Quick Tips for the Holiday Season: Less Stuff, More Memories

Christmastime is approaching and with it comes the search for the “perfect Christmas gift.” Often at the holidays, children get inundated with trinkets and toys that pile up and become overwhelming to parents. Unique “experience” Christmas gifts are a great way to alleviate some of this holiday anxiety while at the same time making lasting memories. I know as a parent I would personally be elated if someone did some of these things for my children instead of getting them more “stuff.” Here are some ideas I think that will fill your kids’ memory banks instead of cluttering your house!


These museums are gems, filled with play-based learning that you can do with your children. They become a great haven for kids to explore and learn with new materials. Get a family pass for them to go any time throughout the year or just a few passes for them to go with you! Set aside the time to go with them and get in on the action as they create projects, do experiments, try out hands-on stations, and have tons of fun. Best of all, you are helping foster their love of learning!


Do a little digging for some fun local areas to take kids. Many of these places sell memberships or passes that you can give as Christmas gifts. As a mom who loves to take the kids on adventures, having memberships to different places can be very helpful. Often pools, zoos, arboretums, nature centers, and playgroup areas have season passes that might not normally be in your budget, but if your kids receive these passes as gifts they may be able to experience these attractions more often. In the Chippewa Valley, we have unique places such as Tiny Tots Playhouse and the L.E. Phillips YMCA Indoor Sports Center, where kids are able to play. These venues are especially nice in the winter or on rainy days! We also have Beaver Creek Reserve, which has a lot of fun nature trails and activities as well as an area for children to play. Eau Claire’s Fairfax Pool also sells season passes (although this is a gift that wouldn’t be used until summer). For a winter option, the Complexx at Wagner’s Lanes turns its covered sand volleyball area into an indoor kids’ beach party. They sell passes for that as well.


Cooking classes, dance classes, karate, soccer, piano lessons, painting classes – all of these are fun activities for kids, but the cost can add up for parents. It is such a blessing when a family member says that these lessons will be their Christmas or birthday gift. As a mom of four, I struggle with providing a class for one child and not the others. Taking all of them to class would break the bank! Having the flexibility to do this because classes were paid for as a Christmas gift can be such a relief as a parent. You want your children to have experiences, but they must fit in the budget as well. As a gift-giver, you can feel good that you are helping out the parents while also giving the kids experiences that will help them be well-rounded people. If someone does pay for a class as a gift, we always make a point of talking to the children each time we go to the lesson about how lucky they are to be able to go because “Grandma Susy” got them these classes.


Taking the children on a date is a great Christmas gift! They will be so excited to have special one-on-one time with you. It will be something you can be sure they will talk about for days and remember for years. Do something they enjoy doing together, whether it is going to dinner and a movie, bowling, playing at the library, checking out a park, or picking out a craft at the craft store to go home and complete together. Giggle, have fun, and let their youthful excitement rub off on you!


Winter time and rainy days make for lots of cooped-up energy. Give them the gift of time at Action City’s trampoline park. By the end of it, they will happily have quiet rest time, and their parents will be so thankful!


Get them tickets to see a live theater production. Support local arts while providing the children with a cultural experience by viewing a live theatrical performance. A few years ago, for example, we gave our girls tickets to see the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre production of “Annie.” They were so excited, and so were we!


Is someone a big music buff? Does another one love princesses? Is one in love with a certain sport? Get tickets to a concert, Disney on Ice, Princess Tea Parties, or a local sporting event. Take them to the event and invest in that time together. Not only are you investing time with them, but you are also showing them you are in tune with what things they like and care about their interests.


What is more fun than spending the night at a hotel and hitting up the pool? Rent some movies, pop some popcorn, and swim to your heart’s content! Enjoy the time together. That is more important than any toy that will lose its luster after a few days.


Millennials are big into things coming to them in the mail. Subscription boxes are in high demand. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love it when something shows up in your mailbox or on your doorstep? Subscriptions are also great Christmas gifts that keep on giving for months! This can be something easy for relatives who are farther away or who aren’t as familiar with local venues. Here is my tip since I’m all about making connections and going the extra mile: Have your kids Facetime or Skype when they open the box or get the subscription each month! This allows the gift-giver to be a part of the excitement from afar.


My grandparents did this for me as a child, and I loved it! Now our children get a magazine sent to them each month, and it is so fun to watch their excitement when it comes in the mail. Here are some great magazines to look into: Highlights (and High Five), National Geographic Kids (and Little Kids), Ranger Rick (and Ranger Rick Jr.), American Girl, Sports Illustrated Kids. BOX SUBSCRIPTIONS There are so many fun subscription boxes to choose from. My current favorites are The Story Box and the newly launched Little Feminist Book Club for kids. I love books, and these services provide questions and interactive activities that go with the stories.


I recently was at dinner with a good friend whose aunt was passing away. One thing she said really resonated with me: “She was the aunt who got down on the floor and played with us and spent time with us.” The little things this woman did to foster a relationship by creating experiences together were honored and remembered at the time of her passing. At the end of the day, it will not matter how many things you bought them. What will stand out is that you connected with them!

Ashley Peggs is a mother of four from Eau Claire who blogs at You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube (@parentingtheprincipal) as well as on Twitter (@PrincipalParent).