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11 Gifts Your Kids Will Love That Aren’t Toys

Tired of filling your house with toys your kids will completely forget about in a few weeks? Try skipping gifts this year and give your kids a meaningful experience instead.

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Consider the benefits

Even if your kids only get a handful of gifts each year, consider just how great it would be if you didn’t have to find room for new toys and gadgets. Skipping toys and opting for experiences isn’t just about cutting back on the clutter, either. Experiential gifts can give you the chance to make lasting memories with your child, teach them gratitude and avoid getting caught up in the materialism of the holiday season. If your children have grown accustom to getting tons of toys each year, it might be difficult to make the switch. Give your kids a heads up a month or two in advance. Don’t spoil the surprise of what you are doing, but clue them in that you’re planning something special in lieu of gifts.

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Family zoo membership

Drew W., now a father of one, fondly remembers the years his parents skipped gifts and gave him and his four younger siblings zoo passes for Christmas. Even during the winter months, most zoos have exhibits open year round. For Emilia M., mom of two, her grandparents’ gift of a zoo pass over toys for her children has given her the chance to make memories with her kids all year long. “My great-grandparents do zoo passes every year for Christmas,” she shares. “We use them so much it’s such a great gift!”

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Gift certificate to learn something new

Has one of your children been begging to learn ballet or karate? Christmas is the perfect time to introduce a new activity or sign your kids up for lessons. If giving a gift card seems boring, have fun with the packaging, and include a themed accessory: a black belt, a pair of ballet slippers, or a leotard.

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Jedi lessons

Do you have a kid who is totally obsessed with Star Wars? Instead of new Stars Wars figurine, give him a trip he’ll never forget. “For my son’s birthday we took him to Disney World instead of having a party,” shares Kristel A., mom of two. “We went to Hollywood Studios so he could do their Jedi training. He loved it and is so proud that he’s a Jedi now and not a padawan.”

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A trip to Harry Potter World

If your kids have read every Harry Potter book twice, take them for every Potterhead’s dream vacation. At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter you can ride the Dragon Challenge, taste butterbeer, and walk away with your very own wand. Teach them these Harry Potter jokes every muggle should know.

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A one-night getaway

If you’re on a tighter budget, but you still want to make memories with your children they will never forget, a short getaway can be just as fun. “My parents skipped gifts and took us to the Great Wolf Lodge instead,” shares Grace W., mom of twins, “Best gift ever! Memories instead of toys or clothes I would outgrow. I couldn’t tell you one gift from my childhood that I remember unwrapping, but I remember our family trips.”

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Get her ears pierced

If your little girl has been eyeing your earrings lately, take her to get her ears pierced instead of buying her toys. “[My daughter] got her ears pierced and designed her own shirt,” shared Lacy S., mom of three. “She came out with earrings and a new shirt, but it wasn’t about those things. She was so brave getting her ears pierced. And so proud to do it in front of her little sisters. And designing the shirt was so fun. We got to go into this neat studio. She got to play around with Photoshop, telling the artist who helped us what she wanted.”

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Concert tickets

If you are the parent of school-aged children or teenagers, keep an eye out on the concert schedules for the months immediately following Christmas. If their favorite band or musician happens to be coming to your area, buy a ticket for yourself, your kid, and their best friend. It will be a memory they’ll never forget.

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Visit their favorite theme park

Give your kids an IOU for warmer months, promising a single trip or season pass to their favorite them park. Where I live, you can get passes to both a theme park and a water park, giving kids plenty of ways to pass the time when they are on summer break. Here are secrets amusement parks won’t tell you about saving money and beating crowds.

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Ditch the snow for somewhere warm

If it is cold and snowy where you live, chances are everyone in your family will be dying for a little sunshine by Christmas day. Surprise your kids by throwing their packed suitcases under the tree. After everyone wakes on Christmas day, load up the car or hop a plane and make your way to the nearest beach.

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See a Broadway play

Do you have a theater buff in your home? Take them to see their favorite play on Broadway. “We’ve gotten our 11-year old daughter experience gifts several years running,” shares Jeanne S., mom of 1. “We’ve done Broadway show tickets and other trips. She has always been excited with the reveal, and I hope the actual experiences are things she’ll remember.”

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Opening day tickets

If your kids are sports fans, make their year by buying them tickets to opening day for their favorite baseball team. They’ll be telling their kids about this one for years to come.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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