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Gifts for kids: experience gifts (from the mouths of experiences)

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Here at NTG, we love to hear what other parents have to say about their experiences with non-toy gift alternatives. We are so grateful to have Nicki Brunner, a mother of two with a lovely blog MinneMama Adventures who had nicely compiled testimonials from other moms whose kids have received non-toy gifts/ experience gifts. 

I try so very hard to practice what I preach. I even write a blog that has the word “Adventures” right in the title so you’d better believe I’m a strong advocate for getting out there and experiencing life as best as you’re able. I just happen to focus on how to do it with children in tow (a much greater challenge). So why is it that the holidays came and went in our house and we are still wall-to-wall covered in new toys, games, and books? I’m guilty of purchasing a good number of toys for my kids on special occasions. In fact, this year (thanks to our new Batman obsession), the toys came much larger in stature. Apparently it’s hard to make a Bat Cave small enough to accommodate easy toy box storage?! Our house feels smaller again, and I will now live 2015 in cramped, toy-filled quarters. Hey, at least I can bust out the line, “What do you mean you’re bored? You have a million toys to play with!” at any moment and it will actually hold true.
In hindsight, wouldn’t it be nice for them to have received experience gifts? Something that gave them long-lasting memories? A real-life – to use my own mantra – “adventure” package to spend with those they love?  Probably.

In 2016 we will try again, but for now, the brainstorming can begin with some wonderful gift ideas from other (much more forward-thinking) parents…and a couple really considerate aunts (you know, the kind who won’t buy your kids a drum set) too:

Stephanie M. 
The experience gift of choice: A subscription to High Five Magazine
In your own words:“My mother-in-law purchased this for my son and he gets excited each month when he receives it in the mail with his name on it. Also, it gives us new stories and activities to work on together.”
Laura L. and Sarah L.
The experience gift of choice: Concert tickets to Taylor Swift
In your own words:An aunt and mom team made a daughter’s “dream come true” (her actual words). “A concert is the perfect place to make some great memories. Our first concert was MC Hammer more than 25 years ago and it’s remembered fondly.”
Manda K.  (Visit her at
The experience gift of choice: A pair of wristbands to Nickelodeon Universe
In your own words:“We have too many toys, most which never get played with for a few weeks before being tossed aside. My son started listing off which friends he wanted to invite with and talked about what rides he had to go on (and in what order he would go on them).”
Juliet N.
The experience gift of choice: A personalized CD filled with songs that contain my daughter’s name
In your own words:“My dad  is a total music fanatic so I’m sure he’s been planning these songs since he found out her name. She continually asks to dance to ‘her songs’ now.”
Tammy H. (Visit her at
The experience gift of choice: Valley Fair gold passes + food passes (new in 2015)
In your own words: “We love family time so what a perfect give for all of us.  A summer packed with togetherness and fun! On year my youngest asked every single day if it was open yet. It became a running joke in the car. She would see a telephone wire and think it was a ride.”
More info:
Suzanne N.
The experience gift of choice: A pair of snowshoes for each family member
In your own words:“The winter months in Minnesota often make playing outside a challenge. My husband figured this would be a great way for all of us to get some fresh air and exercise…together.”
Laurie P.
The experience gift of choice: “Animal Olympics” class at the Minnesota Zoo
In your own words:“My sister suggested a class because my niece outgrows toys so quickly (and hates to put them away). She loves to compare what animal is fastest, slowest, biggest and smallest. There was a little bit of jumping up and down when she saw her certificate.”
Erin K.
The experience gift of choice: Annual pass to Como Town
In your own words:“My son’s grandpa will take him to Como Town as something they can do together. It’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving. Plus, it doesn’t get played with for a day then forgotten like half the toys we buy. It’s experiences he will remember when he’s older – not that he got another Batman toy.”

Maria C.
The experience gift of choice: Day passes to an indoor waterpark
In your own words:“My two nieces have a house full of toys. When you notice your previous gifts you’ve given are at the bottom of the toy box, it’s time to give the gift of memories. Every positive moment matters in this life and being able to share those moments with them is priceless.”

Brittney G.
The experience gift of choice: A sewing machine and kids sewing classes
In your own words:“I know my daughter is very interested in arts and crafts so instead of getting her toys, we got her a sewing machine and some classes at Crafty Planet in northeast. She is going to make us all pillows.”
Samara P.  (Visit her at
The experience gift of choice: A family trip to Florida
In your own words:“Our kids have big age gaps between them and we felt as though they needed nothing so a trip that we could all enjoy together would be fun. Time together is a gift!”

Thank you to these mamas for sharing their ideas. I am already looking forward to holiday season 2016 when I can stock up on gift cards, hotel overnights, homemade coupons promising road trips and day camps and out-of-state sunshine. Once my eyes have been opened, there’s no telling what will stop me! And I won’t look back. Experience gifts for the win! My tiny house will thank me. My husband will thank me. And, the one that matters the very most? My children and their lifelong memories will thank me. 

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