I love the idea of giving experiences for gifts rather than material possessions. Back when we lived in Virginia, we had a sign in our kitchen that read “Collect Moments, Not Things”, and I really do try to live by that. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to shop also… but that can be considered an experience too, right? Right. ANYWAY, if I look back at my life – and I’m willing to bet you’re the same – I remember moments. I remember trips and places and conversation. I remember experiences. I rarely remember specific gifts. We aren’t going to look back and be like “man, I sure am glad I had the most expensive shoes at that party” or “I’m so glad I got that great interest rate on that dining room table”. We’re going to look back and be thankful for all of the rich experiences we’ve had and all the time we spent (or didn’t spend) with those we love.
Because of this, Chase and I try to create experiences for one another and for Law. For our anniversary a couple of years ago, I got Chase and I tickets to see an FSU home game. For his 30th birthday, I got us (and his dad) tickets to see his favorite singer in concert. For my birthday, he got me tickets to a Harry Potter pub crawl in Savannah. For Law’s birthday, we went with his aunt and uncle to a dinosaur museum in Atlanta. We made memories doing these things that I will absolutely never forget.
Now, if you’re more of a tangible gift type of person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I also love buying things for those I love (Receiving Gifts is my Love Language), so I’m not holier than thou for the way we choose to give each other gifts. I also understand that not everyone has the financial means or the flexible work schedule or the physical/mental/emotional ability to do some these things. There is also nothing quite like the EXPERIENCE of tearing open actual presents on Christmas morning, of which I’m sure Law will have a ridiculous amount. I do, however, challenge you to try to give at least one experience to your child this Christmas – even if it is a handmade ticket to “Movie Night” at your house, complete with pillow fort, Christmas lights, and a movie of their choice.
For anyone who is game for this type of gift-giving, I’ve created a list of gifts that engage your kiddo in an experience, encouraging them to experience life fully and richly. Many of the things can be experienced locally, but some will take a small road trip. Part of the excitement of these gifts is the anticipation of actually using them. It’s almost like 2 different gifts. Yay!
1. Family Membership to Chehaw – $95 includes admission to Park and Zoo for one year for 2 adults and up to 4 children, plus 10% discount at the gift shop and concession stand. Chehaw suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Michael, so you’d be helping our local park and zoo by purchasing this gift as well. Win/win.
2. Registration for a new sport – Register them for a sport they haven’t tried! Basketball, baseball, football, soccer. Go to your county’s Parks and Rec site and see what sports have available registrations – they’re usually around $70. Get them involved. (Make sure you purchase a flask for yourself because I hear sitting around other parents at games can be freaking brutal.)
3. Tickets to SkyZone – located in Tallahassee and Atlanta. They have family nights on Tuesdays 3-8 and Sundays 4-5. Tickets are $60 and include 4 one hour jump passes, a large pizza, and a large pitcher of soda. (The flask would actually be kind of fun before a trampoline park too, tbh.)
4. Family dinner night to favorite restaurant – get a gift card to their favorite restaurant and have them redeem it on a night that they want to go out to eat (Bonus: you don’t have to cook!).
5. Albany Museum of Art Membership – $75 for a family membership includes invitations to all of AMA’s events, discounts on camps, programs, and classes, discounts on birthday parties, and participation in the Southeastern Reciprocal Membership Program, which includes free admission and discounts at over 300 museums throughout the Southeast.
6. Books-A-Million gift card – You can take them to BAM and have them pick out multiple books to buy with their gift card. Then y’all can go home and get cozy, make some hot chocolate, and read books together. This is great for bookworm kiddos and HONESTLY this would be a great gift for me (CHASE). Can you imagine? A good book, a glass of wine, a fire in the fireplace… I digress.
7. Plane ticket to visit family/friends – If you’ve got the financial means, a ticket to see family in another state (or another country if you’re ballin) would be magical for a child.
8. Airbnb Experience – If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, you’re missing out. You can search for places to stay but you can also search for experiences. Just type in whatever city you want to go to and then click “experiences” and so many things pop up. For example, under Atlanta, there is an ALPACA EXPERIENCE at an URBAN ALPACA FARM. Who knew that was a thing? Also, if alpacas aren’t your thing, there are cooking classes and pottery classes and all that jazz.
9. Riverquarium Family Membership – $89 gets you one year admission to the Riverquarium in Albany for 2 adults, 4 children, and 12 guests. Check out Moonshine, the albino alligator.
10. Subscription Box for kids – Candy Club (all ages, $38.98/month). OwlCrate Jr (8-12 yr olds, $27.99/month). FabKids (Boys and Girls ages 2-16, $29.95/month). Amazon STEM Toy Club (3-13 yr olds, $19.99/month). Little Passports (ages 3-12, $14.94-$21.95/month). Kiwi Crate (5-8 yr olds, $19.95/month). Disney Princess Subscription box (4-9 yrs, $29.99/every other month). Kids (and adults) love to get surprises in the mail. Sign up for a month subscription box for a monthly surprise.
11. Music Lessons – Portman’s Music Academy here in Albany offers lessons at $100/month with a $35 registration fee. There are also private tutors around Albany who offer lessons. Ask around, there is a lot of talent here and a lot of people willing to teach your kids a love of music.
12. Garden kit – Now hear me out. This sounds lame to a lot of people but I guarantee that kids will have a blast doing this. Buy seeds/bulbs for flowers and vegetables. When it starts to get warm again, plant a garden with your littles. It teaches them to connect with the world around them, it brings them to the present, they get to get dirty ON PURPOSE, it shows them the power of working with their hands, and it teaches them patience to wait for their work to grow. THEN in the summer y’all can reap the fruit of your labor.
13. CrossFit Dreadnought membership – They have kids classes! Paige is amazing and works with these kids to teach them functional movements and the benefits of healthy living. Better yet, get a family membership and go get healthy together.
14. Zipline tickets – Tree to Tree Adventures is a zipline course at the Tallahassee Museum. $17 gets your kiddo “admission to the sky” if he or she is between 41”-60” tall. There are other courses for those over 54” (at $36 and $45 per ticket). Make a day of it and check out the museum as well!
15. Wild Animal Safari tickets – Wild Animal Safari is a drive-thru adventure located in Pine Mountain, GA. A family pack ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is $91.95 and includes one trip through the park on a guided tour bus, a stroll on the walkabout to see more animals, a drive through 3.5 miles, 500 acres, 550 animals, and 75 species. (Purchase your tickets online for a discount and made sure you check the calendar for the dates of the guided tour).
16. Horseback riding lessons – Teach your kids to love and respect animals with horseback riding lessons. Your son will feel like a knight and your daughter will feel like a badass warrior princess. There are multiple places in Albany and surrounding areas that offer lessons, including Star K Equestrian Center, Quail Crossing Stables, and Stonehaven Stables.
17. A camera – Okay, so this is a GIFT GIFT but think of all the cool things you can engage your child in if they have a camera. Send them on a scavenger hunt to take photos of things on a list, have them do a photo shoot of your dog, go on a walk with them and have them photograph cool things they see. Cameras can often foster mindfulness because it makes kids (and adults) actually LOOK at the world around them. Bonus aesthetic points if it’s a Polaroid and prints out the images.
18. Tickets to a game of your favorite team – Go take your kid to see your team play a home game. Buy them some peanuts and crackerjacks. They won’t care if they ever come back.
19. A loaded gift card to Fun Park – Imagine being a kid again and getting a bag full of tokens to go play video games with at the arcade. How exciting, right? Go follow them around and act genuinely impressed by their mounds of tickets. You might need that flask again for this one.
20. Wild Adventures Season Pass – $85 gets you unlimited admission to Wild Adventures theme park and water park, early entry to Splash Island on Saturdays, admission to special events, and 50% discount on admission to select sister properties. One for each family member might seem like a lot BUT they offer payment plans.
21. Camping gear – I, for one, am NOT a fan of camping, but a lot of people are, and I guarantee your kid will love it. Get them camping gear and have a camp night in your backyard. Or at Chehaw with that membership pass you got. Or, you know, actually out in the woods like a barbarian.
22. Game Night bundle – gift your child with a stack of games for game night. Then start having actual Game Nights. Carve out a day of the week to play games, even if it is just an hour. Traditions are the best experiences.
23. Movie tickets – What kid doesn’t love the movies? Get them tickets or a movie pass to see a movie of their choice. Better yet, give them a few tickets and let them choose one night a month to go see a movie. Get popcorn and snacks (or bring it in your purse, I don’t care) and make a day of it.
24. Spa day – get your daughter (or son, if you want) a mani/pedi at a local nail shop. Enchanted Nails on Ledo has cute little kid chairs that they can sit in and get pampered. OR you can give them a handmade “gift certificate” to a spa day at home. Get them a robe and cut up some cucumbers to put on their eyes. Turn on some soothing music, light some candles, do a face mask, paint their nails, etc. They’ll feel like queens (or kings) and it’s cheap. Being a kid is hard these days, ya know?
25. Tickets to an event at the Clay Spot – The Clay Spot is a great place to make memories with your child. Take them there to create a keepsake with their footprint or for them to create something for themselves. They often have events there, so keep an eye out for something that you and your kiddo would both enjoy.
26. Paint Party experience – Renaissance Art Café in downtown Albany hosts kid’s paint parties as well as open paint nights. Encourage your littles to let their creative juices flow as they create a painting on canvas. (I hear for adults that Brush Strokes & Buzzed Folks is great, too 😉)
Are there any experiences that you recommend? Let me know in the comments! I hope everyone has a Happy Whatever You Celebrate!