Christmas Experience Gifts That You Can Give Kids Instead of Toys

Are you wondering what to buy for the kids in your life?  What do kids like these days?  What are they into?  Who knows, right?  And whatever it is, they will probably like something different tomorrow.  How about giving them an experience instead of a material gift?  Give them the opportunity to try something new, spend some time with you, and not receive a gift that is forgotten one week later.  Here are some ideas of first experiences for kids that will be fun, educational, and may be the best gift they receive.

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Related post:  An Experiences Gift Guide – Or How to Quit Christmas Shopping and Still Give the Best Gifts Ever

Experience Gifts for Kids Who May Become a Future Foodie

  • Take them out to eat at an ethnic restaurant.  Let them experience eating their meal with chopsticks, watching sushi being rolled, or finding out just how much spice they can handle.
  • Get them in the kitchen.  Is there a certain meal that they love?  Teach them how to make it!  Have a relative give them a cooking lesson, and teach them some of those family recipes.
  • Give them a cookbook, and prepare a few of the recipes together.  Give them a cookbook that is for kids, or one that is a family favorite.  Let them write their comments in it and have them plan dinner.
  • Enroll them in a kids cooking class.  Find one at the local kitchen store, community education center, or at a restaurant.  Of course, the class is more fun if adults can join in the fun!
first experiences for kids cooking class

Learning how to cook…or decorate cookies and eat frosting!


  • Host a tea party.  Invite family, friends, stuffed animals, or just host it for the two of you.  Kids will love the fancy sandwiches and mini desserts.  Is there a hotel or restaurant that hosts an afternoon tea near you?  Even better!  The tea party will be a treat for both of you.
  • Take the kids to an ice cream shop and let them order anything they want.  Yes, anything!

Related Post:  Advent Calendar Activities for Your Christmas Countdown

Educational and Fun Experience Gifts for Kids

  • Pay for a day at day camp or for a class. There are camps for all subjects, you just have to find them.  We have a nature camp near us, and they offer outdoor day camps all summer long.  Look for kids classes advertised at your local schools or in the newspaper.  I’ve seen cooking, yoga, theatre, and coding classes just for kids.
  • How many times have you visited a zoo, aquarium, or museum and ignored the “behind the scenes” tour?  Take the tween in your life on one of those tours, and I guarantee that you will both learn something new.
  • Go on a factory tour.  Everyone will love to find out how something is made!  My favorite tours have been at Celestial Seasonings and the Denver Mint.
first experiences for kids factory tour

Instead of wondering “how it’s made”, take a tour and find out!

  • A museum visit will be appreciated by most any kid.  Science, children’s, history, art museums….there are so many to choose from.  If they’ve been to the museum, maybe a special exhibit is coming to town that they would be interested in.

Sports Related Experiences Gifts

  • Give them tickets to a sporting event.  Take them to a college game of their favorite sport, a minor league baseball game, or get some cheap seats to a professional game.
  • Get them out into the great outdoors.  Offer them a day of hiking, fishing, geocaching, or visit a state park.  Pack a picnic and enjoy the day!
fishing is a first experiences for kids

Take them out fishing for the day, and be prepared to fry up dinner.

  • Take them out for an afternoon of mini golf, bowling, tennis, or rent some time at some batting cages.  This may introduce them to a sport that they will grow to love.
  • Sign them up for swimming lessons and provide the transportation to the lessons.  Already know how to swim?  Take them to a new waterpark or splash pad for some fun.

Experience Gifts for All Kids

  • Do they love to read?  Or maybe just learning how?  Give them a book that is the first book in a series, and watch them read their way through the whole series.  Or if they are a new reader, read the book to them.  How many kids got started on the Harry Potter series this way?
  • Is there an artist in the family?  There are many places that offer “make your own pottery” or “paint your own picture” that they (and you) will have some fun with and learn a little too.
  • Let the kids give you ideas!  Every month we create a family bucket list, so everyone is guaranteed a fun year of new experiences! You can find my Bucket List journal on Etsy here!

Family Bucket List Journal

  • Treat the kids to a “Yes Day”!  A what?!  Learn more from our experiences here.
  • Is there a local children’s theatre nearby?  Take them to a play or sign them up for a class or to even audition for a play.  Most communities that have a small theatre usually offer one or two shows a season that are geared to children that would make a fun night out.
  • Are grandma or grandpa always looking for someone to play cards with?  Have them offer your little gambler some card game lessons or even how to play cribbage.  Their time together playing cards will make a great memory.
  • Buy them one share of stock.  Buy stock in a company that would interest them.  Teach them how to check the price of the stock, and give them a lesson in personal finance.  You never know how much that stock will be worth when they are older!
  • Take them to a local greenhouse or garden center and have them pick out some plants!  They can start their own garden, with your help, or just plant their own flower pot.  Kids take pride in the things that they grow themselves!
first experiences for kids gardening

Let your kids plant their own flower pot and take care of it all summer long.

  • Doesn’t everyone love a train ride?  Buy some tickets and take the family for a ride.  Most train rides are very scenic and it’s a new way to see the countryside.

Doesn’t this list sound like so much fun?  What would the kids in your life be interested in?  Hopefully this makes your gift giving a little bit easier!

More experience gift ideas:

Do you know a kid who has too many toys? Yes! Here is a list of 21 fun experiences that you can give a kid instead of a toy. It's time for some fun and to maybe inspire someone to try something new! #experiences #bucketlist #toys #thatwasafirst
A gift guide of experiences. Start a new tradition and give the kids in your life some first experiences instead of the latest toy or game.

Firsts Experiences for kids instead of toys


  • Esther - Little Explorer Adventures May 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks! This has given me a few new ideas! Our house is overrun by toys so we’re trying find alternatives to toys as gifts!

    • Vicki May 29, 2018 at 6:16 am

      You’re welcome!

  • Belle November 16, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    These are such great ideas! We’re looking into doing an experience gift this year!

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

    • Vicki November 16, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks Belle! The memories from the experiences will definitely last longer than any toy!

  • Melissa Chapman November 16, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Great ideas for any kid and pafent who needs some hints. I love the gifts for the foodie or sportsperson in the making


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