By: Sandy Churchill
‘Tis the season for gift-giving, shopping for the perfect presents, wrapping in a frenzy, and celebrating faith, family, and friends. At our house, there are always the “easy” folks to buy for, those who have myriad interests and a grateful spirit, so gift-giving is truly a pleasure. Then there are the “difficult” crew, perhaps even unbeknownst to them, because they “don’t want/need anything” or have such specific tastes that they rarely enjoy a gift because it often misses the mark. This can be disheartening when the intent is thoughtful, but the gift is ignored, returned, or simply relegated to the back of the closet or basement.
Our middle child recognizes that clutter can be a challenge for many of our close and extended family members, who have all the knickknacks they need and/or live in smaller spaces where storage is at a premium. She started the practice of “experiential” gifts a few years ago, and the presents are creative, appreciated, and memorable.
Among some of the experience gifts shared with my husband and myself as well as my son are tickets to a mystery dinner theater, escape rooms, concerts, Barnes & Noble book and coffee dates, and mom-and-daughter breakfasts with shopping and conversation.
A lovely bonus is the time element—with a spouse, child, parent, or friend—shared both during the experience and as a memory afterward. Like a vacation where you experience the joy of anticipation, the experience itself, and the reflection afterward, an experiential gift offers the same potential to savor time together and make a memory.
Some ideas that might make wonderful experiential gifts for your own family and friends are trips to a museum or zoo, tickets to theatre or concerts, an afternoon of baking or crafting together, coffee dates with walks in a nearby park or at the beach, and plans to see a future movie together. Other gifts might include plans to attend a future sports event, or one of the popular city scavenger hunts popping up all over the place.
My youngest has been a movie buff since he was little, and his Godmother surprised him one year with some special movie dates—both at home (thank you Netflix and Amazon Prime) and at movie theaters—complete with popcorn and movie candy. The presents were enhanced with time together, bonding and discussing the movies together. My son eagerly anticipated these special dates and loved chatting with his Godmother about each film, so the present had a great deal of mileage beyond the traditional toy or gift card.
There are also delightful seasonal ideas to anticipate and celebrate, such as going maple sugaring together, attending a flower show, kayaking, visiting a winery or chocolate tasting tour, camping, seeing an art exhibition, attending an author talk or book signing, going to the drive-in for a double-feature, booking a whale-watch, going deep-sea fishing, snow-tubing, or planning a sunset (or sunrise) picnic. These experiences can spur creativity (try Groupon for ideas) in stepping out of your comfort zone, or they can be tailored closely to your recipient’s existing interests.
While the shopping and wrapping and shipping of gifts can be a challenge to your sanity and budget, trying the experiential approach might show your loved ones a little extra care and attention this season. Once the wrappings are tossed and the tree is taken down, the memories of your gifts linger on.