How to Ask for Experience Gifts for Kids

A guide for asking family members to give experiences instead of gifts this holiday season and beyond. And what should you do if they still buy toys? Plus, my go-to Experience Gift Guide and an easy way to introduce experience gifts to your kids.

It’s that magical time of year when more items seem to be coming into our house than going out. Our well-meaning family and friends want to give our kids so many toys, and it’s hard to ask them not to. And I get it! We have Christmas, and then both of my girls’ birthdays are within two weeks, so I completely understand toy overload! 

Here’s a podcast episode I recorded all about this topic, Ep017 - Dealing with Toys as Gifts.’

First, if you don’t know why having way fewer toys around the house is better for both your kids and your sanity, read my blog post on Toys, Toys Everywhere or listen to my podcast episode Ep002 - Let’s Talk About Toys

Tips on how to approach experience gifts with gift-givers

Talk, Don’t Text

It might be the norm to only text your family and friends, but it’s so hard to understand the tone in a text message. So this should be a sit-down conversation or at least a phone conversation. It’s already a difficult conversation to have, and you don’t want to add a layer of misunderstanding because of texting.

What NOT to Say

When you have this conversation, something to keep in mind is that you can’t dictate rules on what this person can or can’t give your kids as a gift. No one wants to upset their Grandparents by just saying, “no toys, buy this.” They are giving your kids toys because they love them and want to see them happy, which makes them happy. Try not to get angry or say, “I can’t believe they gave them this.” They aren’t doing it to spite you. They are doing it from a place of love. Sometimes we need to take a step back and remember the real reason WHY they are doing it. And remember how blessed our kids are to have extended family in their lives that want to see them happy.

Provide Guidelines

Here’s a sample script on what you can say.

I wanted to chat with you about something with Christmas coming up! I have been working extremely hard on decluttering and minimizing our home. It has been pretty incredible to see the benefits and positive changes it’s made, especially with the kids and their toys! I have been slowly getting rid of extra toys they don’t play with anymore, and it’s incredible how much better they play together. They also use their imagination so much more!! Knowing Christmas is coming up is kind of stressing me out because I’m worried that all my hard work with the house will come undone with all the toys they will get.

So, I’m talking to all the family members about this, and I’m wondering if you would be open to potentially trying some experience gifts this year for them. Of course, you can still get them toys, but maybe fewer mixed in with experiences? I  have lots of ideas for experiences if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Come Prepared with a List of Experience Gift Ideas

If they agree to give experiences instead of gifts, don’t make the mistake of not providing them with ideas. And make sure your idea list includes multiple price points, including free! You don’t want it to be more expensive than what they were planning on spending.

My latest experience gift guide is linked below!

If They Still Don’t Give Experiences Instead of Gifts

You’ve expressed your wishes, and they still choose to disregard them. What now? Accept the gift and understand that all the people you reached out to won’t change, but some will likely respect your wishes. But here’s the thing… you are not obligated to keep any gift given to you. There is no law that says you must keep a gift for a certain amount of time to be grateful or thankful. You can be grateful for a gift, receive it graciously, and mean it, but you can still turn around and donate it. You don’t have to keep it in your home just because it was gifted to you or your children.

Best way to introduce experience gifts to kids

It can be kind of a shock for kids to start getting more experience gifts if they are used to opening a bunch of presents. So here’s how I worked with my kids.

Give Them A Small Gift

“But wait, Diana, we don’t want to get things!” I get it, but this will help transition kids to receive experience gifts. It can be fun for them to open and unwrap an actual item. But here’s the thing, we don’t want to add non-useful junk or more small toys to our home. We want practical, tangible items that can be used with the experience. 

You might not have to do this forever, but it may take a couple of years. My girls now love to open a wrapped up piece of paper with a coupon for a “Sleepover at Nana’s house” or a “Lunch date with Uncle.” So it doesn’t always have to be an item, and it also doesn’t have to be forever.

8 Ideas for Items to Wrap with Experience Gifts

Share the Excitement

People listened to your request and bought your kids an experience gift. We need to celebrate it! Both when they receive it and again when the kids are doing it. It’s still important for them to see the happiness on the kids’ faces and that they’re loving their experience gift.

For example, my mother-in-law gave our girls an annual zoo membership when we introduced experience gifts several years ago. We made a huge deal about it when we opened the gift. We took pictures and videos of the girls having fun at the zoo, and we texted them to her with a thank you message. Another time we went, the girls FaceTimed her to tell them how much fun they were having, and thanks again for the zoo pass. My mother-in-law loved the experience, and the kids knew that it was a gift from her.

FREE Experience Gift Guide with 35+ Experience Ideas for Kids

Use my experience gift guide for kids as ideas for gift-givers or yourself. Help keep the clutter down while giving your kids new experiences throughout the year!



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