In the run-up to the holidays, I always seem to be inclined to have a good clear out and de-clutter. I suppose it’s mostly in anticipation of the visitors that come with the season and wanting to make the house presentable, but I think it’s also in part a gesture of preparation for the inevitable influx of stuff that comes at this time of year.

The act of giving and receiving is always a heartwarming experience, but it comes with a certain level of anxiety at times, especially when buying for older relatives. Will we choose something to their tastes? The last thing anyone wants is to give a loved one a gift they won’t enjoy. My parents have always been tricky to buy for; they always seem to have everything they need!

So I am clearing out the house, and I realise with some embarrassment that I have a few gifts stashed away that we were given last year. These thoughtfully chosen, wrapped and unwrapped trinkets have not seen the light of day, let alone use, becoming unloved clutter, stored away. This got me thinking as I recalled the multitude of gifts I’d received over the years. Of course, some of these were highly useful or became special treasured items, but essentially it’s the experiences we’ve had, especially experiences we’ve shared with loved ones that stand out the most rather than our belongings. It also struck me that as we get older we treasure those memories even more. Their value grows rather than diminishes as the years pass by.

With this in mind, I have collated some ideas of some great experiences that could be gifted instead of things. The gift of an experience is a perfect solution for those hard-to-buy-for relatives, reducing waste both in unwanted gifts and wrapping paper, and is even an easy solution for last-minute gift buying crises! I started digging for inspiration, and I’d like to share with you some of the ideas I came up with so that you too can give a perfect gift to your loved ones: the gift of a great memory!


Theatre tickets

Going to the theatre is always an exhilarating experience but is a luxury we don’t often think to pursue ourselves. Why not choose a show that you think will delight your loved ones, or if unsure you could simply buy a gift voucher with your local community theatre, or a season pass. Theatre might not be their cup of tea – you can choose anything from stand-up comedy to opera, ballet or live music.


Museum membership

This could make a particularly great gift for an elderly loved one as in later life, avoiding boredom can be more of a challenge than we’d like to admit. Sometimes all we need is an excuse to get out of the house! Membership to a local museum, art gallery or science exhibit can allow for hours of interest and exploration on a regular basis.


Sponsorship of an animal

The perfect gift for someone who doesn’t need anything could be the gift of sponsoring an animal. While you can choose any animal anywhere in the world, it can be a wonderful experience to opt for a local organisation. For example, a bird of prey at a local bird sanctuary is something you can actually go and see. Your loved one can experience the progress of the animal in question and share in its development.


A creative course

It’s never too late to learn a new skill and make new friends! There are so many activities to choose from these days and some quick Googling will help you identify what is available near you. Some brilliant options to try might be a sculpture course, salsa lessons, a language course, a poetry group or a still life class. You will be amazed by how many different activities there are to choose from. If an online course is a more practical choice you will find a virtually endless array of options to choose from.


Why not present a handmade gift-voucher in a beautiful card, tiny gift box or even as a novelty message in a bottle!


Experiences To Bridge The Generations:

A murder mystery box set

Gifts that bring everyone together are wonderful gifts indeed. A murder mystery is always a hit in our household as everyone can take part, usually to great merriment! As each participant is in character this experience tends to really bring people out of their shell, whatever their age. The fact that this is an activity to share at home around the dinner table means that it’s wonderful fun for relatives who are less able-bodied. All you need is a little imagination


A memory book

As our relatives reach their later years we often realise how much we don’t know about their memories. This can be especially true of grandchildren who have a fascinating source of family and cultural history before them that they might not be aware of. A wonderful project to forge bonds between the generations is to create a memory book of your elderly loved one’s memories and experiences, curated and compiled by the youngest generation. Make the project fun by providing pictures and materials to get them started. Try creating a questionnaire that they can ask their elderly loved one, and explore the local culture of the times in which each memory took place. Your youngsters will be awestruck by the experiences of their seniors!


A visit to an immersive exhibition

Immersive experiences hold appeal for all ages, especially with young children in the family if there are things they can step into or touch. An aquarium can be a fantastic option or an immersive modern art installation. Science exhibits can be a lot of fun too, as there are often interactive pieces to play with and explore – providing great educational opportunities.


An escape room

Escape rooms are right on trend and popping up all over the place and many are perfect for the whole family as they present a challenge of mental problem-solving capacity rather than physical ability. The idea is simply that you are locked together in a room or series of rooms and have a limited amount of time to solve various puzzles and escape the room. An escape room can be a thrilling experience, and with so many different approaches amongst your group, the chances are there will be an opportunity for each family member’s strengths to shine through.


Adjusting how we give:

Once we choose the experiences we want to give we might hesitate over the loss of the gift-giving ritual. There is great sentimentality in preparing something special for someone we care about, but we can easily address this by making a gesture that represents the experience we want to give. Why not present a handmade gift-voucher in a beautiful card, tiny gift box or even as a novelty message in a bottle!

If you like the idea of giving an experience but aren’t quite ready to forego physical presents altogether, consider giving something that will foster new experiences like art materials, a mushroom growing or beer brewing kit, or a window box with some seeds and a trowel. I gave the later to an elderly friend who had been an avid gardener; when our loved ones are not as physically able as they once were it can simply be a case of thinking about what alternatives are available to adapt their skills to present circumstances!

I hope you found some inspiration to give your loved ones experiences to treasure this year. There are many more ideas out there just waiting to be found. I certainly aim from here on in to focus on gifting more memories rather than focusing solely on things!