas on how to give are:

  • Take your kids to a food bank or shelter and let them serve others
  • Ask for money to go on a mission trip
  • Pick a ministry or outreach with Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog
  • Pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child
  • Check with your local church or community center for other ways to serve locally

Nobody knows your family better than you, so find what makes the most impact and is the most feasible for your family. Whatever route you go, have a very Merry Christmas!


Don’t miss our podcast on Surviving the Holidays with Grit and Grace!
You’ll also like 5 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your KidsThe Holidays and My Martha Heart, and 10 Tips for How to Enjoy a Road Trip With Kids
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Carey is head over heels in love with her college sweetheart, Craig, and sees her kids as messy, loud, funny, beautiful, and fascinating creatures! In her opinion, eating her favorite foods is the greatest form of entertainment!

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