Why I Give My Kids 'Experience Coupons' for the Holidays Instead of Physical Gifts

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  • Some people give their children toys, games, and apparel during the holidays.
  • I prefer to focus on things we can do together as a family. 
  • Giving experiences for the holidays results in more learning opportunities and they don't take up space the way toys or physical items do. 

I'm happier with this approach for several reasons.

Now that the holidays are almost upon us, a lot of parents I know are still scrambling to find their children the perfect gifts. But I'm done with my holiday shopping for my kids -- and it's not because I was super organized and got everything done in November. 

Rather, a big reason I've finished shopping for my kids is because they're not getting all that many physical gifts from me. Sure, I purchased a few small token items so I have something to hand them, like accessories for my daughters and a book and t-shirt for my son. But for the most part, my husband and I don't do physical gifts for the holidays. Rather, we do experience coupons/gifts. Here's why.

1. My kids can grow from experiences more so than toys

Might my kids enjoy another Lego set? Sure. And you can argue there's value in manipulating different pieces and creating different structures. 

But all told, I feel that my kids get more value out of different experiences than your average toy. And so I'd rather give them coupons they can redeem for a trip to a museum, where they can learn something, or an outing to try a new sport. 

2. Experiences don't take up space

When you have kids, you're pretty much guaranteed to have some degree of clutter in your home. And it doesn't matter if you have an entire basement like I do that's dedicated to being a play area. The clutter will still build up and haunt you. 

Another benefit of experience gifts is that they don't take up space in my home. I don't have to yell at my kids to put yet another thing away, and I don't have to worry about finding room for an oversized playset that might only get a few hours of use.

3. We can enjoy experiences as a family

I like to carve out time on the weekends for family outings. And experience gifts lend to that more so than toys. 

Sure, there are certain board games we can play as a family. And one gift I always give my kids for the holidays is a gingerbread house kit (you can score one at Costco on the cheap), which we enjoy building and then eating as a family. But all told, I'd rather spend my money on season passes to a nearby theme park (which can result in numerous fun outings) than a series of toys my kids are more likely than not to play with by themselves. 

A much better system of giving gifts

A lot of people love seeing their kids unwrap presents. But my preference is still to hand my kids a few pieces of paper with different experiences written on them. 

Now to be fair, my kids are a little older, and I didn't do the experience thing when they were toddlers. At that point, I just ran up a credit card tab for various dolls, blocks, and games that, if I was lucky, kept them busy for a few minutes here and there so I could get stuff done around the house. But if you have older kids, you may want to consider making at least some of your holiday gifts those of the "go out and do something" variety.

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