More Experience and Less Stuff Makes Happy Kids

Mar, 24, 2017

We all have heard it — things and money do not make us happy — right? According to a study, the same goes for kids. If you want happier kids, give them experiences instead of stuff. A recent study conducted by Cindy Chan, assistant professor at University of Toronto Scarborough’s Department of Management and the Rotman School of Management; and Cassie Mogilner, associate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, showed that, from the recipient’s perspective, experiential gifts are more effective than material gifts, and improved the relationship between giver and receiver. All of this plays into “why childhood memories are so important”: that is what builds an emotional foundation which children turn to as they get older when they are sad or stressed. It’s proven that positive memories can help children deal with stress, build concentration and improve overall health, both physical and mental. New experiences also help add to children’s overall background and help enrich their brains.

I feel that my husband and I had figured this out in past years, when we started investing in doing more activities with the kids, and limiting how many toys and other things they have. We began traveling to different countries as well as different cities, taking our children to museums, making art, playing music, and participating in simple recreation like hikes or long bike rides. We soon noticed that not only did all three kids get along better but that they were also happy and less whiny. In fact, they still talk about all the fun things they have done and seen. My children’s experiences have helped them see the world in a different way and have taught them so much. I see less fear and more confidence in them nowadays.

So, how grand does an experience need to be? The good news is that it does not matter. Whether it is a trip to a place like the beach or going for an ice cream, being with loved ones will do the trick and create fun memories.

Our kids now have a “bucket” list of things they want to do. So far, this is their list:

  • Helping clean up a beach
  • Seeing the snake exhibit at the zoo
  • Traveling to New Zealand
  • Going to Legoland
  • Flying a kite
  • Bake a molten lava cake with mom

Just think about it from your own perspective: what do you remember from your childhood, a special toy or an experience you had with someone? I know mine is going fishing with my grandpa:)

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

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