If you want to give your children something they will really value, forget toys and go for a family holiday instead. That’s what leading child psychologist Oliver James suggests.
“Do you have any idea what an extraordinary proportion of presents we give children aren’t actually wanted or valued?” James asked in an interview with the Telegraph. The answer is somewhere between a fifth to a third, depending on which research you believe. Either way, that’s a lot of wasted dollars.
“The whole business of providing material commodities for kids – in ever more expensive forms as they get older – is entirely, 100 per cent, about propping up the industry that profits from it,” James says. “On the other hand, family holidays are definitely valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterwards in their memory. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.”
We know ourselves that adults think of experiences as much more fulfilling than amassing more “stuff”. Children are no different, says James. And yet it’s easy to fall into that “stuff” trap for both adults and kids.
And although kids may not enjoy some aspects of a holiday that their parents may love, they do find value in different aspects of the experience. James says many parents confuse what they love in a holiday with what their children will love. So while you might think it’s fascinating to check out the art and architecture, your children may be far more enamoured by noticing all the different foods the locals eat, or going to the beach.
Even a trip to the supermarket can be exciting, with its myriad different products, sights, sounds and smells.
What sort of holiday is best for kids?
Whatever sort of holiday you decide to take the family on, it won’t be wasted on your children. There will always be elements of any trip that are fascinating to the kids. James gave the example of taking his own kids to Paris when they were 14 and 10. “She was quite interested in the art. The only thing that even vaguely interested him was the French equivalent of Sports Direct. They both, however, really enjoyed mocking me for the cheapskate, appalling accommodation I’d booked. After the holiday it became the stuff of legend. And that’s not to be sniffed at.”
Because what really matters to kids about being on holiday is the prolonged, relaxed time they get to spend with their parents – and even their siblings.
And that’s a gift that no amount of toys can match.
Family holiday ideas
For some really memorable family holidays, do something that gets all of you out of your comfort zone, and gives you experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime.
- Farmstay holidays
- Camping (or, if you’re like me, glamping)
- A driving caravan holiday
- Exploring a big city you’ve never been to before
- A remote island
- Exploring the outback.