Over the years, we have changed our outlook on giving our children tons of “things” and realized we value experiences of material things. It’s not a new concept. In fact, I saw many blog posts this year around Christmastime suggesting parents consider gifting experience rather than material items.
We take it a step further and consider this when we are gifting our children anything for birthdays or anything else where gift giving is customary. In fact, I have stopped giving “things” for my kids’ friends’ birthday parties on most occasions as well.
The kids typically bring a gift card to the movies or some other fun activity. They may not always appreciate the fact that they are the kid that comes with an envelope instead of a cooler present like a TOY, but they are gracious about it.
For their birthdays or Christmas, we will often suggest gift cards to help with a planned vacation. This worked out great when we went to Disney World because the kids had their own spending money, and they were proud to be able to use it however they wanted.
We didn’t have a meal plan so they used them if they wanted a special snack, or a souvenir. A couple of years in a row, my mother gifted our entire family a membership to the pool we join every summer. And while I once spent hundreds of dollars on birthday parties, we now choose to spend our money on a mini vacation more often than not.
The last few years, my mother has even stopped getting the kids birthday gifts, and started taking them to eat lunch somewhere special and watch a movie or to a pottery class. This year, wild thing #4 got a Disney on Ice date- just the two of us.
It goes beyond gift giving too. Our children frequently wear hand-me-downs, and the boys each have one good pair of tennis shoes. They’re definitely not missing out on anything, but they are surely not swimming in extra clothes. (Of course, something is not adding up, since the basement is always full of laundry).
We don’t live in a huge house, and we most likely never will. We are happy where we are though because it allows us to experience more than we would be able to otherwise.
I’m certainly not suggesting our children to have plenty of things. They’re borderline spoiled. All 3 of the boys play hockey, which is not a cheap sport. But we do try to be conscious of limiting the things we have in order to be able to afford the experiences we so desperately want to be able to offer our kids.
If you’re wondering why we are so set on doing things this way, here are…
6 reasons we choose
experiences over things
We have too much stuff, and most of it never gets played with.
There is no shortage of clothes or toys in this house, and as I mentioned above, our house isn’t that big. I am constantly taking stuff to Goodwill. These kids have so many toys, they don’t even know what to play with. It’s unnecessary. We can’t fit anything more in our house without getting rid of something.
Time spent together.
I mention it often on social media, but we work a lot. And, the kids are involved in a lot of sports. Yes, the activities they are involved in allow us to spend time together, but it’s different than taking time to spend together just having fun, and relaxing.
I am always amazed by the things the kids remember. I’m also always pleasantly surprised that regardless of whether the vacation goes as planned in my type A-ish (I’ve got a little of everything going on in my mind- depends on the situation), the kids always love every minute of vacation.
When the kids leave the house, our ability to help them experience things will be limited.
Of course it’s not like we will be able to show them everything. Knowing that we have given them as many opportunities as we can is important to us though.
This doesn’t mean every experience has to be a vacation, but even hikes, or seeing a play, or going to a museum count as experiences. Since we can’t possibly no what opportunities our children will have as adults, we try to offer these experiences in case they aren’t able to experience some of these things as adults.
It gives the kids the opportunity for one-on-one time.
In a big family, one-on-one time is limited, especially when it concerns a special experience. When the experience is given as a gift, the other kids, while mildly disappointed understand that it was a gift, and they will have special time too.
They might actually learn something.
Even if the planned trip wasn’t specifically intended for learning, chances are the kids are going to learn something. Learning through hands-on experiences gives children a deeper understanding of what they are learning than if they were just reading or hearing about it.
I am a firm believer in taking time out for special experiences with your kids. Life is just so busy these days. We run from one scheduled activity to another. We eat fast food, or if we are lucky we might have time to cook a nice dinner. We finish homework, and pack lunches, and sign papers. And while, we are spending time with our kids, at the end of the day, it can feel like we rushed through it. It’s life. Carving out some special time with the kids every now and then is so important, and gives you a chance to enjoy the moment.
So, what do you think? Are experiences worth giving as gifts? Have you ever given an experience as a gift?