Thoughtful Parenting: For priceless memories, give an experience |

Thoughtful Parenting: For priceless memories, give an experience

Dr. Kathy Gibbs For Steamboat Today

As the holidays approach, it may be time to rethink your gift list. Most memories from our childhood are about experiences rather than things. Instead of just giving a gift this year, why not give an experience?

Sharing those experiences with your child can make for priceless memories. As you think about what experiences you might want to give your child, consider his or her developmental needs regarding physical, social, emotional, and intellectual skills. Help your child build positive self-esteem by successfully exploring new things and learning to make decisions. Below is a list of age appropriate experiences you might want to give your child for the holidays.

Some of these things you can plan on doing later in the year, which might help your current financial situation. The excitement of anticipating a trip or event can make the whole experience even more fun. If you want to have something to gift wrap and give, here’s a list of items that can be paired with an experience or future event. 

Infants and toddlers:

  • Stuffed animal/blanket. If your little one does not already have one, give a special stuffed animal or blanket and have that item available every time you cannot be with him/her for a transitional object.  It helps with separation anxiety, which tends to occur at 9 and 18 months. Tip: Buy two of the same item and tuck one away so you can have a spare if the first one gets lost.
  • Tub toys for bath time.  Sit next to the tub and play with your child during bath time.
  • Swim suit and swim diaper.  Take your little one to the Old Town Hot Springs to play in the water with you.  Early, fun, exposure to water can lead to a lifetime of swimming and water safety.
  • Duplo Building Blocks.  Build together and praise your child for their effort and ideas.
  • Mini plastic shopping chart.  Take your toddler to the grocery store and have your child push his/her cart as you talk about buying and eating healthy foods.
  • Leotard.  Attend parent-child classes at Excel Gymnastics.  Watch your toddler’s accomplishments so you can talk about your child’s experiences later.  
  • Scarves for dancing.  Attend Music Together classes at Excel.

Preschool aged children:

  • Box of dress-up clothes. Encourage your preschooler to imagine having different careers.
  • Blanket for tent making. Help build a tent in the living room with chairs, pillows and furniture.  Suggest your child go into the tent, relax during naptime, and see if he/she falls asleep.
  • Tea set. Organize a tea party with your child to provide nurturance and imagination. If you are breast-feeding a younger sibling, staging a tea party next to you is a great way for the older child to fit in and get attention.
  • Library card (It’s free!).  Encourage your child to appreciate and love reading books. Attend story time at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.  Bring home books to read, especially at bedtime.
  • Ski gear. Go skiing and appreciate how your child is learning how to use and strengthen his/her muscles. Your child will be practicing large motor skills.
  • Coloring books. Sit and color with your child routinely. Talk about colors and shapes, and how much fun it is to produce art.  Your child will be practicing fine motor skills.

Elementary aged children:

  • Donate money to a non-profit charity.  Encourage your child to choose a non-profit charity and donate whatever your budget allows, (It is a tax donation, too).  Giving to others who are in need will help to build your child’s ability to feel empathy and compassion.
  • Gingerbread house.  Bake your own or purchase a Gingerbread house and decorate it together.
  • Legos.  Plan a trip to Lego-land in either California or Florida.  The experience is perfect for 7-11 year olds and will be a memory for a lifetime.
  • Ballet tickets to the Nutcracker.  Attend the play together and talk about what your child liked best. 
  • Tickets to a sporting event.  Take your child to a favorite sporting event (college level or professional) and bring home a souvenir so it can be remembered in the future.
  • Snowman kit.  Give all the ingredients to make a snowman (top hat, scarf, carrot, button nose, lumps of coal) and help your child build one.
  • Enjoy giving your child the gift of personal experiences this holiday season. Have fun getting creative and happy holidays!

Middle School aged teens:

  • Donate to a non-profit charity.  
  • Tickets to the movies.  Attend a movie with your child (child’s choice of course).
  • Map for a road trip.  Circle 4 or 5 destinations (that you approve of) on a map and let your child pick which one to visit. Let him/her plan the road trip with a set budget.  It is a great opportunity to learn how to budget for expenses like gas, food and lodging.
  • Ski area brochures. Let your child pick which new ski area your family will discover and go on a weekend skiing adventure.
  • Science projects book.  Research with your child how to design a science project and encourage him/her to complete it.  Help your child explore science.

High School aged teens:

  • Donate to a non-profit charity.
  • Family cookbook.  Design a Cookbook of your family’s favorite recipes.  Print the recipes, slide the pages into plastic sheets, and put them into a binder.  Cook or bake the recipes with your teen.
  • Universal Studios.  Take your child and a friend to Universal Studios.  You will have memories for a lifetime.
  • Photo album.  Provide historical pictures of your child’s ancestors and build a family album.  Write down as much as you can about your family members and provide a family tree so your child can explore his/her culture, family heritage, and background.
  • College tours.  Plan for college tours and go together.  Encourage your child to strive for a higher education.

Takeaway Tips:  

  • Most memories in childhood are about experiences, not things.
  • So give your child the gift of experiences.
  • Developmentally appropriate experiences were suggested and paired with an item that can be gift-wrapped.

Dr. Kathy Gibbs is a developmental psychologist, writing for First Impressions, Routt County’s Early Childhood Education Council.

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