20 Non-Candy Stocking Stuffer Ideas

  1. Socks – Everybody loves nice socks. Cute socks for little kids and teens are a great option. They are inexpensive and will get used. You could get their favorite character or warm, fuzzy ones to help them stay warm. Slipper socks are also a fun option.
  2. Make-up and Nail Polish – These are great options for the older girls on your list. Little girls also like getting fake make-up so they can emulate their older siblings and moms.
  3. Gloves – It’s that time of the year. If you live some place warm, skip this one and don’t brag. I’m already jealous.
  4.  Bubble Bath – Kids love bubble bath! Bonus points if it’s their favorite character or smell.
  5. Lotion – Nice smelling hand or body lotion is a favorite of tween/teen girls.
  6. Snacks – Fruit snacks, fruit, dried fruit, or cookies are good options. Anything that your child considers a treat that you can package. You could make homemade cookies and package them.
  7. Cute Stationary Supplies – My oldest daughter loves this kind of stuff. Think post-its, pens, and notepads with fun designs.
  8. Books – Do you have a bookworm on your list? Books are definitely the answer. Chapter books are the perfect size to slide into a stocking. Board books are a great option for babies and toddlers.
  9. Earbuds – People are always in need of a new pair of earbuds. They get lost or broken so easily.
  10. Playdough – Kids love this stuff! It’s cheap and hours of fun. There are small fun-size options that are sold in large packages if you want to give a multiple colors to each kid.
  11. Gift Cards – These are a great option for older kids. They can pick out what they want. You can do small denominations for craft stores, target, book stores, or restaurants. They get to have the extra fun of the trip to spend their money.
  12. Small Toys – Figurines, stuffed animals, and baby/toddler toys are the perfect size to stuff in a stocking.
  13. Stickers – Kids love stickers!
  14. Crayons and/or a small coloring book – Crayons are nice if you have coloring books already under the tree. I found a small coloring kit last year that our daughter enjoyed a couple of days later when she was starting to get bored on winter break.
  15. Craft Items – Paint, markers, stamps, small craft kits, etc.
  16. Chopsticks – These are a favorite around here. You could also go with cute silverware for small kids and babies.
  17. Jewelry – Inexpensive fashion jewelry is a fun gift idea for kids and teens. I ordered a bunch of these online for next to nothing and picked up the rest on clearance or at discount stores. They love to have new earrings and necklaces to wear without any worries of them losing something expensive.
  18. Hair accessories and Styling Products – This is a great idea for teenagers. Trail sizes so they can try something new. Accessories are fun for young girls too. Isabella, 7 years old, loves headbands and hair bows.
  19.  Cute Toothbrushes –  I gave my two older daughters cute electric toothbrushes one year. It was a huge hit.
  20. Money – Everybody likes cash. Everybody.

Our Christmas Traditions

There is something about a tradition that makes even the mundane items feel special.  Traditions make a family stronger and make children feel more secure about their place within it. This is a list of our Christmas traditions and you might be surprised to find that most of the items are free or very cheap.

  1. Decorate the Christmas Tree and Reminisce – Decorating the tree is a whole evening of fun. Our Christmas ornaments are a hodgepodge of things we have picked up while traveling, gifts from loved ones, representative ornaments, and things we have made over the years.  (A representative ornament is something that represents an important person or phase of your life.  My husband choose a special one to add to our tree during the first Christmas season after his father passed away.)  We spend hours discussing the memories behind every one.  It is our first Christmas night of the season and is one of the things I look forward to most.  Bonding over shared memories of snowy Chicago trips, meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or stories about family members.  It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.
  2. Christmas Eve Pajamas – This started with our oldest daughter’s second Christmas. She was a year old.  We were young parents on a serious budget.  I wanted to take Christmas morning photographs of her in festive pajamas.  Fourteen years later and we still buy our children festive pajamas every year.  They get to open that one gift on Christmas eve and they really look forward to it.
  3. Christmas Movie Night – We spend a night (or two…or three) watching family Christmas movies. We trade out the normal popcorn and M&Ms for hot chocolate and candy canes or cookies.
  4. Baking Christmas Cookies – Christmas and cookies just go together. We turn on some Christmas music and hit the kitchen every year to spend an afternoon making basic sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies. It’s loads of fun and is a great option for a super cold evening. It’s also a super cheap family day.
  5. Building a Gingerbread House – We let the kids pick out a kit and we spend an evening gathered around the kitchen table building a gingerbread house. This becomes the centerpiece of the table for the rest of the season.
  6. Looking at Lights in the Neighborhood – Depending on the weather, we either walk or drive around our neighborhood to look at lights. We all enjoy seeing what our neighbors have come up with. If your neighborhood is not an option, consider looking up community lighting competitions near you.
  7. A Christmas Trip or Outing – We go somewhere holiday related every year. If we have the time, we go to more than one place.  We really love Christmas lights so we often choose places with great lighting displays.  Zoos, churches, farms, museums, drive-through light shows, concerts, nativity scenes, and petting zoos have all made the list over the years.  There are posts about some of our favorites.
  8. A Visit to Santa – We visit Santa every year.  Sometimes he is at one of our bigger outings and we see him while we are there. Other years we take the girls to see the mall Santa. We have also been to a few library Christmas parties where Santa was in attendance.
  9. Thoughtful Gifts – I take the girls out one day for shopping.  We typically leave early in the day, have breakfast, and spend the day crossing off everyone on their lists. I tell them in advance so they can get their lists together. Over breakfast, I review their list and set a budget for each person on it.  They decide where to go to shop and pick out items.  This makes their gifts more special and a better reflection of their relationship with the important people in their lives. Michael takes the girls out on a separate day to get my present.
  10. Wrapping Presents – My girls love to help wrap. They work together to wrap gifts for the extended family and friends. They help me wrap each others presents. They love putting bows on the gifts. The wrapping has to get done so why not make it a fun family time. Bonus: The kids get to practice their scissor and tape skills. Our family/friends love getting a present from the girls that they know was wrapped by them too.
  11. Giving Back – I think this is important all the time but we have made it a part of our Christmas tradition.  It helps us to remember what Christmas is really about.  Volunteering and donating get us in the spirit of the season.  We have given parents in need Christmas presents for their children to open on Christmas morning.  We have donated food, toys, coats, clothing, and money.  When it comes to donating or volunteering, go with what is near to your heart.
  12. Crafts – My girls love arts and crafts. We always have something going on around here.  I’ll have to start sharing some of our projects on the site.  Making pictures of Santa, decorating/making ornaments, candle making, jewelry, and wrapping paper/bows have all made it on the list over the years.  It’s so relaxing and fun to spend the evening crafting with my girls (glass of wine in hand, of course).
  13. Decorating the Window – Every season my girls redecorate the window by our front door.  We use gel clings most of the time.  I buy them cheap at crafts stores or at Target.  I let my girls pick them out.  During Christmas time they will often decorate the other windows in the house.  The sibling bonding is nice to see.
  14. Christmas Cards –We make or buy Christmas cards to hand out to friends and family.  It helps kids to practice handwriting and makes a personal connection in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.  There is something really special about those shakey letters on a Christmas card made by a first grader that warms the heart. It is important to remember that these times go by fast and those little hands will not always be so little.
  15. Friends and Family –We spend as much time with those close to us as possible. We take a trip to Grandma’s house. We see the family that we only get to see a few times a year. We attend or throw Christmas parties.  I just love being around everybody as much as possible.
  16. Christmas Music – I love listening to Christmas music and I really love singing it! Isabella, our middle daughter, is enjoying learning all the carols this year.
  17. Advent Calendar – This is fun for the preschool and elementry age group because it helps them to count down to the fun.  They also love getting a little treat everyday.  We do ours after dinner each night instead of in the morning because they often contain sweet treats like chocolate.
  18. Reading – Last but not least, we read Christmas stories.  There are so many good ones out there.  “The Grinch”, “The night before Christmas”, and “The night before the night before Christmas” (a family favorite) are pulled back out year after year.

What does your family do to celebrate?  Do we have anything in common?

The Importance of Classic Play for Modern Children

As both a mother and a nurse I felt that the importance of classic play is something I must address. It is simply too easy in these modern times for children to fall into the world of high tech and completely miss out on all the joy of the classic play that most of us enjoyed as kids. The benefits of classic play cannot be overstated. They get to be creative, learn and experience new things, spend time with their family, and they even get some exercise. I hope that these few ideas spark the desire to have some good old fashioned fun with your kids!

  1. Dressing up/Pretending (Princess, Fireman, or things straight out of their parents’ closet. The items and outfits do not matter as much as the creativity in being able to pick things out and pretend to be somebody else.)
  2. Puzzles
  3. Blowing Bubbles
  4. Playing drums on the bottom of pots
  5. Dancing
  6. Coloring
  7. Playing Cards
  8. Hula-hooping
  9. Swimming
  10. Going for a walk/playing in the yard
  11. Playing on a neighborhood playground
  12. Sidewalk Chalk
  13. Chess, Candyland, Clue, and other board games
  14. Playing in a bubble bath
  15. Playing restaurant or “mom” at the grocery store (With store bought fake food or with empty boxes and containers from your kitchen)
  16. Having a tea party with stuffed animals, dolls, and/or any willing grownups in the house
  17. Clay or play dough
  18. Paint by numbers (Yes, they still make these!)
  19. Etch-A-Sketch
  20. Playing with magnets

Ok, Let’s face it…This list could go on forever, lol. Do you have a favorite that I missed? Please share in a comment below 🙂

5 Things To Do With Your Kids On The Cheap No Matter Where You Live

Here are 5 ideas for spending time with the kids on the cheap:

  1. The Local Park –Kids of all ages (including 29, Wink, Wink!) love to swing and play on the monkey bars. The park is a timeless outing! Depending on where you live it is either free or very cheap. It is a fun way to pass the afternoon. I love to bring a picnic & plenty of drinks to make it a whole day event.
  2. Historic Site – Be it a small town or a big city something important happened within a short drive. Everywhere we have lived we have found cool historical sites. Some are locally important but many are important on a state or country level. Many sites are free or under $5 to visit. The best way to approach a historical outing is to learn a few key points before visiting. It is very hard for a child or even an adult to get excited about seeing the childhood home of a President if they do not know who they are.
  3. Art!- Be it a museum, a local exhibit, or a public piece, art is just plain cool. Art can spark all kinds of questions and interesting conversations with your family. The only rule to this is to make sure the place allows children (Many art galleries allow kids during the daytime.) and that the art is child appropriate. I once took my kids to the Contemporary Photography Museum in Chicago. The place was great and Free! The only issue was a large photo collection depicting murder that was a little disturbing. Consider a walk through or ask the front desk if you are concerned of what your children may see.
  4. The Public Library- Any of you that follow my writing know how much I love a good library! We have been to so many! Over the years we have enjoyed train tables, block sets, car tracks, puppet theaters, toys, computer games, board games, puzzles, story times, classes (from Origami to sea creatures including a real penguin), a petting zoo, magicians, belly dancers, contests, ghost stories, and a butterfly release, not to mention quite a few great books.
  5. The Bakery- If you are in a small town there is likely only one known simply as “The Bakery” and everyone I have ever gotten the joy of visiting was amazing! If you are in the ‘burbs or the city then there are many but I’m betting you have a favorite. Take your kids in for a cookie or donut. Sit down with them and listen to them talk. This time with them is priceless. They will be grown before you know it and you will look back on this time as a treasured memory.