by Stephanie Partridge
For my son's 18th birthday, one of the presents I gave him was tickets to a concert featuring several of his favorite artists. For my daughter's 13th birthday, one of her presents was a local dog parade and Louisiana State University Veterinarian School open house. There have been many times that I have given my kids "experience gifts" instead of the traditional present. These gifts are more than new clothing or a new CD, they are creating memories. Kids can take photos or buy souvenirs to remember the event or experience, but the main present is the experience such as a concert or special show. Try one of these experience gifts for your child's next birthday or special occasion.
Older kids love concerts. Before you choose a concert and purchase tickets, though, check out the band and fond out about as much of the show as possible to make sure that is appropriate for your child. For younger teens, you can go with them to the show. Older teens can usually do OK attending independently with a couple of friends. If you want to give them something to remember the event, purchase a souvenir t-shirt or some other item that they can keep and be reminded of their special day.
A stage play is an excellent gift for the thespian in your family. If you are in an area that has local playhouses, you can easily find plays there just about any time. If plays tour to your city, you can find a good one that will be near you and take your child. Keep a program from the event and the ticket stub if you can. That way, they can have a keepsake from the event. The key with experience gifts is to get a keepsake to commemorate the event.
3. Touring Show
A touring show such as The Wiggles, Icecapades or a wrestling event can also be a great experience gift. Watch your newspapers and sign up for sites like Eventful and Ticketmaster to keep up with what shows are coming to your area.
4. Local Special Event
Sometimes, there are really cool events that come to your town or are in your area. Maybe a local museum is having a special event or there is a special restaurant with a show or music. Basically, if it is a special treat, something out of the ordinary, kids will generally appreciate it and accept it as their gift or part of their gift.
5. Backstage Pass
If you have the opportunity to get backstage passes to a special show, that makes a great gift. It doesn't have to be solely for concerts, but could also be for plays, ballets and other productions. I will never forget when I was a teenager (and in my "country phase"), my father got me backstage passes to meet Ronnie Milsap. He actually signed my shirt! A guy was there, helping him, guiding him as he signed (in case you didn't know, Milsap is blind). That really made an impression on me. I never forgot it.
6. Special Destination
Disney World, Busch Gardens, Six Flags, King's Dominion, these are special destinations that you can take your child to as a gift. Pick up a couple of disposable cameras and get some photos of your child having a great time. They will never forget it.
7. Unique Activity
One year for my daughter's birthday, we went mountain climbing. She was about 8 years old and determined to reach the summit of a nearby mountain. We turned it into a birthday celebration, waking at the crack of dawn, packing hiking gear and hitting the trail head at sunrise. We took photos and had a blast. She still remembers it. If there is a unique activity that your child wants to do, why not turn it into a birthday adventure?
8. Night Out with Friends
Hire a limo, dress everyone up in their finest clothes and have a special "celebrity birthday." Make the night very special with dinner, a movie, a cool limo ride. Make sure you get lots of photos.
9. A Night to Remember
Do something special. My daughter loves to cook and she loves barbeque ribs. So, on her last birthday, we bought her a bunch of ribs, then she and I made our own barbeque sauce and cooked the ribs. We spent the evening cooking, watched her favorite movie and had a great time. We have lots of pictures. She still talks about it.
10. Helping Others
What better gift than giving to others? A good gift can involve helping other people. Help serve in a soup kitchen or visit a senior's home. When you give to others, you are enriching your own life. What better lesson and gift can we give our children.
There are two very good sites that you can use to find events in your area. Eventful (http://eventful.com/) and Ticketmaster (http://www.ticketmaster.com/) are two excellent sites. You can create accounts for these two sites and they will email you when an event that interests you comes to your area.
Try experience gifts and see how your child reacts. You may be surprised.
Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15.
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