In considering what gifts to give to your children for the holidays, or their birthday, or any other occasion for giving the gift of experience,  there are a few points worth remembering. Children’s thinking tends to be focused on concrete objects. This style of thinking, combined with the onslaught of media advertisement, leads to children wanting the “latest and greatest” toys that they have seen or heard about. However, what often occurs with children getting more and more toys is similar to a psychological process called “reward satiation”. This term refers to the lessening motivational force of a given reward over time with repeated delivery of the reward. In other words, getting the same thing over and over loses its thrill and thus children lose the desire to keep doing something that they might not like to do, such as for example, homework. That’s why parents are advised to have a varied menu of reinforcers for their children to pick from when rewarding their children’s good behavior. On an adult level, if you go out for dinner with family or friends, you’d be unlikely to want to do out for a second dinner on the same night.

Another mistake that children make, and adults as well, is to think that getting a new toy, whether a toy car or a drivable one, will bring lasting happiness to them. The newness, the happiness, that that object initially brings tends to fade over time. At some point, the thrill is gone. Psychologists have termed this phenomenon “hedonic adaptation”. Knowing that this happens can help guard against the disappointment that eventually comes when the object of desire isn’t as exciting as it used to be. Some people respond to this by going out and getting another object, believing that this time the new object will bring lasting happiness. But the same disappointment eventually sets in again.

Back to your children. To avoid having your children experience this disappointment over and over again and perhaps falling into the mistaken way of thinking that happiness will be found with the next acquisition, give them gifts of experiences rather than objects. Hopefully, you’ll never run out of new experiences to give them. Giving these kinds of gifts will engage your children in a deepening involvement with and knowledge of the world around them. Years from now they’ll be much more likely to remember that trip to that special place than to remember the one more move video game added to all of the ones that they already have.

Hopefully, you can institute these ideas on your own. If you have difficulty Giving the Gift of Experience, then consider working with a therapist at Specialized Therapy Associates at one of our offices conveniently located throughout northern New Jersey by calling 201-488-6678.