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.
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:
- Indoor rock climbing or trampoline park passes
- Water park or amusement park passes
- A bowling outing with friends
- Ice skating or roller skating passes
- Zoo, museum or park passes (single visit or year-long memberships)
- An afternoon at the arcade
- A round of mini golf or batting cage tokens
- Music lessons
- A cooking class
- Gymnastics, dance or martial art classes
- Horseback riding lessons
- Skiing or ice skating lessons
- Swimming, tennis or golf lessons
- A day of skiing or snow tubing
- A week of camp
- Art classes
- Paint-your-own pottery class
- Jewelry-making class
- Movie tickets
- Theatre tickets
- A day at a fun park
- Concert tickets
- Tickets to a sports game (don’t forget minor league & high school teams)
- Tickets to a fair or festival
- An afternoon at the arcade
- Camping gear and/or a camping trip
- Fishing gear and/or an afternoon of fishing
- Sports gear + lessons/camp
- A family trip or destination vacation
- Pricey “experiences” (i.e. swimming with dolphins, special rides at amusement parks, Disney character breakfast, etc.)
- A “behind the scenes” experience (ice cream factory tour, going backstage after a show, etc.)
- A trip to the bookstore for a new book
- Digital books, audio stories, or music
- Streaming services for a year (like Disney+ or Apple Music)
- A new board game for family game night
- A gift card for their favorite restaurant
- A library card
- An outing or weekend with grandma & grandpa
- An outing or weekend with cousins
- Children’s magazine subscription
- Art supplies
- Hot chocolate date at a coffee shop
- An easy pet to care for
- A musical instrument + lessons
- One-on-one outing with you (i.e. dinner or lunch date, playground, horseback riding, overnight)
- Sleepover with a friend
- Someone to build blanket forts or obstacle courses with
- Movie night with the movie of their choice
- Tuition for a course or workshop they want to do
- An afternoon crafting and/or baking
- A dinner/experience train ride
- Building a tree house or fort together
More articles on minimalism with kids
- 60+ minimalist gift ideas for people who have everything
- The 10 best simple toys for kids (and the only ones you really need)
- A complete guide on how to declutter toys