How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids

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Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by Travels with Kids

If like us, you are looking to live with less stuff and more life, you will be interested in gifting ‘experience gifts’ to your children.  We know that children have fun unwrapping presents (and they still can) but giftings experiences are so practical.  Stuff is just that, stuff, but as cliche as it may sound memories last forever.  Plus, good experience gifts for kids often end up being amazing experience days for families.  So it is a win, win.

Here is our guide to give the best experience gifts for kids.  We have also updated the post with a whole section about the experience gifts for teenagers too.

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Best Experience Gifts For Kids

We do a lot each year – because we like to educate our kids using the world, they are blessed with many kid experiences and activities each year.  So thinking of what ‘experience gift’ to give them is a bit hard for me, because I would likely ‘give’ it to them anyways.

How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids
Spending quality time with parents is vital for kids.

Experience Gifts Model Explained

I’m assuming you’ve found this blog because you want to give fewer things (toys) and enjoy more connection with your kids.  To start with, I subscribe to the four presents model – with some variations!

If you are not familiar with it the 4 presents idea, basically it says that after 4 presents kids get overwhelmed and lose the joy of receiving.  Therefore, if you limit your gifts to 4 – what they Want/Wear/Need and Read you will not buy them excess stuff, nor will they lose appreciation for what they receive.

My 4 presents model adds two practical additions:  children’s experience and stocking fillers.  Call it the six presents model or the Experience Gifts Model if you like.  Grandparents can also choose from the following to gift.

  • Want – This is the item that they ask for from Santa OR the item that Mum & Dad give.
  • Wear – Something they can wear.
  • Need – What do kids need in this day and age? I have one artist in my family who always “needs” a new sketchbook, pencils, or art supplies.  My son likes to make things with tape (duct tape is his current choice) so he will be getting a few rolls of this tape.
  • Read – Even though books gather dust and take up space they are so beautiful! Our home is filled with books and I love it that way.  No kindles for us.
  • Experience – This post is here to help you pick the best experience gifts for kids – or help your folks know what to ‘give’.

Stocking Fillers

These are always small bits and pieces that I have accumulated over the year; invariably I include a new toothbrush as bamboo eco-friendly toothbrushes wear out quite rapidly.

How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids

Guidelines To The Best Experience Gifts For Kids

What Is Something That Is For An Individual Child

If you were to give a Lego set or Nerf gun to an individual, make sure the experience gift is something that is specifically for them.  For example, my daughter is horse mad and her gift this year will be a horse ride in Margaret River.

Gifting Time Is Vital

Think about how your children lap up quality one-on-one time with you.  In these busy lives, it can be very special to have one on one time with your children.  My daughter absolutely adores when I organize a babysitter for her siblings, and we go out for coffee & milkshakes.  This is most definitely a ‘gift’ to her, so consider gifting yourself.

How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids

What Might We Do Anyway, But You Can Repurpose It As A Gift

A bit cheeky, I know.  We are going to an adventure park after Christmas – something we would have done anyway.  However, the kids are going to get a ‘voucher’ each which entitles them to do this.  This will be a great Christmas gift experience for them.

The beauty of giving experiences instead of gifts is that you change the focus from things to experiences.   You show that doing things is also special, and I think that it makes the children a little less entitled.

How To Present A Gifted Experience

What I do love about kids experience gifts – you don’t have to actually buy or do something, rather just prepare a voucher.  It’s super easy!  These are the vouchers I am giving my kids this year.

How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids

Gift Experiences And Birthdays

You can also give kids experience gifts for their birthday.  The best experience gifts for kids are not just limited to Christmas gifts, birthday and other holidays work well too!

The most traditional experience gifts are birthday parties!  They are a lot of work for parents – and invariably a lot of stress too – not to mention expense.  As a result, I’ve offered the kid’s birthday parties bi-annually.  Every second year is enough to organize a big party.  However, my daughter who is a quieter sentimental type has opted now for a few years to have an experience rather than have a party.

Therefore, I have adopted the approach of having a birthday party OR experience.  My daughter adores visiting the Animal Farm near Denmark Western Australia,  and we have visited twice now for her birthday, rather than have a birthday celebration.

ropes course western australia

Simple Birthday Celebrations

With 9 years of parenting under my belt, my children’s birthday celebrations are getting simpler and simpler.  Why, because simple birthday parties are easier, less costly, and are just as enjoyable for the kids.

For example, we will be having cake and a play in the garden in celebration of our babe’s 1st birthday.  It will be a simple event and with this approach:

  1. Cake means you don’t have to prepare food
  2. A play means – no party games

Party games are hard to organize for this Mumma; in addition, they disrupt the natural flow of play which is such a delightful part of childhood.  Party games also have winners and losers, invariably causing tears from someone.

  1. No presents, we are including this on the invite. “Our babe is blessed with an amazing community and has many things to wear and play with.  We’d appreciate most your presence (not presents) and a plate to share.”

As a result, there is not a pile of presents and things you don’t need (believe me, with two older children we’ve been there and done that).

Experience Gifts For Teens

Experience gifts are not just for younger kids.  While teens might be a bit more picky, giving experience gifts for teens works also.  As our kids get older, quality time with them often becomes fleeting as they get involved in outside the home activities and they usually become more interested in spending time with friends over family.  That is experience gifts for teenagers because that much more meaningful.

Choosing family experience gift ideas or experience days for families is a great way to reconnect as a family with your teenager.  When they are younger we are often aware of the memories and learning experiences that we are creating for our kids.  As they get older and more mature we don’t place such a priority and importance on making these kinds of connections.  However, they are just as important.  Our priorities should still be about growing as a family, connecting as a family, and fostering our teen’s interests and individuality.  Teens are more independent than they were as kiddos but to give experiences instead of gifts to our teens helps to strengthen family bonds.  If we are lucky, it will also create time and space for meaningful conversations that we might not otherwise engage in with our teens.

Here is our list of great experience gifts for teenagers:

Music Lessons – Do they have a passion for music? Maybe they have always been interested in learning how to play the guitar or piano?  Why not gift them music lessons.

Concert Tickets – Most teenagers love music and often have a favorite singer or band.  Giving concert tickets seems like a brilliant experience gift for teenagers.

Spa Day –  Spa days aren’t cheap, but this is a great way to pamper them.  Maybe it is mani/pedi’s or a new hair cut and color,

Amusement Park Passes – This could be a great gift the whole family would enjoy or perhaps just let them go with their friends?  Besides a one time pass, a yearly pass for amusement or waterparks would be a great experience gift for teens that would last the whole year long.

Tickets To A Sporting Event –  Whether it is Rugby or another sport they are into, tickets to a sporting event make an awesome gift.

Camping Weekend – Why not invite a few of their friends along and take them on a camping weekend?  If full-on camping isn’t their thing, you could also look into glamping or a cabin retreat weekend.

Family Vacation –  Perhaps an actual family vacation is up and coming and you could gift multiple experience days for teenagers on the trip.  We have taken many amazing family trips and it would be easy enough to incorporate a special activity for the birthday celebration.  Some of our most memorable family trips were hiking Machu Picchu, exploring Singapore, and adventuring in Thailand.  However, we have also taken some amazing family vacations close to home to places like Margaret River.  Whatever your budget, kids and teens alike love vacations and adventures.

Adventure Activity – Several great adventure activities come to mind that teens would enjoy.  Everything from rock climbing, horseback riding, surfing, climbing a ropes course, paintball, escape room, and many more.  Any of these would be amazing experience days for teenager’s50 gifts.  Plan the day for them and let them have fun with their friends or family.

Best Experience Gifts For Kids – The Verdict

Gifting experiences to kids is a great way to give time with yourself and place a value on doing things together that your kids love.  It avoids getting another present that the child discards after a while, or even worse, hardly acknowledges because they have got too many presents.  While we are at it, adventure gifts for kids and activity gifts for kids are great as well.

We hope that sharing these easy to understand tips will help you give the best Christmas gift experiences this year.  Do you have any suggestions? Let us know your thoughts on the best kid experience gifts below.

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How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids

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  • […] Any kind of experience can be included – from horse riding, a day at a theme park, or a visit to an ice cream parlor.  For older kids, it could be a spa day, concert tickets, or even music lessons.  A lot of giving a gift experience is in the presentation, and it’s easy to make your own ‘vouchers’ if your chosen present doesn’t come with those.  Check out our post How To Pick The Best Experience Gifts For Kids. […]