As the holiday season approaches, you may be wracking your brain for gift ideas for family and friends—and they may be asking you for suggestions for your own tykes. Are you already quite literally tripping over LEGO, Peppa Pig figurines, tubs of Play-Doh, and Matchbox cars? Yeah, us, too—which is why we put together this list of “activity gifts” to help you create experiential memories for your own kids and other loved ones. Bonus: the only space they take up is in your heart. Cue the holiday season cheese.

screenshot-2016-11-30-at-4-56-59-amPhoto: Goldfish Swim School

Goldfish Swim School
Why wait for summer when you can give the gift of year-round pool time fun? Reston’s Goldfish Swim School accepts students ages four months to 12 years at any time (even in the middle of the month!) for private and small group classes as well as swim team practice. Depending on your child’s skill level, experienced instructors will help swimmers become acclimated to the water, develop basic safety skills, and learn swim strokes. With the water heated to a tropical 90 degrees, a snack shack, and a viewing space for parents (for classes that are children and instructor-only), families rave about both the experience and the results. Group classes start at $95 per month, but package options vary widely so be sure to check out their website. Dive in this winter!

12340 Pinecrest Rd. (Reston, Va)

Feels Like Om Family Yoga
Offering everything from prenatal, postnatal, Parent and Me (infants through age five), and Family Yoga (geared toward ages three through nine, but older siblings are welcome), Feels Like Om aims to bring the peaceful, nurturing practice of yoga to the entire family. The first class is free, and single class passes for kids are $14; class passes start at $65. Yoga games, partner poses, and stretching exercises promise to be a gentle and inviting way to introduce this life-long form of exercise to your budding yogini!

6116 Rolling Rd. (Springfield, Va)

6979311185_0ea8d73a3d_zPhoto: Earth Rangers via Flickr

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

While admission to what is arguably the best zoo in the nation is free, you can always gift an annual membership–which includes free or reduced parking for those days when wrangling a dozen (or two) children on the Metro sounds far too daunting, as well as other perks ranging from carousel coupons, Zoo store coupons, and a subscription to the Smithsonian Zoogoer magazine. Memberships start at $50. You can also gift coupons for special one-time events, like ZooLights, so that little ones can enjoy “snow-less tubing” or a train ride throughout the park! Check out the Zoo website for other gift-able events.

3001 Connecticut Ave., NW (Woodley Park)

Parktakes-Fairfax County Park Authority
Offering classes throughout Fairfax County, Parktakes opens a world of skills and fun to children of all ages: martial arts, scouting, golf, dog obedience/pet handling, acting, electric guitar, bridge, the foundations of babysitting—the list is a long one! Check out their website for scheduling and fees, and give the give of a new skill and an escape from winter vacation boredom! You can also plan ahead and purchase a summer Rec-PAC for a very lucky kid.

(locations vary)

CRDT-kidscrafts-2, painting

The Art League
Boasting a school, gallery, and store, The Art League offers quarterly classes and art camps for ages five and up “in virtually all of the fine arts, and a wide variety of crafts, with some of the most talented and well-known artists and instructors in the country.” Prices and class times vary, but most classes meet for nine weeks and require a small additional materials fee. Kids can learn about the fundamentals of art, cartooning, metalworking and jewelry, ceramics, and more! Topics for special workshops vary, but a highlight this winter is clay animation. Will your child create the next Wallace and Gromit?

105 North Union St. (Alexandria, Va)

Nova PlayLabs
Including a PlayZone with three different play areas (to stimulate imaginative play, fine motor manipulative play with board games and puzzles, and gross motor play with balls and bikes), camps, and both pre-school and grade school classes (on everything from classic artists and sewing to STEM and zoology), NoVa PlayLabs is an exciting place for your child to explore her growing array of interests. A monthly class pass, which allows children to try unlimited classes, is $99. Check out their website for other package options, and play on!


3656 Centerview Dr. (Chantilly, Va)

What other local experiences make great kid gifts? Tell us in the comments below. 

–Katie Brown