Kids remember meaningful experiences much more than toys. Here are some of the best experience gifts for kids so that they can have memories to last a lifetime!
Most people opt for giving physical gifts because they are tangible and will last a long time. Plus, it’s hard to beat the sweet sight of your child’s sheer joy at opening a gift they really wanted.
But, if you ask people what they remember most about their childhoods, most people would not mention their favorite toy or gift, but rather the experiences they had and the memories made from those times.
Rather than spend money on toys or trinkets that will soon be forgotten, give your kids the gift of experiences. Help foster connection and spend time learning and growing with them. You’ll have less clutter and more time to bond as a family.
What exactly is an experience gift?
An experience gift is simply a gift that provides an experience (like a trip to an amusement park or a pedicure) instead of an actual physical item.
Experience gifts can improve your relationships and help your kids feel closer to you.
Why you should give experiences instead of gifts to your kids
Benefits of giving experiences:
- less physical clutter
- leave your kids with wonderful memories
- enrich their minds
- experiences boost happiness
- give new opportunities and amazing adventures
- foster wonderful family bonds
- experiences form who we are
So, what can you give instead of toys?
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The Best Experience Gifts for Kids
Here are some fun experience gifts that you can give to kids. The experience will mean more if you are able to take them along with you as a family, but many of these would be great ideas for grandparents, other family members, or friends to gift to your kids.
- Train ride
- Boat ride (ferry, steamboat, cruise)
- Skydiving (try Indoor Skydiving! iFLY locations are scattered throughout the US and even younger kids can participate).
- Trip on an airplane
- Helicopter rides
- Wilderness Living Experience Programs – search your area for any wilderness programs for your kids. They will learn great skills and be able to spend time outdoors!
- Museums – look for an unusual museum and take a trip! (like the Museum of Flight, the International Spy Museum, the National Videogame Museum, or the Superhero Museum!)
- Visit a theater to see a ballet, musical, or a children’s performance
- Water parks – (like the Great Wolf Lodge). (My sister gifted this to my girls for their birthdays one year and it was a HUGE hit!)
- Amusement park
- Zoo or Botanical Garden – (like the New York Botanical Garden)
- Factory Tour – (factory tours be very educational, but they can also be fun! like the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour!)
- Trip to a Concert or Symphony Hall
- Trip to visit someone special (when I was 11, my sister paid for me to visit her in Hawaii where her husband was stationed – best gift ever!)
- Camping – Let your kids pick a new camping spot and head out for some outdoor fun! You could get them a new pair of binoculars or a camera too!
- Do an Escape Room with your family – these are offered in all kinds of places, see if one is near you
- Inside Play Houses
- Trampoline (there are indoor trampoline places that you can take kids to)
- Ice skating, Roller skating, Bowling, Miniature golf
- Skiing, Tubing
- Batting Cages
- Sporting Event Tickets (or Season Passes!)
- Rock Climbing (there are lots of indoor rock climbing places to visit, or if you have space you can create your own climbing space at home)
- Horse Riding Lessons
- Wilderness/Survival courses (an outdoor course experience or a Zipline experience)
- Sports Camps
- Visit a Farm
- Plant a Garden together – Foster a love of nature and the outdoors and beautify your home and yard with a Flower and Plant Kit (or this one) and add a birdhouse to attract birds.
3. Classes (Learn something new!)
- Cake Decorating
- Music or Voice Lessons (buy an instrument and lessons to go with it or check out the School of Rock)
- Art (pottery, painting, drawing, sculpting)
- Creative Writing
- Visual Arts (photography, digital art, etc.)
- Dance (ballet, hip hop, tap, etc.)
- Summer Camps
- Martial Arts
4. Day or Seasonal Passes (Memberships)
Check out your local community center or park district for classes and workshops. There are often a wide variety of options for all ages.
- Museum (check out all of your local museums, even the smaller, less popular ones)
- Art Museum
- Science Museum (my kids love our local kid’s science museum)
- Amusement Park
- Water Park
- Children’s Theater
- Local or National Parks
- Sports passes
- Movie Passes
Kids love getting mail! Subscription boxes or magazine subscriptions are fun! Choose something that your child will be interested in. Some ideas:
- KiwiCo – KiwiCo offers fun art, science, and cultural activities for toddlers to teens. (My girls loved these!)
- eat2explore – Make meals from other cultures with these fun cooking subscription boxes. (We tried India and Israel!)
- Bitsbox – For kids who like coding – for ages 6 – 12
- Little Passports – Culture & Geography (ages 3 – 12) and STEM (ages 5 – 8+)
- Baketivity – Get your kids baking with these subscription boxes (for ages 4 – 10).
- Steve Spangler Science Club Kits – FUN science activities (my 6-year-old LOVES this stuff!)
- Girls Can! Crate – Your kids can learn about great women role models (for ages 5 – 10).
- Bookroo – Foster a love of reading with books delivered monthly for ages 0 – 10.
- Cricket Media Magazines – Cricket offers a variety of magazines for ages 0 – 14.
- National Geographic for Kids – for ages 6 and up.
- Mail Order Mystery – not exactly a magazine, but rather a story/mystery for kids to follow/solve that unfolds through the mail (ages 8 – 13)
6. Gift Cards
I think gift cards are always a great gift idea! Instead of adding clutter, they can add a local experience or the gift of music or literature.
7. FREE Experience Gift Ideas
Finally, some FREE experience gifts for kids that the whole family can enjoy together:
- Movie Night at Home – Get out your popcorn popper, candy, and favorite PJs, order a pizza, and pop in a movie (or pick something from Disney Plus or Curiosity Stream). You can get really fancy if you have your own home movie projector.
- Browse old photos (or make your own photo book) – My kids love to see pictures of when everyone they know was little. You can arrange your photos in a simple album, make an elaborate scrapbook, or create a family tree.
- Volunteer – Decide together on a way to give back to the community through volunteering and go help out as a family.
- Plan for the upcoming year – Have your kids help you plan activities and adventures for the coming year and mark them off on your calendar.
- Try Geocaching – Get your kids outside with this fun adventure!
- Make Home Movies – Encourage your kids to get creative and make their own home movie or play and perform it for you.
- Coupons – Make a coupon booklet for each other with coupons that can be redeemed throughout the year.
- Plan a treasure hunt – Plan a treasure hunt, make a map, and have your kids hunt for “treasure” inside (or in the yard). I do this for each of my girl’s birthdays (to find their presents) and they love it!
- Game Night – Pull out the board (or card) games and have fun family time! Or buy some new ones, this is one of our favorites and my daughter enjoys this one.
- Date Night – Plan a 1-1 outing (or in-home) date with each child.
- Crafts – Do crafts with your kids – let them plan a craft or look up a simple one on the internet.
- Cook together – Get in the kitchen and cook with your kids. You can use a kid-friendly cookbook and baking supplies.
My girls and I have enjoyed our trips together where we have made such wonderful memories! The experiences we had far outweigh any toy or trinket any of us have received.
One of our favorite traditions is “Saturday Movie Night” where each week we rotate who picks the movies and we have popcorn and candy to enjoy!
Give your kids the sweet gift of memories by choosing one of these creative experience gifts for kids! I’d love to hear your most memorable experience gift in the comments below!