Between Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, and more, it seems like we’re always buying something for our kids. While most kids always want the latest toy, experience gifts for kids will be much more meaningful and memorable.
Also keep in mind – 2021 is (hopefully) a special year. It’s likely that many physical toys just won’t reach the shelves in time for holiday shopping. So if you are a bit late the shopping game – it might be a great chance to try giving your child something they’ll remember for a lifetime rather than a physical gift.
We’ve come up with a list of 57 gifts that are alternatives to toys. We’ve scoured the web, talked to friends and family, and pored over reviews to find the best kids’ gifts that are experiences.
We’ll save you the trouble of looking all over the web and explain why these gifts are better than toys.
57 Experience Gifts for Kids
Below are 57 of the best kids’ gifts that are experiences.
1. A Trip to Disneyland or Disney World
It may feel cliché, but your kids should get a chance to go to Disney at least once. You can make the trip even more special by finding a fun way to surprise them with the news.
2. Monthly Book Subscriptions
There are book subscriptions for readers of all ages and skill levels. Some are even tailored to your child’s interests. You’ll also find ones that come with activities you and your child can do along with the book.
3. A Pet
If your child loves animals and you’re willing, a pet of their own can be a wonderful gift. Their memories with their pet will last a lifetime. Just make sure you have the stamina to continue to love and care for the animal for years to come.
4. Go for a Hike
Hiking is a great way for your kids to cultivate a love of nature while staying fit. You can visit a national park or just a local trail.
5. Season Tickets
Does your kid have a favorite local team? Consider getting season tickets and taking them to all of the home games.
Skydiving is the ultimate thrill. If your kid’s too young, there are also indoor skydiving experiences that are just as thrilling.
7. Extracurricular Fees
Sports, lessons, and other extracurriculars can get expensive. Consider gifting your child with an activity they may not otherwise get to do.
8. Educational Subscription Boxes
There are boxes for everything from STEM to art to geography. Pick a topic your child likes and watch them learn something new each month.
9. Train Ride
Kids love trains, but many never get a chance to ride on one. You have lots of options here: you could take an overnight trip or even go on a themed trip, like the Polar Express experience.
10. A Trip to the Beach
If your child has never had a chance to see the ocean, a beach trip can be an excellent gift.
11. Music Lessons
You can find lessons for just about any type of music or instrument. Music is a fun and important skill that’ll serve your kids well throughout their life.
Whether your child likes to do chemistry experiments, engineering challenges, or nature walks, there’s a science subscription box for them. These boxes come with everything your child needs to complete an activity.
13. Bike Trip
Find a nearby bike trail and go for a ride as a family. Take them to lunch to make a day of it.
14. Visit to a Farm or Ranch
Visiting a farm or ranch is a great experience, especially for kids who live in the city. Many farms will give tours or even let you stay for a few nights. Some offer experiences like fall festivals.
15. A Charitable Donation
If your child is passionate about a cause like animals or the environment, a charitable donation in their name can be meaningful. You may want to let them present the check themself.
16. Kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard
For those who live near water, a kayak or stand-up paddleboard gives your kid lots of chances to get out and explore.
17. A Cooking Class
If your child is itching to get in the kitchen, a cooking class, or even a kids’ cookbook and some kid-friendly kitchen tools. Your child can learn an important skill while having fun.
18. Swimming Lessons
Whether your child wants to learn how to swim or if they want to develop their swimming skills, swimming lessons are a great gift.
19. Great Wolf Lodge
Visiting an indoor water park is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues. Your younger ones will love Great Wolf Lodge, and older kids will like the more thrilling Kalahari Resort.
20. Rock Climbing
Older kids will love a rock climbing excursion. You can do it outdoors or even visit an indoor rock wall.
21. Playground Tour
Kids love to go to the playground, but they’ll get even more excited if you take a day and visit all the playgrounds in your area.
22. A Homemade Coupon Book
Homemade coupons may seem cheesy to the older set, but your kid will love a book of fun stuff they can cash in. You can include items like a movie night, homework pass, and their favorite meal for dinner.
23. Art Class
You can usually find a place that lets your class do a one-time art class. They come away with a cool creation. If your kid loves it, you can sign them up for lessons.
24. Gardening Supplies
Get your kids some gardening tools, plants, and seeds. Find a spot in your yard and let them try their hand at growing some veggies.
25. Horseback Riding
For kids with an interest in horses, you can go horseback riding. If your kid is passionate, consider springing for riding lessons.
26. Snack Subscription Box
There are several different types of snack subscriptions, making this the perfect gift for kids who love junk food. If you want to make it educational, choose a box that allows them to try snacks from different countries.
27. A Camping Trip
Most kids love a chance to experience the great outdoors. Whether you camp out at a national park, a local campground, or simply your backyard, you’re sure to have a memorable experience.
28. Hot Air Balloon Ride
Kids love hot air balloons, so nothing will be more exciting than getting to ride in one and see their town.
Is there somewhere your kid has always wanted to go? Plan a family trip and surprise your child with it.
A camera is a great way for your child to commemorate all of their adventures. Cameras let them see the world in a new way and will prevent them from using their smartphone.
Bowling is good old-fashioned Xbox. If you want to go all out, find an alley that does midnight bowling.
32. Craft Box
For creative kids, a box of crafting materials can lead to hours of fun.
33. A Zoo or Museum Membership
Choose a local zoo, aquarium, or museum that fits your child’s interests. A membership is a guarantee that you’ll go frequently and you may even get some extra perks.
34. Dinner at a Themed Restaurant
Lots of areas have restaurants with themes like dinosaurs, Medieval, and pirates. If you have older kids, consider a dinner theatre performance.
35. Butterfly Garden
Butterfly garden kits come with everything you need to raise a set of butterflies. Your kids will learn about metamorphosis and delight in seeing their butterflies emerge.
36. Escape Rooms
Escape rooms are a lot of fun for older kids. Your family will get time to bond while working together toward a common goal.
37. Stay in a Themed Airbnb
There are lots of themed Airbnbs based on childhood favorites like Harry Potter. There are also ones that have indoor slides, swimming pools, games, and more.
38. Miniature Golf
Miniature golf is a fun game for kids and parents of all ages. You can keep score and make it a serious competition with prizes for the winner.
39. Go Stargazing
Spend an evening under the stars without having to get your own telescope. If you have a local planetarium, you may also want to consider a trip there.
40. Arcade Gift Certificate
Get your kid a gift certificate to a local arcade. You can have fun competing against one another as a family. This gift is perfect for the gamer kid who you’d like to pull away from the XBox.
41. Take a Ski Trip
Give your kids a chance to learn to ski or simply just sled and play in the snow. If the resort allows it, snowboarding is always an option as well.
42. Trampoline Park
Trampoline parks are the perfect rainy day activity – even if you have a backyard tramp or indoor trampoline of your own. You get the kids out of the house and they get to burn off their energy while having a blast.
43. An Online Class
Has your child always wanted to learn a skill like painting or filmmaking? There are online classes on just about any subject to help your kid learn something new.
If you want to give your kid a vacation experience on a budget, consider a staycation. See your town as a tourist and find some fun stuff to do.
45. Streaming Service Subscription
Almost all streaming services have content for kids of all ages. You and your child can pick a favorite show and spend the next few months watching all of the episodes together.
46. Factory Tour
Visit a local factory to see how something is made. If you don’t have a factory, you may have a bakery or other facility that offers tours.
47. Go out on a Boat
If you live near the ocean or a large lake, you can usually rent a boat or take a ride on a chartered boat. You could go fishing, whale-watching, and more.
48. Book a VR Experience
Your gamer will be over the moon if you get passes to a VR experience.
49. Board Games
Board games become experience gifts if you set up a family game night to go along with them. There are lots of games that are made for the whole family to enjoy.
50. Tickets to a Show or Concert
Depending on your child’s age, there are lots of fun character shows, theater events, and concerts you can attend. Bonus points if you can catch their favorite character or band while they’re in town.
51. Ropes Course
Your child will love going on a journey through the trees and it’s a good bonding experience for the family.
52. A Season Pass to an Amusement or Water Park
If you live near an amusement park, season passes are a great way to guarantee your child has some fun experiences.
53. Roller Skating / Ice Skating
Get passes to the local skating rink. Have fun skating while jamming out to some awesome tunes.
54. Helicopter Ride
Helicopter rides are great for kids who are obsessed with flying. Plus, it’s a whole new way to see your area.
Camp can be expensive, so consider giving it as a gift. You can choose a traditional summer camp or one tailored to your kid’s interests.
56. Plan a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are tons of fun for kids of all ages. You can build one around your house, your neighborhood, or your whole town. Be sure to have a fun prize at the end.
57. Scrapbooking Supplies
Since your child is having all of these fun experiences, what better way to commemorate everything than with some scrapbooking supplies? Let your child make a scrapbook to remember their special year.
Why Give Gifts that aren’t Toys?
While toy gifts have their time and place, experiences are much more powerful.
You Can Create Shared Memories With Your Children
Some toys allow you to play with your kids, but kids usually play with toy gifts on their own. However, many experience gifts are things you can do with your child or as an entire family.
One of the most important aspects of a family is something known as “familect,” or the dialogue created around shared experiences. These experiences help a family to bond in a meaningful way. Experience gifts are a great way to facilitate this type of bonding.
Toys Can Stifle Children’s Creativity
Toys don’t always help your child develop their creativity, especially toys that don’t allow for open-ended play. Most children can build an active imagination with fewer toys that are intentionally chosen.
Experiences are much more meaningful. They allow your child to be creative. Doing something new allows the brain to make new connections and learn new things. Your child will also expand their worldview and open their mind to new people and ideas.
Kids who have a wide variety of experiences are better learners. They’re used to taking in new information and assimilating it into what they already know.
Experiences Create Lifelong Memories
One of the most important things you can do for your kids is to help them to create lifelong memories. Think back on your childhood. When you remember all of those special moments, you likely aren’t thinking about all the toys you had.
Instead, you’re thinking of all the experiences you had. Wonderful experiences are what make childhood memorable. When you help your child create these types of memories, they’ll look back on their childhood with fondness.