Re-Think Your Shopping List: Less Stuff, More Experience

Every message in our consumer culture tells us that a “gift” is any tangible object that is wrapped and presented in some clever fashion.  What mom doesn’t silently count out packages or assign values (one bicycle = three video games) to be sure the “gifts” come out even?

Consider giving a gift that doesn’t have to be counted so literally: an experience or activity.

There are plenty of local gifts that can’t be ripped out from under a ribbon but will still provide a sense of anticipation and enjoyment. While your child’s other gifts will lose their luster, the natural learning that goes with a unique experience or activity will be a building block for later learning.


  • A painting session at a local art store like Do It Yourself Crafts or Painted By U (it’s worth taking an afternoon to have  less crowded studio time AND you’ll have a keepsake to pick up in a couple of weeks)
  • Gift certificates for activities at iJump, First Avenue Rocks, Cherubs Clubhouse and the many local retailers offering unique play experiences for kids
  • An Annual Membership to the Birmingham Zoo, McWane Science Center, or Southern Museum of Flight. When you’re a member, there’s no feeling rushed or forced to make a marathon of your visit since you can always come back for more (sounds like the perfect gift from a grandparent… hint, hint)
  • Music lessons (a class at the new ArtPlay would be a great gift for your child)
  • Subscriptions to the National Wildlife Federation magazines, National Geographic Kids, or Highlights Magazine
  • Plants. Give a child a little plant to tend along with a set of gardening gloves. A pot of pansies or violas on the back patio will produce flowers with little effort, and a parsley plant will be fun for little fingers to harvest.  The kind owners at Plant Odyssey (Lakeview) or the Oak Street Garden Shop are very helpful guides.
  • Tickets to a movie theater and  a gift certificate to the nearby yogurt shop – isn’t selecting and anticipating the movie half the fun?
  • Make a date with the kids for the Nutcracker, Trans-Siberian Orchestra (older kids),  Beauty and the Beast or Drumline LIVE in January.
  • Tickets to an upcoming performance at Birmingham Children’s Theatre or the Alys Stephens Center’s Dickens Christmas – you can’t have a proper Christmas without a little bah-humbug! These venues offer so many choices and events that cater to children. Lucky us.
  • Tickets for a Day out with Thomas at the Heart of Dixie Railroad in April.

Just think of the enjoyment your kids could receive with these gifts. You’ll like them too, since none of them will break, require batteries, or get lost in the basement before spring.