30 Experience Birthday Gift Ideas for Kids

In an article for Psychology Today, Erin Leyba LCSW, Ph.D. arms parents with plenty of reasons to hunt for quality time with your kids.

She says:

“In the hustle bustle of stressful family life, it can be great to spend special one-on-one time with each child. Kids adore the attention, the fun, and the indulgence of having [parents] all to themselves. It can also be incredibly meaningful for parents. If you feel exhausted from doing laundry, dragging kids to swimming lessons, refereeing arguments, or cleaning up spills, having special time with just one child can put the zip back in your step, the magic back in the moment.”

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more seen or heard as a parent as I did reading that last sentence. Maybe you can relate!

With this Ph.D. affirmed, permission as a soft landing, I want to suggest something radical:

What if, instead of birthday presents wrapped with a bow, we handed our children birthday presents wrapped within time spent together?

Now before we get to far, I should confess that I love birthday gifts. I love finding them, wrapping them, and giving them.

So this little radical act of love that I’m suggesting here didn’t seem all that obvious to me until one specific day this fall.

This is what happened.

Image via Unsplash

My oldest daughter had a day off of school while my other two children did not. So we had a day to ourselves which, to be quite honestly, hardly ever happens between school, activities, and the general hustle bustle of being a family of five.

So we went shoe shopping, out for sushi, and to  get our nails done. To say that it was an indulgent day is an understatement!

As we were driving home, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much! I couldn’t remember the last time that I heard so much from just her and that, more than the indulgent activities that we did, felt like a gift to me.

As I was lost in my own happy — and yes, sappy — thoughts, she turned to me and said, “Thank you so much for my day!”

It turns out that she felt the exact same way.

And research says that this isn’t a surprise. Dr. Leyba explains that not only is special time spent together with our children fun and affirming for the parent-child relationship — and this is why we all soak it in so very much when we’re in it — but the long terms effects are pretty amazing as well.

She says:

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“Positive parent-child relationships strengthen children's emotional well-being, attachment security, coping skills, school readiness and achievement, and future capacity for relationships.”

After my day with my oldest and learning all of the above, we’ve implemented a one experience birthday gift per kid per year and it’s been truly lovely and something we all look forward to.

To get you started in this new tradition — either for this year’s birthday or for an upcoming one, below are 30 experience birthday gift ideas for kids. I hope that you love this tradition as much as our family does.

#21 is my fave for littles and #18 is actually A LOT of fun DIY style! 🙂

{ MORE: 5 Kinds of Devices for Your Tween and How to Choose the Right One }

30 Experience Birthday Gift Ideas For Kids

  1. Out to lunch date — their pick.
  2. Cooking
  3. Baking
  4. Manis & pedis
  5. Theatre
  6. Movie
  7. Laser tag
  8. Escape Room
  9. Beach
  10. Sledding
  11. Bowling
  12. Arcade
  13. Swimming
  14. First concert
  15. Museum
  16. Zoo
  17. Book store to pick out a new book
  18. Craft class or DIY time (you can let them pick an activity from Pinterest, too!)
  19. Tubing
  20. Trampoline Park
  21. Train or bus ride (*we did this with my youngest when he was obsessed with trains and he still talks about it … more than 5 years later!)
  22. Gardening
  23. Rock climbing
  24. Horseback riding
  25. Sporting event
  26. Roller skating
  27. Ping pong
  28. Feed My Starving Children
  29. Volunteering
  30. Water park

{ MORE: Teens are Biologically Programmed to be Belligerent? }

As you may have gathered from this list, big or small, the activity itself doesn’t matter as much as the time spent together doing it and connecting with each other. That is, indeed, the gift.

What do you think?

30 Experience Birthday Gift Ideas for Kids

Galit Breen is the bestselling author of Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes you can get your child a phone and still create a grass-beneath-their-bare-feet childhood for them. Galit’s writing has been featured on The Huffington Post; The Washington Post; Buzzfeed; TIME; and more. She liv ... More

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