Are you looking for experience gift ideas for toddlers instead of clutter-creating toys? In this post, I’ll share with you some amazing experience gifts that will save you a bunch of money, and the parents, a lot of space!
Family with toddlers will appreciate such thoughtful gifts over stuff because most likely they are tired of trying to keep their house neat and tidy.
As most families nowadays look towards minimalism and making the best of their small apartment space in big cities, clutter-free ideas such as an experience gift are becoming more and more popular over toys that claim to be the hottest must-have item but lose their novelty, quickly.
37 Experience Gifts All Toddlers Want
- This Post Includes-
- Indoors Experience Gifts
- Outdoors Experience Gifts
- Learn A Skill Experience Gifts
- Educational Experience Gifts
Why choose an experience gift for a toddler?
A child between 1–3-year-old loves interaction and engaging activities that teach them something.
As opposed to clutter creating toys that light up and create a lot of noise- READ- designed to distract a baby- and tablets that keep them hooked to the screen like zombies, a new experience has so much to offer!
An excellent experience gift provides the young developing brain of a toddler an opportunity to engage and develop critical skills such as fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, language, social skills, etc.
Experience gifts also make the best parting gift for families with kids moving to a different city as it does not add to all the stuff they have to carry with them from one place to another.
Did you know this is also one of the best minimalist gift ideas?
This approach also teaches kids to embrace minimalism from a young age. To not derive pleasure from just buying more stuff all the time.
Do experience gifts have to be expensive?
Absolutely not! Granted you can spend a lot of money and gift Disney passes but a thoughtful gift does not have to be expensive.
In this post, I have compiled a list of creative, yet budget-friendly ideas that everyone- toddler and the parents- will appreciate!
Most of these do not cost much and some of them do not cost anything aka zero-budget gifts since you probably have those items in your pantry or household already.
Now if you are ready for a minimalist idea that will make the toddler squeal with joy, keep scrolling!
P.S: The ideas included in the list are great for winter season as well.
If you are a parent who is hosting a No-Toy/ Gift birthday for your kid then check out these fun ways to write No-Toy No-Gift on birthday invites for kids.
At home experience gifts (Includes zero-budget ideas)
Here are some zero-budget indoors experience gifts that don’t require you to venture out of the house at all. Great for winters or rainy season.
Your tiny tots are gonna freak out over these.. in a good way.
- Sock puppets– All you need is a sock, some yarn for hair, some old clothes for stuffing into the sock or use cotton, and a marker to draw eyes, nose, and mouth.
Tip: Use a clean shoebox lined with paper to neatly pack all the things inside. Wrap it pretty before you present it to your child.
Not an activity only girls would enjoy, boys would love it too…
- E-books. Did you know there are so many FREE e-books for kids aged 0-3 online?
Websites like Storyberries have plenty of options so your kid will never feel bored reading the same book every day.
- Collect stones and paint them for the garden.
- Create ‘Why I Love’ Grandma/ Grandpa…etc., books with them to give away as presents to people in their lives.
Have them list all the things they like about them, their favorite song to sing with them, their favorite thing to eat with them, etc.
- Press and dry flowers. It will totally blow their minds to see what else you can do with the flowers, except … just smush them or try to eat them … uhmm…
Let them pick flowers that pique their interest- different shapes, colors, and sizes.
Use the microwave trick to dry them super fast or place them inside books which will take days but also teach them patience.
Help them create a flower collage or a greeting card you can hang in their room or gift to someone.
- Donate to cause-Did you know giving gifts brings more pleasure to the giver than the recipient? It is the same for children. You will hit two birds with one stone with this activity.
First, you will teach them the habit of decluttering their toy chest and maintaining a neat space. An activity, I believe, that should be done yearly, so it reinforces a good habit.
Secondly, show them that giving can make them happy too instead of just receiving.
- Make salt dough ornaments/ trinket tray– SO easy! All you need is salt+ flour+water.
- Help them create a collage of their favorite pictures for their bedroom.
- Sensory play baskets– Sensory play helps little ones not only learn about different textures but also expands their vocabulary as they learn to describe the different textures they are discovering with words like soft, rubbery, sticky, gunky, rocky, rough… see what I mean!
- Treasure hunt
- Help them host their first-ever tea party, yay! Don’t forget to invite all their stuffed toys to the soiree.
- Make slime together– Messy but TONS of fun.
There are so many recipes online. I love the edible kinds that are perfectly safe for little ones in case (and most probably) it ends up in their mouth.
- Help with birthday breakfast for papa/ nana, etc.– Involve them in cooking a yummy breakfast for someone’s birthday. Pancake mix or other cooking mixes work great for such activities if you are short on time.
This is also an awesome way to start a birthday tradition with them and a fabulous opportunity for parents and kids to interact.
The joy of giving. Don’t wait for the holidays for this one. Here are three ideas that are good any time of the year.
- DIY gift wrapping paper. Buy some plain wrapping paper and let them use their creativity to draw/ finger paint on it.
Use the wrapping paper to gift wrap a chocolate bar, etc. to giveaway to family and friends. Drawing and painting are one of the ways to also promote their fine motor skills.
- Lollipop bouquets to give away– one of those activities that you can overcomplicate or simplify.
All you need is small cups, playdough/ paper stuffing, a rubber band, and some lollipops.
Use stickers, paint, glitter, etc. to decorate and you have a gift ready for their nanny, daycare provider, favorite aunty, grandparents…
Watch your kiddo’s face light up when they see the recipients smile and thank them for the wonderful present.
They will love to see others enjoying the things they created with their own hands.
- Candy necklaces– This is so easy, but you know momma you can make it as time-consuming or as quick as you want.
Use a variety of candy in different sizes and shapes. Use icing sugar as glue to attach them to the ribbon or baker’s twine.
I love this pack of cheap baker’s twine from Amazon that comes with a set of 24 different colors.
Outdoor Experience Gifts
These outdoor experience gifts for preschoolers are exactly what they need to enjoy time away from home even more. Almost all the gifts on this list are also what is popularly called a ‘consumable gift’.
It’s a cool term for an item that does not add to the pile-up. Like something that will be consumed in its entirety.
- Planetarium passes (if they happen to have one close by)
- Kayaking- According to the US Coast Guard kids aged 2 years and older are okay to take in a kayak.
So, if you feel comfortable take them on a mini adventure they would talk about for days!
- Tickets to a puppet show. Captivating and colorful, even the hyperactive tots will love to sit and enjoy.
Not every city has them, but if your’s does, make sure you make a trip with kids.
Remember to pick a show marketed for infants and toddlers.
- Petting Zoo Tickets
- Swim Lessons– Toddlers love water and this is the perfect age to learn a lifesaving skill such as swimming.
- Trip to botanical gardens. Just because they can’t (and don’t care to) differentiate 40 varieties of peonies from each other doesn’t mean they will be any less fascinated by the colors and smells of all the pretty plants and flowers they will see.
Show them a ‘touch me not’ plant and watch them open their mouths in awe…
- Kite flying. Adults will enjoy it just as much as the kids.
- Yearly passes to the Museum.
- Trampoline Park Passes. I have never seen a kid not enjoy jumping on the trampoline. Great for all seasons but especially winters since they are mostly indoors.
- Zoo membership
- Waterpark tickets for Summer
- Sidewalk chalk. Even though it seems like ‘stuff’ it isn’t. It is a physical product but something that will be used up completely so it won’t end up forgotten in their toy chest or drawers, never to see the light of the day again.
Use the sidewalk chalk to introduce new games, like hopscotch, alphabet hop, etc., or draw with them on your driveway.
- Snowboarding Lessons. Great wintertime activity that will keep them busy for hours.
If they are too young for snowboarding, consider gifting them a Snow Tube.
New Skill Experience Gift Ideas
- Musical instrument learning class
- Language learning class
- Live interactive classes– Kidpass offers a variety of live interactive classes from lego building, kids’ yoga, dance, language classes, etc. meaning they can learn a new skill from the comfort of their home.
Keeping toddlers interested and occupied at home is no joke.. we all learned that the hard way in 2020. Live interactive classes like these helped so many parents.
Parents can book sessions according to their needs so even they can take a breather while their child is occupied.
- Painting class
- Toddler dancing classes– yes! That is totally a thing. Toddlers can have so much fun in pre-ballet or baby ballet classes.
- Trip to Arts and Crafts Supply Store– Have them pick things that pique their curiosity and show them what they can do with the supplies they picked.
Educational Experience Gifts
- World Explorer Subscription Boxes– These are so amazing! I bet toddlers and adults alike would love to explore these kits together.
Each interactive kit is designed to help young minds explore a theme from the world such as Oceans, insects, sports, etc.
- Montessori-based Kits Subscription– These kits were expertly designed to aid a child’s development. Unlike most toys, the research-based activities included in the kit engage their minds.
The subscription is not cheap, but it’s money well spent. You will agree once you take a look at their creative kits on offer.
How to gift an experience?
Treat it like a regular gift, in the sense, a recipient should experience the thrill of unwrapping or opening the gift to see what’s inside.
Make it fun and interesting, like a surprise hidden inside a bowl of snack, an envelope under their pillow, a cute handwritten letter attached to their toy chest that tells them about the adventure they are going to experience, etc.
The cutest thing about giving gift to a young child is that you really don’t need to pull out all stops! They are easily impressed by even the smallest things but you should still put in some effort!
For more helpful ideas also check out creative ways to give a surprise gift. The post is written for adults, but it will help you brainstorm ideas for your tot.