Vacations make better Christmas gifts for kids than toys
It’s gift season, and while we’re trying to find the best deals on toys and place out-of-state orders before everywhere’s closed, it’ll be a great idea to back up a second and think about what your kids would truly value. When your kids are 30 and out of your homestead, building lives of their own, they would better cherish the lovely experiences and time spent together with their parents, rather than toys they’ll get bored of the next month. 
While there’s nothing wrong with buying toys for a child who’s expecting something from Santa, it’s also important to think about the right kind of things that will give your kids lifelong memories to pass onto their own children.
A 2017 study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania reported that the moments when most people ‘feel most loved’ in life usually has nothing to do with tangible materials. Published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the study involved a survey of 495 women aged between 18 and 93.  They were given a “feel loved” questionnaire which was intended to identify what made them feel loved the most, and why it was special.
To account for differences in personality, they were also given an abridged version of the Big Five Personality Test, which gauges the intensity of the following traits in a person: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism,
At the end of the survey, the researchers discovered that “people feel loved in a range of settings much wider than just romantic relationships, which included momentary everyday interactions and experiences with friends, pets, and family. Moreover, people in the U.S. consider scenarios that have an underlying ‘controlling’ nature as non-loving signals, which could be a sign of cultural trends.”
Notice that receiving gifts or other kinds of material items were not mentioned. However, one act of kindness stood out beyond the rest.
“Our research found that micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child or receiving compassion make people feel most loved,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Zita Oravecz, a human development and family studies professor at Pennsylvania State University.
Vacations and outings make them happier
Your children want more of your time and attention than material things, even if they don’t realize it now. It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip to an exotic location. It can be a one-week vacation to a beach town, a day-long trip to an amusement park, a road trip to appreciate the wonders of nature, a few hours at the arcade, or whatever your budget allows; what matters is that you’re spending quality time with your kids and making incredible memories.
Author and psychologist, Oliver James said, “Give a two-year-old a present and she’ll get absorbed in the box instead. It’s similar to children and travel. We should let them explore their own ways of finding wonder in their surroundings.” 
These days, children don’t get to play outdoors or experience the big, awesome world anymore. Outdoor time and board games have been replaced by video games and highly sophisticated toys. Kids don’t get to be fascinated by flowers or chase butterflies anymore. They don’t get to walk in the sand and stare in awe of a perfectly still stream. Your children deserve to float in a pool on a yellow rubber duck or tour the countryside while clutching your back.
“Our research found that micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child or receiving compassion make people feel most loved,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Zita Oravecz, a human development and family studies professor at Pennsylvania State University
These experiences create strong bonds between you and the child, and will be more valuable to them than monster trucks and plastic soldiers.
“Children see the world differently,” James explained. “Through consumption, for example: The way that French cafés have Orangina instead of Fanta is fascinating to kids, and details like that will stick with them for long after the [vacation] ends.”
Family vacations are not just trips outside the home to make happy memories. They teach children self-confidence at a young age, give them a chance to immerse in different cultures, understand the world we live in, and bring the family together.
- “Why you should spend your money on travel, not toys, this Christmas.” Mother.ly. Heather Marcoux. December 12, 2019.
- “What does it mean to feel loved: Cultural consensus and individual differences in felt love?” Sage Journals. Heshmati et al. August 11, 2017.
- “Vacations Are Better Holiday Gifts for Children Than Toys, Experts Suggest: ‘Let Them Explore’.” People. Jen Juneau. December 12, 2019.