Experience Gifts for Kids: 5 Tips for Gifting

Are you interested in giving experience gifts for kids, but are unsure how to make it tangible and memorable? Here are 5 tips for gifting experience gifts for kids!
Over the past few years, I’ve heard of more and more families opting out of traditional gifts and instead choosing to give experience gifts for kids. Still, it can be tricky to know how to package an experience gift in such a way that it seems real and kids can be excited about it.
Here are 5 tips for bringing experience gifts for kids to life!
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5 Tips for Revealing Experience Gifts for Kids

Think Broadly for Experience Gifts for Kids

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Experience gifts come in so many forms. It could be a trip or tickets to a fun show, yes, but it could also be a free or low-cost outing. Those are especially great for young kids who really crave time, connection, and experiences that are already familiar to them. You could do a special one-on-one park date, maybe coupled with an ice cream stop. Or you could visit a children’s museum on a free day. You could plan a special hike and picnic. Lots of options don’t require tons of funds!

So don’t feel like you HAVE to spend a bunch of money to make experience gifts awesome.

Have Something Small to Open When Gifting Experience Gifts to Kids

It can sometimes be hard for kids to visualize something abstract, like a trip or tickets to a show. It can be helpful to have something small for them to open to get them excited for the big gift.

Still, I hate buying a bunch of junk just to reveal the “real” present, so try to make it related and useful, too. For instance, when we gifted our California kids a trip to New York for Christmas, we wrapped warm gloves, hats (baby, toddler, kids), and mitten clips since that’s not stuff we have on hand. We’ve had several cold weather trips/outings, and those items have proved very useful and give several seasons of wear. We also included a set of hand warmers for each kid. When we gave our oldest tickets to Hamilton for his birthday, we wrapped a copy of a book about Alexander Hamilton with a note to read before the date of the show. Fun and useful!

This year, I had already purchased darling Harry Potter-themed clothes (this and this) for my little fans when I realized it would be perfect for revealing to them their Christmas gift of a trip to Harry Potter land at Universal Studios. Two birds, one stone.

Use Pretty and Dramatic Packaging for Experience Gifts

It’s always fun to open a giant box, especially for kids – even if there’s not much inside! It’s helpful to signal to kids that the gift is a big, fun deal with pretty, statement-making packaging. It’s easy to find giant boxes, especially this time of year. You could even go to your local big box store and ask if they have any extra big boxes for you to take home and wrap.

Along those same lines, I find it really helpful to have a picture of the actual experience, especially for younger children. For instance, instead of just having a “clue” for them to unwrap (like the hats and mittens I mentioned above), we also printed pictures of our New York holiday activities. With one child, we printed a picture of the New York City Ballet Nutcracker, and for another, we printed a picture of the Rockettes (both of which they recognized from us talking about them and watching clips throughout the month). For the other kids, we printed pictures of ice skating in Bryant Park and the New York Botanical Gardens train show.

This was such a fun and visual way to have the experience come to life for our kids. It was pretty and fun to pull photos out of the giant box!

Subtly Build Up the Experience Gift for Kids Beforehand

I think the hardest thing with opening experience gifts for kids is when they can’t really visualize what it means. If they can’t imagine it, they also can’t be excited about the gift. Disappointing for them AND the parents.

A few years ago, we gifted our kids tickets to Disneyland. None of them could really remember going previously, and they didn’t really know what it entailed. So they thanked us, but clearly didn’t really care. We were all a little bummed.

But then later that afternoon, we showed them a few YouTube videos of what Disneyland actually meant. We looked at pictures of rides and characters and even treats. And they were pumped! It was a lesson to me to try to help them be a little excited beforehand, without spilling the beans about the experience gift for kids.

On the flip side, when we gifted that post-Christmas New York trip, we spent the entire month prior subtly talking up New York at Christmas time. Every time we watched a holiday movie set in New York, we pointed out how magical it was. We read holiday books set in New York, and talked about the Rockefeller tree, ice skating, and even watched clips of the Rockettes and the NYC Ballet Nutcracker mixed in with home holiday activities. When they finally opened the gift on Christmas morning, they were all SO EXCITED to be able to go experience it all in person the next day.

Change Your Expectations When Gifting an Experience Gift for Kids

Despite all the excitement, opening an experience gift is just different. You likely won’t be using that museum pass the same day, or participating in the dance class. You won’t see them playing with that thing all Christmas day. But if you adjust your expectations to not compressing all the energy and excitement into that one day, I guarantee you’ll see excitement spread out over a much longer period.

You may not get that huge gasp and focused play for a few hours on Christmas morning. But you’ll have an extended period of memories and connection and engagement. We’ve done experience gifts for the holidays for about 3 years now, and our kids all now say that’s their preference over a traditional gift. They, too, see the longer-term joy that experience gifts for kids bring. And that’s worth so much more than a piece of plastic.





5 Responses

  • I’m thinking of gifting my nieces with children’s books because these will be my belated Christmas present for them. Well, aside from this, you are also right that it would be a great idea to treat them to nice hiking and picnic too. I’ll also keep in mind to look for Harry-potter theme clothes.

    • You’re such a great aunt!!

  • […] In the last few years, we’ve done an experience gift for our kids’ big Christmas gift, and it’s usually a trip. The first year was the hardest in terms of them knowing what to expect and feeling excitement for it. But once they realized how exciting that was the first year, and how they preferred that to just getting more stuff, it got a lot easier. (5 Tips for Giving an Experience Gift to Kids) […]

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