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gift-553146_640When you grow up with a mom who has a shopping addiction and a mild case of hoarding you develop a skewed perception of stuff. My mom was one of the most generous people I knew. She definitely spoiled us, but at the same time, stuff started to take over our lives.

The Problem With Stuff

As a mom myself now, I want to get my children things they want, but at the same time I don’t want a massive amount of toys cluttering up the house. I’ve found that experience gifts are a perfect solution.

A Gift Worth Waiting For

My daughter has been asking to attend gymnastics classes for the last two years, but it just hasn’t been in our budget. So for her birthday I prepaid for six weeks of classes and presented her with a card explaining her gift. I also got her a leotard.

At first it felt weird not wrapping up a bunch of presents, but I knew I was getting her something that she really wanted. I had to focus on the quality of my gift rather than the quantity (or lack thereof). Just as I predicted, she was overjoyed. She had her first class last week and she kept telling me, “Mom, I love it!”

It also stirred up some nostalgia for me to see her up on that balance beam. That was my favorite when I was a gymnast. Watching her felt like I was passing my legacy on to her.

If you want an alternative to traditional gifts like toys, clothes, or books, here are five great reasons to give kids experience gifts.

1. Something To Look Forward To – After all the other gifts have been opened, played with a handful of times and pushed aside, an experience gift is still there, promising something fun and exciting is still waiting for them.

One of my favorite gifts my mother gave me when I was in high school was tickets to see Les Miserables in New York City. I had been listening to the soundtrack CD for months and when I finally got to see the play, it was amazing! I didn’t mind that I had to wait a few weeks for the play. If anything it felt like it extended my birthday.

2. Less Clutter – As I mentioned before, I really don’t like too many toys hanging around, especially when they aren’t being played with very often. Experience gifts like a special trip, art, dance or gymnastics classes won’t contribute to the clutter in your house.

3. Give Something That You Normally Couldn’t Afford– So many extracurricular activities are expensive. They certainly don’t fit into our tight budget, so we’ve had to be very selective about which activities my kids do. Since I would normally spend money on birthday presents, I was able to use that money to give my daughter something I normally couldn’t afford.

4. More Memories – How many of your toys do you really remember from your childhood? Maybe a handful if you’re lucky. No matter how much our children beg us for toys, they typically don’t occupy our children for long. Giving an experience gift gives children memories that will last them a lifetime.

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5. Quality Time – Experience gifts usually give parents or other family members quality time with the children. Whether it’s a trip to the zoo, an art class you take together or just watching them twirl around the floor at their dance class, what the giver receives is time. Time to watch your child really enjoying something, seeing them light up with excitement. Sure, maybe it’s hard to run them to classes on a weekly basis or to and from their favorite sport, but it’s also time that you get to spend with them.

Years from now, they’ll remember that you were there with them. Even if you were just in the background watching from the bleachers or sitting silently in the corner of the room, you’ll become part of those happy memories.

I can’t for the life of me tell you what badges I earned when I was in Girl Scouts, but I’ll never forget that my mom volunteered to be my troop leader. While it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas gift, her willingness to give me and the other girls her time every week is something I still think about proudly.

I would love to ditch a lot of my kids’ physical presents in favor of experience gifts. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get my husband on board for Christmas, but at least for birthdays it’s become a great alternative.

What experience gifts have you given your kids that they loved?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

Boo! It’s just about Halloween, the last finishing touches are getting put onto costumes, the neighborhoods are being scouted out and the kids are oozing with excitement of the big day. Staying up late has a whole new meaning when you get to go door to door collecting as much sweet treats as your arms can carry back. But after all that walking in the dark (and occasionally rain or snow) it is always nice to change into something comfortable and settle down for some family time. There is nothing better than ending a night of trick or treating snuggled up on the couch with a good Halloween movie. So, grab some cider and popcorn we have a great list of 10 movies your family will love.

Top 10 Halloween movies the whole family will love

For the littlest trick or treaters, these movies are rated G.

great pumpkin

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown- A family favorite since 1966 and a true Halloween classic! We have all watched as Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin, your kids will love it too.

2. The Worst Witch- Mildred is one of the young girls at a prestigious witch academy. She can’t seem to do anything right and is picked on by classmates and teachers. The headmistress of the school, Miss Cackle, has an evil twin sister (Agatha) who plans to destroy the school. Can Mildred foil the plan before the Grand Wizard (Tim Curry) comes to the Academy for the Halloween celebration you’ll never forget. (www.imbd.com)

3. Room on the Broom- This parent choice award winner is based on the popular Julia Donaldson book, The Gruffalo. The story is of a friendly witch who much to the frustration of her cat, invites a group of animals onto her broom.

For the preschoolers and elementary aged kids, these movies are rated PG.

4. Casper- We love a good Halloween movie starring Christina Ricci from the 90’s. From IMBD, a paranormal expert and casperhis daughter bunk in an abandoned house populated by 3 mischievous ghosts and one friendly one. (www.imbd.com)

5. The Witches- The special effects are amazing in this film about a 9 year- old boy who stumbles onto a witch convention and tries to stop them from their plan to turn children into mice.

halloweentown6. The Addams Family- From the popular sixties sitcome, the Addams family is a comedy filled with creepy and kooky characters who are sure to become a staple every Halloween.

7. Halloweentown-  This Disney made for TV film takes place on Halloween in a place called Halloweentown where a young family must battle evil as they discover family secrets and special magic powers.

For the little bit older crowd: These are also PG but maybe a little bit scarier

hocus pocus8. Beetlejuice- A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a “bio-exorcist” in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house. (www.imbd.com)

9. Hocus Pocus- We love the story line and bit of Halloween history that can be found in this great Halloween film. The three witch sisters that are resurrected on Halloween are both comical and spooky and it is up to two teen-agers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches’ reign of terror once and for all.

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas- The Halloween list wouldn’t be complete without a Tim Burton film. Per imbd, Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.

What are your favorite Halloween movies?

I’m a movie buff. If it’s a Friday night and I’m done with work for the week I get an urge to see a movie. I rent them, watch them on www.hulu.com, as well as spend the money, depending on the movie, at the full-priced cinemas. It’s one of my favorite places to spend my time.

I love romance movies, comedies and dramas. I won’t watch horror — okay, the closest I got to horror recently was Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. LOVED it and OWN it. But I won’t watch the other horror movies. One of my favorite movies to watch is musicals. My favorites are Singin’ in the Rain, Grease, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Chicago, Rent, A Chorus Line and most of the old-time musicals from the Gene Kelly days. I had the biggest crush on Gene Kelly when I was a kid. He was suave and debonair and I couldn’t get enough of watching him dance on television when they showed his musicals. Today, I can ‘you tube’ him and watch him as much as I want. yay! That’s a great thing about today’s Internet. It’s a great way to combine today and yesterday.

On this year’s reality show So You Think You Can Dance, dancer Evan Kasprzak and his brother Ryan auditioned and danced tap and old Gene Kelly style. They were magnificent and I’ve been rooting for Evan to win ever since. It made me want to watch another musical. If you want to enjoy some great musicals and dancing, look for movies with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Donald O’Connor, some of my favorites. While we’re enjoying today’s fun movies, we should never forget the great musicals that once were. Rent one, pop popcorn and show your kids what dancing is really all about!

What’s YOUR favorite movie musical and why??????? Maybe I’ll find a new one to watch!

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