During the holiday season, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the quest to give the “ultimate gifts” for Christmas. It seems each year the spending grows as we try to top the year before. Eventually, it all becomes too much. Too much stuff, too much money spent, and too much pressure on everyone. Recent data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending an average of $422 per child on holiday gifts with 34 percent of parents spending $500 or more per child. Yet, if you think back to last Christmas, do you think your child remembers all of the gifts he received? Or could you for that matter?
Now, think back to your most cherished memory from last Christmas. Does it involve little Johnny and his Star Wars LEGO set? Most likely there’s more to it than that. I can’t remember all of the gifts I bought, but I can remember how we went to look at Christmas lights with friends in our pajamas. I can still hear the laughter and joy as the children hopped out of the car and danced in the street to Christmas music. I can still see them walking among the sea of lights. More often we find the greatest gifts aren’t things, but rather experiences.
Many Baton Rouge moms are taking a new approach to holiday gift giving and intentionally focusing on giving the gift of experience. A few years ago, the Andrus family looked around and realized they “had it all,” when it came to toys and gadgets. Whitney Andrus decided to make the switch from giving material items that give immediate joy, to giving the gift of experiences that bring more long term satisfaction. She started a few years ago with giving her children season tickets to LSU Gymnastics. It snowballed from there, and each year she invests in different experiences from live shows to museum memberships. Andrus says it’s more than just an attempt to avoid excessive consumerism, “We also give experiences so that we can take part in the gift along with them. Our girls don’t want us just to play American Girl with them, they want us to spend time and enjoy life with them. They are looking up to us, and the more that I can show them how much there is outside of their playroom and backyard the better off our relationship is.”
Local mom and family counselor Kyndal Jacoby, MSW, LCSW also sees great value in focusing on experiences over stuff. She says, “As parents, we want our children to trust us and come to us with the hard things. So being intentional with our time and enjoying making memories together will help.” Jacoby uses the analogy of a trampoline park. “When you are at a trampoline park and you’re swinging on the rope, you only have the faith to jump off because you know the foam will catch you. By being intentional with our time with children, and enjoying making memories with them, we are providing them with the “foam” to give them the confidence to trust us later with the hard things.”
Stacy Wilson, local blogger and mother, explains how giving the gift of experience has benefitted her family, “Before we started being intentional about gift giving, everything was overwhelming. Now this lifestyle helps us in multiple ways. First, by saving money. For example, by giving a trip as a gift, we are saving money, since we would have normally spent that money anyway in addition to a gift that really might not have been useful to our family. Second, we get to see places and do things we might not have normally done, while making memories as a family. Finally, it works for our family because we are taking a more minimalistic approach in general. We recently cut back on the amount of clothes and toys, and this helps us to be more intentional with the space in our home.”
All of our local moms agree that there are still enough traditional gifts to go around, whether it’s a friend giving a spontaneous gift, or a grandmother who insists that your precious angel needs a crawling Minnie Mouse. These thoughtful gifts help give just the right balance without going over the top on holiday gifting.
Here are a few ways you can make the holidays more meaningful by giving the gift of experience to your family:
Annual memberships: For a reasonable price, an annual membership to one of these organizations enables your family to have year-round fun. Check out the Baton Rouge Zoo, Audubon Nature Institute, Global Wildlife Center, Blue Bayou/Dixie Landing, Manship Theatre Kids Club, Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, Knock Knock Children’s Museum, and a USS Kidd Veterans Museum Membership.
Take a trip/give a travel-related gift: Perhaps your family needs new camping gear for your next adventure? Leave that under the tree with a note telling your children to pack their bags, they are leaving today! Or, enjoy the anticipation of making a “countdown” until your trip date arrives. In addition to the lasting family memories, the beautiful thing about travel is the art of the excitement leading up to the trip.
Magazine subscriptions: While your child is having fun with his magazine, you’re sneaking in educational content and more time reading. Check out: Nat Geo Kids, Ranger Rick, Ladybug, Highlights, Time Magazine for Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Boys Life, and American Girl.
Sporting-related gifts: This can be anything from helping your child try a new sport by purchasing a month of golf lessons or horseback riding, to buying season tickets to LSU Gymnastics (great deal), or even a membership to Mike’s Kids Club. Mike’s Kid’s Club members also have the opportunity to camp out in Tiger Stadium and Alex Box Stadium. Score!
Monthly subscription box: Children love to receive mail. This is the gift that keeps on giving–monthly. Try Universal Yums, which will deliver delicious snacks and fun facts from other countries; Little Passports, which takes your kids on a “global adventure” at home; Kiwi Co. which provides educational creative crates for kids; or RaddishKids, which is a cooking club for your aspiring chef.
Tickets to a concert or show: Your child may forget about their Wild Kratts toy jeep, but taking them to see the Wild Kratts live? You’re making lasting memories. Tailor this to your child’s unique interests. Whether your child is interested in drama, dance, magic, or the Magic School Bus, chances are you can catch some live action relevant to their favorite hobbies.
Board games: Every family needs a stocked closet for game night! Yes, technically you are buying “stuff,” but most importantly, you’re being intentional with your gift giving, and focusing on making memories, which is what the holidays are all about. ■