Ok, you know the drill. I know the drill. The best gifts, for our over-indulged children and our cluttered homes and the simple lifestyle we aspire to in the post-Kondo world are experiences, not things.
But that’s a hard standard to live up to, right? Experiences take time and effort. Having given them, you, too, often must experience them. And as much as I don’t feel the need to add more Lego to our collection, I also don’t really feel the need to add any more to-dos to our list. Personally, I’d treasure the gift of an entire weekend spent at home doing absolutely nothing and driving absolutely nowhere. I actually think my kids would enjoy that too, but I don’t think they’d be terribly excited if I put it under the tree (which is how we do gifts in our non-religious, multicultural house; on Hanukkah we make a point of doing something together every day, or at least we make an effort).
So I put the question out there on Facebook—what can we give kids and teens that at least skews towards an experience instead of another Wii game, remote control car or funny t-shirt? And I got enough answers to finish my shopping, and push me well into next year’s birthdays. If you’re not already hanging with my Facebook crew, you should be (friend me here), but in case you missed it, here, categorized, condensed and unattributed, are the ideas that got all the likes.
Family Outings/Events: This prompted quite a list. Broadway shows, naturally. (No one even SUGGESTED Hamilton, but one shout out for Dear Evan Hansen with teens. Circus. Big time sporting event, with–for those of us, like me, who live too far to do that easily, a hotel stay with a pool and a dim sum brunch the next morning. Also rans: arcade, manicure, movie tickets (“package them up with snacks in a cellophane bag of popcorn”). Petting zoo. Farm visit.
- Experiences: The coupon for a “one on one outing” was the most popular idea here. “My kids would LOVE the idea of one on one dates – even a meal together without the others would be a special treat. Couple it with a bookstore visit and $20 to spend, and it’d be heaven.” Here’s the thing, though–for us, unless I picked a date and made some kind of plan or reservation, I feel like it would never happen. It would be June, and one child would be saying, hey we never did this! And I’d be like, I know, I’m sorry…. So I suggest booking these specifically, if you like the idea. I’ve scheduled a baking class with a child a couple to times. You could make an actual lunch, brunch or tea dinner reservation. Sign up for a one-off craft class. But put it on the calendar and give it as a done deal.
- Other experience ideas: Theme park memberships are huge (man, my gang would love that if we lived within 2 hours of a theme park). Museum membership, aquarium membership, local community theatre season tickets, season tickets to anything else. Family trip with surprises for the trip (lots of people box up spring break one way or another). Indoor water parks. The Escape Room (sort of a live action family puzzle, the link is to New Hampshire versions, but there are many) or a Stray Boots tour (something like a puzzle treasure hunt). iFly–indoor skydiving.
- Magazine subscriptions: Mad Magazine, National Geographic, Lego, Muse, Games
On the one hand, a Subscription Box is a thing—but it’s a different KIND of thing. And it comes in the mail (who doesn’t love that), and many are themselves active–a craft, a build, something to read. I haven’t tried any of these, but Tinker Crate – Subscription Box for Kids (and its siblings, Doodle Crate and Kiwi Crate) gets high marks, as do Loot Crate and Snackcrate, Quarterly.co’s Literary Young Adult Subscription Box, Parnassus Next, Owl Crate and Just the Right Book. And here’s a gift for a cooking tween that as far as I’m concerned would be a gift for me as well: Blue Apron or any of its ilk. That’s the gift that gives extra.
- Online classes: I don’t think my kids would go for these (if they’re on the computer, they want Minecraft, Roblox or YouTube, but several people said their kids loved online courses from JAM and Youth Digital.
- A Spotify subscription stands alone.
More assorted ideas: Gift the gift of printing a teen’s own design on fabric, wallpaper or gifrwrap at Spoonflower. How about some art supplies, or a stamped jewelry kit? Personalized stationary. Pens. A photo album or photo calendar, or the Knock Knock What I Love About You Fill In the Love Journal. Bathrobe and slippers, Page-a-day calendar, Amazon Allowance (which is basically an Amazon gift card that refills, not actually sure how I feel about that).Board games, Genealogy projects
- Family Games–There was a round of enthusiasm for games like Drawful and Quiplash, which (I haven’t played them yet) seem to work if you have any way at all to mirror a phone or tablet screen on a TV, like Apple TV, and then everyone else hooks in their gadget and starts drawing to typing or whatever–well, like I said, I haven’t tried it yet but I guarantee that we will. Apparently it’s key that you get the family friendly version “so your kids don’t end up suggesting names for an x-rated bakery like mine did.” Also on the games list: Exploding Kittens and Super Fight Game.
That’s it for kid and teen gitts. If you’ve got a writer in the family , be sure to check out the most recent episode of the #AmWriting podcast, in which co-host Jessica Lahey and I offered up—along with my December Keep Your Butt in the Chair Manifesto and a reminder that even though the holidays are upon us, WRITERS GONNA WRITE—a list of some of our favorite writer-y things that we’ve aquired over the years. Find the episode here, my list of favorite gifts here and Jess’s list here.
Want more lists of gift ideas? My friends at the Book Jam blog curated a list of book recs from kids, for kids. Find it here. And I found the Teen and Tween gift guide from Between Us Parents helpful, along with the 2016 8 Fun Subscription Boxes for Teens from Chicago Now’s version of Between Us Parents, which appears, confusingly, to be different. But I can roll with that.
If you have any other great ideas, send them along and I’ll do a last minute round up if there are enough.