Christmas: Why we focus more on valuable experiences

Do you gift experiences over stuff? I've got 4 excellent reasons you should shift your thinking and several suggestions for what you should gift instead! #giftguide #gifts #specialneeds #homeschool #Christmasgiftguide

Gifting experiences over “stuff” for Christmas

Luckily I’m starting to see a trend more and more of focusing on experiences when gift giving rather than just wrapping as many boxes as possible.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about how hard it was, working in retail, to watch people drive themselves into debt to give gifts I totally still feel that way but I’m encouraged when I see people making different choices. Seeing thoughtfulness over how we spend, pushing back against the consumption of resources, is key.  This post is more about what we’re choosing to buy.

This post isn’t especially special needs related, but still something I think is important!  Changing our perspective on Christmas and gift giving can be such a huge gift to our children.  If you haven’t jumped onto this recent way of thinking, it may be worth investigating!

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Finding Godly Contentment


1) Grateful hearts

This is probably the most obvious one, but in my opinion, the most important one.  We battle this constantly in our house. It drives me crazy that we still battle this.  Christmas was always the worst for us.  Both of my boys are born in December, each one week on the other side of Christmas.  So it’s this perfect bookend/storm of presents and gift giving frenzies.  I’ve asked so many people not to give us gifts, or even just to give clothes and books if they can’t stand not sending something.

I really struggle with this because I don’t want to come across as ungrateful.  Afterall, I am so grateful that people love my sons enough to send them presents and think of them.  But when you have three straight weeks of presents, presents, and more presents, it becomes a bit insane.  And the mean nasty gimme gimmes come out in force.

I want my boys to remember Christmas is about Jesus, not about presents.

2) Valuables skills

Making gifts for others this is a great opportunity for our kids to see that our gifts can be a labor of love.  Learning valuable skills like sewing or woodworking – you name it – and giving the fruits of their labors as gifts is a great idea.

While these are still physical gifts that they would be giving to other people, the experience they gain is a valuable gift to our kids.  You never know if one of the skills that pick up now will be something that they earn a living from in the future or continue to bless people with in the future.

Do you gift experiences over stuff? I've got 4 excellent reasons you should shift your thinking and several suggestions for what you should gift instead!

My oldest, “K”,  is getting really into coding and scratch lately.  His obsession with drawing, and now painting, is intensifying each day.  If I had to guess, I’d put graphic design or website developer at the top of his likely future.  At the top of my list for him? a Kano build your own computer kit and a drawing class from Jam.


Do you gift experiences over stuff? I've got 4 excellent reasons you should shift your thinking and several suggestions for what you should gift instead!
This was a recent painting of K’s and it tickled me pink…

My youngest, “D”, is super into building, so rather than regular lego bricks (I’m ok with legos since they’re easy to save and give joy from kid to kid… not to mention they’re electronic-free learning & entertainment) I’m thinking he’ll be getting a kit to build a robot and a lego class.  This way he’ll also get some coding practice and the satisfaction of seeing a build come to life!

3) Environmental impact

Have you ever been to a landfill, like actually been out to the public dumps for real?  It’s horrible.  Maybe it’s the California and Hawaii in me, but it breaks my heart. There was a really good documentary on Netflix (I wish I could remember the name) all about the plastic in the ocean.  There’s another still about the corals being bleached (Chasing Coral).  Despite being an avid lifelong recycler, I’ve cut waaaay back on plastic use in my house and I’ve been teaching my sons that we need to use as little plastic as possible.

We do use a reward system in our homeschool, but we try to not use very much plastic, and I load up the treasure box with a bunch of reusable coupons that are more experience based like time alone with mom or dad, skipping an assignment, or extra reading a bedtime.

Do you gift experiences over stuff? I've got 4 excellent reasons you should shift your thinking and several suggestions for what you should gift instead!

4) The clutter…

Oh my goodness, the clutter.  That’s something we actively battle against.  My husband and I both tend to get overwhelmed by tons of “stuff” in the house.  We used to live in a 600sq ft. apartment in Hawaii and I honestly think it was the happiest we ever were, despite 4 of us in that space.  Everything there served a purpose, and it was great!  Cleaning top to bottom only took 30 minutes.  Tell me you wouldn’t love that!? 😉 When you’re buying gifts this year, think about where it’s going, and what you’ll need to move out in its place (refer back to number 3…).

Ideas for experience-based gifts:

  • Creative classes like beginner’s sewing, music lessons (online or at a local music store), dance lessons, or something like an animation, coding, or drawing class.
  • Fun times with family like movie tickets (this is our favorite thing to gift), amusement parks, bounce houses, and discovery museum memberships.
  • Go educational with books from their favorite subject.  Usborne has a lot of neat ones, and you likely know someone who sells them ;).  Subscription boxes like Tinker Crate, Raddish Kids, or Little Passports.  These will, of course, be sending something to consume each month, but they’re also enriching. These I could see going either way…

Want to see this month’s experiment in action?  Watch Science Expeditions: Berry DNA Video

  • For the more open-minded kids, perhaps take part in a service project with them, followed by dinner of their choice! 😉

Ideas for small things to make experienced based gifts complete:


 ArtSkills Activity Bucket, Arts and Crafts Supplies, 10 Project Ideas, Assorted Colors and Shapes, 404 Count LEARN TO PLAY THE GUITAR A Step-by-step Guide [BOOK & DVD box Set] Drawing for the Absolute Beginner: A Clear & Easy Guide to Successful Drawing (Art for the Absolute Beginner) Pro Art 18-Piece Sketch/Draw Pencil Set NEX Sewing Machine Children Present Portable Crafting Mending Machine with 12 Built-In Stitched

The seeds of change

I’m hoping that this commitment to less stuff will be the beginning of my sons living a more holistic lifestyle as adults. I know I can’t control their future and it’s not my job to control the future.  But I’m hoping that helping them focus more on people and skills this time of year will serve them well as they navigate the all the tricky spots in life as adults.


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Your turn: are you focusing more on experiences this year? If so what are some of your reasons and how are you doing it?

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Author: Jill C

Jill is a Christian, homeschooler, "boy mom", and special needs parent. Jill has ADHD and has learned firsthand how adapting environments can be key to finding success! Her current mission is to empower parents whose desire is to homeschool their special needs children and helping them squash their self-doubt!

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