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 Experience 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Best 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. An hour or two of bowling 
  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. Gymnastics, dance or martial art classes
  10. Horseback riding lessons or a pony ride at the fair
  11. Skiing or ice skating lessons
  12. Swimming, tennis or golf lessons
  13. A day of skiing or snow tubing
  14. A week of camp
  15. Art classes
  16. Paint-your-own pottery class
  17. Movie tickets
  18. Theatre tickets
  19. Concert tickets
  20. Tickets to a sports game (don’t forget minor league & high school teams)
  21. Camping gear and/or a camping trip
  22. Fishing gear and/or an afternoon of fishing
  23. A family trip or destination vacation 
  24. Pricey “experiences” (i.e. swimming with dolphins, special rides at amusement parks, Disney character breakfast, etc.) 
  25. A “behind the scenes” experience (ice cream factory tour, going backstage after a show, etc.) 
  26. Digital books, audio stories, or music
  27. A library card
  28. An outing or weekend with grandma & grandpa
  29. An outing or weekend with cousins
  30. Children’s magazine subscription
  31. Art supplies
  32. Hot chocolate date at a coffee shop
  33. One-on-one outing with you (i.e. dinner or lunch date, playground, horseback riding, overnight)  
  34. Movie night or sleepover with a friend
  35. Someone to build blanket forts or obstacle courses with
  36. Tuition for a course or workshop they want to do
  37. An afternoon crafting and/or baking
  38. Mani-pedis

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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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