This post is part of a paid partnership with Spangler Science Club. Tips, ideas, and opinions are totally ours! -Meagan & Sarah
We’ve seen it happen: Kids get older and holidays get tricker. Gone are the days of easily acquired, inexpensive, brightly colored plastic bringing guaranteed squeals of delight on Christmas morning. Gifts get pricier, and older kids don’t always want or need quite as much…stuff.
Starting somewhere around ages 7 or 8, we highly recommend incorporating some “experience-based gifts”–presents whose enjoyment happens at a later date and don’t add material clutter to your life–into your kids’ holiday expectations. As they move into the tween and teen years, the balance can shift even further toward experience gifts, but when you’re just starting out, keep it simple. They’ll still want to open, touch, see, feel, and PLAY WITH the bulk of their loot, but they’re also old enough to have something experiential to look forward to as well.
The first time you give an experience gift, especially to a younger kid, it’s easy to worry that the “wow factor” won’t be there without a tangible, material gift. We love the idea of pairing an experience gift with a little something to open–a hold-in-your-hand representation of the more abstract gift to come.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for experience gifts for kids, plus some tips for pairing them with a tangible gift to open:
Sarah: Magazine subscriptions have been a hit with my kids over the years. Even kids as young as 4 or 5 feel so special when there is something in the mailbox with their name on it, and this is a gift that keeps delivering all year long. Wrap-it-up Tip: Head to your local newsstand to pick up a physical copy of the magazine you’re gifting (or call the publisher and have them mail you one) so that the recipient can dig in to reading right away.
Meagan: From arts and crafts to music to STEM-based activities, subscription boxes can deliver all kinds of experiences right to your door on a monthly or quarterly basis – a great little surprise (or much-anticipated reward) for your child, and a novel and fun way to spend a rainy afternoon or snow day. You’ll thank yourself if you first talk to other parents and/or read reviews to find high-quality subscription boxes featuring clear instructions kids can follow on their own, and your child will get the satisfaction of doing real projects with real tools and materials they can use again and again. Wrap-it-up Tip: If you order too close to the holiday to get your first box in time, try pairing something small your child can open and use right away with a card or coupon announcing the gift. For example, the Giant Growing Frog would be a great teaser for an upcoming Spangler Science Club subscription box.
Sarah: Speaking of learning, lessons make a great experience gift! You don’t have to sign your child up for an entire year of a competitive sport, either; giving lessons might look like a 4-week cooking class, or a few sessions with a private voice coach. If there’s a new skill or blossoming interest your kid has, especially if it’s something that hasn’t fit into the family budget or schedule of activities thus far, giving the gift of lessons is a great way to encourage them. Wrap-it-up Tip: Pair the lessons with an inexpensive ornament or trinket with the same theme.
Meagan: As a parent of music- and theater-loving kids, I’ve had great luck with giving tickets to shows and concerts at the holiday, and tickets to sporting events follow the same tack. If you’re looking at concert or theater tickets, just read the venue’s website details carefully to make sure the event you’ve chosen is kid-friendly. Got a music-loving tween? Don’t rule out rock and pop concerts: you may be surprised at the venues that routinely put on all-ages shows. Just be sure a parent or other responsible adult is available to tag along to scope out a spot away from the crowds or beat an early exit for the door if necessary, and if You Hate Fun, you may also want to consider earplugs for yourself. Wrap-it-up Tip: Pair the tickets with a piece of merchandise for the show, band, or team; a t-shirt, poster, or hat can give kids something tangible to look at or wear and keep them pumped them up for the big day.
Sarah: I love the idea of gifting a “shopping spree with a focus”. More well-defined than just giving a kid a bunch of cash, this experience gift might look like a shopping date with a special grownup and a goal of redecorating their bedroom or updating their winter wardrobe. You’ll want to set a budget and some parameters, of course, but tweens in particular love the chance to show their individual style, and are old enough to look forward to a special shopping experience. Wrap-it-up Tip: Tease the shopping spree’s theme with a little guessing game written out on notes in nested envelopes…and put a gift card to one of your destination stores in the final envelope.
As moms of many kids, we’re under no delusions that “stuff” is an avoidable aspect of the holidays. Kids love opening new toys and gadgets, and we love gifting them. But with a few experience gifts mixed in with the material ones, your kids will have meaningful memories and events to look forward to all year long.
Spangler Science Club offers STEM-based subscription kits for kids ages 5-12. Our kids having been having a blast with hands-on learning and creative play with the Spangler Science Club kits. Choose from three different plans starting at just $14.95/month. Use promo code MOMHOUR to save $10 on a 3-month subscription when you sign up at spanglerscienceclub.com.
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