The Gift of Experiences

birthday gift ideas

Photo credit: torbakhopper via Foter.com / CC BY

The blogosphere is riddled with parenting pieces. One that caught my eye recently was entitled: “Why I Won’t Be Giving Your Kid a Birthday Present.” The title sounds more antagonistic than Victoria Fedden’s actual piece actually is. Her article tackles materialism and suggests that experiences matter more.

As the mother of “an extroverted 5-year-old,” she writes, about going often to “pretty over the top” events that net the birthday child “an avalanche of abundance.” She states: “Children today have too much stuff (my own included)…I’m not ungrateful, but I strongly believe that all of this excess breeds a terrible sense of indifference.”

On the heels of my own son’s 9th birthday, I heartily agree. In his younger years I was able to bring him onside with the idea of a food pantry or animal shelter drive instead of presents. But as he got older, and saw the loot his friends were bringing in, he resisted. Yet this year some of his presents remain unopened weeks later! He enjoyed the unwrapping part, but hasn’t actually taken the items out of their boxes!

Meaningful Experiences Matter More

Fedden’s point is that children remember the playing with their friends more than the presents. So her vow now is to gift kids “with something a lot more important: meaningful experiences.”

She suggests she will take a child to a picnic with her daughter, or the zoo, or a movie — creating a memorable experience for both the birthday celebrant and her own child. She writes: “Above all, the greatest gift we can ever give our kids is to teach them to build lasting relationships with others — relationships based on laughter and good memories and delightful experiences.”

I tried this idea of favoring experiences over goods on my son’s birthday this year by giving him a coupon book of experiences such as:

  • Going to a store for his favorite dessert
  • Inviting a friend over to watch a movie
  • Time at a trampoline park
  • Playing Frisbee golf with a parent

The one he was dying to use was playing one sport of his choosing in our cul de sac with both parents. We all went out and kicked the soccer ball around — and I think it’s safe to say we all had fun.

Favoring experiences over items is something I want to keep trying to value.

My confidence in the choice was only helped when I overheard my son showing his friends (over for a birthday sleepover) the gifts he’d already received and raving first about his cool coupon book of experiences.