Gifts of Experience For Christmas and Other Gift Giving Days

Gifts of Experience are in. Boring gifts that kids play with for 10 minutes, lose interest in and are left to clutter the house (and wasting money) are so ‘yesterday’.

Gifts of Experience build memories family members will cherish for a lifetime.

A “one-on-one” Day with Grandma buildings strong relationships by getting to know each other better, without anyone or anything taking your attention away. Quality time spent bonding this way while the child is young almost guarantees grandkids will enjoy time with Grandma when they are young adults. Spending the night (one at a time) is a favorite for kids as well as for grandparents.

Why not give the child something to look forward to, after Christmas Day is over, instead of the usual “day after Christmas” letdown? Anticipation of an upcoming experience fosters happiness on its own, making the actual event even more fun! A gift of experience is actually the gift of time…..and it benefits both the giver and the recipient.

Make a list of things they can choose from on ‘their’ special day’. A fun activity might be going out to split a 1/2 price malt at Sonic in the evening* or playing and enjoying a picnic in the local park with tuna sandwiches, some chips, a banana and a jug of tea allows you to take pictures of the day that will become a treasured memory. A trip to the grocery store to buy a brownie mix or to gather ingredients to make a simple peach cobbler, or popcorn with white chocolate to eat as you sit and visit. Fixing a meal together allows you to mentor as they learn something how to read a measuring cup (slyly teaching them fractions and kitchen skills such as how to easily peel an egg. FACT: kids will eat things they made, even if it was something they thought they hated before.

(*Explaining up front that you have enough money to get one, if you split it, is a learning experience for the child that makes them appreciate it more if they realize that it is even more special, since money is tight for you. It awakened a lifelong desire in our kids to not be greedy and to want to share with others so they both could enjoy.)

Set the date and get to planning in advance; jotting down things to teach/ tell/share with them on their day. Funny stories from your childhood, how to write in cursive, life skills such as how to make a bed or something you have learned to do.) What is something you enjoyed as a child and let them do it? Wading in the creek? Feeding ducks? Looking for fossils? Feeding a calf? Picking berries? Fishing? Skimming rocks?

Keep it simple.

Check for local nature areas/centers in your area, a local cave, and state parks. Get out and explore as you walk and look at the trees and see what treasures you find. Walking tours let your loved one see your town in a fresh way. Look in your town for historical sites, architecture tours, local attractions and museums.

THE BEST: Teach them to give back. A volunteer activity you do together can be an amazing gift. While giving them an experience they’ll remember, you’ll be fostering the kids’ budding compassion and empathy for others in need. Visit an assisted living facility or nursing home to bring some much needed light into the residents’ lives by distributing cards the little ones drew or deliver meals through Meals on Wheels, notes of encouragement for families with babies in the NICU, help with something at church, such as preparing a funeral meal for someone who lost a spouse. Teach them how important it is to think of others and how appreciated it is to a widowed person to be remembered on the hardest days….the loved ones birthday, their wedding anniversary, the anniversary of the loved ones passing and Valentines Day. This is a golden opportunity to teach them that it is ok to talk and share their own memories about the one who passed because it leaves the widow/widower with a new and warm memory to cherish that they didn’t have before.

Seeing how their kindness is appreciated and how good it makes them feel when someone smiles and says thank you they learn the value of always expressing gratitude to others so they, toom can feel good for what they have done. This give you the opportunity to share with them that when someone does or says something nice for them then they should find something nice for five others. It is called Pay it forward—and it eventually comes back around. The Bible calls it sowing and reaping. …whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6;

Afterglow…send them home with something, a book from a garage sale, a picture of grandpa they hadn’t seen before….the cream puffs you two made together to share with the family. Give from what you have at your home already as it will have more meaning than something everyone can buy at Walmart.

An experience gift gives them treasured memories, long after you are gone, and teaches them something they might even pass down to their own grandkids.



Research has found that if you spend the same amounts on an experience and a physical thing, the experience will make you happier in the long run. Be a minimalist when it comes to gifts, but maximalists when it comes to experience.

This entry was posted in A heart for the widowed, All in Fun, Birthdays and Anniversaries, Christmas, Grandparenting, Great ideas!, Making Changes, Saving Money, Senior Citizens, Volunteering and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Gifts of Experience For Christmas and Other Gift Giving Days

  1. Ann says:

    When Grandma passed on, family members chose from her possessions. Selected first were worn and chipped dishes holding wonderful memories of her using them daily, to lovingly serve meals. The “good dishes” displayed in the china hutch and used only for special occasions were of no value to them. Remember it is memories, not things, your loved ones will cherish.

    The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, your love and your attention.

  2. Brenda says:

    Pearls Before Swine Comic Strip The mouse comments that he keeps buying things, things, and more things. They don’t make him happy so he buys bigger, better and faster things and yet, he still isn’t happy.

    The pig who comes happily skipping by carrying five balloon says, “Maybe life is about experiences.”

    See it here:

  3. Sam says:

    When you lose a loved one you will be glad you spent the money to make a memory. Spend it in ways that line up with things you value–such as extended chunks of time with family.

    Research shows that if you spend the same amount of money on either an experience or something physical it is the experience that will make you happiest in the long run. Money saved toward a family trip buys you quality time with family. You can do local weekend excursions to make memories.

  4. Brian says:

    The occasion was their mom’s birthday. She didn’t need anything and can buy what she wants. All five daughters went to her home, along with her only sister and her grown granddaughter, the weekend to help celebrate.
    They climbed into her station wagon and drove to Sears for a family photograph,. From there they drove to Chicago to where their dad had his business 30 years before, Next they went to their old home from which they had moved in 1954.
    They had dinner at the restaurant where a sister had worked 20 years ago. They had a farewell breakfast the next morning and went on there way. They made plans to get together the next year to visit the Swedish neighborhood in Chicago, since her mom’s parents came from there 90 years prior.

    The memories of that weekend meant just as much to them as they did to their mom. And the memories will last much longer than any material gift they could have given her. (A trip down memory lane is a wonderful gift for someone who has everything.)

    From an old Dear Abby column

  5. Becka says:

    Dear Amy: Many years ago my family resolved the “grab bag” gift exchange by each person buying a gift for himself. It is amazing how it ended all the anxiety of gift-giving.

    We set a price range. The gift to yourself cannot be a gift card. It must be wrapped and then opened in the presence of the others.

    It is so much fun getting something you wish for but would not normally splurge on. We call this “Elf to Myself.”

    It might sound quirky but I don’t think there has been a return yet! It is fun and has worked well for us. — Plan B Grab Bag

    Dear Plan B : Inventive. I look forward to readers’ reactions.


    DEAR ABBY: A few years ago, I bumped into an old friend in a supermarket around holiday time. “What are you doing for Christmas this year’?” I asked. He replied, “Every year, the wife and I take the money we would have spent on each other and we give a needy family a Christmas tree, a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, toys for the kids, and gifts for the entire family. “Last year, ’our’ family had nine children, and it was the first Christmas they had a tree.” I thought it was a great idea and asked if I could help. He then proceeded to help me by finding smother family that was down on their luck. Over the years, this has become my ritual. Many people get depressed around the holidays. I never am, and when people ask me what I want for Christmas. I say, “I’d like for some underprivileged family to have a good Christmas. I’m telling this story because all it took was a small seed planted in me to bring happiness to others. There are a lot of people who slip through the cracks, children who don’t receive toys from Toys for Tots, children whose names aren’t hanging on a Christmas tree in a mall somewhere. I find these people through my church. You can’t believe the warm feeling you get when you walk into a home on Christmas Eve and know that had you not put forth the effort, that family would have had nothing. To me, that’s what the Christmas spirit is all about. Abby, please help me plant some more seeds. ANONYMOUS IN AUSTIN

    DEAR ANONYMOUS: Thank you for a terrific suggestion to pass along to those who have the resources and desire to prove that the spirit of Christmas is still alive and flourishing.

    From Dear Abby Dec. 23, 1992
    “Grandma wishes for timely gift”
    For Christmas, I don’t want another crystal bud vase. I have four under my kitchen sink, and nobody brings me flowers anyway. I don’t want a sausage and cheese tray — too much cholesterol for this old lady. I don’t want another music box to find a place for. I have too many now. I don’t want a silk nightgown, perfumed soap, a fancy bed jacket, dusting powder or bird feeder.

    What do I want? ask me! I’m not shy. I have told you already what I really want for Christmas, but I never got it. Maybe this time I will,

    I want you to give me a few hours. Take me and my cumbersome wheelchair to the mall; I’d love to see the lights and hear the music. I would also like to be driven around town so I can see the Christmas decorations –then maybe stop for a hot cocoa.

    I would like a book of postage stamps, a writing tablet with lines and some plain envelopes. I would also appreciate a decent ballpoint pen that works, and some telephone coupons so I can make a few long-distance calls to people I will probably never see again. I would really appreciate a visit from you and other family members -especially my grandchildren who call and say, “Hi, Grandma. How are you? I love you. Gotta go. See you later. Bye!”

    I would love someone to offer to pay my heating bill for one month. (With five sons, six daughters and 42 grandchildren, that should be so hard to do,) And I sure wish someone would come over here and test my smoke alarm.

    I really do love all of you; otherwise why would I feel free to tell you what is on my mind?


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