I remember one Christmas as a child, my parents bought the whole family a cruise to Alaska. They presented it in a fun and creative competition on Christmas morning that ended with us discovering the tickets. From Christmas Day on, I remembered almost everyday that when summer got here we would be going on an exciting trip to a brand new place. It was an excitement that built for months until the trip date finally arrived. No matter what happened in school or throughout the year, I could always look forward to this new experience. The anticipation is a motivator. Instead of Christmas being the end of the year and end of the excitement, let it jumpstart the beginning of a new adventure.
Every home is different on Christmas, but I think that most have a similar looking morning. Presents get opened and a Christmas brunch is eaten without too much distraction. But as soon as that is over everyone separates to play with their new toys or figure out the new technology on their new gadgets. An experience gives you and your family time to be excited about the experience and what is going to happen and then spend the rest of the day together. You can start new traditions or just be present with each other without the distraction of things. You can talk and be together which is truly what the holidays are for.
As sinful creatures we are prone to comparison. It is highly likely that at least once in your life, in your attempt to give specific and different presents to your kids, one may feel slighted by the number of gifts or type of gifts they were given.
A family type of experience or time at a camp or other learning opportunity gives every child the same thing without it feeling lazy. Because while the experience you buy is the same for each child, they get a unique and different experience to talk about and live through. Each will have their own memories and stories from the event that they tell for years. No comparison and less worry to make sure all the gifts add up to the same cost or cool factor.
How many holiday seasons have you seen the deep excitement on your kids face when they open their shiny new thing and then by February it is pushed into a closet or collecting dust in their room? Interests change. Children are constantly stimulated by what is the newest and best thing available. New objects, toys, and electronics all lose their value within the year. Experiences do not. It is not something that can be replaced easily in a couple months or will break or malfunction. When my house burned down as a child, I rarely found myself saying I wish I still had my game system or my hot wheels track. I found myself wishing I still had all my camp photos from three years ago. I found myself wanting to go back and search through the damage for a souvenir from family trips.
No matter what the experience is that you choose to provide as a gift to your children and family, it is educational. Whether it is learning another culture on a vacation or just experiencing things you normally wouldn’t such as deep sea fishing, canoeing, or shooting guns at a range your children get to see what hobbies they enjoy and want to pursue. They discover more about themselves and what may be in store for their future. Especially at something like a summer camp. They learn independence and how to survive apart from you. It prepares them for the future and teaches responsibility and new skills they never would learn otherwise. Instead of letting them sit for hours on end playing a new video game or with a toy that doesn’t require true growth or maturing, send them somewhere that cultivates those things.
It seems a little strange when someone asks what to get your children or family for Christmas to just say, “Oh, we are going to get him a PlayStation so maybe just give us 80 dollars to help pay for that.” However, for an experience, most are excited about it and willing to chip in for the cost because it is something worthwhile that will cultivate your family. If contributes the 50 dollars they would have spent on another gift, that adds up quickly and then camp or any other trip that is planned becomes affordable and easy. Everyone can jump in on a gift that really does make your child happy.
No matter the experience you choose, it will be easier than trying to shop for the perfect thing for each of your kids. We promise. Whether it is a vacation, an educational experience near home, or an amazing summer at camp, you can plan it all from the comfort of your home in your pajamas and not have to fight a single person over a shopping cart. No lines or struggle to find a parking spot; no going to 12 stores in one day hoping you can find the right thing and that your credit card doesn’t hit it’s limit. An experience allows you to stay at home and book online, as well as make smaller payments leading up to your trip or drop off day. Give yourself a break for the holidays. You deserve it.
The beauty of a trip or experience is that you can spread the cost out. Something like summer camp allows payment plans and you can find a deal at certain times of the year and get it for a cheaper price. Or if you are thinking about a vacation, you can buy plane tickets when they’re cheaper if you look throughout the year for a good date. Then wait a few months and get your hotel or other accommodations. Instead of trying to hit the same deals as everyone else on Black Friday or Cyber Monday you can relax, and deal shop all year and spend as you go. Don’t just blow a bunch of cash all at the same time on a pile of things. Spread it out and make it easier on your checkbook.
Okay, I am going to go ahead and admit that this one is kind of click bait. Don’t worry, I am not saying buying gifts for your children is against God’s Word. And I am not saying buying them an experience wins you heavenly points. This reason is simply based upon the idea of “not storing up treasures here where moths destroy, and thieves break in to steal” (Matthew 6:19).
We are a possessions-based culture that is judged by how many awesome things we can store up for ourselves and show off to our friends. Teach your kids this Christmas that the things you have and keep will all fade away. They will break and never be useful again and don’t gain you anything. Teach them to stop comparing what they have to what their friends have. It isn’t about what they have or can get, but what they know and obey. Experiences teach and speak volumes. They influence the lifetime of your child.
Most parents we know sacrifice getting gifts for each other to make sure that their kids get something amazing. They spend all the holiday money on their children and the reaction they get to see on Christmas morning. An experience allows you to reward yourself. Maybe it’s a family vacation you get to join in on, or if it’s a camp experience, you can use those weeks your child is away to relax at home more or go on a kid-free vacation! You sacrifice all year and we commend you for it but don’t you also think you would enjoy a Christmas present?