Yes, it’s called the giving season, but who says that “giving” always has to mean toys, clothes or just more stuff? Experience gifts for kids, from museum memberships to sporting passes, can give your kids more than just another object for their playroom. It can create memories, help build skills and provide fun for the entire family.

Why give experience gifts?

Think about it. How many of us remember the toys we got on our eighth birthday? Now contrast that with memories of the first time we went to a zoo, took a dance class, or had a special day out with a loved one. Experiences stick.

And just like traditional gifts, there’s something for every child. Whether it’s a day at the science museum, an art workshop, or a cooking class, there’s an experience to fit every interest. It’s not about the flashiness of the gift but the value of the time spent.

In an age where screens often steal the show, experience gifts are a breath of fresh air. They promote real-world interactions, learning, and most importantly, quality time. (They also don’t take up space in your living room, require an endless stream of batteries and best of all, they don’t end up in a landfill.)

So, the next time you’re thinking of a gift, consider an experience. Because memories last longer than most toys.

Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of our holiday gift guides!

We asked what are the best experience gifts for kids instead of toys, and you told us. Here are some of the best experience gift ideas we heard:

At home experiences

book bundle or subscription to Highlights or Honest History

Enrollment in the Elf Prep Academy, Santa’s exclusive school to train new elves. It’s a cookie-baking, tree-decorating and sleigh repairing good time!

Kid-friendly cooking set for home 

Gift card to restaurant (or Doordash for takeout) for the family

Streaming services for a year—we love Disney+

Meditation subscription

Subscription boxes

Is your kiddo into cooking? Do you have a mini global citizen on your hands, or an arts and craft addict? Subscription activity boxes are an awesome way to foster a specific interest and encourage screen-free time together as a family. STEM-loving kids will love the tinkering fun of KiwiCo, while curious travelers will dive right into Little Passports. We also love Lovevery for age-appropriate Montessori toys and learning.

Flower or herb seeds to plant a garden

Materials to build terrarium

Game night bundle

Educational experiences

Cooking class for kids.

Many local and chain grocery stores offer affordable kids cooking classes. Check out what’s nearby or opt for online experiences like The Kid’s Table or the super simple kids cooking kits from Raddish Kids! Got a baker on your hands? Baketivity Kits are always a hit!

Pottery making classes (or one of these fab at-home kits)

Musical instrument and lessons

Any will do, but our kids have found great success with the brilliant one-stringed Tinkertar which teaches them to play from day one.

Ballet classes & tutu

Or sign them up for Dancely. Designed for kiddos age 2-8, this app puts a dance party in your pocket (or on your TV). Choose from over 100+ instructor-led videos and kid-friendly songs featuring songwriters who have written music for companies such as Marvel, Netflix & Disney for screen time without guilt.

A podcast subscription

Ceramic painting class

Payment for summer camp they want to attend

A language learning app or software

Zoo or Aquarium membership

Kids love animals, and zoos and aquariums are the perfect places to see them all up close! We love the idea of a yearly family membership because you can spend as much—or as little—time as you like each visit and not feel guilty about wasting the price of a full-day admission ticket. Even better, if you purchase a pass to a facility that’s part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Mommy & me music classes

Tickets for Disney on Ice

Children’s theater season passes

Museum membership

Did you know there are over 35,000 museums across the United States? (You can find a directory of them, by state and type, here. Or if you’re in a major city, look for options like the New York Pass which allows you to access a collection of top-notch museums with one single pass.) That’s a lot of culture to take in, so you best get busy. Whether it’s a major institution or a local children’s museum, it’s easy to find something the whole family will love. And be sure to ask specifically about children’s programs, too.

Year fees for school

Full session for new sport (gymnastics, football camp, etc.)

Donation to future college fund

Local experiences

Tickets to a play

Whether it’s a big show or a local theater, going to see a play or a musical as a family is an experience your little ones will always remember. (We also love this for a special outing with the grandparents, too.) Lots of local theaters do dedicated children’s programming. too, so be sure to check those out.

A staycation

What’s more fun that a night at a hotel when you’re a kid? Booking a night at a hotel—with a pool, of course!—is a fun, easy way to shake up your regular routine and get in some unconventional family time. Order some room service, watch a movie, and make a night of it! Gift from a larger chain, like Hilton Marriott or Wyndham so they can use it for a variety of locations.

Movie gift card for the local theatre 

Trip to the bookstore to pick out new books

Swim lessons

Local or national state park passes for a year

With access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, a National Parks pass offers countless acres of fun and exploration.

Passes to the local waterpark

YMCA family pass

Trampoline jump passes

Travel experiences

Plane or train ticket to visit someone special (grandma, aunt, etc.)

farm stay

This one’s a splurge, but we love it as an alternative to the standard family beach or amusement park vacation. There are tons of small working farms across the country that allow families to visit, stay, and work their farm. (Emphasis on the work part—you can’t be afraid of pitching in or getting dirty while doing it!) Check out Farm Stay U.S. for some options near you.

Out of country airfare and accommodation (if you want to be truly indulgent)

A train ride to somewhere they’ve never been

Yup, you read that right. A ride on a train is cheap, works for almost any age, and pretty much every kid we’ve ever met is fascinated by them. (Especially among the toddler/preschool set.) Whether it’s a day trip through a scenic area, or something as simple as hopping on your local commuter line and going two stops over to a neighboring town for an ice cream, we love this idea for a fun and affordable experience gift.

Camping gear for a weekend away

Season pass to attraction (Disneyland, Island of Adventure, etc.)

If you’re a rollercoasters and corn dog kinda family, a theme park pass could pay for itself in just one summer.

Adventure experiences

Adventure experiences are the perfect idea for the more daring members of the family. They’re also a great way to test out an activity to see if it’s something your kiddo is really into that you may want to pursue further. Check out some ideas below!

Zip lining experience

For the thrill-seekers, a zip lining adventure could be an unforgettable experience. (And less scary than skydiving. Probably.)

Indoor rock climbing experience

Horseback riding lesson

A camera to use for adventures (We love the Instax Mini for the instant gratification and analog vibes.)

Miniature golf adventure

Indoor climbing excursion

Tickets and gear for sports team

A hot air balloon ride

Charitable experiences

Gift for charity, let the child decide where to give

Volunteer trip (Toys for Tots, food bank, etc.)

Volunteering together as a family offers an invaluable opportunity to teach children about the world around them and begin to develop their sense of social consciousness. Even the littlest of kiddos can gain something from volunteering. To discover volunteer opportunities around you, try Volunteer Match Network for Good , or America’s Promise Alliance .

“Adopt” a wild animal with World Wildlife’s symbolic species adoptions.

Choose from a wide variety of species and the giftee will receive a photo, adoption certificate and even a cuddly plush pal to match.

An Alltruists volunteering box to take on an at-home afternoon project that gives back

A version of this article was originally published on March 19, 2019. It has been updated.