Great experience gifts for kids

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, particularly toys, that your children have? During this gift-giving season, consider giving less stuff and something that may have a longer-lasting effect – experiences.

Tailor these experience gift ideas to your kid’s unique personality and interests so the experiences are still perceived as gifts that they’ll genuinely feel excited to accept. The trick to experiential gift-giving is paying attention to what your kid will appreciate doing, seeing, or learning, and then opening the door to those possibilities.


If you still want to pick up a few traditional gifts this year, give presents that provide educational, artistic or imaginative value.

Here are some of our favorites:

Books: Choose picture books for young kids, novels for older kids, and educational non-fiction books for kids of all ages.

Science kits: Inspire your young scientist with chemistry kits, slime-making kits, ant farms, terrariums or mini-laboratory kits.

Learning tools: Telescopes, magnifying glasses, magnets, binoculars and even magic trick supplies all make great gifts that challenge and expand the mind.

Arts and crafts supplies: Young artists will love sketchbooks, markers, crayons, oil pastels, paints, canvas and easels.

Cooking equipment: Prep your young culinary artist with a chef’s apron, kids’ cookbooks or cookie cutters in fun shapes.

A journal: Encourage your child to draw, write poetry, pen short stories, or just journal their feelings in a special notebook.

Sports equipment: Help kids get active with a soccer ball, bicycle, skates, basketball hoop, a skateboard or other gear for the outdoor activity they like best.

Here are some thoughtful, out-of-the-box ideas for gifts that will be remembered long after the holiday decorations have been put away.

Classes & Lessons

Does the kid in your life want to try a new activity? Are they passionate about art, dance, coding, science, or sports? Can they not stop talking about that weird bug they saw the other day? Help them experience more of it!

Sign up your child for a class or lesson they haven’t taken before. The options are endless – dance, swim, music, cooking, art, skiing, etc.

Even better: Gift a class that you and your child can do together. A great way to learn and spend quality time together.

Tickets & Passes

Tickets to a fun event, as a family-friendly concert, sporting event or traveling show, can be an excellent holiday gift. Or buy season tickets to a favorite venue, vsuch as a theatre or ballet company, and enjoy multiple performances throughout the year.

For thrill seekers and fitness buffs, passes to a ski park or local ice skating or roller skating rink, bowling alley, batting cage, escape room, indoor play center or trampoline park can make for a fun and festive day out.

For science and animal lovers, consider giving tickets or family memberships to the local zoo, nature centers, science centers or children’s museums. Many family attractions schedule special “insider” experiences that your kid will flip over – such as special animal encounters at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, or sleepovers at the Anchorage Museum.

The Benefits of Giving Experiences vs. Presents

The research is in: Experiences, not stuff, makes us happier. A study published by the Psychological Science journal found that experiences provide longer-lasting happiness and greater anticipation than possessions. While material gifts may fill us with elation, those feelings quickly fade. After all, how often do kids’ toys end up lost, broken or abandoned within just days or weeks?

This season, consider giving gifts of experience. Through experiences, you can foster a child’s development by providing enjoyable opportunities to learn, travel, play, get creative, and become more empathetic toward the world around them. Bonus: Giving the gift of an experience means less clutter and more memories!