’Tis the season…to go shopping. But if you’re like millions of parents at this time of year, you will, once again, buy stuff that'll break in days or be forgotten in less than a month.
But wait. We’ve got a better idea. This year, buy your child an experience.
That’s right. With a little thought, and help from our handy list, you’ll find plenty of ideas that will benefit your kid over the long haul—gifts that inspire growth and learning.
Got a caring kid? Find an experience that helps kids make an emotional connection. Have a confident child? Give a gift that stimulates a physical or intellectual challenge. There are plenty of crazy fun ideas for curious and creative kids, as well. So read on. We’re sure you will find something that suits your child’s interests, strengths, and personality.
How’s this for awesome: tickets for two to a special event or concert. Virtually anything works here, but do your homework first. Know your kid’s likes, and purchase tickets ahead of time. Seats go quickly. Consider: a comedy, drama, or musical at a community playhouse or a city theater; a pop, classical, kids’, or jazz performance with a low-key dinner out first; a Broadway production if you’re in the New York area, or a national tour if you’re not; a seat at a big-time sporting event, such as a baseball, basketball, soccer, or hockey game (minor leagues or college teams are great options)—or anything else your kid likes; a visit to the ballet or an air, ice, magic, or puppet show.
Give the gift of smart. Snap up a subscription or two to high-quality, child-friendly book clubs and magazines your child can look forward to getting once a month in the mail or tapping into any day online. Check out age-appropriate general interest, special interest, literary, fan, lifestyle, puzzle, news, tween, Scout, and humor publications.
Sure, it’s the middle of the season and lots of year-long programs have already started. But many offer several sessions a year for new participants. So go ahead and sign your kid up for something. You’ll be glad you did. Just make sure you choose an activity your kid loves, or wants to learn, and is within your budget. The options are endless. Consider coding, rocketry, cooking, martial arts, gymnastics, sewing (think: Project Runway), drama, forensics, art, dance, sports, writing, chess, storytelling, music, and more. Check your local Y, school, nearby college, or community center for offerings; contact other families for referrals for group or private lessons.
Broaden your kid’s horizons. If there’s a Y, zoo, aquarium, arboretum, museum, or science center near you, let your kid become a member (or join as a family). Visit the venue often. Your child will always have somewhere to go, something to do, or new interest to pursue. And membership comes with perks. Facilities vary but many offer family-friendly programs, events for kids and tweens, discounted admission, guest passes to share with friends, no-wait entries, early hours, reciprocal or discounted visits at similar institutions, and gift store, restaurants, cafes, camps, and parking discounts. Not bad for a gift that keeps on giving.
Delight your child with a set of just-for-you coupons (design them online) that entitle the holder to call the shots, on a set day, for a set number of hours. It’s a great gift to promote executive function (and not much different from a Be-a-Boss-for-a-Day experience you might win at an auction). Encourage your child to do the research and use the coupons wisely, say, to select a restaurant to visit, a way to spend a day, a spot for a family outing, a movie to watch, a night to stay up late, or the main course for dinner.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
For some young kids, the ultimate gift is a memory that lasts a lifetime. Choose one of the following: an autograph from a superstar or idol, a visit to a butterfly park, a studio tour, a game-show seat, a midnight movie, a screening, a chance to adopt a star, a pet to foster, attendance to a trapeze or rock-climbing school, a week at space camp, a night on the town, a deep-sea fishing excursion, a lesson from a private coach, an afternoon helping out (with you) at Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization, or an archaeological dig (look for one nearby that you can do as a family).