5 Ways to Give the Gift of Learning This Holiday Season

With Black Friday comes the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Throughout the next few weeks people will be buying millions of toys, gadgets, and other gifts for friends and family. Whoever you’re buying for – even yourself – consider giving the gift of learning this holiday season.

Here are five ways to add learning to your holiday shopping list.


Books and other reading materials are a great source of learning. They can be an even greater source of learning if we select items that stretch the person reading them. Quite often people read within their existing comfort zone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But a gift of reading that isn’t in someone’s default sweet spot can expand someone’s comfort zone.

booksHere’s a current example, right off my desk. The book I received earlier today is right in my sweet spot. I look forward to reading it, but it satisfies a very well-established expectation. The Smithsonian Magazine is almost the opposite. I subscribed specifically because every month it comes with something new. When I flip through and read articles I’m discovering new and often fascinating things I probably would not have encountered without the subscription.

TIP: Magazine subscriptions tend to be pretty low-cost, and yet they allow the giving – and the learning – to continue all year long.


Memberships are another great way to give the gift of learning. Last year we gave ourselves the gift of a membership to the Wildlife Conservation Society, a membership that gives us a full year of access to the Bronx Zoo, the NY Aquarium, and a few other area zoos. Every time we visit we’re learning, and the rotating exhibits ensure that there’s always something new to explore and learn from.

There are lots of memberships that can contribute to learning – art clubs, museums, and more. Like magazines, a membership is a gift that lasts all year, providing a great source of regular learning.

TIP: Discount shopping services like Groupon or Living Social often feature memberships at deeply discounted prices.


A few years ago we gave my daughter tickets to the Broadway show Mary Poppins as a gift. She was young, and seemed to have a passing child-like interest in music and theatre. I think I spent more time that afternoon focused on her than on the show itself, watching her soak it all in. While she was entertained, she was also learning a great deal. Things come and go, but experiences stay with us, and what we learn through them can be truly transformative.

TIP: Experiences do not need to be expensive. Quite often the best experiences are free or low-cost. For example, this year we’re planning to get my daughter tickets to a backstage tour of a Broadway theatre, something that costs a fraction of the price of an actual Broadway ticket, and yet something I expect she’ll appreciate and learn from even more.


2ae3bdde41e5494e46416a972561a0a0Other experiences are much more active in nature. My wife and I gave ourselves a trip to the Caribbean a few years ago, and learned a great deal about culture, food, and more during the experience. Travel takes the concept of moving someone out of their comfort zone and makes it literal. Travel teaches us a tremendous amount about the world around us and provides understanding of our place in it.

TIP: Travel doesn’t have to involve a plane, and doesn’t have to involve the costs often associated with a vacation. There are plenty of ways to experience the world around you, both near and far, at low cost. (Groupon and Living Social are great for these as well)


While not the type of gift that requires unwrapping, another meaningful gift that also supports learning is the gift of charity. The gift of charity teaches us empathy and understanding of other people and causes. It helps us learn about the true spirit of the holiday season – the spirit of giving.

Charity helps us learn how we can help make the world we live in a better place, not just as an idea, but as an act. That’s an important lesson for us all to learn not just at the holidays, but all year round.

TIP: The gift of charity doesn’t have to be a financial gift. It can also be the gift of your time as a volunteer, which in many ways is a more powerful learning experience. 

Give the Gift of Learning

The opportunity to learn is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give to someone (including yourself). There’s lots of ways to give the gift of learning – this list is just a starting point. I’d love to hear what other ideas you have, so please feel free to add to this list via the comments.

Speaking of the gift of learning, be sure to check out the year-end sale we are offering on eLearning Guild Content packages through December 23rd. You can save 15% on packages that include Spotlights, Summits, and or Conferences. The discount applies to new packages, or an extension of an existing content subscription. 

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