Research shows that experiences bring us more happiness and satisfaction than things. Here are fifty experience gifts your kids will love.
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“Mom, will you ride down with me this time?” my daughter asked as we stood in line clad in our bathing suits and dripping water.
“Of course!” I exclaimed. “Should we go down the dark tunnel or the sunlit one this time?”
Even though it was 28 degrees outside, my daughters and I were experiencing summer temperatures just a few miles from our home.
It was the first time any of us had been to an indoor water park and we were having a blast – riding down windy water tunnels and lying back on inner tubes as we traveled along a lazy river.
Months earlier both girls had received gift cards for this experience from their grandparents. In an effort to move our family away from physical gifts, I’d suggested this nearby water park as a present and they’d taken me up on the suggestion.
What Are Experience Gifts?
Experience gifts are presents that provide the recipient with an experience as opposed to a material thing.
Most people assume that giving someone a physical present is better than a one-off experience. The former will last longer, they assume, whereas the latter will soon be forgotten.
But research shows otherwise. New things – that is, physical objects – are often interesting and exciting when we first receive them but soon fade into the background of our every day lives.
Experiences, on the other hand, become a part of who we are – as the old saying goes, we are the sum of our experiences.
In fact, research has found that the satisfaction we feel with the purchase of a new item is at first equal with that of an experience. But over time, the satisfaction with the physical good goes down while the satisfaction with the experience goes up.
Not to mention that physical gifts can sometimes add to the clutter we’re trying to avoid.
And who we share those experiences with connects us to them even more. So an additional bonus of experience gifts is that many times they can strengthen our relationship with our kids.
How to Give an Experience Gift
With most experiences there’s a card, coupon, or pass that can be wrapped up as a present. If not, a simple printout image of the experience will do.
You may want to find a small box to put these paper items in. That way your recipient will still experience the pleasure and excitement of opening a box for their birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah or other holiday.
In other cases, the experience is derived from a thing, like a kite, telescope or zip line, for example. Of course, these “experiences” can be wrapped like any other physical present.
The Best Experience Gifts for Kids and Teens
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One of the biggest challenges I faced when deciding to give my girls more experiences as gifts was determining what to give them.
The following are among some of the best experience gifts for kids and teens I’ve come across.
Experiences, like physical gifts, can be both big and small. And they don’t necessarily need to cost money. At the bottom of the list, you’ll find experience gift ideas kids love that don’t cost a thing.
Experience Day Trip/Outing Gifts for Kids and Teens
Experience outings can become adventures for kids that they’ll remember for years to come. Kids can receive these gifts in either day passes, annual passes or memberships. The following are a few kid-friendly experiences that provide an opportunity to visit or try something new:
- Museum passes or memberships
- Botanical garden passes or memberships
- Zoo passes or memberships
- Aquarium passes or memberships
- Children’s museum passes or memberships
- Planetarium passes or memberships
- Membership to a pool
- Mini golf passes
- Bowling passes
- Ice skating passes
- Indoor trampoline passes
- Rock wall passes
- Batting cages
- Amusement park passes
- Theme park passes
- Water park passes
- A hot air balloon ride
- Whale watching tickets
- Roller skating rink gift certificates
- Sporting event tickets
- Musical concert tickets
- Broadway or off-Broadway show tickets
- Ballet tickets
- Escape room tickets
- Indoor sky diving
- Movie theater gift cards
- Ski mountain lift tickets and rentals
- Petting zoo/farm passes
- Children’s theater tickets or memberships
- Pottery painting studio visit
Experience Gifts for Outdoorsy and Adventurous Kids
Countless research concludes that modern kids should spend more time outside. Encourage kids to play in their backyard and connect with nature with these gifts.
- Flower, vegetable or herb seed packages
- Sleeping bag and/or tent
- Slackline and obstacle course set
- Climbing dome
- Rope swing
- Surfer swing
- Kids bike
- Tree house
- Garden set for kids and teens
- Outdoor butterfly garden
- Outdoor explorer kit
- Kids telescope
- Supplies to build a terrarium
- Think Outside the Box subscription for kids
- My Garden Box subscription for kids
Classes and Activities Gifts for Kids
Has your child been asking to try a new sport or take a new class? Extracurricular activities make great gifts. Here are a few ideas, but of course the options go well beyond this list.
- After-school sports
- Music lessons
- Ballet or dance classes
- Horseback riding lessons
- Sewing class
- Pottery class
- Swim lessons
- Surfing lessons
- Karate lessons
- Video game creation lessons
- Cooking classes
- Baking lessons
- Art class
- Pottery class
- Photography class
Fun Family Getaway Gifts for Kids and Teens
Make an experience last longer by giving kids the gift of a multi-day family outing. The following are a few resources to help you get started:
- Farm Stay USA
- Airbnb gift card
- Groupon Getaways pass
- National Park Pass
- Weekend stay at Great Wolf Lodge
- Camping gear for an upcoming trip
- Disney vacation
- Airline tickets for an upcoming trip
- Train tickets for an upcoming trip
Free Family Experience Gifts
Parents often assume that the best gift they can give their children costs money. But when it comes down to it, what our children really want is often much more simple – and at the top of kids’ lists is spending quality moments with their parents. Here are a few cost-free gifts we can give our kids. A great way to give these gifts is to create coupons that kids can cash in throughout the year.
- Family movie night (at home)
- Family game night
- Go on a hike
- Visit a distant playground
- Plan a scavenger hunt
- Cook or bake together
Educational Subscription Boxes Gifts for Kids
Educational monthly subscription boxes are a great way to let kids experience how fun learning can be. Some of the most popular boxes include Kiwi Crates, Bitsboxes, Little Passports, and Bookroo. But there are many others…to find the box that best suits your child, check out the guides below.
- Educational Subscription Boxes for Kids
- Educational Subscription Boxes for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- STEM and Science Subscription Boxes
- Art and Craft Subscription Boxes
- Children’s Book Subscription Boxes
- Science Kits for Kids : This last one doesn’t contain subscription boxes but instead provides a list of one-time purchase kits for kids.
Kiwi Crates provides fun, educational, and creative experience gifts for kids. With a Kiwi Crates subscription, your child will receive a box in the mail each month with a new project tailored to their age and interest.
You can choose from boxes focused on crafts, STEM, cooking, and culture/geography. And there’s a box for every age – including babies!
Click here or the image below to learn more, choose a box, and start a subscription.
Gift Cards for Kids and Teens
Gift cards make great stocking stuffers for kids and teens. But my tween girls also enjoy receiving them as birthday presents. The following cards provide kids with either one-time experiences or, in the case of books and music, experiences that keep on giving.
Gifts to Charities
Encourage kids to think of others through a gift to charity. Kiva allows users to give loans to those in need, while Global Giving allows gift cardholders to choose from a number of charities to donate their money. Save the Children and Family to Family are organizations that help support other children and families in need.
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About Kerry Flatley
Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.