Give Your Teens the Gift of Fun Experiences
When my boys were small, their Christmas wish lists were as long as their arms. They’d whip through the Target toy catalog at a crazy pace, circling things on almost every page, and then eagerly hand it to us with big, hopeful eyes. Buying presents for them at that age was not only easy, but fun.
Cut to the teenage years, and surprisingly, they don’t want much. If anything. In fact, both boys shrugged when asked what they wanted this year, and I had to hound them to text their Grandma at least a couple of ideas.
But while this lack of want is frustrating because they have to open something on Christmas Day, my husband and I have happily discovered “gifts of experience.” Rather than giving them a toy they can play with for a few weeks, then discard, we’re now giving them coupons, vouchers and promises for activities they’ll remember forever. Or at least until the next holiday season. (At the end of this article, find a link to a specially-designed free gift certificate printable for you to print out and use.)
Here are a few interactive experiences we’ve given, and some other ideas we’d like to try:
1. Sporting Events
We just bought my 13-year old son, Jack, tickets to see his favorite basketball team, the Oklahoma Thunder, play the Dallas Mavericks. The game isn’t until March, but he’ll have the fun of anticipating it until then. (I hope.) Check out any major league teams in your area, and if you don’t have any, college and farm teams are also a great option.
2. Sports Lessons
Most parents pay for some amount of lessons throughout the year, but the cost can be prohibitive. My 15-year-old son, Sam, really wants private tennis lessons, so we’re giving him a set (at $100 a pop where we live; pricing varies) as his main gift this year. If your kid has always wanted to try something new, like skating or archery, this is also a good way to get them started.
3. Theater Tickets
If Hamilton is in your budget, congratulations! If it isn’t, definitely explore your local theater options and consider gifting tickets to your show-loving kids. (Or your kids who drag their feet into the theater, then come out smiling.) My hometown of Austin, Texas has the accomplished Zach Scott Theater that features great shows throughout the year, so I can plan what we want to see in advance. See what your local options are for shows, and don’t just think plays and musicals, either. Check out ballet, modern dance, magic, kids’ comedy, and even holiday shows like The Nutcracker that your kids have maybe wanted to attend. Which leads us to—
4. Groupon Adventures
Groupon, Living Social and similar deal/coupon websites are the perfect place to find local interactive experiences for your kids. Jack loved the Escape Room outing we gave him last year so much that I just bought another one to give him. You can find deals on theses sites for activities your kids like, and some you didn’t even know existed (hello, cow milking). Or buy a Groupon Giftcard and let your kids pick out something that strikes their fancy. Other interactive experiences that exist: scavenger hunts, ziplining, and museum tours (and/or attractions like Ripley’s Believe it or Not).
5. Gift Cards for Activities
Giving a gift card for an activity is not just a present, it’s a promise of fun in the future. Check out places like paint-your-own pottery studios, indoor skydiving, indoor race tracks, rock climbing gyms, etc. (many of which can be found on Groupon, as noted above). And if you’re feeling generous, make the gift card large enough that they’ll be able to take a friend TBD later.
6. Other Experience Ideas for Teens
Cooking classes, guitar lessons, trapeze experience, DJ classes (very popular in NYC), rock climbing, laser tag, adventure amusement park outings to Schlitterbahn, Six Flags or Universal Orlando, hiking trips, a mani and pedi outing for teen and friends, paintball, “bubble soccer”–the list goes on and on.
And while your teen may not give you the reaction you used to get when they were small and opened presents, you’ll still know they enjoy these experiences you give them. If not from their smiles and hugs, then at least from what they show their friends on Snapchat.
Free Happy Holidays Gift Certificate Printable right here. Just download, print, cut and put in an envelope or box to gift to your teen.
Published December 19, 2016. Last updated October 27, 2017.