Do you dread the barrage of gifts that come in over the holidays, or on the kids’ birthdays? I know I do. In the days leading up, as the Amazon truck becomes a fixture in our driveway, I stare with increasing dread at the bins of toys, long neglected and usually missing parts that overfill our closets. These are the same toys that, full of dust after a year or more of storage, suddenly rise to “favorite” status should you suggest throwing them out.

I know I can’t be the only mom that thinks this. And I know it’s not only my husband whose blood pressure rises as we pack more and more toys into already messy rooms and stuffed closets.

This is why I have embraced experiential gift giving.

Experiential gift giving is a present to the whole family. It can provide quality time together, or turn a child on to a new interest or passion. It takes up minimal or no closet space. It’s impossible to lose parts. And it cannot break.

Here are some of my favorite experiential gifts that we’ve given or received:

  • Lessons: Maybe a better thing to ask for from grandparents or other family as the cost is high, but rather than buying the newest gaming system, what about 10 music lessons? Or a session of drama, dance or basketball?
  • Family Movie Night: A winner during COVID-19, why not give a sweet basket of popcorn, a cozy blanket, some Mike-and-Ikes, a pizza delivery gift card (Grubhub works) and a coupon code for a couple Red Box rentals? During normal times, a movie gift card is just as fun.
  • Spa Day: It’s not only moms who like being pampered. Give a mani-pedi gift certificate, possibly with a gift card to a local restaurant. Boom, instant mother-daughter date!
  • Sports Outing: What family doesn’t enjoy a trip to the ballpark? This is more affordable for families in minor league or college markets, but two or four tickets to a game is an exciting gift that the recipient can look forward to! (If you can’t buy a voucher, check with parents first on scheduling).
  • Outschool – Truly an invention of the COVID era, Outschool provides online classes based on popular kids’ themes such as “Disney Zombies dance class,” or “Learn to build the Harry Potter castle.” When many kids’ activities have been cancelled, these online classes are a fun idea.

So when it comes to buying for the next holiday or birthday, think literally outside the box!