There’s nothing like seeing the smile on your kid’s face as they tear open their gifts on Christmas morning…or the frown on yours as you tidy up the mess and realize that they’ve already broken/lost/gotten bored of their gift before noon. This year, why not give the gift of incredible memories instead with an experience gift? These are non-material gifts that provide a fun and memorable experience. Here, a list of our favorite experience gifts for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens and featuring everything from concert tickets and RV road trips to at-home virtual voice lessons and crafting subscription boxes. Read on and you’re sure to find a gift that makes a lasting impression (without adding clutter to your living space).
42 Experience Gifts for Kids That Are Way Better Than Another Toy
Give the gift of incredible memories (because your kid doesn’t need more stuff)
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The Best Experience Gifts for Kids at a Glance
What Is an Experience Gift?
An experience gift is, as it sounds, an activity-oriented gift that promises a memorable experience for the recipient…as opposed to, you know, material goods that simply add to the clutter. Experience gifts can be hands-on activities that speak to kids’ individual interests, scrapbook-worthy trips or tickets to a cool local event that can be enjoyed with the company of friends or family. Either way, the idea is to provide stimulation, engagement and fun without adding more stuff to the never-ending pile of junk already in their room.
How We Chose the Best Experience Gifts for Kids
When choosing the best experience gifts for kids, we crowd-sourced the wants of a wide age range of kids, got recommendations from parents and scoured the internet for gifts with glowing reviews, while prioritizing vendors we know our readers love and taking budgets, both big and small, into account.
Best at-home Boredom Buster
This innovative activity book is packed with engaging and adventurous (but safe) challenges that will keep kids entertained with minimal supervision and supplies required. Best of all, the interactive scratch-off design keeps the surprises coming well after the gift has been unwrapped and the activities are all repeatable so your kid will enjoy hour upon hour of screen-free fun.
Best Subscription for Budding Chefs
Junior cooks stand to gain quite a lot from YesChef—a subscription service that grants access to a huge number of cooking lessons led by the world’s best culinary experts including Jamie Oliver, Nancy Silverton and Asma Khan. That said, it’s worth noting that YesChef is not intended specifically for kids, so this one is best gifted to an older teen.
Best Subscription for Teens
Masterclass is all the rage right now—and although there’s no specific filter when it comes to finding classes for kids, there’s plenty of content that will appeal to tweens and teens. (Skateboarding lessons with Tony Hawk, anyone?)
Best for Young Explorers
5. Airbnb Stay
If you’re looking to avoid the further accumulation of toys without disappointing your kid this holiday season, a big ticket trip fits the bill. Decide whether you want to go near or far, and then follow the link for a thoughtfully curated list of vacation rentals around the country and beyond. (How cool is this boat house in Springfield, Tennessee?) Once you find the location that suits your family, you can start planning your kid’s dream itinerary—though it’s worth noting that the change of scenery alone promises a memorable experience.
Best for Theater Fans
Young actors are sure to be dazzled by a live stage performance delivered by a cast of pros. That said, you might not know which particular play they find most appealing, so your best bet is a gift card that allows them the freedom to browse the programs of local playhouses and score some tickets that are truly exciting.
Best for Swifities
Didn’t get tickets to the Taylor Swift Eras tour (or chose not to because, wow, that price tag)? Fear not: Young Swifties will be more than happy to settle for this special viewing opportunity, which provides a nearly three hour-long, immersive cinematic experience of the history-making live tour and a (likely relatable) glimpse into the whole Taylor Swift craze.
Best for Thoughtful Observers
8. Season Pass to a Museum
Speaking of art, why not give the kid in your life a season pass to a favorite museum, so they can visit and soak up some culture whenever the mood strikes?
Best STEAM Activity Box for Younger Kids
Hands-on activities, pretend play props, and crafting materials are among the goods young kids will receive from this monthly STEAM subscription. It’s an invitation to play in a box. Previous activities have included learning all about rainbows (with a stained glass craft and rainbow tote bag dyeing project) and taking a trip to the farm (think: making a beaded vegetable garden and playing a matching game with a friend, plus creating four adorable animal finger puppets to live inside your barn).
Best for a Teen Girl’s Night Out
10. Limo and Dinner Night
Give your kid the star treatment for the night by renting a limo to take her and a few friends to a favorite restaurant or to the movies (ahem, Taylor Swift Eras Tour Movie Tickets anyone?). Needless to say, the novelty factor is high, so the Insta-worthy experience is sure to be a memorable one.
Best for Too-Cool-for-School Teenagers
11. Concert Tickets
For a teen who’s always tuned into Spotify, there’s no better gift than being able to check out a live performance of their favorite band with a friend. (Psst: Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour will be stateside as early as February 2024.)
Best for Young Cosmopolitans
This subscription box from Little Passports takes grade school kids on an action-packed, simulated globe-trotting adventure, complete with souvenirs and plenty of hands-on activities like building your own 3D puzzle of the Rialto Bridge and making your very own sea turtles out of play sand. Designed for kids ages 6 to 10, the experience is sure to satisfy their wanderlust, while teaching them a thing or two, to boot.
Best for Family Road Trips
Flights are expensive and family road trips in a sedan can be, well, less than magical. Why not rent a camper van or RV instead and let your kid map out the route (within reason)? The end result is sure to be an adventure they’ll rave to their friends about when winter break is over.
Best for the Young and Energetic
A vast expanse of bouncy surfaces, things to swing on and crash into without injury…Yep, trampoline parks are like a kid's dream come true, especially for those under ten with energy to burn. Score some passes for your child and a couple friends, so they can make the wild memories while you sit back and watch.
Best Cold Weather Experience
16. Ice Skating Passes
Encourage your kid to turn off the tube and hit the rink with friends for a much-needed breath of fresh air and an undeniably fun winter boredom buster.
Best for future Star Bakers
Activities, lessons, step-by-step recipes, cook-along instructional videos and all the necessary dry ingredients are included in this monthly baking subscription box for kids. The subscription also includes extras like monthly live, virtual baking lessons and homeschool activities so kids can really hone their culinary skills. Let’s just say, the end result is pretty sweet.
Best Day Outing
19. Check out a Novelty Museum
If your kid isn’t quite sophisticated enough to appreciate fine art and historical artifacts don’t hold his attention either, you might consider trying a different kind of museum entirely. Children’s museums, in general, are designed specifically to address this reality—but there are some other, particularly novel options. If you live in NYC, a visit to the Museum of Ice Cream promises unlimited frozen treats, a sprinkle pit the size of a swimming pool and a giant tube slide that delivers a serious thrill. Another fine choice for folks outside of the Big Apple is the Museum of Illusions—a privately-held museum that serves up mind-bending fun at all of its 24 locations across the country.
Best for construction enthusiasts
Sign up for this woodworking craft subscription and every month your kid will receive everything needed—including high quality, kid-sized tools, and easy-to-follow instructions—to complete a construction project that will inspire pride.
Best for Aspiring Pop Stars
The Skillshare music offerings are comprehensive, and kids who are passionate about music will definitely benefit from the numerous voice lessons available to kids of any skill level. It’s also an excellent way to encourage their interest and help them hone their talent without investing in an expensive instrument before having assessed their commitment. (Just saying.)
Best for Fashionistas
This flexible eight-week virtual course is sure to inspire creativity and feed the imagination of any tween or teen with an eye for design and a love of fashion. Taught by an award-winning fashion and costume designer, your kid will get a step-by-step guide to how to draw their very own fashion designs and create original figures.
Best for Budding Artists
Artists between the ages of 4 and 9 will learn a wide range of new techniques from this 12-week session of thoughtful art lessons, in which every major academic subject (science, history, math and literature!) is incorporated into the creative process. (Bonus: There's even the possibility of a sibling discount.)
Best for the Insta-obsessed
If Instagram isn’t already in your tween’s life, it will be soon enough. Help them up their photography game with a flexible four-week course that covers all the basics of composition and lighting, while encouraging creativity.
Best STEAM Activity Box for Older Kids
Give your kid a well-rounded STEAM experience with this Green Kids box, which boasts four to six separate activities that spark the imagination, encourage exploration and provide hours of hands-on, screen-free fun. From science experiments to art and engineering projects, this one checks all the boxes, and chances are you’ll both be grateful to have it around on a rainy day.
Best for Thrill-seekers
26. Amusement Park Trip
Gift your young thrill-seeker tickets to a theme park—the adrenaline rush of the roller coaster rides won’t last forever, but the memories surely will.
Best for Karate Kids
A badass mama with a black belt in mixed martial arts and a background in fitness instruction teaches this flexible four-week class for littles ages 3 to 7. If you’ve got a kid who’s bouncing off the walls, this gift will pay dividends for both parties.
Best for Outdoorsy Kids
Whether you’re seeking an RV park surrounded by natural beauty, a traditional campsite with easy access to hiking trails or a camp-style resort complete with a water park, there are tons of affordable options that ensure an amazing weekend in the Great Outdoors—and if that’s up your kid’s alley, this experience gift idea is kind of a no-brainer.
Best for Astrology Lovers
If you’ve got a budding astrologer at home, they’ll love having their astrological chart analyzed by the American College of Vedic Astrologers. In the 30- or 60-minute reading, their strengths, weaknesses and dynamics of their romantic, personal and professional relationships will be addressed (which means mom or dad’s name is likely to come up!) Note: Participants must be at least 18 years old so this is an experience gift that’s only available for the oldest kids.
Best for Sky-high Views
31. Hot Air Balloon Ride
Book a hot air balloon ride and your kid will be on cloud nine. Plus, when they come back down to the earth, they’ll be raving about the unforgettable experience for quite some time to come.
Best for Having Fun with Friends
32. Bowling Passes
Bowling is a blast for all but the youngest kids and an excellent opportunity for teens and tweens to socialize with friends. Give the gift of an all-expenses paid trip (or several) at the bowling alley, and your kid will have Friday night plans worth looking forward to.
Best for Kids with a Green Thumb
35. My Garden Box
Kids of all ages can reap the rewards of some time spent in the garden (i.e., a hands-on activity that connects them to nature). This gardening subscription box features indoor and outdoor plants, along with the supplies and step-by-step instructions needed to ensure success for new plant parents.
Best for Pre-school Pen Pals
Here, a painfully adorable gift idea for the little one in your life. This subscription box promises younger kids (think: ages three to eight) personalized letters every week from a pen pal, Sunny the Mail Snail. The content of each note is imaginative and educational, and the correspondence even includes interactive activities like puzzles and codes to crack. That said, we think the highlight of this experience is simply the joy and excitement that comes from getting a special piece of mail.
Best for Athletes
Sports fans of all ages will be wild about seeing their favorite athletes show off their stuff in real time. You can compliment the gift with a piece of sports memorabilia from their team, and don’t skimp on the snacks when you’re at the big game.
Best for High School Seniors
41. Donation to a Gap Year Fund
Your high schooler wants to take a gap year after graduation and see the world. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Just kidding—you aren’t invited. Instead, lend them a hand with a monetary contribution that supports their travel plans and ensures they start freshman year of college with some amazing bucket list experiences under their belt.
Best for Animal Lovers
42. Book a Farm Stay
Check out options for kid-friendly farm stays near you and reserve a weekend spot. This unique gift idea guarantees a truly memorable experience—complete with hands-on tasks, face-time with animals and all the farm fresh food they can eat—in a beautiful rural setting.
What to Consider When Selecting an Experience Gift for Kids
A trip to a new place is always novel, which is why it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a first-time visit to an amusement park or, if you’re going all out, a vacation. Still, a great experience can be had without even leaving home. Online classes and subscription boxes are a very rewarding way to stretch out the experience beyond just one day. Consider which category of experience gift will bring your kid the most joy and also what you actually have the bandwidth for and go from there.
Needless to say, the best experience gifts are ones that speak to the recipient’s unique interests and personality. When giving gifts it can be easy to end up shopping for yourself (i.e., you haven’t been to a concert in years!). Don’t fall into that trap here. For kids who seemingly have a new interest every week, get some intel from their friends and always listen for hints your kid might be dropping before you go all in on an experience gift.
- Price Point
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but don’t invest more money than you feel comfortable with in an experience gift. Come up with a budget before you start brainstorming ideas and stick to it. There are amazing experiences to be had at every price point. Trust.
Some experiences are best enjoyed by older kids…because how much of that astronomically expensive trip to Disney is your 3-year-old really going to remember? Similarly, your salty teen might suddenly be too cool for a trip to a trampoline park. You get the idea—just pick an age-appropriate gift for best results.
Do Kids Appreciate Experience Gifts?
That’s an unequivocal yes! In fact, the question you really should be asking is how much your kids actually appreciate the tangible gifts they have been given beyond the thrill of ripping off the wrapping paper. For the most part, kids rapidly lose interest in new toys and the more stuff they accumulate the less it means to them; the same cannot be said about a memorable experience.