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Parenting

14 last-minute experience gifts for kids

Perfect if you don’t have time for shipping.

Child smiling while hugging parent with present in hand. Credit: Getty Images / Georgijevic

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Uh oh, you snoozed on getting a gift for the special kid in your life and now you’re scrambling to find something in stock that they’ll like. Never fear, so often the best gifts aren’t what are found wrapped under the tree, but ones that build lasting memories.

Here are some of our favorite experience gifts that we wish our kids would receive! Each is thoughtful and unique and—we promise—won’t ever be forgotten at the back of the toy box.

1. A 1:1 session at a Costa Rican rescue ranch

Brown wild animal in tree on branch.
Credit: Central American Tour / Amazon

This immersive course would make Dr. Dolittle proud.

Best for ages: 6 and older
Kids will get an up close view of exotic animals and their lives on a family-owned rescue ranch that rehabilitates injured animals. This 1:1 tour will let kids get face-to-face with macaws, owls, parrots, sloths, spider monkeys, toucans, weasels, and more, as their guide takes them on a virtual tour of this Costa Rican ranch, where they’ll learn about its history, mission and the rehabilitation programs for its animals. Not only is this a fun experience for kids, proceeds from the booking go directly back to the ranch’s rehabilitation program, so you’re helping to support and save these beautiful animals.

Take a Central American Tour with Amazon Experiences for $27.30

2. A spell-casting class to rival Hogwarts

Child smiling while using laptop.
Credit: Getty Images / Chansom Pantip

This fun twist will be a magical experiece for Harry Potter fanatics.

Best for ages: 7 to 12
At Boarwarts, Hogwarts’s rival academy, students go through just as rigorous learning—but it’s all done virtually. In this class budding wizards and muggles alike can learn about wand-making, potion creation and they can even embark on a magical escape room challenge.

Get the Boarwarts Academy for Witches and Wizards STEM class at Outschool for $20

3. A never ending supply of reading materials

People smiling while holding books and globe.
Credit: Epic

School may be out for winter break, but with Epic they can continue to strengthen their brain.

Best for ages: 4 and older
If your kid is a bookworm, the amazing Epic app will keep a steady stream of new stories immediately at their fingertips. With over 40,000 titles to choose from, this app, which sends books right to a phone, tablet or laptop, promises that reading material will never run dry.

For new or reluctant readers, this is—bar none—one of the best literacy-building apps available. Completely searchable by age and grade, they can easily find books that are right at their reading level and that will pique their interest. There is also a fantastic "read-to-me" option where titles are read aloud, highlighting each word as it's spoken, allowing kids to hone their phonetic and comprehension skills and build their reading confidence.

Get a subscription to Epic for $9.99 a month or $71.99 a year

4. A stop-motion class for budding animators

Outer space with stars.
Credit: Outschool

Now your child can become the next Steven Spielberg.

Best for ages:8 to 12
If your kid has the film-making bug, this will give them an in-depth course on how to make their ideas come to life. Pre-recorded lessons allow for kids to learn at their own pace, while they get real-time feedback from the instructor at a scheduled time of their choosing.

Get the Stop Motion Classes and Coaching at Outschool for $141

5. A coastline tour with a marine biologist

Dolphins swimming in blue water.
Credit: Whales and Dolphins of Central America / Amazon

Discover our ocean's aquatic friends.

Best for ages: 6 and older
Take a trip to Baja California’s Bay of La Paz, where kids will get to meet with a professional marine biology expert to learn about the remarkable biodiversity in the area of the ocean. They’ll explore and learn about the area’s mangrove coastline and then take a trip out into the bay to search for birds and bottlenose dolphins. Kids will learn about the personalities of the dolphins and how scientists identify them, while they also learn about preservation practices of this area of the world.

Get the 80-minute Whales and Dolphins of Central America class at Amazon Experiences for $38.50

6. A magic class for older magicians

On left, cover of virtual magic lesson. On right, person in suit fanning out deck of cards in hand.
Credit: Outschool

This exciting virtual course teaches more than pulling rabbits out of hats.

Best for ages: 13 and older
This master class with master magician Ming Da is best for older kids who want to up their illusionist game. In this 1-hour class, students will not only get an intimate show from an elite magician, they will learn his sleight-of-hand secrets.

Get the Magic 101: Show and Lesson at Uncommon Goods for $25

7. A next-level class for kids who love to tie-dye

On left, person smiling at computer desk. On right, person tie-dying shirt.
Credit: Uncommon Goods

A creative craft for your little fashionista.

Best for ages: 13 and older
If your kid has already far surpassed your tie-dye prowess, this class will take their fabric dying ability to the next level. This 90-minute class will take students not only through higher level tie-dye processes, it will teach expert-level techniques on dye mixing, to make them experts on getting exactly the shade and hue they desire.

Get the Next Level Tie-Dye Class at Uncommon Goods for $63

8. A class for smart artists

Watercolor picture created by child.
Credit: Outschool

Allow your child's imagination to run wild.

Best for ages: 4 to 9
If you’re scared of Winter Break Brain Drain, this STEAM-focused art class will keep kids challenged and engaged, while ensuring they have lots of creative fun. This beginner-level elementary art class will teach students how to use a variety of art materials. Each of the four lessons have been designed to include a bit of science, history, math or literature taught through art at an age-appropriate level.

Get the Smartest Artist Class at Outschool for $89

9. A martial arts class for little ninjas

Children smiling together while wearing karate gis.
Credit: Outschool

This course teaches child-friendly self-defense skills.

Best for ages: 4 to 7
Think of this as a lifeline for harried parents during too-long school vacations. This class is just the thing for kids to burn off pent up energy, while also learning introductory martial arts skills. Taught by a bad-ass momma, this four-week ninja class will playfully move kids through the utilization of basic martial arts and karate through specified movements and fun games.

Get the Little Ninjas class at Outschool for $44

10. A monthly cooking class that’s all about exploring

Mothers cooking with children in kitchen.
Credit: eat2explore

Experience fine cuisines while bonding alongside your little one.

Best for ages: 5 and older
This is our Parenting editor’s favorite cooking subscription, mainly because it focuses on cooking and food exploration more than sending you lots of little knickknacks that get tossed soon after opening. Her pint-sized testers have tested just about every kids cooking kit around, and eat2explore is their favorite. It not only includes easy, tastebud-pushing recipes, sauces and spices, it inspires the pickier eaters to try new dishes.

Get an eat2explore box starting at $21.50

11. An annual subscription to kid-focused podcasts

Child smiling while wearing yellow headphones.
Credit: Pinna.fm

Your child will remain engaged as they immerse themselves in a world of sound.

Best for ages: 3 to 12
For engaging screen-free content, Pinna is one of the best apps for kids. It has music, books, and award-winning original podcasts—all made exclusively for kids 3 to 12. From interactive game shows to epic serial mysteries, Pinna has hundreds of hours of programming that fits the interests and tastes of every kind of kid.

Subscribe to Pinna.fm $7.99 a month or $79.99 a year

12. A subscription to a streaming service

Smart television, phone, tablet and laptop with streaming service pulled up.
Credit: Disney+

Stream all of their Disney favorites for hours of family fun.

Best for ages: All ages
They’ll love you. Their parents will love you. A subscription to a kid-friendly streaming service is worth its weight in gold (which is equal currency to a parent’s free time). Disney+ is our family’s current favorite and right now they are offering a streaming bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ for an incredible price.

Get the Disney+ streaming bundle for $13.99 a month

13. An annual pass to a museum

Inside of a brightly colored children's museum.
Credit: Association of Science and Technology Centers

These interactive children's museums will be a memory that they'll talk about for years to come.

Best for ages: All ages
An annual pass to a local museum or science center is always appreciated. Not only are you giving them a far more rewarding experience than any toy can give, you give something for the entire family to enjoy together. What's more, most children's museums and science centers are reciprocal—meaning gifting a membership to a local museum will gain a family free or discounted entry to other museums nationwide. Not sure what museum to buy them a membership to? The Association of Children's Museums and the Association of Science and Technology Centers can help you find just the right one.

14. Online music lessons

A photo of a phone playing a Fender online class.
Credit: Fender

Help them cultivate their inner rockstar.

Best for ages: 8 and older

For the budding rockstar, sign them up for Fender Play, where they can take self-paced guitar lessons from expert instructors. They can learn anything from acoustic to electric guitar to bass and even ukulele.

Give a subscription to Fender Play for $9.99 a month

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