A Different Kind of Christmas Gift {plus a special giveaway}!

It hit me the other day as I looked through the Walmart holiday catalog.

Not one person in our family needs a single thing. 

As I looked up from the catalog, I saw the boys’ sweatshirts strewn across the couches where they’d taken them off after school. On the table and floor were toys they hadn’t yet put away. The bin in the corner was literally overflowing with books. If I walked into another room, it would be the same. I often feel like it’s a full time job just straightening up around here because we have so much stuff. 

We are blessed, to be sure. In a world where many people around the globe lack clean water and food, we are fortunate indeed. All four of us have more than we need, and the boys have more toys and games than I can count. So what do we do when Christmas rolls around and it’s time to buy gifts? Let me be honest, the last thing I want is more “things” that will sit around and collect dust or that the boys will play with for ten minutes then forget about for the next year. I started thinking about what it is that we enjoy most, and I realized that it’s experiences.

We will spend the rest of our lives sharing memories from our trip to China. I mean, who could forget climbing the Great Staircase, I mean, Great Wall?! Many of our other favorite moments have been while on vacation together at the beach. We will never forget that time we went parasailing or the time we went to the Aquarium and touched a stingray.

Those are the kinds of things I want to give my family. 

If you find yourself in the same boat, let me suggest a few ways to give a different kind of Christmas gift. These are things you can give to the people you love and encourage them to give to your family members instead of more “stuff.”

1. The gift of nature.

Most of us live within driving distance of some kind of zoo, and I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like animals. Buy a set of tickets to send the family there for a day to explore. Many zoos also offer sponsorship programs, where you can “adopt” an animal for a year. Last year, we chose an elephant, Little Crafter’s favorite animal, and “adopted” it in his name. He got a special certificate, a photo of the elephant, a small stuffed elephant, and passes to go visit the zoo. He absolutely loved it and keeps the photo on his night stand where he still looks at it every day. If you want a cold-weather alternative, try passes for an aquarium!

2. The gift of culture.

Kids {and grownups too!} benefit from exposure to the arts. We’re used to seeing things on screens, but there’s nothing quite like watching a live performance. Gift a set of tickets to an on-stage concert or a play…bonus points if you are able to accompany them to the show. If you’re not sure about dates, you can always make up an IOU and work out the calendar details later. Tickets to an art show or museum can also be an awesome choice. We are lucky enough to be close to DC, so we have the Air & Space Museum, the Smithsonian, and lots of other great places we can visit for a day trip. See what your local area has to offer!

3. The gift of adventure.

Know someone who’s a bit of a daredevil? What about giving them an opportunity for an adventure, like a gift certificate to go parasailing or skydiving? Maybe there’s a local place where they could fly in a helicopter or even have a short pilot lesson. If that’s a little out of their {or your} comfort zone, you could play it a little safer with day passes for skiing, snow tubing, or something else equally adventurous.

{PS. Yes, that’s really us in the photo.}

4. The gift of creativity.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine LOVE to create. We are fortunate to have a DIY studio close to where we live that lets you paint pottery, make signs, paint on canvas, and do all kinds of other artsy craftsy things. A gift certificate to this type of place would be a huge hit with my guys. “Big kids” might like you to treat them to a paint night or local lettering workshop. {Also, just saying, they might really like this book called Hand Lettering for Relaxation. I know it’s a thing, but it’s a pretty awesome thing, don’t you think?} If the recipient of your gift likes expressing creativity in different ways, why not pay for a set number of music lessons or dance classes? And that’s not just for kids! During my time as a ballroom, latin, and swing dance instructor, I worked with many couples who were given a gift certificate for one or even five lessons who ended up making dancing together a lifelong hobby!

5. The gift of confidence.

Give the kiddos {or grownups} in your life the gift of learning and mastering a skill. Maybe they’d like to take karate or play a season of soccer. For many kids, learning to swim gives them the confidence they need to have fun in the water for the rest of their lives.

I have a confession to make…as a child I never learned to swim. To this day, I can just barely tread water and am only comfortable in the shallow end of the pool. It made me super self-conscious as a teenager when my friends would have pool parties, and as an adult it has caused me anxiety because I knew that if my kids got into a dangerous situation in the water, I wouldn’t be able to help them. That’s a big part of why both our boys are getting a Holiday Swim Package from Goldfish Swim School this year. 

If you’re local to the MD/DC area, you might have heard of Goldfish Swim School in Owings Mills, Maryland. This year, they are offering three different holiday packages you can take advantage of:

Package 1, $120 ($168 Value)
Buy 1 month of lessons with a membership and receive:
– 2 Bonus Lessons

Package 2, $250 ($330 Value)
Buy 2 months of lessons with membership and receive:
– 4 bonus lessons
– Pair of goggles
– Towel (upgraded to hooded towel if pre-ordered by 11/15/2017)
– Bubbles plush toy

Package 3, $650 ($775 Value)
Buy six monthsof lessons with membership and receive:
– 4 bonus lessons
– Pair of goggles
– Towel (upgraded to hooded towel if pre-ordered by 11/15/2017)
– Bubbles plush toy
– Backpack
– Blanket
– Hat

You can pre-order now through 11/25 or purchase from 11/25-12/22. Lessons must be scheduled by 1-31-18.

Not only is the Goldfish Swim School of Owings Mills giving both of my boys three months of swim lessons, they’re letting me give away Package #2 to one of you!

The winner of the giveaway will receive three free months of swim lessons and an awesome swag bag, including a pair of goggles, a Goldfish towel and a Bubbles plush toy!
Fine print – three months or 12 consecutive weeks of one 30-minute lesson per week. You must schedule your classes by January 31, 2018. The winner must pick up the prize from Goldfish Swim School’s location in Owings Mills.

HERE’S HOW TO WIN: Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway open through 11/30/17. Winner will be randomly selected and notified by the email provided. Open to US residents ages 18 and over. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’d love to hear about your favorite experience gifts…what are the things you’d rather get and give than accumulating more “stuff”?

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  1. My kiddos love the koala/kiwi crates that got for a gift last year! They take some time and we get to do it together!

  2. I had already thought about doing the “adopt an animal” through WWF for my tween and teenage nieces (because who knows what they want?!) 😉 but love the other ideas too! I think my husband and I are going to get some work done in our kitchen as our gift to each other

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