experiences over gifts

I Achieved The Unthinkable: My Kids Willingly Chose Experiences Over Gifts

experiences over gifts
Photo by Laura Gomez on Unsplash

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. This morning, my daughter exclaimed when she came down the stairs how she couldn’t sleep because Thanksgiving is this week, Christmas is coming and her birthday is in three months. To which I replied, “So, you aren’t going to sleep for the next three months?”


A Constant State of Celebration

From late September through the middle of February, not only are we celebrating five major holidays but our four kids’ birthdays as well. Two of them fall during the busiest week and month of the year.

To give you an idea of what we are up against, my second child was born on Thanksgiving day. The nurses had to turn off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade so he could be delivered. I ate the hospital’s version of a turkey dinner and promptly hosted Thanksgiving at my house two days later. Every year, he thinks this huge meal I cook is for him.

Two years later, I was pregnant with our third child around the Christmas holidays. His arrival on December 29th was a little bit planned. I didn’t want any medical help before Christmas but as soon as we were done opening presents,  my membranes were striped. We wanted him to be born before the New Year, so we didn’t have to start our deductible all over again. He was ready and was born in the week between Christmas and the New Year.  He kind of get the short end of the stick because there is no break of opening gifts all week.

Frankly, I think it becomes too much for him and the excitement dies down. Their birthdays are during the craziest time of year when there is just so much going on with everyone.

How Minimalism Changed My Thoughts

With my push towards minimalism the last couple years, I began teaching the kids that experiences can be just as fun as getting gifts.

Unexpectedly, we made a move out of state one year taking us eight hours away from everybody. The move itself proved to be hard to be away but forced us to make decisions that were best for our family. I really do love spending time with our big, loud, crazy family but coming home for Christmas that first year was too hard, logistically. We decided to do something completely out of character by spending the holidays in Disney World. When they say it is the most magical place on earth, it’s true.

The trip was exactly what we needed as a family and created memories that will live on in our children’s minds forever. We didn’t ask for presents that year. Instead we asked everyone to chip in to make our Disney Trip the most memorable week possible.

There were a couple stocking stuffers for the kids on Christmas morning but other than that it was about the trip. Honestly, they were having so much fun that they didn’t ask about more presents. We got them souvenirs while we were there and that was enough to satisfy them.

This vacation was the game changer to do the holidays against the norm challenging the status quo.

Experiences Are What Make Memories

With the onslaught of presents coming in from grandparents, aunts and uncles during this time of year, we offered to do something special in lieu of a big gift for their birthdays. They’ll get something small but we don’t need more toys they will forget about in a week.

Some of the ideas we had over the last couple years that still have them talking are:

  • Disney World
  • COSI – Hands on science center
  • Dave and Busters
  • Duck Pin Bowling and Arcade
  • Women’s Final Four Basketball Tournament
  • Legoland

With these memories etched into their mind, they have no idea what gifts they got for their last birthday. If other people want to give presents, that’s fine. The main reason people buy gifts is in the joy of giving and not the present itself.

Since our two middle boys have birthdays near the holidays, this year we are hosting a joint friend party. We explained this party is their big present from us. They were fine because they want to spend time with their friends playing in a video game truck at our house.

It’s the moments, not the presents, they will remember down the road.  I can’t remember what I got for my 7th birthday. What I can recall is the family vacation to California and Disneyland and taking fun excursions during the year.

Those are the things etched in my memories. Overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love fill me up as I think of the people I spent those days with. In years to come, I want to sit down with my kids reminiscing about fun times they’ve had in their lives. I doubt that they will be talking about material things but instead will remember all the fun experiences they had.



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