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  • Mandi Frost

The gift of experiences

Give your teen or young adult the gift of life experiences this Christmas.

Our family have always valued giving our sons experiences rather than stuff. It all started off when we were planning a trip to Australia to visit family and there was no "extra" for gifts that year (and the year before). We also home schooled our three sons and we valued giving them a rich education - learning from real life and "field trips."


"Investing in their learning through experiences instead of investing in stuff has really paid off."

It`s not that we didn't do any gifts at all. When our boys were younger, I would buy one small gift for them and place it under the tree and of course I would fill their Christmas stockings with candy, little gifts and fun things for them to do when they woke up. If we had family visiting, they would end up with a few more gifts than usual!


Now that they are older (19, 21 and 23), we each buy one gift and get together with another family to play "the gift exchange" game. It`s always so much fun! And yes, I still fill their Christmas stockings - it`s kind of a tradition. Teen stocking filler ideas include: gift cards, movie tickets, biltong (a South African dried meat like beef jerky but much better), card games, favorite snacks.


This year, we will be taking a trip to the Redwoods, North of California and then head up towards the coast near Fort Bragg. We plan to ride the skunk train, maybe go zip lining, visit museums and just enjoy our time together.


Researchers Thomas Gilovich at Cornell University and Matthew Killingsworth published their research in the Journal of Psychological Science showing that experiences provide more lasting happiness than material possessions.


"Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods … You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences." Thomas Gilovich

How can experiences benefit teens?


  • Expands their world, exposing them to new skills, activities, people, and places as it gets them off their phones, out of their rooms and into the real world.

  • Helps them discover their interests, strengths, and values as they interact and engage with family, friends, and strangers.

  • Builds empathy and understanding of how other people live as they get to see and appreciate different cultures.

  • Helps them to appreciate gifts more when they do receive them.

  • Builds confidence as they try new activities or challenges (hiking, zip lining) and gets them out of their comfort zone.

  • Teaches them about travel, world history and geography giving them a better understanding of where they live in relation to the rest of the world.

  • Builds memories and improves family connections and relationships.

  • Prepares teens for life and adulthood if parents involve their teens in the planning, and organizing of trips.


Experiences don`t have to be long trips or out of your state or home town. They could be day trips or half-day trips, or a camping or hiking weekend close by.


Brain storm some ideas together with your teens and hear their opinions - they may surprise you with some really fun and unusual trips or activities?


Perhaps you have already bought your Christmas gifts? That`s OK. There is always next year and you can start saving up and planning some fun experiences together.


I wish your family a very Blessed Christmas and a peaceful happy new year!





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