Quick and Creative Kid Gift Exchange Ideas

When your child's care provider or teacher plans a gift exchange between kids, what should you do and how much should you spend? The key is to think small and special. You don't have to spend much to give a memorable present for each child in the class or playgroup. Just use your thinking cap. Here are some quick and budget-minded ideas--all under $1 or much less!

Smile! Photos Are A Sure Hit

girls taking a picture

If you can take a few minutes and have a digital camera, you can create special photo memories for children. From fun foam, create a simple shape (star, tree, heart, sun), then cut out the middle for where the photo will go. Using only glitter glue, sequins, beads, feathers, or ribbon, create a special keepsake featuring each child's photo in the center. Be sure to create a loop for hanging. This isn't just for Christmas; make a heart shape for Valentine's Day, egg for Easter, etc. Be creative!​

Craft A Friendship Bracelet

This season, have your child craft friendship bracelets. Cost is, in a word, "cheap," but kids will love their special gift from your kid. Purchase stretch bead elastic from any craft store and knot one end. Slip on inexpensive beads (consider school colors, holiday themes pastels for springtime, bright neon tones, or even use alphabet beads to spell out a name). Girls aren't the only ones who like jewelry. Young boys may like one with a shell or guitar or sports-oriented.

Make Balloon Art

You don't have to be a trained clown to create some simple and fun balloon art. Instructions to create simple balloon hats or kid-friendly swords often come with balloons. Make sure ahead of times that balloons are allowed (balloons of any kind are sometimes not allowed at places) and make sure the kids you are creating these for are past choking hazards, then volunteer to create balloon art for the occasion. Be sure to practice ahead of time so you are confident in your creations! Balloon art is a sure hit with kids and cheap to make. Take a group photo of tots with their creations!

Have An Ice Cream or Treat On Me

Purchase books of gift certificates for kid-friendly restaurants (McDonald's and Sonic are always popular options), then give each child one certificate (valued at $1) along with a special note signed from your child. Say, have an ice cream or slush on me this holiday season. Attach a mini-candy treat, and you're done!

Craft Customized Books For Kids

Create a custom storybook for each child, and no, you don't need to be an author. Simply know each child's name and a few details, and create a simple storyline that will be treasured long after the gift-exchange is over. A favorite is to make the setting in the teacher's classroom or ​daycare and add all kid names throughout.

Encourage Group Giving To Others

Ask your child's teacher or provider if a gift for charity can be exchanged this year instead of toys. Gifts should be selected to benefit a child in need. Whether it is adopting an angel from the Salvation Army Angel Tree, collecting canned goods, or requesting new socks and underwear, let your child shop with you. Have a "giving party" in which all the items collecting are displayed and kids are treated to a special party. Now, that's the spirit!

Craft A Shirt

Create a homemade shirt! An inexpensive shirt in a color of choice and permanent markers, fabric glitter pens, ​beads, and scissors is all you need to create a memory that will last way past the party. The most inexpensive way is to have parents provide a shirt (it can be a plain one already in their child's closet). Kids can autograph each others' shirts (youngsters can trace hands or create simple drawings such as a smiley face), then glitz it up with fabric glitter pens and more. Cut 4-inch vertical strips on T-shirts at the hemline, slide on a few colorful beads, and knot it underneath for some extra style.

Add Your Own Creative & Inexpensive Gift Ideas For Kids

These are just a few of many inexpensive gift exchange ideas between kids, and I'm sure you have your favorites. If you're willing to share, please add your own ideas of what works, what is popular with kids, and even what isn't! Updated by Jill Ceder

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