50+ Best Experience Gifts for Kids

Material gifts are fun to unwrap, but we know the best gifts are often memories, not things. This year, give the little ones in your life something they’ll never forget. From toddlers to teenagers, here are the best experience gifts for kids.

boy feeding deer through fence as experience gift idea

Think about your favorite memories as a kid. What comes to mind? Sure you probably remember a favorite toy or two (Teddy Ruxpin, anyone?), but the majority of your favorite memories are probably rooted in experiences — treasured family traditions, time spent together, and adventures you shared.

Years from now, when your little ones are all grown up, those are the things they will they will remember most, too. Instead of trying to guess the perfect gift, or buying a bunch of plastic toys that will sooner or later end up in landfills, why not give little ones an experience gift and make memories they can hold onto forever?

Keep reading to learn what experience gifts are and some of the benefits of experience gifts, or jump straight to the list if you’re just looking for some ideas!

What are experience gifts?  

Experience gifts, also known as experiential gifts or gift experiences, enable the recipient to have an experience of some sort. Experiences can include activities, outings, lessons, tickets and trips, but also things like art supplies or camping gear, that create or enhance experiences as well.

5 Benefits of giving non-toy gifts

Experience gifts can alleviate stress and improve relationships, as well as provide hours of entertainment, education, fun, and pleasant memories to last a lifetime.

1. Less clutter = less stress

Toys are a major source of clutter in homes — maybe even the biggest source for families. Research shows physical clutter creates stress and reduces our ability to focus. Experience gifts, on the other hand, can actually reduce stress, whether that be through physical activity, laughter, or an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

2. They provide entertainment & fun

Experience gifts can be a great source of entertainment and fun, not just for the child, but for the entire family and the person giving the gift, too!

3. Experiences offer kids growth and learning 

Experience gifts like museum passes, music lessons, art supplies and camps can make learning fun, help kids develop and master new skills, and even spark interest in new subjects and hobbies.

4. Create opportunities for bonding and togetherness

Research shows experience gifts are better than material gifts at improving relationships and bringing people closer together. If you want to give a child something that will make them feel closer to you, give an experience.

5. Make lasting memories

Experiences are more memorable than material things because they elicit greater emotional response. 

An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it—like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa—and is more intensely emotional than a material possession. — Cindy Chan, Ph.D.

To create pleasant memories that last a lifetime, give experience gifts rather than material gifts.

50+ best non-toy experience gifts for kids

Need some great experience gift ideas for kids? Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Indoor rock climbing or trampoline park passes
  2. Water park or amusement park passes
  3. A bowling outing with friends
  4. Ice skating or roller skating passes
  5. Zoo, museum or park passes (single visit or year-long memberships) 
  6. An afternoon at the arcade
  7. A round of mini golf or batting cage tokens
  8. Music lessons
  9. A cooking class
  10. Gymnastics, dance or martial art classes
  11. Horseback riding lessons
  12. Skiing or ice skating lessons
  13. Swimming, tennis or golf lessons
  14. A day of skiing or snow tubing
  15. A week of camp
  16. Art classes
  17. Paint-your-own pottery class
  18. Jewelry-making class
  19. Movie tickets
  20. Theatre tickets
  21. A day at a fun park
  22. Concert tickets
  23. Tickets to a sports game (don’t forget minor league & high school teams)
  24. Tickets to a fair or festival
  25. An afternoon at the arcade
  26. Camping gear and/or a camping trip
  27. Fishing gear and/or an afternoon of fishing
  28. Sports gear + lessons/camp
  29. A family trip or destination vacation 
  30. Pricey “experiences” (i.e. swimming with dolphins, special rides at amusement parks, Disney character breakfast, etc.) 
  31. A “behind the scenes” experience (ice cream factory tour, going backstage after a show, etc.) 
  32. A trip to the bookstore for a new book
  33. Digital books, audio stories, or music
  34. Streaming services for a year (like Disney+ or Apple Music)
  35. A new board game for family game night
  36. A gift card for their favorite restaurant
  37. A library card
  38. An outing or weekend with grandma & grandpa
  39. An outing or weekend with cousins
  40. Children’s magazine subscription
  41. Art supplies
  42. Hot chocolate date at a coffee shop
  43. An easy pet to care for
  44. A musical instrument + lessons
  45. One-on-one outing with you (i.e. dinner or lunch date, playground, horseback riding, overnight)  
  46. Sleepover with a friend
  47. Someone to build blanket forts or obstacle courses with
  48. Movie night with the movie of their choice
  49. Tuition for a course or workshop they want to do
  50. An afternoon crafting and/or baking
  51. A dinner/experience train ride
  52. Mani-pedis
  53. Building a tree house or fort together

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Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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