By Michelle Reese

Are you looking around your house wondering WHERE the Christmas presents are going to go after they're unwrapped? Do you have relatives that are asking for gift ideas? Do you feel like your kids already have too much STUFF, and you really just want to spend more quality time together? Then this gift list is for you! We've put together a list of gift ideas that focuses on developing interests, learning new things, getting out of the house, and making memories. And because many people might think that it takes the fun out of it if the child doesn't have something to OPEN on Christmas morning, we've also included “Unwrapping Tips” with small, useful gifts to pair with the experience.

Sesame Place (Photo by Michelle Reese)

1. Season Passes

If your family already has a favorite local destination for day trips, now's THE time to buy season passes, as many spots offer discounts during the holidays. And with many places, Memberships get you additional discounts on food, merchandise and additional friend passes. Plus, they often pay for themselves after just a few visits. So it's worth it if you know you'll go at least once a season. Season passes are great for those days where you NEED to get out of the house. And they also ease the pressure of feeling you need to fit everything in during one visit.

Not ready to commit to a season pass? Many spots offer the option of upgrading a day pass to a season pass after you go. So give it a try and then see if you like it!

Get your search started:

Philadelphia Zoo

Elmwood Park Zoo

Adventure Aquarium

Sesame Place

Bucks County Children’s Museum

Legoland Discovery Center

The Franklin Institute

Unwrapping Tip: Depending on the spot, you might be doing a lot of walking. So perhaps a pair of new sneakers are in order? Or maybe a pair of water shoes if it's a location like Sesame Place. Other ideas could be a small backpack for carrying snacks, water and other necessities; a book about the topic (animals, sea creatures, science), or maybe a child-friendly camera to capture memories from your visits.

The Little Gym of Langhorne (Photo by Michelle Reese)

2. Kid Gym Passes/Memberships

The long winter months can make us all feel stir crazy … especially little ones! Let them burn off energy by signing up for classes (or just a day pass) at a local gym for kids or other active center.

Get your search started:

Airborne Training Center (Happening List Winner for Children's Play Center)

Bouncing off the Walls (Happening List Finalist)

BounceU (Happening List Finalist)

Newtown Athletic Club

Little Gym

Funzilla

Unwrapping Tip: Most kid gyms are shoe-free zones. Give your child some fun socks that'll show off their personality while they run and jump! If the facility requires you to buy their socks, consider a new refillable water bottle. They'll need to stay hydrated!

3. Skill/Hobby Classes

If your child has been showing interest in a particular area, it's a great time to develop those skills by signing them up for classes! Swimming, dance, art, cooking, music … there are so many options.

Get your search started:

British Swim School

The Dance Academy

Let's Cook

Penelope Fox Art Studio

Kids' MusicRound Inc.

Unwrapping Tip: Pair this gift with something you child can use in class (or to practice the skill at home.) Think swimsuit, leotard, spatulas, sketchpads, etc.

4. Event Tickets

Does your little one love the stage already? There are plenty of family-friendly shows in Philly and New York, but you could also try something a little more local. (Many theaters also offer shows specifically for kids that are shorter, offer more interaction and other special touches.) If theater's not their thing, maybe it's tickets to a sporting event, monster truck show, magic show, or even gift cards to the local movie theater. In a time where we're all so used to streaming moving to our TVs and handheld devices, we sometimes forget how exciting it can be for kids to watch something on the big screen!

Get your search started:

Disney On Ice

Bristol Riverside Theatre (Happening List Finalist)

Bucks County Playhouse (Happening List Finalist)

Town & Country Players Theater (Happening List Finalist)

Music Mountain Theatre

Acting Naturally

The Newtown Theatre (Happening List Winner)

The County Theater (Happening List Finalist)

Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater

Unwrapping Tip: As long as the venue allows, try to think of something your child can bring along with them to show. This will get them excited about the venture, and it'll likely save you money from buying it there! Some ideas include small boxes of candy or other snacks, glow necklaces, or light-up wands. If going to the theater is likely to become (or already is) a tradition, you might want to get them a small photo album or scrapbook to keep playbills and theater tickets.

New Hope Ivyland Railroad (Photo by Michelle Reese)

5. Day Trip/Outing

“What're we doing today?” This seems to be just about every kid's favorite question. Be a Super Mom or Dad by having a really cool answer the next time this comes up. Depending on how far away you're going and the length of the experience, you can pair with other gifts. Maybe it's a gift card to a cool restaurant nearby or even a hotel stay. (Bonus if it has an indoor pool!) And if you love it, you might decide to get a season pass to many of these spots. If you can fit in your visit the week between Christmas and New Year's, many locations will have special festivities for the holidays.

Get your search started:

Sesame Place (Happening List Finalist)

Doylestown Escape Room (Happening List Winner)

Bristol Pike Lanes (Happening List Finalist)

DiggerLand

New Hope Ivyland Railroad

Strasburg Railroad

Crayola Experience

Hershey Park

Dutch Wonderland

Six Flags Great Adventure

Storybook Land

Dorney Park

Unwrapping Tip: Get great pictures during your outing with cute themed shirts! (Plus, they'll probably be cheaper than buying on location.) Trains, construction vehicles, Sesame Street characters … Many of these locations are really great for that. Other ideas could be sunglasses, a new water bottle, small toy, or special road trip snacks. To give them a little freedom, you could also give a $10 bill (or whatever you decide) to specifically spend in the gift shop while you're there.

6. Mail Subscription

Kids love getting mail! And today, there are plenty of options when it comes to magazines and subscription boxes, so it's relatively easy for them to receive something that's geared toward their interests.

Get your search started:

National Geographic Kids

Highlights

Cricket Magazine

Sports Illustrated Kids

Kiwi Co

Little Passports

Raddish Kids

Girls Can Crate

America's Test Kitchen Young Chef's Club

Unwrapping Tip: This gift is something more tangible, so you might be able to time it that your child can open the first one on Christmas. If not, consider something that they can use when they get it each month – or a spot to open it! That could mean a reading light/flashlight, a backrest pillow, or a designated crate to store their magazines or creations.

7. Free/Cheap Activities

Often, kids don't care (or know) if something is expensive or free. They're just happy to be doing something fun! If you don't have a lot of money to spend on a gift, get creative with the way you present (pun intended) the activity. In addition, did you know that many local libraries have passes that you can check out for free! Here are just a few of the passes available at select libraries (check with YOUR local library for availability): Academy of Natural Sciences, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, Grounds for Sculpture, Elmwood Park Zoo, Morris Arboretum, and Bucks County Children's Museum.

Other Ideas:

Movie Night – Wrap up a box of popcorn and other movie snacks and make a certificate letting your child know that they get to pick the movie to stream (or check out from the library!)

Baking Night – Wrap up a box mix, cupcake liners, or other baking tools and include a note that they are the Baker, and you're just the assistant!

Playground Passport – Print out a list of all of the nearby playground in your area and purchase a cute stamp or pack of stickers. As soon as the weather is warm enough, get outside and enjoy exploring all of the playgrounds on your list. Here's a list to get your started.

Coupon Book – Are there things your kid is always asking for, but you like to reserve as special treats? Make a coupon book for them to cash in – no questions asked. Stay up 30 minutes after bedtime, an extra treat after dinner, 15 minutes extra screen time … you get the point.

 

 

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