46 answers

Christmas Gifts for Kids Who Don't Need Stuff

Yes, I am worrying about Christmas already.

We exchange Christmas gifts with only the kids in our families. On my side, my brother has three boys (2, 6 & 13) and my step brother has two boys (3 & 6). Both of these families are financially well off (me, not so much), so the kids really do not need a crappy $15 toy (probably all my budget can handle this year) from us.

So my question is, has anyone ever given to a charity or found another unique "gift" for the kid who has everything? We could potentially even make something (not a food item) but it can't cost a lot (and we're not exactly crafty). I sort of want to give to a charity (like Salvation Army's Angel program) on their behalf, but that seems sort of presumptuous ("I gave your gift to someone else because they need it more").

I am really in a quandary, since we don't have much money I hate to "waste" it on stuff I'm pretty sure their kids won't look at twice. I worry about that at Christmas generally, since we can never know what people will really like. But gift cards are so "impersonal".

I am also not opposed to suggesting that they donate a gift to a charity on behalf of my kids (who have tons of toys and really don't need their $15 gift either). I don't mean to sound ungrateful or scrooge-ish, but the reality is we as a society throw a lot of money away on Christmas and these days I think we should be a little more thoughtful about it.

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas for kids who have everything without insulting anyone, that would be great.

Thanks, creative mamas!

P.S. I don't tell any of this to my kids nor do I imply that we are being judged by our gifts. My question sounds sort of crabby but that's really not how it's intended. And these families are not local to us.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow, awesome answers everyone!! I hope people will keep posting, everyone is so thoughtful and creative.

We can't spend time together which would be lots more fun and yes, much more meaningful (we each live at about the farthest points in the US). But I like the gift basket idea (I love doing those anyway, but I tend to go a little overboard so I'll have to look for bargains), the adopt a zoo animal idea was cool, folded money was unique (for a different family on my husband's side we usually give $ to), itunes gift card for the teen is perfect, the ornaments from wildlife international someone mentioned sounds like it could become a fun tradition!

We'll do donations in our own way (maybe just to the local food pantry) so we're helping those less fortunate (maybe I can combine it somehow into the gifts we give, I'll think about that).

Thank you so much and hopefully all the great responses will help others who might be struggling with this too!

Featured Answers

One year I was feeling in a similar situation..limited budget...lots of nieces and nephews to buy for ..tired of the gift cards, etc. So I did buy small but good quality toys for the very youngest of them (say under 4 yrs old)..boys..Fisher price or similar type chunky cars, etc..girls, something similar and fun (most were boys...one BIL has 4 sons!

Then for the older ones age 4 up to teens...I still only did the $15...but I did money origami with it. I made all the bills to look like little mens shirts (found the folding instructions online). It was the easiest folding pattern I found. I did a 10 bill and 5 ones. then added a tiny piece of fancy pattern paper to look like a tie for the boys (just tucked in....not taped or adhered in), and did a lacy collar thing for the girls... and I had found some little gift boxes..like large jewelry ones, just the right size at a dollar store...like 4/$1.

So each child got a "box of shirts" for a gift..teeny tiny dollar bill shirts. Still $15..and took a bit of my time..the first few were tricky but after that a breeze (crisp bills from the bank worked best..I asked them for them..told them I just wanted crispy ones for gift giving). Wish I had a pic and could share it (we did a pic of all the little boxes of shirts.....:-)

6 moms found this helpful

When I need to get a gift for "the person that has everything" I tend to go for an "experience" -- like tickets for a show, movie gift cards,...even Build A Bear would be something they can "do" as a family together and make a memory! Even a basket with a DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate mix and Dots or something is kind of like an "event."

5 moms found this helpful

I understand what you are staying but the bottom line is they will be happy to open a gift from their aunt. I feel like my kids have a lot of things, too, but they love cool t-shirts, or ones with funny sayings on them. Skater apparel, rock band posters. If they have an itouch or ipod they love buying apps, so an Itunes gift card is awesome, according to my own boys 9 and 11. My sons are always asking if they can get a new app. Goodluck!

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers

I love the idea of a day together.

But my sister started a new tradition a few years ago and we love it. She is on a very tight budget...extremely tight. So at Christmas she gets the whole family a board game. She always picks something unusual and out of the ordinary - NOT checkers or connect 4. I know they cost her less than $20, but we love it. We have a great family night together. The kids look forward to the game she'll send every year now.

7 moms found this helpful

I love to give and receive music and magazines! There are many great kids' magazines out there for different age ranges as well as "enthusiast" magazines if they're really into auto racing or hunting or something. Just make sure whatever magazine you're ordering doesn't also feature naked women or something! Check out Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids magazines, Cricket, National Wildlife Foundation magazines, Highlights, etc. If you get a move on, you can go ahead and order it, and they'll send them a gift card, or if you want to give them something wrapped, you can get a current issue and wrap it with the subscription gift card.

The little ones probably won't be into this, but the 13 year old probably would -and maybe the 6 year olds (ask their parents) -get them an iTunes gift card for music downloads. OR you can get them a store gift card where they could buy a video game if they play them -or the actual game if it's okay with the parents and isn't one of the really expensive ones.

7 moms found this helpful

I know what you mean, but you can't do that. If you don't want to give someone a gift, then don't do it. You can give your money to charities if you want, but don't tell the other kids that you gave to a charity instead of to them. It's not their fault that they are spoiled. How about suggesting to your entire family (extended) that instead of a gift exchange this year, EVERYONE gives donations to a charity. That way the rich kids aren't singled out and there will be no bad feelings.

6 moms found this helpful

One year I was feeling in a similar situation..limited budget...lots of nieces and nephews to buy for ..tired of the gift cards, etc. So I did buy small but good quality toys for the very youngest of them (say under 4 yrs old)..boys..Fisher price or similar type chunky cars, etc..girls, something similar and fun (most were boys...one BIL has 4 sons!

Then for the older ones age 4 up to teens...I still only did the $15...but I did money origami with it. I made all the bills to look like little mens shirts (found the folding instructions online). It was the easiest folding pattern I found. I did a 10 bill and 5 ones. then added a tiny piece of fancy pattern paper to look like a tie for the boys (just tucked in....not taped or adhered in), and did a lacy collar thing for the girls... and I had found some little gift boxes..like large jewelry ones, just the right size at a dollar store...like 4/$1.

So each child got a "box of shirts" for a gift..teeny tiny dollar bill shirts. Still $15..and took a bit of my time..the first few were tricky but after that a breeze (crisp bills from the bank worked best..I asked them for them..told them I just wanted crispy ones for gift giving). Wish I had a pic and could share it (we did a pic of all the little boxes of shirts.....:-)

6 moms found this helpful

When I need to get a gift for "the person that has everything" I tend to go for an "experience" -- like tickets for a show, movie gift cards,...even Build A Bear would be something they can "do" as a family together and make a memory! Even a basket with a DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate mix and Dots or something is kind of like an "event."

5 moms found this helpful

I like the thought behind your question. Christmas is most definitely too commercialized and sometimes it seems like everyone has just lost their minds regarding gift-giving. I'm not sure, however, given the ages of the children involved, that your idea would go over too well. Christmas really IS for the kids, I mean the enjoyment that you get giving them something you know they will like and all that. Instead of a $15 gift, is there some fun activity you can do with the kids, maybe make a day of it and let them help plan, and that could be their gift this year? It seems to me that the children's parents should be the ones to foster the idea of charitable giving within their own family - it IS a wonderful thing and definitely something to be encouraged. I would talk to your brother and step-brother ahead of time and see what they think. Just make sure everyone's on the same page so there are no disappointments come Christmas.

4 moms found this helpful

I usually buy a really thoughtful movie or book for the whole family to enjoy, or a book for each child and one for the parents. A special book with a handwritten note inside the book cover to the gift recipient can be very special, add a pretty bookmark and you have an inexpensive gift.

4 moms found this helpful

Hi M.,
While we are blessed with resources, we almost always give books to children (and adults) as gifts. I don't worry that the gifts are less costly than others. Books are forever. And, if you plan now, you can always find bargain books online or in the bookstore.

Another less costly idea that I often do, is a picture of your family together put in a frame made by your kids. Pictures are priceless.

Please don't feel judged by anyone because of how much money you spend. It is truly the thought that counts. And you send a message of this sort to your kids.

Hope this helps, Jilly

4 moms found this helpful

I understand what you are staying but the bottom line is they will be happy to open a gift from their aunt. I feel like my kids have a lot of things, too, but they love cool t-shirts, or ones with funny sayings on them. Skater apparel, rock band posters. If they have an itouch or ipod they love buying apps, so an Itunes gift card is awesome, according to my own boys 9 and 11. My sons are always asking if they can get a new app. Goodluck!

4 moms found this helpful

We do a gift exchange with my husband's family. Last year I donated to the American Cancer Society in the name of one family member (she is a breast cancer survivor) and donated to Heifer International for another family member. One person truly appreciated the donation and thought it was a great idea. The other person never said thank you (we were out of town for the holidays) and by all accounts was miffed that she "got nothing." Strangely, I had thought the ungrateful person would appreciate the sentiment as she is always sharing her Christian view and talking about the "true meaning of Christmas." These were adults and even one of them couldn't accept the spirit of the gift. I would not donate to charity on a child's behalf because, frankly, most will not appreciate it and they will just think "where's my stuff?"

There are tree ornaments that you can purchase that help fund reforesting efforts. That would be charitable and would provide a keepsake for the kids. They can be purchased through the National Wildlife Federation and are around $10.00.

3 moms found this helpful

What about spending a day together instead? Planning a day out would be fun and you could find an event that is similar money-wise so you aren't spending more than you would like.

For the last 3 years we have been doing this with our nephew because the kid has everything! so we have taken him to children's museums, the zoo, etc. He loves it.

3 moms found this helpful

Everyone is different, but my sisters kids have EVERYTHING and so does she. However, when my Mom gives me stuff like even coupons she knows I will use, my sister always has a comment of, where's mine.

As well, my cousin has foster & adopted children who she provides for pretty well. They really don't need another toy, nor do they have the room for it. But when the charity event is out and her kids are accidentally not invited, she calls them and lets them know her kids were left out.

I used to have thoughts like yours, but it is not worth the hurt feelings. I just buy what I can and let them do what they want with it.

3 moms found this helpful

I like the idea of spending the day together. Take them to a movie, zoo, or whatever. Or even just Chuck E Cheese.

I absolutely agree that it is presumptious to give their gift "for" them to a charity or whatever.

3 moms found this helpful

gift cards might sound cold.. but i love movie gift cards.. cause even if i have the money.. the kids love to go to the movies with their friends.. and can take the card with them.. also you can always get a gift card for a book store.. or write the families.. let them know that you would prefer to buy something from their kids for someone who really needs it... ask them about donating to St. Judes Childrens hospital or maybe an animal foundation.. see what the parent's think.. i would ask them.. or maybe a donation to the school they go to or a school for the blind.. or whatever.. i would call your brothers and ask them.. see what they think... good luck... whatever you do will be wonderful

3 moms found this helpful

One year my babysitter gave all the parents a nice basket filled with the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch (minus the liquid ingredients) already measured out in seperately wrapped packets (each ingredient was in cellophane wrap and tied with a ribbon) the whole basket was wrapped in clear wrap. The recipe/directions were attached on a small card with a ribbon. It said something about the gift of time with your family. Kids love to bake things and my kids were super excited and we had a wonderful time as a family baking the cookies. It was a wonderful thoughtful (ahem and inexpensive) present - over 10 years ago and I still remember it!

and I didnt think your question was crabby :)

3 moms found this helpful

Gift card!! Maybe for I-Tunes, Jamba Juice, Bowling Alley, Movie Cinema, or something. Or just a store card like Target etc... The smaller kids may not understand the "donation" gift and may take it wrong. The older ones may respond with "great I have a tree in my honor".

Lame I agree, but just trying to think of it from a kids point of view. We have the same problems at our house. My husband suggested this year ALL our family members participating in gifts this year should do an Amazon gift wish list. Not necessarily buying on Amazon but at least to get ideas of their REAL wants. Everyone gives or gets a gift that ends up in a closet or at Goodwill. I want to also give something useful that they REALLY want. Not something I think they like.. Loved his idea!

2 moms found this helpful

Check your local Zoo (or the Zoo in their area).... in our State, a child/person can "adopt" an animal at the zoo..... and the child gets a photo of that animal... and a certificate.
They have prices for it, per animal.
That might be a fun idea.... and helps to support your local Zoo.

I have done that for my kids... and they liked it. Then when you visit the zoo, they can see their animal.

Since they ARE family... you can also just talk to their Parents... and explain that you have a tight budget. I don't know anyone, who would then EXPECT... some expensive gift for their kids. Most people would understand... especially in today's economic climate and loss of jobs.
OR, ask their parents... what things their kids DO like.... ?

But for your own kids... I would indeed get them a gift... afterall, they are young only once... and Christmas is a special time. And if your kids are young... they will not 'understand' that you gave their 'gift' to a charity, instead.

all the best,
Susan

2 moms found this helpful

you could do like, a family pass to the zoo or something fun like that.

2 moms found this helpful

I agree with the others about poss doing a family outing or soemthing. Its nice that you want to donate money to charity but the ages the kids are I am not sure how it would go over or be taken, while a family day gives you memories and an experience. Zoo days are great and the kids are at the perfect age to really enjoy that. Plus a ticket price is about what you would have spent of a gift anyways. Or even a movie day and take them to a new kids movie that has just come out. Or have them plan a day.

2 moms found this helpful

How about talking to your brothers and not doing gifts this year at all but doing a nice dinner or small outing instead. You can even dub it the No Gift Christmas. Family time is way more important than any present you could buy. Just a thought.

2 moms found this helpful

We stopped doing gifts at all for this reason. Christmas is not about gifts, not even for the kids. It is about the birth of Christ. We do our best to relay this message. When you get caught up in gifts, you forget why you are celebrating. So we start teaching the kids in our family young the true meaning. There really is no reason to celebrate or give gifts if you don't understand why you are. It has been a great relief and so much more pleasant since we stopped getting worked up about the gifts.

2 moms found this helpful

I think that's a nice idea but the kids might feel better if they donated the gift themselves. My idea is to just by a family gift, maybe spend a bit more and buy a nice game, dvd, book or craft project that the entire family, or at least all the kids can use together, then, instead of buying five, $15 gifts, you can just get two $25 gifts. I only have one child, but I know the kids I babysat for when I was younger (who were well off) always loved playing games together, especially when I was playing with them!!!

2 moms found this helpful

I love your question and was thinking about posting something similiar!

Every year I shop around for "stuff" for all the ids in the family, mine included. I settle on things I think they will like, spend alot of money, and a month later could bet you no one remembers half of what they got for christmas.
My husband and I have decided to cut spending way back, and we're better off this year then we've ever been lol. We jsut realize that the holiday has gotten out of hand with spending and is lacking in meaning. I plan on asking my families to buy my kids one smaller gift or two, then to either get them a savings bond, or even just $10-$15 to put in their bank account. We also plan on adopting a family from our community and sticking with that every year. Our kids are little, and won't get it yet but eventually they will.

I would simply tell your family that you'd like to give to those less fortunate this year, and that is a gift your kids will always get something out of, it's a great lesson :)

1 mom found this helpful

Thoughtful question.
We go to the dollar store, and get bunches of things, and then wrap them individually. I think the unwrapping is the best part, and the kids ALWAYS surprise me in what they like. One year it was little zipper wallets, that they carried all year. Go figure.
Then your kids can do the picking for their kids, and then the whole shoppping is a fun event.
We have a bag by the door, always, where"I don't need it anymore" stuff goes, and have at least monthly trip to Salvation Army.
Have fun-k

1 mom found this helpful

Toys, clothing, coats, and pajamas are always needed at the local shelter and abused kids home. They appreciate it.
We could not get our family to agree to do this even though they constantly criticize how we have too many toys.

1 mom found this helpful

I completely understand what you mean. I thought of the same thing last year but if you give to the salvation army the kids don't understand. BUT...I found a site that you could adopt an animal for a year. IT was about $15-$20 a kid and they get a certificate and maybe even a little stuffed animal of the animal you chose for them. I thought this was perfect because you are helping out animals and not buy unneeded toys. Good Luck! an example of the animal adoption is below in a link.

http://www.worldwildlife.org/ogc/species_category.cfm

1 mom found this helpful

I would definitely NOT donate something, but give the kids gifts. For the exact same reason you mentioned: Someone else was more important to me than you are, and I don't think you would give out of the kindness of your own heart... isn't really in the christmas spirt. It's the joy that someone cares for you enough to give you something (and paper ripping). And the little ones won't even get the whole donation thing except to know that you don't think they're worthy of a present.

I'm with Denise P... experiences, absolutely.

Movie Tickets are *fantastic* (and if you buy several all together, or go to costco, etc... you can buy them on discount). We get tickets in 10 tickets sets for $5 a ticket.

Books are also things a person can never have too many of.

1 mom found this helpful

Google personalized children's books. I got one for my daughter when she was around 3 (she's 7 now) & we still read it. It is a story about a mermaid & it has her in the story & you can even add names of their friends or siblings. They have many different titles & stories such as dinosaurs, cowboys, princesses, etc. They usually range from $10 to $15. Those would make great gifts for the little ones. You got some great ideas for the 13 year old, can't go wrong with a gift card or money for him.

1 mom found this helpful

Worrying about Christmas. May I suggest you evaluate what Christmas means to you? Is it about the gifts? About family time together? About traditions? For me, Christmas is about the Christ-child that was born over 2,000 years ago who later died and rose again for our sins. My family celebrates Christmas by rejoicing what Christ did for us. It's about spending time with family and enjoying the traditions that we have created along the way. The gifts are secondary, an after-thought. I could care less if my tree has gifts under it. Children "expect" gifts if emphasis is placed on them by the adults. It sounds like you can't afford much. That is okay! Why not be honest with your family about this and suggest that no gifts be exchanged but in lieu of gift giving, maybe have a cookie swap at a family members house. Bring cookies and yummy treats and egg nog and hot cocoa and play Christmas songs and play a nice family game. I love to do these kinds of things. The gifts mean nothing to me but the family time means everything. Think about what Christmas means to you and do what is right for you and your family.

what about cool books or craft sets instead of toys etc. I think you can never have too many books....

I like when my boys get savings bonds. just give money, a gift card, etc

I always give books. Birthdays, Christmas, whatever the occasion. You can find great bargains and only spend a couple of dollars per book. The kids still get to open up a present, you have no guilt, and you don't add to the pile of useless toys!

Good luck!

I didn't real all the answers- but wanted to say my kids LOVE getting the magazines! We are fortunate to still have many of my and my husband's grandparents still around- so the kids LOVE knowing which great-grandparent got them which magazine. We get Ranger Rick, National Geographic for kids, Highlights, High-Five, Puzzle Buzz (this one is great for younger kids- you do matching and stuff with stickers), and me and my husband get People, Martha Stuart Living, Family Circle, Cooking Light, etc.!! We have two magazine baskets in our living room lol- but I try to recycle at least once every other month, and they are GREAT for in the car.

You're going through a "Why Bother" thing when it comes to giving to the joyous gifts that God has put in your life. It sounds like you've lost your joy for Christmas. But you have a good idea of how to get it back. Giving to the greater good is the best way to get filled up again. I admire that in you. Not fun for the kids though. I wonder if you couldn't do something of a compromise. Tell them this year, your gift for them is a shopping trip to share thier blessings with others. Tell them you are going to let them pick a kid off the angel tree and let them help pick out the items for that kid. That way they get the joy of shopping, wrapping, giving. You get to share your values with them. Have them pick someone thier age and watch what they pick for them. Odds are, that's something they would like to have. Then when your shopping trip is over, go back and get one for them too. They won't be expecting to have anything to unwrap from you. So, you get the joy of giving and you get the opportunity to be a mentor to the kids AND on top of that, they get a present that you can be sure they will like. I would let your brothers know what your plan is ahead of time. They may want to participate and do the same with your kids. It's fun to trick kids, but not so fun to trick the grownups. If that is out of the budget you could still do something along those lines. Just saw the not local thing - maybe yall could do something similar online.

I haven't looked at the others answers, so I apologize if mine are duplicates. What about checking into how much it costs to have them "name" a star? You cold do one for each family if it is affordable. That would be something that would last forever...hehehe.
You could also donate a gift on behalf of each child for Toys for Tots. They are really blessed so the blessings can be poured over to kids that need it.
My daughter is the same way at the moment. She has enough clothes, and MORE than enough toys. I think several of her family members on her father's side are going in together for a savings bond to help with college.
I can understand your predicament. Let us know what you decide...it may help us as well. :-) Good luck!

what about putting some money into a savings account for them? $15 every year adds up!

I would make family baskets (you could do a couple of smaller ones instead of the one big one) go to the dollar tree store and get a big popcorn bucket they have cool red and white striped ones right now. inside it put a 2ltr bottle of pop, some of the big theater size boxes of candy and a couple of big candy bars and a box of microwave popcorn (so far you have spent $6) then go to a place like blockbuster and get a gift card for $10 for $16 you have a great gift that the whole family will like. or you can get a couple of movies in the $5 bin at walmart. cover the whole thing with a clear cellophane bag and your good to go. You can make it smaller for a single kid by just doing 1 box candy and 1 candybar and smaller bottle of pop and $5 gift card. Kids love these as they can pick the movie and it gives them something to do. not jsut a throw away toy. good luck.

I struggle with this same issue every year so thank you for asking. I read a lot of great ideas, too. The key is to keep the spirit of the season. Too often the gift issue brings me stress when it should be pure in heart and bring joy for the giver and receiver. I am teaching my kids to enjoy the traditions. Besides baking a gingerbread house, one of our favorites is to drive around as a family and look at holiday lights. It's fun if everyone has hot chocolate for the ride. We do this many times throughout the holidays. It's a great way to stop and enjoy the season. Popcorn/movies and iTunes are great ideas. Thanks, everyone!!

Hello!
This is what my side of the family did last year. We decided that since none of our children needed any extra gifts beyond what we were buying them that the alternative would be as follows....Any amount of money that we would have set aside for neices and nephews was to be donated to a local family in need. Everyone really liked that idea and we were able to make a local families christmas really special. So, if you could contact them and let them know your idea, if they agree to it, then everyone is off the hook for presents and your children will know that you did something really nice for another family.

get them a savings bond

M.,

I am with some of these other moms. What I have done with my kids is make them go through their own toys and decide what is donated to kids that are less fortunate. Then as gifts to other kids instead of toys I buy books, gift cards or make gift baskets with simple little treats in it. Because honestly kids not only have to many toys but they do t read enough if you ask me!

I hops that this helps. Good luck!

S.

How about a group gift for each family? The kids may have everything but every kids can always use more family time. What about a theme gift such as family game night? You can get a board game, popcorn bowl (doillar store), popcorn, and even a fun trophy for the winner. It can be inexpensive but wind up being the most played with christmas present.

Whle your idea for a charity is commendable I'm not so sure the kids will have the same view unless their parents are raising them with the same perspective you and your children share. you can wind up lokking the the stingy aunt that didn't get them anything for christmas.

Good luck and Merry Christmas already!

Give them a hug, a hot breakfast, their favorite lunch and watch their favorite movie before a fabulous dinner. :o)

Gift certificate to the movies.

My first thought is itunes gift cards! A magazine subscription is fun if these kids have a particular interest. A pass to a local swimming pool or other activity center. Books are always a great gift - what was one of your or your husbands favorite books when you were there age?!

$$$ for their college fund!

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