Our kids have way too much stuff. Mr. Dolphin and I have way too much stuff. That’s why this year, we are asking our families, “No Gifts, Please.” We know that our four sets of grandparents are unlikely to abide by that and want to get our kids gifts, including tangible things like toys, books and clothes, but we are really trying to discourage the mountains of gifts that have come in past years. While the kids really need nothing, we think that gifts of experience would be preferable. Here are some ideas for gifts of experience, mostly geared for kids:

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Panda hiding out in the National Building Museum’s Hive installation.

Museum membership – We’re lucky in that most museums in our area are free, but I know that’s not true in many cities. Plus, there are some fun museums geared more for children that do have a cost and it would be great to have an annual membership, particularly in the cold winter months or ridiculously humid summer months.

Zoo membership – The zoo near us is free (as are all the Smithsonian museums), but in most cities there is an admission fee. An annual pass would undoubtedly be a fun gift for many families.

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Having a “ball” in the ball pit at My Gym!

My Gym – We’ve been to a few open houses and birthday parties at My Gym and the kids always have a blast. Alternatively, some sort of gymnastics class would be fun for kids of almost any age.


Sports class – In our area, there are various sports classes that kids can take from baseball to soccer to karate. While our current daycare offers these types of classes, if it didn’t we’d likely try to sign Lion up for soccer outside of school.

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Lion and Panda taking a break from hiking by exploring a tree in Shenandoah.

National park – A national park pass is another great gift for an entire family. Mr. Dolphin loves the outdoors and is trying to encourage the kids to hike.

Tickets to a play – There’s a children’s theater near our home with age-appropriate interactive shows for kids as young as infants! Lion loves going to see shows and would definitely appreciate tickets to a play or other show.

Tickets to a concert – While tickets to a show with a visual element is probably preferable at our kids’ age, I do think that tickets to some concerts would also be fine. We went to a showing of Peter and the Wolf that was actually mostly musical and very little happening on stage. Still, Lion (who was not even 2 at the time) really enjoyed it.

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Lion getting into the hat-waving game at a Nationals vs. Pirates game.

Tickets to a sporting game – Both of our kids have been to Major League Baseball games and NCAA football games. They love the experience. I have to say that while Mr. Dolphin and I prefer football, I think the kids enjoyed our baseball outings more.

Visit – Honestly, the best gift of experience in my book is a visit from our families.  We live in Washington, DC while our families live in California or Washington state, so we rarely get to see them. Mr. Dolphin’s dad and stepmom came out for Thanksgiving and Lion and Panda were thrilled. We’d much rather have visits from our families than any tangible gifts in the world.

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Lion riding the carousel in Philadelphia.

Train/carousel ride – We’re lucky that there are a couple of parks near our house that have weekly train rides during the spring, summer and fall for just $2/ride. There are also a couple of places with carousels and a book of tickets would definitely be appreciated by our kids. Some cities, like when we visited Wilmington, have longer scenic train rides that would make fun trips for children.

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Panda mining for gems in Luray, VA.

Mining for gems – Lion has had the opportunity to mine for gems twice recently, once when a mobile gem trailer came to his school and another when we visited an area near Shenandoah. It’s a fun activity and Lion loves matching the gems he found to the identification paper that came with the bag of mining rough.

Music lessons – Music, like any language, is best learned at an early age.

Art classes – Panda loves art and we stumbled across a children’s art studio in a mall in California when we were visiting my mom about a month ago. I’d love to find something similar in our area where Panda could take art classes.

College savings – College is so expensive nowadays and any contributions to their college savings accounts are much appreciated, especially as we are barely contributing ourselves as we often feel like we’re drowning in the costs of their daycare and our own student loans.

Cookie baking – Both Lion and Panda love helping in the kitchen, but I think cookie baking holds a special allure. It’s so much fun to make (and decorate) cookies, plus there’s the bonus of a sweet treat at the end.

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Beach day in Mexico!

Vacation – Now this is my kind of gift of experience! I love to travel and over the years Mr. Dolphin and I have gifted each other trips. I hope that the kids appreciate the travel as they grow older, but even now I think they enjoy it if it means they get to take different modes of transportation, such as a plane, train or boat!

Amusement park – This one might fall under the category of “vacation” but I’ll make it a separate point in case you live close to an amusement park. While pretty much any child would love a trip to Disneyland or Legoland, even a visit to a smaller, local amusement park would undoubtedly be a great experience.