Whatever holiday you and yours celebrate this time of the year, chances are pretty good that you're going shopping. Somewhere along the way, cheer and joy gave way to consumerism, not to mention toxic toys. Presents should never equal danger, and there are certainly plenty of safer toys on the market for any kids on your list.

But presents don't have to equal stuff. This year, try giving the ultimate eco gift of an experience.

Experiential gifts create memories that last forever. And they can take virtually any form and fit any budget. If you're worried about disappointed kids on Christmas morning, don't be. There are ways to package an experiential gift, too.

1. Pick an experience coveted by your giftee.

It can be one they've dreamed of or something you've come up with that you know they'll love — a trip to a special museum, sports event, play, or a day trip related to their interests. It could be as simple as seeing a movie a day during the holiday break. Skiing, snow tubing, ice skating outings all count. You know what your family and friends like.

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2. Wrap something tangible.

This is key with kids; they don't like to be empty-handed on the actual holiday. This could mean tickets, a souvenir, or a t-shirt from your destination. Headed to the beach? Wrap a (recycled plastic) beach toy.

3. Add some mystery.

What's more fun unwrapping than an envelope that leads to a clue-filled treasure hunt that leads to the gift? Arguably this works best with adults and older children.

4. Stash a cache of information about the experience

This can be brochures, videos, maps, and so forth. You can share this info closer to the big day to stoke excitement and create build-up.

Experiential gifts don't only make this time of year safe; they make it special. And don't forget to let your loved ones know you're more than happy to receive an experiential gift, too. Massages, yoga passes, a rock climbing class are all great ideas. Best of all, an experiential gift doesn't have to cost money. What parent doesn't wish for a kid-crafted IOU coupon for a Saturday sleep in? Bliss!

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