Greening Your Child's Gift Exchange

It's that time of year again.  Time to wrap up the business of the classroom and enjoy a few holiday activities before a well-deserved Christmas vacation.  The last hurrah?  An afternoon party to celebrate, complete with games, crafts, a treat, and a gift exchange.

I adored the gift exchanges in elementary school!  They were the highlight of any class party, saved for the very end before boarding the bus for home.  I can remember books, lip gloss sets, Hello Kitty notepads with tiny pens.  All designed to delight, which they did.

As a parent trying to teach children about a lifestyle where we reduce waste, gift exchanges set off my radar.  Adults encourage exchanges between children to be inexpensive, which I'm all for.  (After all, the point is to share joy with others, and that doesn't have to cost a lot of money.)  The problem is, a cheap gift often means a trip to the dollar store, where merchandise is usually imported and made of heaven-only-knows what kind of material.  Gifts of this nature are designed to be used a few times and thrown away---the exact opposite of what we're trying to teach our kids.

But---it doesn't have to be that way!  Inexpensive does not have to mean cheap or disposable.  We have two gift exchanges on the horizon, and my daughter and I have been thinking outside the box.  Here is our starter list of gifts that are homemade or manufactured/purchased locally.  Enjoy!

Gift Certificates
A $5.00 gift limit may not seem like much, but $5.00 to a local ice cream establishment is a perfect gift for those with a sweet tooth.  Children can use card stock to design a gift card holder that is just right.

Homemade Treats
For a few dollars, you can purchase chocolate for melting and pretzel rods for making chocolate-covered pretzels; add a few red-and-green sprinkles for a festive holiday look.  Rice crispy treats are another fun favorite; use a Christmas cookie cutter to make extra-fun shapes!  Carmel corn and trail mix are two more homemade favorites that are sure to please.

Handmade Ornaments
One of my favorite handmade ornament recipes is for cinnamon-applesauce ornaments:
---Mix 3 cups applesauce*** and 3 cups cinnamon together until it is thick enough to hold a form when cut into cookie cutter shapes. Flatten the mixture on a flat surface and cut into a variety of shapes.  (***This isn't the time to pull out your organic cinnamon.  Think of nearby discount stores where you can stock up.) 
---Place cookie shapes on a cookie sheet to dry for 3 to 4 days depending on the size and thickness of the cookies. If using as a hanging ornament, make hole with toothpick before drying.  Tie with a ribbon for a finishing touch.

For the Girly Girl
As the mother of a girl, I take special exception to the cheap garbage "jewelry" sold in many stores.  Just last year, items of this variety were recalled due to high levels of lead and cadmium.  An alternative is to purchase a spool of stretchy beading line and a strand of small stone beads.  For under $5.00, you can create a pretty bracelet for the fashion-conscious.

Read All About It
A gift certificate to the local bookstore is the perfect gift for the child who likes to spend time lost in a book---and many children's trade books retail for $3.99 or $4.99.  Combine this with a homemade bookmark made of felt or cardstock to hold their place for years to come.

Look Local
Don't assume you need to visit a large store to find inexpensive gifts.  Our local, family-owned toystore has a great display of small toys manufactured within an hour from here---train whistles, pick-up sticks, checkers, marbles, etc.

Keep thinking!  What small gifts can you envision for gift exchanges this Christmas season?


Life Under A Blue Roof


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