Experiences make the best Christmas gifts

Santa might do better to bring the gifts of experience rather than things for the Holidays.
Santa might do better to bring the gifts of experience rather than things for the Holidays. File, 2004

Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:

Q: What’s a good last-minute gift for the kids?

The most preposterous Christmas wish list I’ve ever read was written recently by my screen-loving teenage son.

The list was 61 items long and packed with things like a Sumo wrestling costume, a cross-country tour of college football bowl games and a drone.

Just for kicks, I started crunching the numbers and announced whenever the grand total increased by another $1,000.

“This is why Santa’s always in the red,” I said.

When I proclaimed the total was nearly $16,000, my son could hardly keep a straight face as his master plan became obvious.

“Well, the Twitter account doesn’t cost anything,” the negotiating savant said.

I’ve read the list a few times, but only for entertainment purposes. In doing so, however, I enjoyed a brief and rare moment of enlightenment.

Sure, there were plenty of standard kid wish stuff included in his dream bounty. An iPhone, two computers and a handful of video games.

On Jan. 8, 160 ski areas (including seven from Washington) will try to set the record for most ski lessons in one day.

But I was happy to see that more than half the items didn’t require a some kind of monitor.

Even better, most of these items were actual outdoor (or at least out of the house) experiences. Scuba diving lessons, skydiving (sorry, kid, too scary for me. Ask your mom.), ziplining and hanging out with his grandparents made his list.

It was enough to make me wonder if, in this battle between parents and screens, the kids might actually want us to win. Or at least put up a really good fight.

Getting the kids outside and giving them an experience instead of a thing, might be the best gift. But, really, it needs to be more than that. It needs to be the start or the continuation of a routine of getting out regularly and experiencing and learning new activities.

Last week as I talked to Mike Chamberlain of Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood, he pointed out that he’s seeing fewer and fewer kids out fishing.

“Parents are getting their kids out to fish during (kid-oriented) events,” Chamberlain said. “But they aren’t bringing them back out. They need to get them out there more often if we are going to get younger kids fishing.”

So, maybe an outdoor experience is the perfect Christmas gift. It’s just a gift we should be giving our kids way more often than the holidays.

Q: What’s a cheap way to race over the holidays?

Metro Parks Tacoma has two bargain-basement (one is inexpensive and the other is free) running events planned for the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, the parks department is staging two 3-mile races at Wright Park. Participants in the Jingle Bell Run can choose to start at 10 a.m. or noon. The entry fee for the chip-timed race is $10 if you register by Sunday (Dec. 20).

One of the highlights of the Jingle Bell Run is the costume contest, which includes categories for family and dog costumes and, of course, the ugliest sweater.

Metro Parks rings in the new year with its free 1-mile Resolution Run at Point Defiance Park Jan. 1. The run is capped with the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

Participants in the plunge, also free, jump into Puget Sound’s frigid waters at the park’s marina. The run starts at 11 a.m. The plunge starts at 11:30. The shivering lasts all afternoon.

For more information on the events, visit metroparkstacoma.org.

Q: When’s a good time to make history while learning to ski or snowboard?

Almost any time there’s snow on the ground is a good time to learn to ski or snowboard, but January might be a particularly good time to dabble in the sport.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and many ski areas around the country are hoping to introduce the sport to new people. This year, 160 ski areas (including seven in Washington) are teaming up to try to set the Guinness World Record for most ski and snowboard lessons taught in one day. The current record is not currently posted on the the Guinness World Record website.

The record attempt is scheduled for Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. and many areas are offering discounts on lessons. The Washington ski areas participating in the record attempt according learntoskiandsnowboard.org include Crystal Mountain, Mission Ridge, Stevens Pass, Summit at Snoqualmie, White Pass, 49 Degrees North, Mount Spokane and Ski Bluewood.