As my children grow, so does their stockpile of toys. When holidays and birthdays pass, I find myself trying to make room for all the new shiny gadgets they have received. While we enjoy giving some of those used toys a deserving new home, we know the cycle will start again come the next celebration. I’ve read a couple of blogs recently about giving experiences as gifts. As a mother of 3, I’m here to tell you why giving a child Kansas is one of the best gifts they will ever receive.

If you take him to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City you will teach him that a dream can be silly and extreme. That even a playful dream will take just as much hard work and dedication as any other aspiration, and the reward is just as satisfying.

Family and ranger at Little Jerusalem

If you take her to Logan County to experience Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, one might question if they are in the right place. For these formations cannot be seen as you approach the park. You’ll get to teach her that like many great things in life, what’s under the surface is where true beauty lies. When she walks to the rock rim and looks down at the Niobrara Chalk formations, she will learn what it means to be pleasantly surprised.

If you take him for a windows down, music up type of drive along the Gypsum Hills as you head out for an afternoon of Kansas catfishing, you’ll give him a memory he will never forget. The fresh Kansas air. The sound of dad singing to an old favorite while mom hums. The bright colors of the hills as the sun beats down upon them. The look on his face when he realizes Kansas isn’t as flat as they say.  You’ll teach him the simplicity of going for a drive and what a day like today does for the soul. This will be a memory he cherishes forever and will one day reenact for his own children.

The Keeper of the Plains statue at night with the ring of fire celebration.

If you take her to Wichita as The Keeper of the Plains comes alive, you’ll see a fire light in her eyes that you hope never leaves. As your family is cuddled together on a rock, watching the flames dance and reflect off the river, you too will reflect on the day and how this trip is exactly what you needed. You will return home feeling refreshed and renewed. A passionate fire twirling in your eyes as well. For what is a vacation that doesn’t leave you inspired?

A father and daughter looking at a spacesuit at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson

 If you take him to Hutchison’s Cosmosphere, he’ll learn why the state motto is “Ad Astra Per Aspera”. With over 13,000 space artifacts he could spend all day exploring this museum. Which is okay, you could too. On your drive home, as day turns into night, the Kansas sky will be his playground as he dreams of being an astronaut. You can see him in the rearview mirror pretending to walk on the moon. As your family drifts off to sleep from a day of fun you look up at the night sky. You think to yourself; I haven’t seen this many stars in a very long time.

A father and two children admiring portraits at the Brown V Board Museum.

If you teach her about Bleeding Kansas as you explore Lecompton and Lawrence, you’ll get a chance to talk to her about what it means to fight for what you believe is right. What it means to be an activist and a leader. As you educate her on a darker time in the United States and what the Free-Staters and Jayhawkers accomplished for Kansas. She will want to learn more, so you will make the 20-minute drive to Topeka to visit Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site. The courageous story of Brown V. Board will teach her about equality and the negative effects of “separate but equal” doctrine.

If you take him to Dodge City you will remember what it felt like playing cowboys of the wild west when you were his age. You’ll show him that cowboys still exist in places like this. How farmers and ranchers and their stewardship of the land made us “The Wheat State “and a global leader in agriculture. How this stewardship has preserved the remaining 4% of tallgrass prairie that makes up part of the Kansas Flint Hills Region. You will teach him what it means to nourish, to protect and to provide.

Kansas is full of opportunities. The experiences will range from simplistic to vast. The loveliness in an experience is that everyone will get a different outcome. Differences and experiences aside; Kansas is a gift that will keep giving. If you give a child Kansas, I guarantee they will want more.