7 Last-Minute Gifts For Kids That Create Lasting Joy

Written by Abbie Schiller

In an age of instant gratification, both adults and kids are used to getting things they want throughout the entire year, with little waiting time or room for savoring.

So how do you give gifts this holiday season that actually create lasting joy?

Presents may be fun, but children also want your presence. So along with the Legos, books, and toys this holiday season, I also encourage you to make memories with your children that they’ll treasure long after the toys are collecting dust on the shelves.

These seven "experience" gifts not only take the stress off of your last-minute gift buying, but they also create memories for years — making them gifts that actually keep on giving:

1. Take children to a live theater show.

Instead of spending your holiday gift budget on the Xbox or iPhone, treat the family to the experience of a night at the theater, whether it's a kid-centered play or a magic show.

For children's shows, the pre- or post-show cast meetings can make it all the more magical. Your child will be talking about that time she saw The Lion King much longer than she'll be playing with that plastic toy.

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2. Write a letter from Santa announcing a surprise day trip.

Have Santa write a letter addressed to your child explaining that the whole family is going on a special outing. You can schedule it for that day and make it a seasonal treat, like visiting a famous local bakery for hot chocolate and checking out a seasonal movie.

Or you can pick a date for after the holiday madness, and give them an adventure to look forward to, like a night away in a local hotel.

3. Take a fun class as a family.

Get everyone together to learn a new skill with a group class. Whether it's a tennis lesson, a painting class, or a trapeze lesson, it will certainly lead to laughs — and may even inspire a new favorite hobby.

4. Make a "bucket list" jar.

As part of a fun craft project, help your child create their very own wish list of activities for the year. Encourage them to name experiences they've always wanted to do that will create memories for years to come. They should have no monetary value — just family fun. For example, eating dinner in a tent under the table, or camping in the backyard.

Write the ideas on cards and decorate them. Then drop them into a jar, and pick one item to be fulfilled as a gift this year.

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5. Create a special game night tradition.

Families that play together stay together — so start a monthly (or weekly!) game night to add some laughs, healthy competition, and creativity. Nothing says teamwork like a good game of Pictionary.

6. Buy an annual family pass to a local attraction.

Encourage the family to take advantage of nearby attractions with an annual pass to a museum, aquarium, theme park, zoo, or cultural center. The whole family can take part in the gift and will look forward to using it all year round.

Bonus: You'll be supporting local institutions.

7. Visit a nonprofit as a family.

Whether it's serving Christmas Eve dinner or reading to children in a homeless center, this is one important way to teach your family to appreciate everything they have.

They'll learn that gratitude is better than any gift or gadget.

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