Grandparents love to spoil their grandkids so much it’s close to impossible to deny them anything. A good example is a new toy, which they’re bound to get bored of soon, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s chucked into a corner.
If you practice the art of essentialism, you’re aware that external pressure should not push decisions. You ask better questions like, “What gifts could be more meaningful than toys?” Is there something out there they will not easily outgrow? In light of the research studies I read recently, I’d like to suggest spending time together on a fun vacation has more benefits than we could imagine. I’m going to share three, but I’m sure you can discover more.
Experiential treats trump material gifts
The Journal of Consumer Research published a study that revealed that compared to receiving a material gift, an experiential gift can lead to better relationships between the giver and the recipient.
Enjoying an ice skating show, a theme park, or a holiday trip are experiences we can gift our loved ones with. And according to the study, the positive effect is evident regardless of whether the recipient enjoyed the gift together with you, the giver, or not. But why leave yourself out of the picture when spending time with them can be part of the gift, right?
Fun and adventure is good for kids’ brain development
What could be a more perfect excuse for taking your grandchildren out on a trip? Their brain development. More importantly, it’s true and science-backed.
According to Professor Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University, activating a child’s “play” and “seek” system is good for their brain health. When activated, these systems trigger well-being neurochemicals like opioids, oxytocin, and dopamine. They’re called such because they:
- Reduce stress
- Promote healing
- Generate a positive outlook, and
- Create affectionate and generous emotions towards others
As the name suggests, playing, or doing fun things, and seeking, or exploring new things, activates these systems. Because travel exposes them to an unfamiliar yet fun environment, it provides an awesome opportunity for both these systems to be activated.
From exploring an underground river, forest, or a colorful street market, to building sandcastles, playing with farm animals, or simply riding on your back, these activities are perfect for activating these powerful systems in their brain.
The cool thing is, the more you activate this emotional state, the more they become part of their personality.
Grandkids-time is good for grandparents too
Lastly, traveling with family is not only a good holiday gift for the kids, but it’s also healthy for grandma and grandpa.
Spending time with grandchildren promotes health, happiness, and mental sharpness among grandparents. A research conducted among grandmothers tells us that taking care of grandkids once a week is linked to delayed onset of dementia and lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It also keeps them from social isolation, which can cause depression in some.
It seems that aside from keeping their grandparents’ joyful company, children’s curiosity and inquisitiveness give granny’s brain highly productive mental exercise.
According to the study about material versus experiential gifts, the intensity of emotion caused by an experiential gift often outweighs the emotion felt when a material gift is received. To be less technical about it, the key takeaway is as simple as this: The happiness material things bring is often short-lived. But fun times spent with loved ones are difficult to outgrow. This makes them (one of) the best gifts we can give our grandkids.