Caring For Our Kids

Giving the gift of experiences

“Fun with Flight” sample crate from Kiwi Crate. photo:

I recently went on a cleaning frenzy leaving no closet or drawer untouched. This yearly occurrence usually happens mid-fall after our children’s birthdays. They are blessed to have such generous family and friends, but every birthday brings an influx of new toys, games, and clothes. By the time the holidays roll around, I am always at a loss for gift ideas because they don’t “need” anything.

This got me rethinking how to do gifts this holiday season. I want to give our children presents that will be memorable, that they will cherish, and that won’t end up under the bed or in the back of the closet. So this year we plan to focus on giving our children gifts of experiences. Don’t get me wrong: There will still be a few wrapped gifts — a new book, a game, and some socks — under the tree, but I am hoping that the gifts they will be most excited about won’t require batteries or hours of assembly.


Our lives are very hectic, and with three busy children, it can be difficult to get special time with each child individually. This year we plan to give them each a night out with us that they would plan. This would give us great quality time and some fascinating insights about them from what they choose to do. It is easy to forget that sometimes our undivided attention is the greatest gift we can give. These gifts don’t have to be expensive — they can be the gift of a hike or bike ride of their choice. These types of gifts are also great suggestions for grandparents, family, or friends — my children love a baking day with Oma or a movie night with Grammy. They also would treasure a sleepover with a cousin or a special play date.


Some of the best gifts are the ones we can look forward to. This probably works best for older children who have a better sense of time and maybe a bit more patience. Tickets to a Disney or Nickelodeon live show are great gifts for younger ones while those tweens and teens may be more excited about Justin Beiber or Maroon 5 (both with scheduled tours in 2016).

Another hot-ticket item could be a membership to the zoo, the Discovery Museum, or Academy of Sciences. Memberships make great gifts because the whole family can enjoy them for an entire year. We are lucky in San Francisco to have many wonderful places to visit, but yearly memberships can get expensive and are often difficult to keep up, so pick one your family is eager to visit or would use most.


For fun all year long, try subscription gifts for favorite magazines. Children’s book-of-the-month clubs are also great because for every holiday or month, depending on how you set it up, the child will receive a new book. I love this idea because if you use the Lollipop Book Club ( or Giftlit (, the monthly selections are handpicked by experts who look for books beyond what is most popular, like the Dr. Seuss or Harry Potter series, and they cater to the child’s age, interests, and reading level. With each club you can easily substitute or exchange.

Another subscription gift we have recently tried, which has been a big hit, is Kiwi Crate ( and Tinker Crate ( This monthly package of arts, crafts, and science activities arrives at your door with all the materials included. The Tinker Crate is geared toward older children with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). They are great for both boys and girls as they learn about problem-solving skills and creativity, gain confidence, and have fun. The Kiwi Crate is geared toward younger children, but even your older ones may want to jump in on the fun, too. The projects aren’t super messy (a big bonus in our house) but are always a lot of fun and make perfect activities for play dates.

These gifts might take a little more thought and planning, but the excitement of leading up to the event and the actual experience will make it all worthwhile. Planning a fun family trip or taking an art class together can be great ways to spend time as a family — isn’t that what the holidays are all about? I wish each of you a happy holiday and many fun adventures together in the new year!

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington, DC and San Francisco. E-mail: [email protected]