When you don't know what to give as a gift, it's good to remember that experiences make more meaningful and memorable gifts than material stuff. Stuff clutters your physical and mental space. On the other hand, experiences, especially ones with people we care about, contribute to a more meaningful sense of identity and improved social relationships.
When you chose to give clutter-free gifts, you'll reap life-long memories and the long-term benefits of less stuff to take care of! Here are 10 great gift ideas for families who have too much stuff.
Note: this post contains affiliate links that may earn commission.
Out-in-the-World Family Gift Ideas
EXPLORE A TREETOP ADVENTURE PARK
Adventure parks have become more and more popular, and gosh they are fun! One of the most rewarding ways our family spends time together is at treetop adventure parks. We "discovered" them a few years ago and can't get enough of them! Climb into the trees and navigate obstacle courses and zip lines. This option may not work for all ages and abilities, but if it works for your family, I highly recommend it!
VISIT AN INDOOR CLIMBING OR NINJA GYM
You don't have to be an avid fan of American Ninja Warrior to get a kick out of a couple of hours at a ninja-type gym. Chances are, a ninja gym or climbing gym is located not too far from your home. Call ahead, because sometimes these gyms can accommodate individuals of all abilities. Parents and kids of all ages and skills will get a huge boost, both in self-confidence and in feel-good endorphin levels.
JOIN A CLASS
Why not learn something new as a family? Taking a class together is great for family bonding, and kids will observe that learning is a lifelong pursuit. Local community colleges, libraries, state parks or museums may be offering classes that are of interest. Learn watercolors, go on a birdwatch, take a pottery class, or sign up for archery lessons. The possibilities are endless.
My favorite experience to give to others (or to get for myself) is a trip to the theater. Going to the theater promotes compassion, empathy, an understanding of others. The social act of watching a show teaches children etiquette and other social skills. But the biggest benefit of watching theater is that it transports you into another world. You don't need to opt for expensive Broadway tickets. Investigate the theater options in your area and buy tickets–or better yet, season tickets–to a show!
Plan to spend a day giving back to others. As a family, sign up to volunteer with a local organization. Some ideas include participating in a charitable walk, visiting a senior home or pediatric ward, joining in an environmental clean-up day, serving meals, or organizing a food drive.
At Home Family Gift Ideas
Decide as a family where you would like to make a financial donation to help others. You can choose one charitable organization or donate a smaller amount to separate organizations, one for each family member. Local charities are excellent places to start, because they tend to earmark a larger percentage of your donation to their mission, and not to overhead and administrative costs. Charity Navigator is a great place to start looking for a quality organization.
SUBSCRIPTION SNACK BOX
It seems there is a subscription box for everything these days, and while most of them will simply bring more clutter and stuff into your home, subscription boxes full of yummy goodies will soon disappear! Here are two of the most delicious snack subscription boxes we've tried. We honestly love getting these each month.
- Universal Yums - treats from a different country each month
- Snack Sack - novelty snacks with a somewhat healthful bent. Choose from gluten-free, vegan or classic
CREATE FAMILY ART
Got an empty space on the wall? Invest in a blank canvas and some acrylic paint to create some new art You can approach this in several ways. Purchase an oversized canvas and invite everyone to contribute. Alternatively, give everyone the same size canvas and chose a theme or color palette to unify the artwork and hang all the smaller canvases together.
My kids don't give me material goods. Instead, I request that they memorize and recite a poem for me. Sometimes it's a poem they've written. This is an especially great choice for grandparents! It's also a gift that can be given over Zoom or Facetime. Read more details about how we go about gifting poetry here.
Erica, I think you are the best "thing" since sliced bread!!! Actually, you're way better than that. (Please don't start thinking about how mostly totally unnecessary it is to have pre-sliced bread--I'll think of a better analogy another day.)
Your list of non-stuff gifts is one of the most important things this country needs. (Ok, I'll qualify that; it's what's needed by those of us in this country who have too much stuff--and the charity gifts cover most of the rest of us.) Not only can it occupy our kids, but it can of course do so while building a whole host of other values and virtues and strengths that are much needed by us as individuals and families and as a country.
I have a suggestion---something for you to do in your "free time." It would be beyond great to have your book lists (and other lists) in book form. They could be organized by subject, by age, by purpose.... The printable lists are great, but they're just subject/title/author. A few hours (or less) after I've read the descriptions, that content is "gone." I print out some of the lists and descriptions, but that involves reams and forests of paper, and I'm not at all organized enough to keep them organized in nice neat folders and filing cabinets. I could save the lists+details to my computer, but some would be in folders of books or activities by age, or by subject, or--especially if I'm pressed for time--they're just tossed into general Kids' Books folders, or Kids' Activities folders. The indexes/indices of a book could include various different kinds of lists. And don't forget about cross-indexing. Updates to the lists could be available by subscription until you have time for more comprehensive revisions. I would be very happy to pay money for such books (hc or pb) and subscriptions--to keep or to give as gifts.
Just a thought....
All the best to you, Erica, and Thank You, thank you, thank you!
Thank you, Nancy, for the kind words and suggestions! I have considered offering my lists in a similar format to what you suggest, but the reality is that I just don't have the time to do so! I hope you keep enjoying the book lists, though!