Who remembers loads of presents under the tree? Who remembers eyeing those loads of presents, and tearing open the corner to see what was inside? Who remembers the joy of sitting with your family and watching the faces of your loved ones light up, as they unwrapped your gifts?
OK, those are the good memories.
Now, for the other stuff: who dreads holiday shopping? Who hates it when the Target parking lot has literally no spaces, and who feels a wee bit resentful when that one relative texts you to inform you their oldest child likes this one sports team and their middle child loves princesses and unicorns and their youngest is developing an interest in the arts and also likes zebras? Who counts up the many other ways you could have spent the money, if you weren't expected to do gifts? Who resents the influx of plastic toys, plastic wrapping, and paper that fills up the recycling in seconds? Who doesn't have space for more toys that are likely to break or be forgotten, within the month?
Yah, you. If you're still reading, here's a bunch of gift ideas that won't break the bank and that will make memories that last longer than a sparkly pink, tap-dancing unicorn. Because at the end of the day, what we- and our children- remember most fondly about the holidays is the giving, the anticipation, the witnessing of each others' joy, the unstructured time together. So put your money and your gift-giving where your values are- and give a gift that facilitates time together, that sparks anticipation, that enables joy.
A Move Night: For the screen-loving family
Cost: $$-$$$ depending on family size
Pack up a movie night- tickets or a gift card to a local cinema can be paired with favorite candies, some microwave popcorn, a bottle of wine for the grownup or a blanket to cuddle under. Arrange them in a festive bucket (which can be repurposed for the popcorn!) and give the whole family a night out at the movies.
A Zoo Membership: For the parent who needs to get out of the house with the kids
Zoo memberships are great for families with little ones, and you can bet a parent who just can't think of anymore crafting projects or tree-house games is going to love taking her kids to the zoo, especially when someone else buys the membership! Grab some animal cookies, juice boxes, safari hats, and toy binoculars, and pack them altogether in a canvas zoo backpack, ready to go to the zoo!
A Tea Party Set: For the grandparents who love fancy things
Make a vintage tea-partyset: go to a thrift-store and purchase mismatched teacups and saucers (enough for the grandparents, grandchildren, and any special stuffies or pets) and arrange them in a basket (thrift-store!) with tea bags and snacks (Trader Joe's has some great teas. Good TJs snacks for tea-party sets are croissants, cookie "dunkers" and berries, but you pick what your people would love). Pop a picnic blanket in the basket, and encourage them to have a proper tea party with their grandkids! (This is a win-win for stressed out parents who could potentially take a nap during the tea-party).
Cooking Supplies: For the relatives who just moved into a new house
Fill mason jars with different colored staples from the bulk section at grocery store. Some good ones include black beans, green split peas, orange lentils, popcorn kernels, almonds, pink sea salt, brown sugar..... basically anything you think they might use! Mason jars can be purchased in bulk for cheap. Tie a ribbon around the top of each jar; bonus points if you can find some sort of basket or crate in which they can store the staple-jars!
Family Scavenger Hunt: For The Kids Who Love To Adventure
Set up a day-long scavenger hunt that begins right when the kids wake up (you can stick the first clue under their breakfast plates!). The idea is to leave a series of clues for them to find, each one giving a direction to the next one, until with the culminating clue, the kids find something special (it can be presents, but it could also be reading a new book with a grandparent, or a big family dinner, or glasses full apple cider with cranberries floating in them). Have them meander through their home and/or neighborhood, and if there is an adult who can drive, it might be fun to leave clues at different relatives homes (works especially well for families that visit multiple houses on holidays, though requires some advance notice!). As they move through the clues, include fun "to-dos" like "Give six people high-fives," or "run around the house four times and find one person who has broken a bone" or "Gather four red food items and present them to the oldest family member in exchange for the next clue." You can hide clues under rocks and behind doors and in bathrooms, and older children can be given clues like "your next direction is where you wipe your feet after a long muddy day" (for under the doormat). Be creative- your "clues" could be tidbits about individual people (find the person who held a snake when they were seven; the holder of the next clue has a secret tattoo; to find the next clue, find the person who can tell you a story about a cat having babies in her dresser drawer, and draw a picture of the story, etc..)! This will engage your kids throughout the day, and give them a solid plan for something to do when you are out and about.