Oklahoma City family fun should last more than a day or so.
Really, Christmas joy is what I'm talking about. I see a lot of emphasis on activities this time of year, holiday parties and things to do with kids, from finding Santa to Christmas train rides. And that's all good but I wish we could take that happiness to spread it throughout the year.
As a parent right now with children ages 10, 5 and 2, there's definitely a lot of fun and some joy. Admittedly, though, the happiness quotient is kind of low when you're the main person in charge of all that children need each day. Studies confirm that parents of children under 5 rank at the bottom of that scale, in fact, with all that we have to oversee on their behalf. I find myself vacuuming a lot in the evenings and the little pieces of things like Legos, action figure accessories and just small plastic toys scattered around is enough to tip the happiness quotient into negative numbers.
Family members have asked this year what to give the boys for Christmas and kudos to them for asking. Because seriously, we don't need a beanbag chair or more things to vacuum around. I think one of the biggest misconceptions around is that kids won't understand that you're giving them a gift if that offering is an intangible item that cannot be wrapped in shiny paper under the tree. It may be fun for you, the gift giver, to see that but the joy is going to last pretty much only in that moment and your item just might get lost among the others opened that day.
It's the same reason we visit a local Christmas tree farm instead of visiting a nearby hardware store each year. Experiences make it memorable instead of one more thing.
Experiences, classes, intangibles are the way to go at our house. I gave a presentation last year at my son's school and several people asked what our favorite local places to visit have been. Honestly, we haven't had one yet that I wish we hadn't done.
Here are five intangibles I can recommend as a gift that will last well beyond this holiday season:
Climb UP: My oldest is 10 and he'd rather go climbing with me than have a new Lego set. That's a lot to say when you're in fifth grade. We went in the summer and it was a standout afternoon. Here's what Sam had to say about it.
Stafford Air and Space Museum: If I could only choose one experience to recommend to families, it'd be a visit to the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford. The fact that it's a day trip is also a factor in that recommendation because you have to take the time to go do it. My family loves science but I'm not really on their bandwagon with that interest in particular. My husband follows NASA and a lot of individual researchers on Twitter and our kids can recite the planets before the alphabet. Not me and yet, it was a perfect trip. Click here for more info.
iFLY: Literally flying is a memorable Christmas present. I would so much rather see the same money that'd be sunk into a 1,000 piece-anything go to letting the kids try something totally new. Here's a post about our experience.
An after-school activity: I am amazed how much my kindergartner has enjoyed winter swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School. Click here for MetroFamily's After-School Activities Guide. A short session of a month or two to try something out doesn't obligate families to continue.
Camps: Winter break, spring break, summer: there are seasons throughout the year where it's good to change up what's going on in your regular routine. I'm in favor of taking an actual break from school to relax but a camp experience can also change up your child's free time, which might start to seem excessive after a few days. Basically, I want something that is also a break from them from the 500 episodes of Pokemon available on Netflix. If you want to handle drop off and pick up to that camp to spend quality time in the car together or share the interest, all the better.
Whether you're a parent, a grandparent or a family friend looking for a gift, I can promise that children will remember spending time with you more than the best day of having lent them your iPad, provided them a tablet that's quickly outmoded or given them yet another toy. Our December edition includes more experiential gift ideas here.
Enjoy the season, together!