Give Experiences, Not Things this Holiday Season

If you’re a parent, I know you’re already dreading the onslaught of blocks and characters and cars and oversized teddy bears that December will bring. I’m here with one simple mantra for this holiday season: give more experiences, and less things.

You know your kids don’t need another set of Batman pajamas or another effing Hatchimal, (and you certainly don’t need another toy mysteriously making spooky cat meow sounds in the middle of the night so you think that a cat is living under your house, but no, it’s just that damn light-sensitive puzzle meowing whenever a car goes by. …oh, just me?) …well, anyway don’t give the same to another parent. 

More holiday happenings around Long Beach...

So, what is the best way to spend money on kids this December? I’ve been trying to opt for experiences, rather than toys or clothes.

Museum memberships, art classes, robotics camps… anything that doesn’t require an “unboxing” video on YouTube and you’re probably on the right track. I’m far from perfect in this regard, I mean, kids LOVE toys. Like so much. But you know as well as I do that the interest in the toy lasts about 9 days and then it’s on to the next thing. 


The Science Behind It All

Don’t take my word for it though, there’s science behind this #ExperiencesNotThings mantra. In a study by Cornell University, researchers Tom Gilovich and Travis Carter found that when people bought experiences, they reported more long-term enjoyment than buying material possessions. The study boiled down to one finding: ultimately, our memories are more valuable than our purchases.

If you haven’t read it, you’ve no doubt heard of (or at least read an Amazon review or two of) The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up — spoiler alert: the gist of it is we have too much stuff. A recent LA Times article reported the average American home has over 300,000 items in it, and if your house is anything like mine, 200,000 of those are parts to toys with the other parts missing.

Likely, you’ve heard the whopping stat from a UCLA study stating 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally. That’s ridic. And it’s time to do something about it. Give experiences, not things.

It’s the Ethically and Eco-Friendly Option

Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend my daughter isn’t head-to-toe in Cat & Jack some days, but let’s face it — we have too many clothes. The average family spends $1,700 on clothes annually while giving or throwing away over 200 pounds of clothes per year.

It’s not just clothes either; plastic toys account for about 90 percent of the toy market, and are pretty much impossible to recycle. The thing about plastic toys that separates them from your run of the mill plastic bottle is they are pretty much guaranteed for the landfill since there are very few toys that are good candidates for recycling.

Getting Your Friends and Family On Board

So, you’re on board, but how do you get Aunt Helen to stop going overboard with her “awesome” dollar store finds for the kids? Here are a couple of suggestions:

Lead by example. Start by giving experiences as gifts to other family members and friends with kids.
Explain your reason for choosing experiences for your kids (heck, even share this blog post or share a photo of your overloaded playroom) and encourage your extended family to give experiences too.
It’s going to be a busy December, as always. Spend less time at the store and more time with your family. Give experiences, not things.

Experiences, Not Things Gift Guide

Perfect for those of you looking for ideas and for tired parents to share and not-so-subtly hint to grandma that enough is enough.

For the art-lover

We’ll start simple: art classes are amongst the easiest experiences for kids of all ages to find. From sensory experiences for the under-one set to next-level instruction for older kids, an art class is a sure-winner for nearly every kid.

Averyboo Arts

Averyboo offers art classes for school-age kids as well as tons of workshops for toddlers and preschoolers. And they have gift certificates available for purchase!

The new Inspyr Space at Inspyr Arts Studio

Inspyr Arts Studio

Inspyr's space on Broadway is an awesome studio for kids of all ages to immerse themselves in all things art.


Paint N Glaze

In East Long Beach, Paint N Glaze offer a wide variety of ceramic painting activities to choose from. Makes an awesome experience gift for all families.


MOLAA Membership

We have the nation’s leading museum of modern and contemporary Latin American art and culture right in our backyard. Family memberships start at $80 and include tons of benefits.

For the scientist

Whether you’ve got a budding biologist or engineer on your hands, there are plenty of local options for kids. 

Aquarium of the Pacific Membership

Family memberships start at $129 and include much more than just free admission (though that's HUGE), You also get discounts on lots of Aquarium programming and early access to events.

Build It Workspace

A gift certificate to Built It Workspace in Los Alamitos is perfect for any robotics-loving kiddo in your life.


Discovery Cube Membership

Definitely a worth the drive destination. Over in Santa Ana, Discovery Cube OC is a state of the art kids' science museum. They change exhibits often too, so there's always something new.

For the future foodie

Give the gift of cooking camp to a kiddo and they’ll forever be thankful as they don an apron and learn everything from baking to pickling with Chef Tech classes.

Chef Tech Cooking Classes

Chef Tech's mission is to teach people how to cook – to show them how to select quality ingredients, use the proper equipment and master the best techniques. Lots of fun classes for kids of all ages.

PREP Kitchen Essentials

In Seal Beach, PREP Kitchen Essentials offers classes for families and for kids from world class chefs.

For toddlers and preschoolers

They don’t need another plastic whatever they’ll throw away in a week. No, get parents of toddlers passes to indoor playspaces to tire those kiddos out.


Reopening just in time for the holiday season, GIGIL is sure to be a fave destination for LB parents of toddlers and preschoolers. Part indoor play-space, part multi-purpose class space - a Gigil gift certificate here is sure to be a hit with parents.

Music Together at the Beach

One of the best intros to music for kids 5 and under, Music Together at the Beach is hugely fun and educational for both parents and the kids.

Gymboree Play and Music

Earlier this year, Gymboree Play & Music moved from Long Beach to Cypress, but it's not too much of a drive at all. Gymboree classes are tons of fun for babies and toddlers, and a perfect gift.

We Rock the Spectrum

We Rock the Spectrum prides itself on providing fun for all kids of all abilities. Complete with suspended equipment with swings – for balance and vestibular treatment, crash mats and crash pillows – for fun, motor planning, and strength, and a zip line – for stress release and joint and body relaxation, this spot is a hit!

Shows and experiences for kids

The beginning of the year will bring tons of shows and events to Long Beach that make perfect gifts for kids and families.  

Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream

Celebrate what’s possible as five Disney heroines spark the courage inside us all at Disney On Ice presents Dare To Dream! In her Disney On Ice debut, see how far Moana goes on a quest with demigod Maui to save her island and find her own identity.

Harbor Breeze Cruise Whale Watching

These two hour whale-watching cruises are super fun and you can score great deals on Groupon pretty regularly for them.

PJ Masks Live

Your fave nighttime crime fighters are coming for a live show to Long Beach in February.

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