More and more families are looking to give experiences instead of gifts for the holidays and for good reason. Many American families are overcome with “stuff” and Christmas, in particular, can become more about new toys than spending time together as a family and reaching out to friends and neighbors.

Studies show again and again that what children really want is time with their parents. Toys, clothes and electronics are nice but they quickly lose their shine and become another “thing” that’s on the floor to trip on.

But what exactly does giving an experience mean? How do you incorporate this into your own family’s holiday traditions?

It would be easy to think that giving an experience means an elaborate vacation but that’s not necessary. Giving experiences can come in many different forms. Take a look at the ideas below. Start slow and incorporate the items that seem most appropriate for your family and work your way up to more out-of-the-box ideas.

Arts & Crafts

Give a gift certificate to a painting, pottery, or beading class. Many local places have classes or drop-in sessions that are inexpensive. You can also create your own craft bucket as a gift. Fill a bin with colored paper, pencils, stickers, glue, glitter, etc. You can spend family time creating crafts together throughout the year.

Get Moving

Buy a membership to a rock climbing gym or pool. These make great gifts for older kids and are also activities you can do as a family. Not ready for a membership? Buy a soccer ball or football and encourage a family game. Pack a picnic lunch, head to the park and make a day out of it.

Indoor Fun

Gainesville has gotten two trampoline parks over the last couple of years and it’s a great place for kids of all ages. Plan a day where you all go jump together and then get ice cream after. Don’t feel like bouncing? Bowling or skating is another great family activity. Ice cream still applies!

New Skills

Consider buying your kids piano, dance or karate lessons, whatever they are excited about. It’s an activity they’ll get to do throughout the year and an opportunity to develop an appreciate for a new art or sport.


An inexpensive way to give experiences is through puzzles or games. Have a family game night. Make popcorn, shirley temples and have fun with it! Or try a puzzle. You can work on it as a family over time.


Whether it’s a Gator game, a play at the Hippodrome or a show at the Center for Performing Arts, buy tickets for an event your kids will love. Not only will they have a blast the day of, the anticipation of events alone has been shown to increase happiness.

Gift Certificates

Gift certificates to restaurants, movie theaters and museums are great gifts. You can customize them to your child’s age and likes. Let them choose a date when they get to use them. Have fun with it and mark the date on the calendar so it feels special.

Family Vacation

If you’re really ready to dive in, plan a family vacation. The vacation can happen after Christmas, in fact, that’s part of the point! Make the planning process fun and get the whole family involved. Select a location and plan the activities you’ll do there. Remember part of the fun is in the anticipation!

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