Giving Experiences Instead of Toys Can Make Your Kids Smarter

Move over toys, make room for memories.

(FarmVeld /

Children are thrilled to find brightly wrapped present under the tree on Christmas morning. They can't wait to rip open the wrapping and get at the toys that made up their wish lists.

But after the initial excitement wears off, those toys are usually relegated to the bottom of the toy chest and the kids are searching for something else to do. But it doesn't have to be that way. A study from the University of Toronto found that giving your child experiences as a gift, instead of toys, boosts your child's intelligence and forges stronger parent – child bonds.

"The reason experiential gifts are more socially connecting is that they tend to be more emotionally evocative," said lead researcher Cindy Chan. "An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it—like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa—and is more intensely emotional than a material possession."

The research was published in the Journal of Consumer Research and focused on the relationship between the gift buyer and the gift receivers. Previous studies had only focused on how much the test children enjoyed the gifts they received.

"Often the focus is only on whether someone likes a gift rather than focusing on a fundamental objective of gift giving, and that is fostering relationships between giver and recipient," Chan said.

She suggested that when you are buying a holiday gift or birthday gift that you focus on their favorite hobbies and buy something that they can experience with you. This can be movie or concert tickets, a CD from a performance you already saw to keep the memory alive. Specifically, for kids, a trip to a hands-on museum, going ice skating at Rockefeller Center or a book that the family can read together over and over again are experiential gifts.

Researcher, social worker and child development specialist Clair Lerner found that giving your kids too many toys, can be counterproductive and make kids overwhelmed instead of happy.  The best way to boost kid's happiness is to spend time together.

A study at Oxford University, found that parent's attention is far more valuable than material stuff, even educational games, in children's academic success.

So, if you want happy and intelligent kids, spending time with them and making memories are the best gifts you can give them. That's not to say that there shouldn't be any toys given this holiday season but change the focus from getting stuff to making lasting memories.

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