Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Gift of Experiences

We're coming up not only on Christmas, but also on Sam and Sadie's birthdays that follow close behind. Both celebrations include a lot of gift-getting on their parts. They, of course, are thrilled by the prospect. We, their parents, appreciate the generosity of friends and family as well. When it comes to deciding what we will give them for Christmas and birthday, we're often torn.

Do we add to their gifts? Find a gift alternative such as giving to a charity? Wrap up toys they haven't played with in awhile and hope they forget they've already opened them once before?

We determined that our goals are two-fold. One, we want to down-play the importance of things and two, we want to instill the value of giving (versus only receiving). For the latter, we talk about (and let them help with) what we're doing for others (that we don't know).

To attempt to defend off materialism (which is just dying to gobble-up our children), we've begun giving gifts of experiences instead of things. Now, I understand that experiences are things, too. They sometimes cost money and have the potential to become more extravagant than gifts of things. Our ideal is to find inexpensive experiences that will provide fond memories of celebrating their lives (in the case of their birthdays) and of Christ's coming (in the case of Christmas). We started this tradition last year when we all went bowling for their birthdays. This past weekend, Sam and Sadie received their birthday present for this year a tad early.

Years ago when Jamey traveled for work, he earned hotel points toward free nights. Those hotel points expire the end of this year, hence the reason their "gift" was early. We used the last of our points and booked a free night in a very nice hotel with an indoor swimming pool and had Papa John's pizza delivered to our room for dinner. When we told Sam and Sadie our plans, Sam cried (literally) between squeals of delight and giving of hugs.

We had such a wonderful time. When we walked into the marble-clad lobby with the nine-foot decorated Christmas tree, they could not contain their excitement. The lady at the desk probably wondered when the last time was we let our children out of the house.

The kids spent two hours in the pool both days (we had it to ourselves the whole time), thought having pizza delivered to the hotel room was awesome and loved eating in the hotel's complimentary full breakfast restaurant. Several times over those two days, we heard Sam say, "This is the BEST birthday present EVER!" and Sadie say, "Dis is SO citing!" (Translation: This is so exciting!).

Except for the two hours it took to get everyone asleep in the same hotel room, the birthday present was a success. We have another experience-gift planned for them for Christmas, but that one is a secret. For now.

Now I know we are not the first ones to ever think of giving an experience as a gift and we will be forever in need of new ideas. So, please share with us what experiences you've given in the past.

Pretty please?

P.S. Just thought you'd like to know that I took a shower today- almost all by myself. Baby steps are just fine by me. Pin It


  1. That is such a wonderful gift, and a great story.

    For when the get older: ice skating.

  2. I took each of my daughters away to a hotel for two days when they were tweens (still one daughter to go). We listened to some CD's on Preparing for Adolescence, went to bookstores (we're a family of bibliophiles), and ate just about whatever we wanted. The thing that they loved the most was just having time alone with Mom as a "grown up" girl.

    For Christmas, they will get some presents, but our highlight is a cookie decorating party with their cousins where the cookies will be delivered to a homeless shelter - after we eat a few ourselves!

    I'm always trying to think of new ideas for this kind of thing, so I can't wait to hear what all your readers share!

  3. I think giving experiences are the best gifts too...they last much longer! If I think of anything to suggest I will add it in...right now I draw a blank. :)

    Have a blessed CHRISTmas!

  4. First of all... bathing is totally overrated :)

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that your children enjoyed their early birthday present... a hotel pool all to themselves and pizza too? That "experience" will last longer than any cheesy plastic toy ever could.

    Some of the "experiences" we've givin our kids before: movie theater tickets, gift cards to their favorite store, a year long zoo pass, concert tickets, museum passes,tickets for the subway or the train, tickets to a butterfly exhibit... I think they get so many "things" from well meaning family and friends that we almost don't need to buy our children anything... it's our own guilt that makes us do it.

    I think giving "experiences" is the way to go... it's fun to look forward to something.

  5. I love it! One year for Christmas my father took me to New York City for the weekend. We saw "Cats" and shopped at Bloomingdales. But what I remember most is having him all to myself for two days :)

  6. That's so nice to read!

    We're giving coupon books to our children. Most of the things are things we do already, but these are for one-on-one time. "One hour playing Frisbee with Mama," "attend one minor league ball game with Dad," "one visit to the coffeehouse with either parent," "two hours fishing," "two hour hike with packed lunch"... stuff like that. Maybe it's not for everyone, but my kids are extremely pumped about it. :)


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

Please choose the Anonymous option if you prefer not to sign in to comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails