Experience Gifts for Kids
Experience gifts are a great concept, especially for those who are embracing minimalism. More and more people want to fill thier homes with less "stuff", and focus on enjoying time with friends and family. The idea of "giving experiences" seems like a perfect solution, but many experiences can be expensive. Tickets to shows and year-round passes to museums are lovely, but can be a big cost up front. Also, sure adults can open an envelope with tickets inside, and really appreciate the event to come. But let's be real, to a 5-year-old, an envelope filled with abstract paper thingies and "future plans" is NOT a gift...How can we give inexpensive gifts of experience, while maintaining the joy of opening a thoughtful gift? Here are a few ideas...
1) Include a small physical gift with the experience.
For example, if you want the experience to be going to the movies, include a chocolate bar wrapped in pretty paper. Tell them that you will bring the chocolate to the movies when you go. If your child is too young (or too in love with chocolate) to not eat the chocolate bar right away, you could include two bars OR chose something else. For example, if you plan to go see Toy Story, wrap up a small Woody action figure or a Toy Story coloring book.
2) Expand your idea of what "experience gifts" can mean.
Most of us probably jump to thoughts of movies or shows as experiences, but there are lots of other things that children find very special. For example, my daughter loves to make lemonade...but it's not something I want to help her do every week. Making lemonade is a special experience that she loves! I could "gift" this to her by making a lemonade kit...maybe a little bag of sugar and a pretty handmade recipe card.
What is something that your child likes to do, that YOU really only want to do a few times a year? Go bowling? Bake fancy cookies (with sprinkles)? Go to the skate park? Some people may go to the skate park every week...so our "special" experiences are all going to be different depending on who we are and what we do on a typical day. Try to think of what things are special to your child, and how you could represent that thing with a small token you can put in a pretty package.
3) Get a calendar.
Telling a young child "we will do a fun thing later...in the future" is a pretty abstract concept. At our house we have a HUGE dry erase calendar...2 feet tall by 3 feet wide. My 5-year-old LOVES to write our special, (and mundane) activities on the calendar. When she asks to go roller skating 50 times in 3 minutes...we go to the calendar, make a plan, and the requests magically stop! She is so happy to just look at the little drawings and notes on the calendar to see exactly WHEN we are going. Honestly, sometimes plans don't work out, but somehow even that is OK. We always have different fun things on the calendar to look forward to.
It is probably easy to feel unheard as a child...I mean, how often do we have to tell our children "not right now" or "later" or "good idea, but we don't have time today." The calender is solid visual evidence that my childs ideas and desires REALLY are being taken into account. We really are trying!
4) Make an "Adventure Box"
Making an adventure box like this one, might be a good way to tie all these elements together. If you do make one, it would probably be helpful to put it in a special place in the house...probably out of reach of little hands...but visible. You and your littles can pull the box down each month and see what is inside. A Toy Story adventure and a lemonade kit for January! Go to the calendar and mark out exactly when you will do these activities. Put the box back on top of the refrigerator, and have fun repeating this routine throughout the year.
Experiences don't need to be something super "out of the ordinary". They can be things that you would do anyway...but packaging them up with a little sparkle can be a great way to teach kids gratitude; to intentionally celebrate and look forward to these little experiences that fill our lives with joy. Now that I think of it...this is also a great way to teach OURSELVES gratitude and to help us be present. Next time we make lemonade, I will JUST enjoy making lemonade! I planned it out 2 months ago, I made a kit and wrapped it up and put it on the calendar... all with so much care...so you'd better believe that when we finally DO the thing, I am going to be THERE. I am not going to be simultaneously trying to make dinner or check my email while my kid accidentally spills half of the preciously squeezed juice onto the floor. I am just going to *make* the* lemonade* ... Because THAT is my gift to you, and it is special.
P.S. For Metro Detroiters here are a few specific experiences in the area that do happen to be shows...but they are affordable and absolutley magical!
- The Redford Theater
Sometimes The Redford screens old classic cartoons, or things like Harry Potter, Star Wars, or The Three Stooges. The interior of the theater is vintage and whimsical...there are even tiny pin-hole lights shining through the blue ceiling, so it looks like stars. They have a 1928 pipe organ that local artists play before the show starts, and sometimes they even have performers on the stage while the film is running. The shows with performers are usually a bit more expensive, but most regular screenings are only $5 per ticket. Oh, and it's also a non-profit organization. Proceeds go towards the Motor City Theater Organ Society.
- The Warren Civic Theater
The auditorium at the Warren Community Center is beautiful. It is also kind of small, which makes it PERFECT for introducing young kids to theater experiences. Some of thier shows are "open casting" which means EVERYONE who auditions gets a part. People from all over Metro Detroit audition, so the resulting show is a beautiful mix of adults and children - some of whom have amazing voices and dancing skills...who seem to be professionals...maybe retired or maybe studying performing arts...while others are people who have never set foot on a stage before. Everyone works so hard on these shows, the costumes are delightful...the performers sometimes come through the aisles of the audience. We saw The Little Mermaid, and Aerial and Sebastian walked around to sign autographs and talk to little theater goers after the show. These shows are around $10 per ticket...and if you need to bail with an antsy 3-year-old...it's totally cool...you are not trapped in the middle of the Fox Theater...you are amongst families and members of your community and you can be out into the lobby in 20 seconds.