- Coupon for a backrub, foot massage, doing the dishes or some other chore when it's 'their turn.' When I was a kid my mom used to do our chores on our birthday, and we always thought that was awesome.
- Experiences--a day at the park, a hike, a bike ride together, a picnic, a day at a museum or zoo, a movie night out (or a movie night in!). When my brother was about 9 I gave him the christmas present of renting him a movie of his choice, or taking him to a new disney movie that had just come out--just the two of us (I was in college). He chose to go out, and we had a blast.
- If you know how to sew or knit, watch sales so you can get the materials inexpensively, then make them something. Jammie pants for kids can be just a couple of dollars and are very simple to sew. Mittens, hats, and slippers are all small items that can be made with minimal materials. One year I made my husband a fully-lined fleece vest for about $8.
- Watch thrift stores. I found a great round-bottomed wok (with a lid) for $2 once. I have collected all my pyrex bread pans to the tune of $1 each at thrift stores. I've also found some stainless steel pans/lids in thrift stores. We found a bop-it for one of our sons for $1. My sister found a child-seat for a bicycle. Thrift stores are also good place to find books, canning jars, little containers, toys, and big pieces of fabric (or old sweaters) that can be used to make something else.
- Also keep an eye on freecycle and craigslist, you never know what will turn up.
- Make an audiobook (this is something my grandparents did for us as kids--so they could read us bedtime fairy tales even from another state!) For kids, get them a picture book and record yourself reading it on the tape, then give them the book and tape. For an adult who likes audiobooks, record a book that hasn't been made into an audiobook yet!
- A "couple's journal"--a notebook with a question at the top of each page. Maybe put a fancy pen with it. Then take turns writing answers back and forth to each other in the book.
For friends/extended family
- Herbed olive oil is easy to make and yet a very classy gift. Save condiment bottles all year (tabasco bottles, berry syrup bottles, and of course oil bottles are all pretty). If you need tips to get started, here are some recipes.
- Homemade jam
- Family photo and a newsy letter (Grandmas usually like this better than anything else anyway).
- Recipe in a jar (cookies, cocoa mix, soup, etc)
|Even the baby knows what to do with a noodle sword|
- Noodle swords!! Get a swim noodle (they are cheap in the summertime, yes this does require planning ahead), then cut it in half. Voila, a pair of swords, soft enough for safe indoor play. If you are wanting something a little more elaborate, put a piece of PVC piping up the noodle to give it stiffness and a handle (here's a tutorial), but you really don't need that.
- You can also make swords with paper towel tubes (these are pretty cool--this whole blog is full of fun ideas actually, I could lose hours just browsing there!)
- A wooden dowel with some ribbons, or a little decorated ball can become a marvelous wand or dancing accessory. You can even cover them with foil and pretties.
- dancing rings
- felt (or felted) or knit/crochet foods (search on etsy, there are lots of ideas to try!) These are small enough that they can be easily hand sewn, and your imagination is your limit... felt is cheap and small pieces can make a lot of food. Here are some foods I have (I traded for them, didn't make them myself...)
- all the stuff I mentioned before, puppets, beanbags, and dress-up clothes
- Felt advent calender (cut out shapes, glue or sew or pin them on...My mom has one that is a Christmas tree and each day we would safety-pin a little ornament onto it. I'm working on making a nativity scene one for my kids where they can add a character to the scene each day)
- <--- Plastic canvas blocks (cut six equal-sized squares of plastic canvas, fill them in with stitches of yarn, whipstitch the sides together to make a block--you can also put a little jingle bell inside some of them! It's a great way to use up little leftover scraps of yarn)
- Never underestimate the value of passed-along things: legos, army men, card games/board games all stay good for years.☺