The Gift of Experience


The holidays are here! Time for holiday decorating and gift shopping! I recall the holidays in years past – the hiding of kids’ gifts, shopping for hours trying to find that certain toy, and family trips to see Christmas lights and Santa. The holidays were always enjoyable and as my kids have aged to a high school senior and a junior high 8th grader, I have enjoyed the changes that came along with it. I’d like to share with you the gift of experience.

A common theme has emerged as my children have aged. While they have used and enjoyed various gifts over the years, they comment how the best and most meaningful gifts are gifts of experience – not the latest and greatest objects. Granted, the new wakeboard or hard-to-find makeup kit were hits; however, those waned over time.

The presents of family outings were and still are the most memorable, the most enjoyed.


I try to include a few experiences in those beautifully-wrapped boxes under the tree for them. These experiences do not have to cost a lot of money, if any, and are easy to control the amount of money you contribute towards. I wanted to pass along what I have done in the past and continue to do so your family can create memories that will last a lifetime. Trust me – they’ll remember the time you went to the Cincinnati Zoo to see Fiona over that hoverboard that broke two months after Christmas.

Here are some ideas I’ve used over the years (*You can provide the gift card in any monetary amount you choose):

Younger Kids

They tend to be more in the moment in terms of focusing on that object in the wrapped box. It’s harder for them to understand a gift card since all they see is a plastic card or piece of paper. I got around this by including an object related to that experience. For example, a baby stuffed hippo with a Cincinnati Zoo ticket hung around its neck; a ball and bubbles to play with at a local park play date; an apron and cooking supplies to bake cookies with Grandma; swim gear and toys along with a gift card for swim lessons. You’ll probably have to explain your gift at times; however, starting this early carries this idea into their older years.

Tween Years

This in-between age can be hard. They’re more about time with friends and may not want to hang out with family as much, so sometimes my excursions are more geared toward things to do with friends instead of family. I typically create a themed gift by bringing small objects together along with a gift card. Go to the dollar store and purchase a cheap bin or basket you can fill with: a movie theater gift card along with favorite candies and popcorn; a sports team t-shirt with tickets to a game, various nail supplies along with a manicure gift card.

High School Years

At this age, believe me, they still want to do things – just maybe not as often. I create a gift certificate of some sort on Microsoft Word and wrap it up elaborately every year showing where we will vacation as a family. Sometimes it’s a weekend trip, other times a week. My two kids know that’s THE special box after all these years and look forward to seeing where we will be going together at some point over the next year. My kids are athletes and enjoy doing physical stuff, so you will have to alter this to specific interests. Winter gloves along with a day of skiing and snow tubing at the local ski slopes facility; a new water ski rope to use during the weekend on the lake; new water bottles to use when hiking to all the waterfalls in the area; travel books about the places we’ll see on our next vacation spot.

No matter what you choose to do or how much money, if any, to spend, I encourage you to give a gift of experience every year where family members can interact with one another. Allowing your kids the opportunity to do something will far outweigh that forgotten toy collecting dust at the bottom of the closet.

Make sure to check out our Holiday Gifts & Experiences guide for our top recommendations, exclusive discounts, giveaways, and causes to gift to around Cincinnati & NKY in this season of giving!


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