EVERYTHING FAMILY &
"Mother of Family Ideas"
Give Inexpensive Gifts an Enhanced Perceived Value
Has gift giving gotten out of control in your family?
Set up a new scenario for children's Christmas gifts that includes more
laughter than dollars. In our family, we
focus on creating many special times together doing holiday activities
during the month of December. The memories made in that way are worth
more than any gifts you can buy. (There are ideas for some of these
activities on web pages listed to the left.)
We talked about gifts as our children were growing
and they understood that their "Santa lists" should list just a few
items that were really important to them at the time. We did our best to
make sure that the most important items were purchased. (For years, our
youngest son supplied us with coupons, links for best prices for items
on-line and comparisons so we could get the best price on his "Santa
List" items!) Even today, in our family, a "big" gift item is usually
somewhere between $25-50, not hundreds or more. We filled-in with lots
of smaller items and our children always felt satisfied and excited,
often saying that "this was the best Christmas ever!"
We put together our own gift packages for our
children, and now our grandchildren, and build them around each child's
current interests. Then we wrap things in as many individual packages as
possible. We also use games (see column to the right) to make gift
opening a lengthy and always fun event. There are "rules". Only one gift
is opened at a time so that everyone can enjoy what everyone else
receives too. We take turns opening gifts so that no one has to be
terribly patient. At the end, jumping in the wrapping paper pile is
always encouraged. Even though we spend very little on gifts, the
opening process takes several hours and includes lots of laughter. By
the time the kids are done opening everything, they have had quite a
good time and it "feels" like they have received much more than the
dollar amount of the gifts. We never get complaints and always get
appreciation for what they received.
Wrapping gifts is an art in our family, although not
necessarily an art of the beautiful sort. We put small items in large
boxes and add cans of food, stacks of magazines or books, etc. to make
the boxes heavy. Those are put under the tree to keep kids guessing. We
also add noisemakers to some boxes. Jingle bells, and things that rattle
or go "thump" when a box is shaken, are often found wrapped up with
"quiet" gifts of clothing. We also wrap things in a series of boxes.
This is always a favorite. (Everyone knows they will get at least one of
these.) What looks like a large gift might be a small but valuable one
or it might be a small "joke" gift, but either way, opening three or
four boxes to get it is always fun. You can never trust what the box
says in our house. We recycle boxes and you really need to open a gift
completely to know what really is inside any box. If a gift contains
many parts, each part is often wrapped individually. It makes for more
gifts to open and the laughter level is always high. (With the older
children, groans were sometimes included, but all in good fun.) We also
found interesting ways to wrap items. There are usually some in cans or
canisters, some in fabric and a few find their way into a red flannel
drawstring "Santa Bag" that I made. I have even wrapped small things
inside a ball of yarn or tucked an item inside a loaf of Italian bread.
There are always many surprises.
Not all gifts are placed under the tree. Gifts from
one another go under the tree as they were wrapped. (And many of these
are wrapped in "deceptive" ways to keep the kids guessing. We have also
been known to supply hints to throw them off track; by making comments
such as, "Don't tip that box, it might leak." The anticipation is
wonderful!! Gifts from Santa show up in the morning. Some of these are
wrapped in different paper than the other gifts and some of Santa's
gifts are not wrapped at all but simply appear in all their glory on
Gratitude, and not disappointment rules the day. The
memories are priceless!
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS & ORNAMENTS
GIFTS FOR CHILDREN
and Photographed by
The Mother of Family Ideas™
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Make Opening Packages an Annual Game with Lots of Fun
Earning a gift by demonstrating the use of mistletoe.
At least half
the fun of getting a gift can be the process of "earning" it by
following clues or going through silly antics.
Here are some
suggestions for hunting and seeking games that prolong the gift opening
time and make it much more fun.
If you have one
major gift that has accessories or parts to go with it, wrap each part
or accessory separately and give the receiver a note with seek and find
instructions. This leads to a small gift that is part of the series and
another clue to finding the next gift. Eventually, the clues and small
gifts lead to the larger gift and provide ideas as to what that might
be. This also works well if the large gift is too large to wrap easily.
Clues can lead to a closet or even a garage where the gift can be hidden
without wrapping. Examples of series of gifts are: doll house furniture,
dollhouse dolls, and dollhouse miniature accessories which all lead to a
doll house as the major gift. Another example would be an assortment of
camping gear leading to a tent, sleeping bag or hiking backpack.
can be handed to the person looking, but in our family, clues can be
found in a number of places. Each family member has an embroidered bag
that holds an original note. (Okay, so sometimes we hide the bags too.)
Notes are also in a needlepoint basket and a angel ornament that opens
to hold things. These are both hidden on the tree and must be found
(along with a pickle and a candy chocolate kiss™
holder.) You can also place clues in plastic eggs and hide them around
the room. (Of course this works for Easter too.) Clues can be hidden in
balloons which must be popped to retrieve the information. (Always watch
young children around balloons which are a choking hazard.) Treasure
maps can be drawn for locating gifts. Treasure maps or clues can also be
written on paper which is then cut apart and must be reassembled as a
puzzle to obtain the information. You can even wrap a series of boxes
(made heavy and noisy) and have the first note to a search in the
smallest box inside. Part of the hilarity of the clues in our family is
that we write them late on Christmas Eve when our brains are numb and
our eyes are half open. We also write them in rhyming verse which is
always terrible but funny nonetheless. The kids enjoy seeing what we
come up with each year. (And yes, even though our "children" are now
31 and 34, they still have to earn and search for their gifts and
wouldn't have it any other way!)
In addition to clues, we also run string or
yarn around the house and children must follow the string path to find a
gift. Different colors are used for different children, and yes, they do
get tangled! The funny thing is that our children, who are now all
adults, have a great time with payback. A couple of years ago, my three
children and I pitched in to buy dad a guitar for Christmas and the kids
had him follow and entire skein of red yarn all through the house,
outdoors and around the house several times and finally into the garage
where the gift was hidden. Along the way, our youngest son serenaded him
with music from his clarinet! Older kids can also make up games
for younger siblings to play and they all enjoy them. Talk about truly
Sometimes the children (and now
grandchildren) have to earn their gifts by doing something silly before
they are given the location of a gift to open. Silly antics can be
specific to the receiver or they can be on slips of paper which are
drawn from a bowl or basket. Here are just a few of the antics required
in our family. have fun thinking of some of your own as well.
all of Santa's reindeer.
up and down on one food while singing "Jingle Bells".
the use of mistletoe.
"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with silly sound effects.
snowballs (cotton balls) with a spatula and put them into a container.
a package while wearing gloves.
a bow behind your back.
about your favorite Christmas gift.
Ho Ho" like Santa.
the nativity from the Bible.
what you would five Jesus as a birthday gift.
your most meaningful Christmas memory.
like the sugarplum fairy in "The Nutcracker".
the family in singing "Silent Night",
the most unusual gift your ever received (or gave).
how to make a snow angel.
how to build a snowman.
Put the FUN in Parenting!
Ultimate Collection of Ideas for Keeping Kids Busy
Ideas for Tots through Teens
By Kas Winters
Kids' Craft of the Month
Kids like gifts
that make them feel special and special doesn't come with a price tag.
Here are some of the simple items that have been popular in our family
over the years.
Family photos with mirror in the middle
made collages of favorites, collections from special events, and made
calendars for my grandchildren which feature photos of the children, and
their mother when she was their age, doing activities keyed to each month
of the year. (Of course the calendar includes family birthdays and
special events too.) I took a bunch of old family photos and made a
collage where the photos are the frame (about 3" wide) for a small
mirror in the center. (When you look at yourself in the mirror, you are
surrounded by ancestors.) Choose special frames or make frames suited to
photos. You can also frame children's artwork in a special way. Put photos in an album or special scrapbook. For more ideas for
photo gifts, click the following link:
Things to do with old photographs
Items: With the use of computers, these can be done simply and
quickly. Make personalized stationery for family members. Even young
children like having notepads with their name on them. Use clip art or
photographs. If you do the art in black only, you can duplicate pages
inexpensively using colored paper and make notepads of 50 sheets at a local
quick printer. If you make 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" pads you can print them for
two people at once, or even place three designs on one sheet for
list-style pads. Calendars (as mentioned above) can be personalized to
fit any family member's interests. If a child loves horses, you can make
a horse calendar using clip-art photos and a little on-line research
will likely yield some special horse-related calendar days. Make up
blank books for children or special journals for the "big kids". Print
family recipes to give to family members who might not remember how to
make grandma's special meals. If you divide an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of
index card weight paper into quarters it is just right for recipe cards.
Tie them together with a ribbon. Print up pretend forms for children to
play restaurant, office or school. Write a short story for your child or
children and create it on the computer. Print out a copy and print the
cover on heavier paper. Fold and staple it into book form. Draw
your own illustrations or leave blank spaces for a child to illustrate
your story. Click here for more information on
creating a book.
toys: If you have time and talent, there are countless gifts you can
make for children. The photo above shows a wooden box that we called
"The Magic Box". My husband built it and it has a wide variety of
latches and little doors that open, a steering wheel, old telephone
parts and other mechanical things attached to it. It sits on casters and
has room inside to store things. This toy was played with for more hours
than I can count and lasted for many, many years. It became everything
from a space ship to an inventor's workshop. It was a very creative toy
and provided both fun and learning.
Over the years
we have made many toys. Roger made a simple dollhouse by building a roof
for a set of shelves. It's not fancy, but it gets hours of use and there
are no parts that break easily. We've made rocking horses, stick horses,
teddy bears, handmade dolls, and lots of puppets and marionettes.
different skills. If some of yours can be used to make a special toy,
chances are it will be played with and valued rather than being tossed
aside and broken. It will also make a child feel special. I have a
step-daughter who is 40 years old and still fondly remembers the doll I
made for her when she was 7. She kept it and played with it for many
Gifts: These are fun because they can feature a particular interest
of a child and help them to develop that interest and learn while
playing. Some of these are available in toy stores, but we always
created our own and used "real" components. Some examples:
+A Kitchen playset that
includes a cookbook, apron, wooden spoons, measuring cups and spoons, a
bowl and some simple recipes that the child can make.
+Restaurant playset that
includes menus (Use take-out menus from local restaurants or ask for
permission to take a regular one. Some said "yes".), a pad and pencil
for taking orders, plastic dishes, and utensils, a tablecloth. We also
included pretend tickets for a "show" after dinner and similar things.
+Inventor playset includes
wires, pieces of wood, hardware, straws, pipe cleaners, washers.
springs, string, electrical tape and/or duct tape and other odd
materials. Fill a plastic tackle box or other container with "stuff".
This was a big hit with both of our sons.
+Other themes: Craft
materials, building /engineering sets; art supplies, animals/horses;
medieval times; gardening, play office, wild west, outer space, dress-up
of all sorts, etc.
You get the
idea. Kids like playing with "real stuff" that doesn't have a prewritten
"agenda" and allows for creativity. Combine things that match a child's
interests and take time to teach where needed. Always lookout for a
child's safety, matching tools and materials to their age and abilities.
A bonus: most of the time the cost was much less than the toy store