There was a point in my life when I loved receiving a physical gift. Whether they were cozy socks I could wear while reading by the fire, or a thoughtful piece of jewelry for parties or events, or even a puzzle to enjoy during a relaxing night in with friends.
But those were the days when I actually had the time, and energy, to do things like read, go to parties, or (HA!) do a puzzle. Now, with three kids five and under, and a couple of geriatric dogs to boot, the mere idea of being responsible for ONE MORE THING—yes, including a piece of jewelry—makes me queasy. Which is probably not the reaction my loved ones are looking for when they hand me a beautifully wrapped parcel on Christmas morning.
So, since I’m sure I’m not the only one who is already fighting an uphill battle to get even some semblance of a handle over all of the stuff I’ve accumulated during holidays past, it gives me great joy to introduce you to the gift guide full of items the busy moms (or dads, or grandmas, or childless-yet-equally-busy people), in your life will appreciate much more than something they have to store, clean-up, or take care of.
All of the “gift” ideas included in this guide are consumable in some way—meaning they are items or experiences the recipient will use, enjoy, and, hopefully, remember fondly. And while a few of them are cheats and include tiny items you might need to hold on to for more than a day or two, most are either edible, recyclable, or completely intangible!
Experiences For The Whole Family
Museum Passes and Memberships
For several years now, my in-laws have gifted my kids an annual pass to our local aquarium. Since my kids are little (1, 3, and 5), it’s been really wonderful to have perpetual tickets, as it allows us to pop in and out for a few hours at a time without having to worry about “wasting” a full-price daily ticket. Members at our aquarium (and at many other similar facilities nationwide), also get early access (and oftentimes discounted tickets) to a lot of cool special events and experiences—some of which my husband and I have gotten to attend (GASP!) without the children in tow.
We’ve also gifted adult family members annual passes to museums, as well as our favorite place in Los Angeles, The Huntington Library and Gardens. Doing so has been a wonderful way to share some of our favorite places with the people we love, and since my husband and I are members too, it gives us an excuse to get together more often than we might have otherwise. I think this could be an especially great gift for a friend or family member who just moved somewhere new, as it could provide them with a pre-vetted opportunity to get out and explore their new city or town.
But my absolute favorite annual pass to gift to friends and family is the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass. (Yes, it’s a doozy of a name). This pass is AMAZING, as it allows the holder (plus 3 other adults and as many children as you can pack in a van) access to over 2,000 national parks across the country. My husband and I have also been gifted this several times, and not only did it allow us to save money on daily fees at national parks, but it also encouraged us to actually get off our butts and make an effort to see some new places before our golden ticket was up!
Memberships for Kids
In addition to family-friendly museums and attractions, lots of little-kid specific places (such as indoor playgrounds, kids gyms and trampoline parks) also offer membership programs. And while you might have to dig around on their websites to find the best deal, I can’t tell you how much a mom of high-energy kids would appreciate a paid-for day of nap-inducing trampoline flipping for her kids. Especially during those long winter weekends…
Cooking Classes for Kids and Families
Depending on the age of the kids you’re shopping for this holiday season, an online or in-person cooking class could be a great option. Not only do these classes introduce kids to a new potential hobby, but they oftentimes help connect kids with like-minded peers (which is, of course, a gift in itself). Below I have included a few nation-wide cooking classes and subscription boxes targeted towards kids and families, but I also highly encourage you to look for local options as well. There are several companies in my own town that offer truly amazing cooking and baking experiences for kids, and it’s always a good idea to support a local business around the holidays.
*Cooking classes could also be a wonderful experience for grandparents to do with their grandchildren—making it a gift for everyone, including the parents who get an hour or two to themselves…
Tiny Chefs offers in-person (Maryland and Virginia areas only) and online cooking classes for kids and their parents. Some of the virtual events are live, but others are pre-recorded and could be watched at any time. I had difficulty finding specific age ranges on their website, but based on my experience with the program, I believe they could be enjoyed by kids ages 3 and up (with adult support and supervision of course).
The Kids Table
The Kids Table is located in Chicago, Illinois and also offers in-person and virtual cooking classes for kids. I’ve never tried this program myself, but have heard very positive reviews from some friends and their young children.
Raddish Kids is another online cooking class for kids, but this one is subscription box based. I did this with my kids last year, and they loved the fact that they received a new, reusable food preparation tool (think whisks, lemon juicers, spatulas, etc.) with each box, as well as a very professional-looking apron. The classes were about 45 minutes long, and I really enjoyed that we got to see and engage with the other participants via zoom.
Cooking Classes for Adults
Before my husband and I had kids, we loved to cook all kinds of outlandish meals (think crawfish boils, sous vide steak, and bizarrely-topped wood-fire pizzas). But now that we have three little ones, the clientele prefers we keep it bland.
Sur La Table (In-Person, Nationwide)
Which is why I’m planning on gifting my husband a chance to relive the glory days, by taking a French Bistro cooking class at Sur La Table. Not only will this gift allow us to enjoy a delicious meal together, it will also send us home with skills we can use to create more incredible meals that our children will surely refuse to touch.
While Sur La Table is best known for their in-person classes (both during the day, and in the evenings, in store locations nationwide), they also offer a variety of online courses that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home.
Home Cooking New York & Yes Chef
Spas & Relaxation
What’s better than an afternoon at the spa? Besides, of course, a morning at a hotel pool, followed by an afternoon at the spa… If you have a friend or family member who’s in desperate need of some R&R, look no further.
SpaFinder offers gift cards that allow recipients to make reservations at locations of their own choosing (as long as the location is contracted with SpaFinder, which a lot of them are). Gift cards can be mailed in a cute little gift box, or sent virtually.
Resortpass offers gift cards that allow the recipient to book day passes (or even cabanas) at a huge variety of hotels and resorts. I love this idea so much, that I may or may not have purchased my own family insanely cheap day passes to a resort hotel with THREE WATERSLIDES (all caps because my kids will surely scream it) in San Diego… 10/10 recommend this one.
Food Boxes and Wine Clubs
NPR Wine Club & Winc Wine Club
A wine club subscription is a great way to introduce the winos in your life to something new. Or, perhaps, something you could enjoy with them…
The NPR Wine Club is a favorite of mine, as it allows you to give the gift of wine, while supporting public radio at the same time! Winc is also cool, as it allows the recipient to fill out a preference survey, insuring that the wine they receive is to their taste.
I also recommend asking your friends and family if there’s a specific winemaker they love, as most wineries offer wine club memberships (like my personal favorite, Fess Parker).
Years ago, a friend of mine was living in Tokyo. And every time he came home, he brought a suitcase full of green tea Kit Kats with him. Ever since, I’ve been hooked. And If you send this Japanese snack box to a friend or family member, I’m sure they will be too. Tokyo Treat is a fun way to send friends a taste of Japan, and would be great for high school or college-aged kids. (Or, if I’m being real, snack-obsessed adults like me).
Jasper Hill Farms Cheese Box
Jasper Hill Farms curates a monthly subscription box of cheese, crackers, cheese tools, and other fun pairings. Not much more to say about this one… After all, it’s cheese.
Once again, I also encourage you to search local food establishments if you’re looking to send a culinary gift. A few of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received include a pie from the Traverse City Pie Company, and a set of frozen deep-dish pizzas from my favorite Chicago-based pizzeria, Lou Malnatis–both because I loved the food, and because the locations were meaningful to me.
(Both of the aforementioned establishments also ship nationwide… Just in case you have a family member who would love nothing more than to unwrap a box of frozen pizza, or pie, on Christmas morning.)
Craft and Activity Boxes
Ok, so this category might be cheating a little… After all, if you do it right, you will end up with some kind of physical object at the end. But, personally, I’ve always viewed crafting as something that’s more about the experience than the end product, so I’m including it anyway.
Kiwi and Co Crates
My kids have been getting a monthly Koala Crate from KiwiCo for almost two years now and they still squeal with delight every time they see it on the porch. Kiwi is one of my favorite craft subscritption companies, as they have boxes uniquely tailored to each age group (including the 14-100 subset!). The best part about the kiwi crate is that my kids can spend an entire afternoon creating and playing together, and a week later I can recycle almost all of it.
We Are Knitters
We Are Knitters offer knitting kits for all skill levels. Each kit comes with a digital pattern guide to help you get started. If you or anyone you know are interested in knitting, I encourage you to check out some of their offerings here–they’re absolutely beautiful.
Stitch and Story
Stitch and Story offers knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint boxes, along with instructional videos. This is a little more “beginner-ish” than We Are Knitters, and good for someone who’s looking for something more “crafty” than professional.
Gardenuity is a garden subscription box (what?!). They have offerings like The Herb Garden, The Cocktail Garden, The Vegetable Garden, etc., as well as a consierge service called “Grow Pro” that provides the support those of us who can barely keep a cactus alive will inevitably need.
Learning Opportunities for Adults
Udemy & Masterclass
Who doesn’t love the gift of knowledge? Certainly not all the nerds in your life! Personally, I would love to be gifted an opportunity to learn something new. And in today’s world, you don’t need to attend an in-person class to do it. If you have a friend or family member who you know loves to challenge themselves to learn and grow, sending a Udemy or Masterclass course could be right up their alley.
In order to gift a course on Udemy, you just click on the course icon, and then on the “gift this course” tab, just below the “buy now” button. Classes on Udemy can be very affordable, starting at about $17. You can also gift a year-long subscription to Masterclass here.
This one might require you to know your audience very well, but if you get it right, a Substack subscription could be an amazing gift. Substack is an online newsletter platform, that allows thinkers, writers, creatives, etc., to monetize their work. So, basically, by purchasing a subscription, you’re supporting a creative, and learning something from them along the way.
I recently subscribed to George Saunders’ Story Club newsletter via Substack, and it’s basically like taking a course in Russian Literature with one of the greatest short story writers of our generation… For $50 a year.
If you have a reader (or a writer) in your life, this specific subscription might be for them. (It also pairs well with a gift card to your local independent book store).
AirBnB Gift Cards
Did you know that AirBnB offers gift cards?! Through their website, you can send gift cards of any amount to help friends and family purchase unique stays, across the world. If you know a family who loves to travel, but has one (or four) too many kids for the typical hotel room, this gift is IT.
Airline Gift Cards
My family loves to travel. But with four and a half people (since the baby can still sit on my lap), it can get pretty pricey. An airline gift card is a great way to ease the financial burden of long distance travel for friends and family, and help make their travel dreams come true, no matter where they live. If you do choose to go this route, make sure to check the recipient’s local airport, and choose an airline that flies in and out often.
No. This one is not a joke. I think the best gift I could ever receive at this point in my life would be a qualified aunt or uncle (or better yet, a friend with same-age kids) offering to watch my babies for a night while my husband and I go out to dinner. It may sound simple (and cheap!), but is sure to be appreciated.
At the end of the day, the greatest gift we can give one another is time together. So if none of these options sound right to you, something as simple as dinner with friends, or an afternoon baking cookies with the grandkids, can be a great, and really meaningful gift.
Wishing you all a joyous, fun-filled and, hopefully, a little less cluttered holiday season!