Hello Connecticut in Style readers,
Are you at home in your pjs purposely avoiding the crowds and craziness of Black Friday? Smart move. My name is Jenn Record (that’s me and my family), and I’m excited to be a guest contributor to this lifestyle blog! Sarah and I first met over 10 years ago through the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County. We bonded due to our shared interest in volunteering for our community and we’ve remained friends ever since. I’ve enjoyed following CTiS since it began and when we were talking a few weeks ago about some content for Holiday themed blog posts, I mentioned to her that my favorite gifts to give and receive were all about creating memories. So grab a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate while I share with you my top picks for giving “experiences” as gifts this Holiday.
When my husband and I first began thinking about having children, we discussed our own childhoods, which led to a walk down memory lane about the holidays, birthdays, and gift giving. We both knew we wanted our children to have more experiences, more trips, more time with us than tangible toys and electronics. We made a polite plea, and offered suggestions to our extended families to view birthdays and holidays as a time to spend together, doing fun things. This roundup of gift ideas create memories that last a lot longer than anything with batteries required.
P.S. If you do not live in CT you can do the same thing in your community, or just bookmark this page for ideas for your next visit to CT!
Museum Memberships: There are lots of museums, aquariums, and zoos in Connecticut, which are all great opportunities for hands on learning. Most museums offer several levels of memberships, and allow for reciprocity at other museums throughout the country. For instance, the Family Plus membership to Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Connecticut (geared towards children 10 and under) allows for discounted admissions to over 100 children’s museums (WOW!) which are part of the nationwide ACM Children’s Museums organization, and over 290 ASTC museums throughout the country. From the Fairfield, CT area, you can take day trips to popular spots like Boston’s Children Museum and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan at a steep discount.
A Family Premium membership to the Bronx Zoo: Less than an hour’s drive from Fairfield County, CT this includes memberships to 4 other zoos and aquariums that are part of the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Metro New York area, and includes free parking, guest passes, and admissions to special events and tours. The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT is a great place to visit all year-long, but especially in the cold Connecticut winters, as there are lots of places for children to run, climb, and explore and see plenty of sea creatures, face to face. There are less expensive levels of memberships to these organizations, but by getting a higher level, you will often receive perks such as free parking, guest passes, and extended hours to visit, that make it financially worth it.
Magazine Subscriptions: I am proud of my children’s passion for reading – it’s my daughter’s favorite activity and she can literally read for hours. When she was only 3 years old, a cousin sent her a subscription to National Geographic Little Kids. The magazine was perfect for her age because there are lots of colorful photos of adorable animals, simple sentences to help her practice her “sight words”, and short stories that her father and I could read to her. There are several levels of National Geographic magazine geared towards various ages and reading abilities. Today, my daughter, almost eight, enjoys the crafts and short stories in American Girl magazine and the science experiments in Ask magazine. My son, now five, receives High Five magazine, a version of Highlights magazine geared towards young readers, and Disney Junior magazine. The Disney company has a variety of magazines geared towards interests such as princesses and Spiderman.
Tickets: My family enjoys both rooting for the home sports teams and applauding thespians at the theater. Locally, downtown Bridgeport is home to The Bridgeport Bluefish, a team that is part of the Liberty Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, an American Hockey League team. The Fairfield University men’s and women’s Stag basketball teams also play at the Arena at Harbor Yard. All three teams offer ticket packages that include food and drinks, and there’s not a bad seat in the house! A gift card to the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, located in Bridgeport, CT will allow the recipient to choose from a variety of family friendly shows throughout the year. Bonus: you can bring your own food and beverages, as seating is cabaret style. There are also concession stands in the lobby of the theater. Fairfield University Quick Center for the Arts hosts traveling theatre groups, which perform classic children stories on Sunday afternoons throughout the year. There is ample parking on the university’s campus, and the shows are often short, with frequent intermissions.
Board Games: Friday night family game nights at popular in many of my friend’s homes. It’s a great way to “unplug” from the world and teaches important lessons to children about patience, friendly competition, and becoming gracious losers. Some classics that my children enjoy include Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, and Twister. When they were younger, they could play Zingo for hours! Many adult board games now have “junior” versions that are fun for the whole family. We especially enjoy Apples to Apples Junior and Scattergories Junior. Card games like UNO and are perfect for on-the-go and travel game nights.
I hope this holiday season afford you and your families many opportunities to make lasting memories together!
Jenn Record is an English teacher in Darien, Connecticut. Along with her husband, Dan, and children Charlotte and Nathan, she enjoys exploring new places in Fairfield County and throughout the country on summer road trips. Since her daughter’s birth in 2008, her family has driven over 12,000 miles while visiting 23 states, 22 of the 30 Major League baseball teams, 11 National Parks, and countless museums, zoos, and aquariums.