A few days ago, I was talking with some other moms about Christmas. We were laughing over the years when we didn't have much, and about how we handled all the gift buying, especially with extended families. One of my friends suggested I write a blog post about some of my ideas.
There are lots of ideas for handling gift giving in extended families. Some draw names, some give only gag gifts, some set a dollar limit, some donate to charity in a family member's name, some play games. In our extended family, we have started giving group gifts. For instance, while we buy my mother and father separate gifts, we give each sibling and spouse a single gift. Then we give each family a gift for all the kids. So for instance, my sister who lives in Lubbock will get one gift for her and her husband to share. They have three boys, and we give them one gift for them to share. So each family gets only two gifts. They do the same for us (although sometimes they will split it into a gift for the older kids and one for the younger girls)But we are able to give them something that is hopefully nice and thoughtful and still spend less and have to chase and keep track of fewer gifts.
Here is a list of gifts ideas for groups of kids, covering a wide age range and good for both boys and girls (of course not all idea will work for all families):
* Movies - a no brainer, right? This one has been a big hit with my kids.
* Books - Good books can be enjoyed by all ages, even those too young to read them by themselves if a parent or older sibling will read them to them. Last year my niece and nephew received the Chronicles of Narnia set from us.
* Music CD's
* Board Games
* Coloring books and crayons/markers/etc. - There are some really cool crayon sets out there, and if a family has all young kids this could be a hit. You could even personalize some coloring books (mix in princess and Spiderman books for both genders), get a big set of crayons and a set of glittery markers and you are all set.
* CD player - Kelly's brother's family got my girls their own CD player one year and they have really enjoyed it. Plus it is something that they could not have afforded it they had to buy all the girls a gift.
* Sidewalk art supplies - There are some really cool sidewalk art chalks, paints, etc that all the kids could really go to town on.
*General art supplies - A big tablet of drawing paper, some paint, or some art pencils and maybe a "How-to-Draw" book and all the kids in a family could practice their art.
*Water toys - I throw this in for those of us who live in hot climates. Here, we can swim 7-8 months out of the year. So a Slip 'N' Slide or a set of super soaker water guns could be very welcome.
* Any toy set with lots of pieces which can be used with more than one person: Legos, blocks, TinkerToys, Lincoln Logs, etc.
If you have only girls you are giving to, here's a couple of ideas:
* a box of dress up clothes
* a nail set - a couple different bottles of nail polish, an emery board, a set of toe separators, and the stickers you put on nails. Put it in a cute container or basket and the girls have an at home nail salon!
If you need to cut down even more, what about giving a family Christmas gift? It is just enough to let the family know you are thinking about them, but can be done without breaking the bank. Here's some ideas for that:
* a family movie night - a Blockbuster gift card, a couple of bags of microwave popcorn, and some hot chocolate mix.
*Give to their interests. If a family is really into camping, give them a camping lantern or a dutch oven, or something that they can use while doing what they enjoy.
* Take your kids' pictures to a photo place (like CVS or Walgreens) and have inexpensive family calendars made.
* A Christmas tree ornament - Give them either a personalized ornament or one that goes along with their interests (eg. if they are a big sports loving family, find a team ornament).
* Give them a meal in a basket - In a basket, put some homemade meal fixin's, like soup in a jar, cornbread mix and brownie mix. You can find ideas for this sort of thing all over the Internet, like this place or this one. Just Google "mix in a jar" or "gift in a jar" or "gift mixes."
*Gift cards - If all else fails, or if you have to mail it and big baskets won't cut it, send an Amazon gift card or a card to a favorite restaurant.
*Movie passes - Theaters also sell gift cards so you could treat the whole family to a movie out - even at $10 a piece, it would be hard to find a nice gift at that much per person.
*Web Camera - This one is especially nice for family who lives far away.
Well, these are just suggestions. I'm sure there are lots of other good ideas out there. If you have any good "group gift" ideas, leave a comment! Especially for boys, because I have no experience with boys. Happy gift planning!