My Frugal Holiday: Gift Ideas For Children

Here is an essay reaching out to everyone with kids and no money this Christmas!

When money is tight and you have children to buy presents for it, is very easy to become disheartened and disillusioned about the whole notion of Christmas. But stop and think for a moment and you will soon realise that you can turn this difficulty to your advantage by substituting some of that expensive stuff for something far more priceless and memorable; your undivided attention.


Between 18 months and 4 years, children do not have a clue about the value of things. What they do like is lots of things to open, and as many sweets and candies as they can lay their hands on. This means that for a very small amount of money at the dollar or pound store you can enough bits and pieces to make a small child very happy indeed, as long as you are willing to spend the extra time wrapping even the smallest items.

Another sure fire hit is to make a play house from a shipping carton, for instance one that held a washing machine or other large appliance. Just fix the top tabs into the shape of a pitched roof, cut out a door with a craft knife, and reinforce the hinge with strong tape so it can take a little action. Draw on some windows, or if you have the time and skill, cut them out and fix scraps of fabric with double sided tape inside for curtains.


If you have been able to buy a few bits and pieces like a toy cookware, and playfood or a tea set, that is great. If not use bits and pieces from your own kitchen. It is really easy to make a fort or a castle or a puppet theatre from the same basic materials. The main thing is to get down on your knees and play with the child, that is what they will love and what both of you will remember.

5 to 8 year olds will love a box filled with paper and craft materials. Once a gain if you are very suck for cash you can get a lot of colours, paints, glitter glue and paper for little money from the dollar or pound store. The internet is full of sites offering free coloring pages and craft ideas and if you can stretch to it stamps and stamp pads and large beads and that can be threaded onto elastic to make bracelets are great fun too.


Clever work with a large, plain lidded box, like the ones winter boots come in can turn it into a personal treasure chest. Once again the key to success with this is to spend time being creative together.

8 to 12 year olds have better fine motor skills and more creative ideas of their own so put together baskets of knitting, cross-titch, crochet, model making and jewellery supplies and take the time out to teach your child a new skill. They will be delighted to actually make something like a knitted mobile phone case or model car because it is a such a strong human impulse to use ones hands to make object that almost everyone is fulfilled by doing so. There are literally tons of ideas here on Thriftyfun, just look for them together. More grown up toiletries and grooming products also make pre-teens happy as do inexpensive posters to decorate bedroom walls.


From 12 years upwards, it has to be faced that young people have less value for items that don't require batteries! That said, at this age you can have a decent conversation about the tightness of the family finances. Given some sort of control over what they can ask for within a budget, they can be given the chance to come up with a wish list you should hopefully be able to fulfill, at least in part. It may also be worth suggesting a little delayed gratification with a visit to the sales after Christmas. And don't forget the power of as many well thought out novelty stocking fillers as you can afford. Teens love this kind of thing, it reminds them of Christmases past when life was so much more simple.

Add to this some inexpensive board and card games, you can play together and parlour games like charades and Pictionary. You can share a happy Christmas with your children that will not be shattered by fear of more crushing debt in the New Year.


By ayesha christmas from Kranj, EU

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December 23, 20100 found this helpful

Very true sentiments and some excellent ideas for solutions too. Thank you.

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December 23, 20100 found this helpful

What great ideas! Maybe some of the people who have been asking for suggestions for charitable help for their children's Christmas can read this and get some ideas for themselves. All of us could do these things and cut down on the commercialism of the holiday.

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December 24, 20100 found this helpful

I wrapped a bunch of little stuff for my nephew last Christmas (he was 3) and he loved it! A whole lot of paper to rip up and make a mess with!


I wrapped some tea light candles too so he could have fun smelling them (one of his favorite things), useful too because my sister-in-law could use them!

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December 25, 20100 found this helpful

You are absolutely right and for every age group as well. The spent with a child is the most important gift you can ever give to them, whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or other family member or even a friend. Those are the moments a child never really forgets and what will be the most treasured of gifts.

A really great posting. Thank you.


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December 28, 20100 found this helpful

Great posting. You hit the nail on the head for all counts! Thanks for sharing your insights & ideas. This is a great posting to print out or file for next Christmas, or for birthday parties, family gatherings, etc.

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December 29, 20100 found this helpful

Thanks for the positive feedback folks! I must admit when I pressed send for this post I was a bit worried it might come across as patronizing or preachy. I do really think it is time to change our ideas about the difference between what kids want and what they need though. We just want them to be happy obviously, but somewhere during the 20th century we lost sight of what actually does this and gave them loads of stuff instead!

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September 21, 20120 found this helpful

Thank you so much for your ideas. They are great.

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