No More Stuff for The Holidays

5 ways to rethink gifts for your little ones this holiday season.

For most parents, the holiday season often means getting more stuff — and in many cases, making room for all that stuff. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have room for any more stuff.

You see, as a parent of 3 kids living in a small apartment in New York City, I have everything my kids own in one 400-square-feet bedroom — all of their clothes, toys, books, art supplies, shoes… everything. Throughout the year, I play the game of “throw stuff away, get more stuff back,” freeing up space, only to fill it up again right around the holidays. And you know what? I’m don’t really want to play that game anymore. 

So this holiday season, I’ve decided to stop the cycle of stuff-getting in its track by focusing on gifts that offer experiences and that help kids build long-lasting memories. That’s right — no. more. toys! How, you ask? Here are 5 ways to replace “stuff” with experiences this holiday season.

1. An experience. Children love adventures, so take them on a field trip. Plan a fun day of hiking in the woods or ice skating; take them to the zoo or a kid-friendly art museum; or even organize a camping trip for when the warmer days are back, in the spring.

2. A show. Some of my fondest memories as a child are of seeing plays, whether it was at the free local children’s theater or on Broadway. It is special and magical and something they will never forget.

3. A class. Kids are interested in so many things, and they’re also inherently curious! So help them try new things by getting them a trial lesson or a class in an area they maybe never even tried before. Who knows, this trial may end up in a true passion, whether it’d be photography, cooking or horseback riding. Just remember to take the whole family with you. The memories you’ll build will be unparalleled. 

4. Spare change. We do this one already on their birthdays. In lieu of 24 gifts from all of their classmates, we ask them to bring the quarters they find under their couch cushions. Our kids pool it all together, count it up, and we make a special trip to the store to buy something they choose. The change may only add up to $10, but it will be the most important $10 they’ve ever held!

5. A monthly subscription box. If you really want to spend the big bucks on them, there are so many subscription boxes for kids now that not only won’t clutter their room, but will help expand their minds too! Companies like Tinker Crate, Food Stirs and Mel Science are all doing great things for STEM education. Boxes arrive to your door each month with an engineering craft, science experiment or recipe for the kids to try. It’s a lot of fun, waiting for you right at your doorsteps. Here are the ones we love

And if you still need to declutter your house, do as my husband and I do: one parent takes the kids away for a day and night while the other organizes and “secretly” donates a portion of the stuff that’s never played with anymore. My kids never notice the missing stuff, but they always notice how organized and easy it is to find things. Then, the goal, of course, is to not fill that space up again. Who’s with me?

Andriana Spence

Andriana Spence

Andriana Spence is Co-Executive Director of Greeneprints Inc., a 501 (c)(3) that runs two children's programs, Camp Fort Greene and Tech Fort Greene. Follow her on Instagram.

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