About Extended Family Gifts

Even once we decided to make the switch to experiences with our kids, it took a while to figure out how to approach the topic with extended family. We approached it in two ways:

  1. Switching to giving experiences to family members as well
  2. Gently explaining our reason for choosing experiences and encouraging extended family to give experiences as well

It has taken a few years, but extended family is now on board and the kids cherish the time with other family members as well. One year a family member took our daughter to see the Nutcracker, and grandparents often give memberships to museums or zoos, or gift certificates to go to a movie or lunch.

At the end of the day, we can’t (and shouldn’t) control what extended family chooses to give our children. Personally, I’m very grateful that our family has decided to prioritize experience-type gifts as well, but even if they didn’t and decided to still give material gifts, we would welcome these and teach our children to be grateful for these gifts (as the relationship with family is more important than arguing about the gifts).

The average parent spends over $250 per child on toys and gifts each year! While experience-type gifts can be a little more expensive up-front, they end up being much cheaper in the long run. Especially when we consider that with that average, we’d spend over $1200 on gifts for our children, we don’t mind spending even a couple hundred dollars on a worthwhile membership or experience that will last all year.

The move away from material gifts was a slow one for us. We’re always adding to our running list of ideas, and each year we try to choose a few that sound suited to our current family ages and interests.

  • Our kids love getting “real mail” in the mailbox and extended family members often get them subscriptions to learning magazines. They look forward to the magazine coming each month and to doing the activities (and bonus: you can recycle the magazine when they are done with it!)
  • For grandparents who live close by, you may be able to add them to any of the family memberships listed above. We added guests/grandparent options to our zoo and science center memberships as well as to many of the local attraction places. This allows them to come for free and spend time with our kids (and is a bonus for us as well, since we have extra eyes to watch and help with the kids.

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