The holidays are supposed to be about bringing families together, right. So why does your family feel splintered and like everyone is off doing their own thing? Perhaps you need some gift ideas that will actually encourage family members to spend time together.
Christmas at our house used to go a little something like this…
I’d spend tons of time making lists, shopping, wrapping, and cooking. And I would be so excited when the big day arrived because I had this image of a leisurely family day where we’d hang out together as a family and enjoy each other’s company.
The reality….the kids would tear through those gifts in record time and head off to their individual rooms to play with their new loot.
And I’d be annoyed.
I would invariably feel like I had gone to all that trouble for not much in return. What I wanted was to spend time with my kids. What I needed was to give gifts that actually encouraged that to happen.
But just because I was a slow learner doesn’t mean you can’t learn from my mistakes.
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Not every gift has to be a tangible item you wrap up in a box. Some great gift ideas the family may love are those experiences you’ll share together, that allow you to relax and enjoy each other’s company, or encourage you to get out and explore the world around you. The only limit is your imagination!
Activity gift ideas
Depending on where you live, some of these places or activities might provide a fun outing and turn your gift-giving into something everyone can participate in and enjoy.
Consider passes to:
- the zoo
- sporting events
- the movies
- an Onmi theater presentation
- a planetarium
- the closest amusement park
- an evening spent bowling
- a friendly (or not so friendly!) game of laser tag
- a paintball course
Games for the whole family
Sometimes it’s nice to stay home, snack, and play games. Along with some tried and true favorites are some new ones I’ve discovered recently.
- These Kem playing cards are the best! My mom was a serious bridge player and she’d only use cards by Kem. They feel good in your hands, don’t stick together, and are easy to shuffle. We are still using cards she bought 40 years ago and they’re still in perfect condition.
- Toilet Trouble Game – For some reason I just thought of my boys when they were little and figure this would have been a game they’d have loved.
- Wahoo – This is my all-time favorite game! I like it because it’s easy, fast moving, and never boring. For those of us who want something that won’t take all night, this oldie-but-goodie board game with marbles is always on the list.
- Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters – In this game, all players are working together as a team to escape with treasure from a house that’s getting more haunted with each move.
- Qwitch, The Quick Switch Card Game – This looks like a fast moving game that will test your perception and reflexes.
- Salem 1692 – It’s probably the former history teacher coming out here, but this game of social deception looks very interesting.
- Covert – In this game, each player is a spy trying to achieve a mission.
- Jackbox Party Pack 3 – This type of game is new to me but you use your phones as the controllers so your tweens and teens will probably love it.
- Telestrations – This is the visual version of the old “telephone” game. Fortunately, great drawing skills are not required.
- Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception – I actually discovered this card game a few years ago at a gifted education conference. I bought it for my classroom and the kids (all of them!) were HOOKED! I bought a set for home use and we loved it at home too. You’ll be surprised at who in your family finds the “set” first – it won’t always be the adults.
Maybe you’ve decided that this is the year you’re all going to get in shape. If so, sporting equipment for activities you can all participate in together would make great gifts.
- Tennis racket and balls – Even if you can’t always make it to a public tennis court you can still have fun playing. This portable tennis net for your driveway allows several of you to create your own court at home, the power base tennis trainer will let family members practice skills individually without having to run to collect stray balls, and the rebound net eliminates that annoying sound and potential damage that occurs when someone hits the ball against the side of the house.
- Table tennis (or ping pong) table – If you want something to play indoors then this midsize folding table might satisfy your inner Serena Williams.
- Skates – Don’t forget knee and elbow pads – or helmets.
- Racquetball rackets
- Golf clubs
- Swimming gear
- Hiking gear
- Snorkeling equipment
Memories from a trip last a lifetime
Perhaps your family would enjoy an outdoor adventure. A camping trip complete with fishing, hiking, and roasting marshmallows would be a great way to spend time together and learn new things about each other. Without the distraction of the TV and computer you can enjoy nature, each other, and a break from the everyday routine.
If this sounds like the prescription for you then a few necessities you’ll need for your trip are:
- camp oven
- sleeping bags
- fishing poles
Some families might prefer an outdoor vacation that doesn’t involve tent sleeping (count me in this group). An upgrade to a nice cabin rental might make the vacation more luxurious.
And who says that you couldn’t choose to actually spend the holidays at a nice cabin someplace. If you don’t live where it snows this might make the holidays feel more festive – and give you a chance to relax and spend time together without the distraction of your daily routine.
Or if you’ve got a summer vacation planned, you might agree that part of the Christmas gift money will be put aside to spend next summer on “gifts” you find while you’re away. This would be a great way to stretch your vacation budget and allow the kids to get souvenirs that otherwise might be out of reach.
Redo the family room
And of course, there’s nothing wrong with updating or repurposing your family room to make it a space everyone will want to spend more time in. The family room is not just a room for Mom so there’s no reason why any upgrade to this room should count as Mom’s gift.
You know exactly what I’m talking about, ladies – why is it that anything done to the house is “for Mom”? You’re not the only one who lives in there.
Whether you’re upsizing your TV, adding gaming equipment, adding a game table or storage space for family games, this expenditure benefits the whole family and may be just what’s needed to encourage more time hanging out together.
It will also encourage your kids to have their friends over which means that you get peace of mind knowing what they’re up to. The downsize is that having more tweens and teens around means a little less sleep for you – but life is a series of trade offs, right?
Invest in outdoor spaces
Your family might be longing for an upgrade to your outdoor space. Whether it’s adding a pool, a BBQ area, a fire pit, or a play area, sprucing up your yard and patio is something that will benefit the whole family (and it probably won’t hurt the value of your home either). I’ve seen very pretty areas added for napping or reading too.
Whatever your family’s needs are, the whole point of the holidays is to enjoy spending time with family and friends. There are lots of gift ideas that will encourage family togetherness. Ultimately, that family togetherness is the stuff memories are made of. Wrapping paper torn off pretty gift boxes can’t beat the real gift of spending time with those we love most.
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