As my daughter’s birthday approached a couple of years ago, my family started to ask the usual questions about what the type of gifts she would want for her birthday, questions we had some difficulty with.
As one of only two grandchildren at the time, she tended to get a touch spoiled by my family on her birthday, and we had on more than one occasion passed on a really cool toy, or an adorable outfit, that had gone entirely untouched after the moment she opened them. I know, it’s a first-world problem, but it’s also something we didn’t want to repeat.
After much discussion, including floating the possibility of telling my family not to buy any gifts at all, we settled on a solution that I liked at the time, and have grown to love. Don’t give her stuff, we told my family. Give her experiences. Give her the gift of time with you, doing something new, something you love, something she normally wouldn’t get to do.
We put the challenge out to my family to think a little differently about what they were going to get for her, and it was a immediately embraced.
Since that birthday, Lizzie has been given the opportunity to do a huge variety of activities, usually with family members right there beside her. A horse-back ride in Langley, golf lessons, a play at Carousel Theatre, an afternoon kayaking, a cooking class, golf lessons, snowshoeing… the list goes on and on.
One of her favourite activities was getting a chance to paint her own mug at U Paint I Fire, on West 4th near Alma. My daughter, plus two of her aunties, chose and painted a pottery (or ceramic) piece. Then, as the name suggests, the on-site staff fired (and glazed) their work for Lizzie to pick up two weeks later. It was a fun group activity, one that we’re going to try and repeat in time to have hand-made Mother’s Day gifts for her mother, and mine.
Don’t get me wrong, my daughter still gets spoiled by her family. She’s currently waiting to go to a Canucks game, a Whitecaps game, and a play at Carousel Theatre, as well as a day tubing at Cypress. These are all going to be memories that stick with her, however, as opposed to things that we trip over at home, she plays with occasionally, and then we eventually donate.
It gets a little trickier with each passing birthday, and Christmas, for all of us to come up with new and exciting things. Ultimately, all it takes is a little creativity; we live in a city with an almost endless list of things to do, if you take on the challenge.
And hey, what’s life without a little challenge now and then, right?
U Paint I Fire, 3632 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, (604) 732-3312, Upainifire.ca
Last modified: January 13, 2018
I couldn’t agree more with the idea to give an experience rather than a gift. My Mother in Law’s 60th is this year,she lives in the interior and some members of the family wanted us to buy her a diamond necklace. She doesn’t need another necklace and wears funkier jewelry anyways, so now I’ve got everyone signed up to celebrate her with a Vancouver fireworks dinner cruise. Way more special to create a memory if you ask me.
Great post! Thanks Jason.
Thoughts on how family living on other side of coast can give such experiences?
Already Skyping and whatnot. I guess immediate idea is, save that money you would be spending on stuff so you can plan a visit, eh?
Totally agree, visiting is often the best gift… but in the interim, or for cheaper options, a lot of things we’ve given could definitely be gifts from afar. We’ve done memberships to things like the Aquarium and Playland that can be bought online, and Groupon-type coupons for museums, art camps, etc can work as well. Samba Days and Perfect Day Experiences are also both very cool sites… you can buy a GC for pretty much any amount, and the recipients get to choose something from a huge variety of activities.