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If you’re a parent who likes to create experiences for their kids, the holidays can be a little counterproductive to your senses. After all, it is better to give than to receive right?
An article from Motherly, “It’s science: Giving Experiences Instead of Toys Boosts Your Kid’s Intelligence & Happiness,” boasts about the benefits of giving experiences to your kids rather than toys. All of this sounds wonderful to my experience-giving self, that is, until I imagine my little one with a disappointed look, or picture a beautifully decorated tree with no gifts under it. It is a complicated reality not to want to participate in the excess of the holidays but absolutely enjoy the experience of holiday cheer.
When I was a kid, there was also the added expectation that one of your friends and/or family members might routinely ask: What did you get for Christmas? I always felt uncomfortable with this question because it felt weird to run through the list of things you did or did not receive.
I learned from that discomfort a long time ago that I much preferred gifts with meaning rather than the latest trend. I often felt drawn to ask for things that would allow me to accomplish a goal. One year I asked for white and red fabric for Christmas so that I could make some backdrops for a photo portrait project. The pictures from that project have stayed with me forever. It probably sounded weird to ask for fabric, but it was fun to show the pictures in an exhibition a few months later. I learned then the right gift can be much more impactful over time.
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I currently have small children (two under three years old), so the reality is my little ones would have just as much fun playing with the box from a toy rather than the toy itself (which did happen last Christmas!). Nonetheless, there will come a point (and is probably the point for many other parents) when you realize that your child’s so-called happiness on Christmas is resting on your shoulders. No pressure.
So, for the experience-based giver, I have come up with a list of gifts for your precious ones when you want to create experiences instead of selecting random toys. The truth is, it is possible for toys or other things to create experiences if they are given to the right person in the right way. Here is how:
The Gift of Holiday Cheer
The gift of holiday cheer is a tradition that can be a gift for the entire family. There are several holiday events and activities across North Texas that you can participate in depending on your interests. Here are some of my favorites:
- Christmas at the Stockyards (Fort Worth): Enjoy the holidays, Cowtown style. There is nothing more Texan and Fort Worth than enjoying the holidays in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Check out Cowboy Santa and all of the festive activities that this cowboy paradise has to offer.
- Grapevine Vintage Railroad (Grapevine): The Grapevine Vintage Railroad is a fun activity for the entire family. The North Pole Express is a special train ride that runs right after Thanksgiving until Christmas, which includes a festive riding experience including cookies and frosty chocolate snow milk, a Christmas show, and pictures with Santa. Considered the “Christmas Capital of Texas,” the City of Grapevine is full of other activities that are sure to fill your day with joy and wonder.
- Prairie Lights (Grand Prairie): One of the fun parts of the holiday season are holiday lights. While driving around a local neighborhood is an option, visiting a holiday light park is less hit-or-miss. There are many lighting experiences popping up across North Texas but Prairie Lights is one of my favorites. You can enjoy both drive-thru and walking lighting experiences as well as pick up food and hot drinks and take pictures with Santa in the Holiday Village.
- The Modern Lights (Fort Worth) : For the arts and culture lovers, visit the Fort Worth Cultural District and pop-in area museums amongst the beauty of The Modern Lights at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
- The Nutcracker (Fort Worth): Another holiday tradition is seeing the Nutcracker. Most local theatre companies have a holiday show, so whether it is the Nutcracker or new holiday-oriented production, there is nothing more exciting than taking in the performing arts during the holidays.
The Gift of Giving
When I was growing up, I always appreciated the opportunity to give to others during the holidays. Whether it was participating in toy drives or throwing holiday parties for women and children in need, helping others to have a better holiday season helps me to focus on the reason for the season. I remember to give to others and to create joy and peace in the lives of others. While planning a holiday gathering this season, make your event a toy drive or assemble care packages and home packs for families in need. Here are some organizations your families and friends can partner with this season:
- Donating toys to Santa’s Sack at Safe Haven of Tarrant County.
- Participate in the holiday program at The Women’s Center.
- Help with Homes for the Holidays at the Center for Transforming Lives.
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Unique Gifts & Toys that Encourage Creativity & Expression
Okay, so remember how we said it really is a drag to not have any gifts under the tree or treats in your kiddos stockings? Here are a few unique gift ideas and toys that create opportunities for creativity & expression, which is a must for all children regardless of their artistic abilities.
- Shop specialty stores. I love shopping in specialty stores during the holidays, especially when searching for gifts for nieces and nephews. Specialty stores offer gifts that are less about being trendy and allow you to think of gifts you never thought of. My favorite places are Toy Works, The Happy Lark, and the kids sections in museum shops like the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and The Modern. These places also have great collections of books to give as gifts.
- Rock it out with music instruments. My favorite activity right now is to play “rock band” with my toddler. We absolutely love this B toys Mic it Shine microphone with its fun soundtracks and light-up stand. If you have more kids, pair it with other toy instruments to make your own family band.
- Build and create. Who does not like Play-Doh?! Play-Doh kits are great gifts to get your little one going for hours on Christmas Day. Check out this Fun Factory Deluxe Set or this Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Cookie Creations for loads of creative fun!
- Use your imagination. Create a Dress up box or add new items to a collection that is inspired by their favorite characters or interests. Choose dress up clothes that allow your kiddo to engage in learning like this Melissa & Doug Doctor Role Costume or choose your own materials to create your own. For your little Star Wars fans check out Holocron Toys.
- Innovation & Technology: In this technology-heavy society, it is rare to find gifts that are limited to buying game apps. The Osmo is a great gift that allows you to turn a iPad and Kindle Fire into a creative learning game.
Whatever you decide to do for the holidays, make it fun and special for your family, friends, and your community.