Christmas gift exchanges are an annual highlight among school kids. I still remember some of the treats and trinkets I received during my younger days. There were earrings, small stuffed animals, a cat figurine, and the ubiquitous holiday-themed socks. My favorite gift was a package of Lip Smacker chap sticks I received during my Girl Scout troop’s gift exchange when I was in fifth grade. Those chap sticks came packaged in a clear tube with a lid made out of a red plastic reindeer head. It was an awesome gift for a 10-year-old.
This year, my oldest daughter is poised to participate in her first Christmas gift exchange. She drew a name in her preschool class last week, and we are now on the hunt for a $2 gift for a little boy. I know much of the fun comes from letting my daughter select a gift on her own. Yet, the parent in me wants to encourage some level of practicality. It’s easy for a lot of cheap junk to find its way into the house during the holidays, and I’d prefer not to do that to other parents.
So as my daughter and I head out to the dollar store in search of bargains, here are some gift ideas we’ll try to keep in mind.
1. Consumable gifts. These are gifts that can be used up, eaten, or otherwise made to disappear over time. They are the ultimate anti-clutter gifts. Items in this category include lip balm, bubble bath, body wash, hand soap, bath crayons, hand sanitizer, lotion, nail polish, bubbles, character-themed band-aids (Dora, Cars, etc.), character-themed toothbrush and toothpaste, temporary tattoos, sidewalk chalk, movie tickets, fast food gift cards, and hot chocolate mix.
2. Educational gifts. These are gifts that engage the creative sides of kids’ brains, or get them thinking. Some of these gifts are also consumable, which makes them even better. They include coloring books, drawing paper, pencils, paint, markers, glitter glue, picture or chapter books, word search or crossword books, puzzles, paper dolls, craft kits, stickers, and modeling clay.
3. Practical gifts. These are things kids need, and maybe some things are just nice little extras, but they still have that useful element. Practical gifts include socks, tights, mittens or gloves, winter hat, scarf, hair bows or barrettes, headbands, fun t-shirts, and slippers.
Whatever you give or receive, have a Merry Christmas. And if you want my suggestion, I’d go with the Lip Smackers!
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