This year, instead of buying tons of presents, give your kids experiences this Christmas. The kids will have a blast, and you’ll be able to maximize your visitation time.

It’s so tempting to go for the big, expensive gifts. You don’t see your kids often, so you want to spoil them at Christmas. What’s so bad about that? Maybe nothing.

Ask yourself, do your kids need more crap? Do you want to run up your credit cards on gifts that will be broken or forgotten soon after the holidays? Do your kids want more of you?

Here are the top five reasons to give  your kids experiences this Christmas:

What You and the Kids Get From Experiences

  1. Less Clutter

This is a pretty obvious benefit of giving experiences. Anybody who has ever moved house knows that you already have way more stuff than you think you do. And probably way more crap than you really need. During the holidays, stuff seems to multiply and take over the whole house. Avoid all of that by giving experiences.

  1. Memories

This is the most important reason to give your kids experiences this Christmas. If your kids are young, by January they will have forgotten about half of their toys. What kids hold on to are memories. Particularly if you have a shared custody agreement, it’s important to create memories and build relationships with your children. Gifting experiences is the perfect way to do that. You could buy your son the latest video game he will play alone, or you could take him to a live soccer game. Which do you think he’ll remember more?

  1. Spreading the cost

Giving an experience can be a great way to spread the spending when money is tight. Some experiences (sports tickets) you’ll have to pay for upfront. Other experiences (Date Night with Dad) you can pay for as the event approaches. To give your kids something to unwrap on Christmas morning, create a little gift card on the computer or explain your gift in a Christmas card.

  1. Building the excitement

The best part of experiences for kids? It makes Christmas last longer. Kids can unwrap something on Christmas day and then have weeks of excitedly looking forward to the scheduled event.

  1. It’s a gift for you

Giving experiences is also a gift for you. What dad wouldn’t love to spend a day watching his children smiling, laughing and loving every minute?

Experiences Will Teach You About Your Child

The options for gifting experiences are truly endless. Giving an experience is a great opportunity for you to learn more about your child’s hobbies and passions. Choose an activity or experience that your kids will enjoy. Use this gift to get involved in your child’s life and to learn more about his or her interests. Of course, the experiences you choose will depend on how old your kids are.

Easy Ways to Give Your Kids Experiences This Christmas

  • Date Night with Dad
    • Children of any age will love spending time alone with you – especially if they have siblings. Giving each of your children a voucher for “Date Night with Dad” is a great way for you to maximize the time you get with the kids. They will love having your undivided attention and you will enjoy getting to know them as individuals.
  • Sports games
    • Tickets to professional games can get pricey so why not consider a local college or minor league team? Younger kids don’t care about the quality of the team, they just want to savour every moment of having a “grown up” experience with their dad.
  • Ice skating
    • Most cities have ice skating rinks at Christmas but roller skating is equally as fun (and probably a little less dangerous!). It might take the kids a little while to find their feet but once they do, they’re sure to love the experience. Take them for ice cream or dinner afterward and they’ll be in heaven.
  • Midnight Frisbee
    • Ok, maybe not midnight but certainly night-time. For kids, there is something magical about going out at night. All you need is a glow in the dark Frisbee and some warm coats to make this experience unforgettable. We did it about three years ago and the kids are still raving about it.
  • Movie Night
    • The movie theater can get expensive so you can always opt for a movie night at home. Put a DVD under the tree with a little note saying it’s a movie night experience. Let the kids build a fort, make some popcorn, climb into your PJs and prepare for a great night. Again, it’s not what you’re doing that counts, it’s who you’re doing it with. If you make it an occasion, the kids will feel special and treasure their time with you.
  • Concert Tickets
    • Concert tickets are a great gift for older kids. Teenagers might want to bring a friend but they will still love it and will always remember you gave them that gift. Younger kids are much more likely to go with dear old dad. A pop concert might not seem like a great day out for you, but when you see your daughter’s face, it will all be worth it!
  • Mini Golf or Go Karts
    • Mini golf and go karts are kid always a good bet. Like ice skating, adding lunch or ice cream can turn these into a Dad Date or an all-day gift experience.
  • Picnics Inside and Out
    • Indoors or out, young kids love picnics. Why not organize a winter picnic with sleeping bags, hot chocolate in a thermos, and smores?
  • Camping
    • This one is great for Dads who are outdoor guys. Maybe not when there’s feet of snow on the ground, but in warmer climates you could take a Christmas camping trip. If giving experiences is a great way to maximize your time with the kids, taking off on a camping trip takes that to a whole new level. Imagine several days when it’s just you and the kids. No phones. No video games. Just a ton of fun!
  • Photoshoot
    • A lot of photography companies have special offers around the holidays. A photoshoot is a great idea for girls in particular. Regardless of how old they are, most girls love dressing up. The best thing you can do is dress up, go with your daughter and take a few shots together. Not only will she have the photo, she’ll remember the whole process forever.
  • Board game
    • This isn’t strictly an experience but kids love playing board games with their parents. Whether it’s Monopoly, dominoes or Uno, games give you the opportunity to laugh, talk and enjoy an evening away from technology. A board game also gives the kids something to unwrap on Christmas day.

There are so many experiences you can give your kids for Christmas this year. And they don’t have to break the bank. The only limit is your imagination.

It’s Not All Or Nothing Under the Tree

You might not be ready to limit yourself to experience giving but still want to cut down on all the crap in your life. That’s completely reasonable. There’s a new thing on social media called the Rule of Four that you can use for gift giving.

Basically it says that you buy your kids four things: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

Even if you don’t stick to it perfectly, the handy rhyme at least gives you an idea of where to start.

Ultimately, as long as the kids have something under the tree to open they’ll be happy. If they can make memories with you along with those gifts, even better.

Get Your Ex On Board Before Making Promises to the Kids

Holidays can be a very stressful time for divorced parents. You and your ex may disagree over what the children should and shouldn’t be getting, and who will be giving what.

If you’re planning to give your kids experiences for Christmas, cover all your bases and tell your ex in advance. If there are sports or concert tickets involved, she might need to know that you’ll want the kids that day. If there’s a camping trip involved, she’ll probably want to know you’re taking the kids out of town.

Experiences are fabulous gifts so don’t let yours be ruined by an angry ex.


Do you arrange special events with your kids to maximize visitation? Share your divorce advice for Dads in the comments below!

For more shared custody tips, check out 5 Secrets to Cooperative Co-parenting on Holidays by Brian Weiss. Melissa Ricker shares how to maximize visiting with how to Use Google Calendar for Effective Co-parenting.


There are lots of divorced Dads out there. Share this article on social media!

(c) Can Stock Photo / adam121

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