Experience Gifts for Kids: Pros and Cons

Experience Gifts

A few years ago, we jumped on the bandwagon of giving experience gifts to our kids instead of toys, craft supplies, board games, and books. Now, don’t get me wrong – toys, craft supplies, board games, and books are amazing gifts. But with four children and generous family members, the piles of presents was growing beyond what we could manage. It was even a challenge to haul back everything my kids received after Christmas at grandma’s one year. We started to think about how so many presents were outgrown or forgotten about after a short period of time – and then they just took up space in our house. After downsizing and decluttering in 2020, experience gifts seemed like the perfect fit for our family. What could be better, right? Why request anything but experience presents every holiday? Well, we have come to realize there are both pros and cons with giving experiences gifts to kids.

Pro: Less stuff to acquire. This is by far the best reason for experience gifts in our opinion. Less is best for my family. Less clutter. Less visual noise. Less to pick up and put away at the end of the day. My crew is much more willing to clean up their messes and toys if the task is less overwhelming. Having less around the house actually promotes independence and creativity in my kids – mountains of toys tend to promote discontent in our home. The less we accumulate, the better in our opinion.

Con: Less items to open. Believe it or not, this is one downside I didn’t consider when requesting extended family to give experience gifts – they were disappointed that the kids didn’t have as many things to unwrap. The grandparents truly enjoy watching our children open multiple items on Christmas morning or at birthday parties. Seeing a grandchild open a gift card just wasn’t the same as watching kids unwrap a more tangible item. So there is often a balance now of both experience and traditional presents to honor everyone’s requests.

Pro: Gifts that last the entire year. Zoo passes. Magazine subscriptions. Movie tickets. My kids love having gifts that can be used all twelve months of the year. And we enjoy it too. We can spread out the gift cards and activity passes to really maximize the experiences. During the middle of the summer, when the midwest humidity was through the roof, we spent the afternoon at an escape room, puzzling our way through clues while in pleasant air conditioning – all thanks to a gift certificate our twins were just waiting to cash in.

Con: Gifts that last the entire year. Sometimes a year…is too long which sounds silly. BUT if a class the kids thought they would enjoy just isn’t a right fit or a museum is too far away to regularly visit, then that gift simply doesn’t work out well. A few toy and craft subscription gifts have been slow to arrive which makes for a long year as kiddos are waiting and waiting for the mail to be delivered each month. We learn. We modify. And we try again next year with a new list of experience gift requests.

Pro: Making memories that will last forever. I love how my children are collecting memories from their experience gifts instead of just more toys, craft supplies, board games, and books. They actually remember who gifted them with the art classes, theater tickets, and museum passes as well as the wonderful times they had while experiencing them – sometimes spending the day with the person who gave them those gifts. While they are still generously given tangible and amazing items to unwrap and enjoy, my kids have come to appreciate and love experience gifts that make life-long memories.