Gift Giving Traditions

I thought it might be nice to re-share our sibling gift tradition, in case any new readers are curious.

Since I have an artsy-craftsy bunch at my house, in 2006 we decided to come up with gifts my kids could make for each other. Things like sculpey bead bracelets and recycled crayons. It was adorable! And they loved the whole process: brainstorming the ideas, sneakily making the gifts, and watching their siblings open the surprise. So we’ve continued the tradition ever since.

We try to come up with toys or items that will really be used (like the monogrammed mugs pictured), versus drawings or items that are purely decorative. But we definitely make exceptions. When we come up with a tradition like this, I try not to think of it as a hard and fast rule. This year, the 3 oldest kids have some money saved and are thinking about buying some gifts and making others. That’s absolutely fine with me. I’ve tried to keep the spirit of flexibility I started with. : )

DIY monogram mug

My favorite parts of the tradition:
– Getting to spend one-on-one creative time with each of my kids.
– Seeing them learn a new art skill and coming up with ideas on how to apply it.
– Hearing them talk about how much their siblings are going to like what they make.
– Watching their faces as their siblings see what they created on Christmas morning.
– Have them feel really connected to the gifts they’re giving.

The challenging parts:
– December is generally packed, so fitting in more projects can be tricky.
– If you want to keep things a surprise, you have to get creative to keep the family occupied while one child at a time makes their gifts.
– Sometimes, making a gift turns out to be more expensive than buying it pre-made. That’s what happened with our jumpropes. : )

You can find more gifts we’ve made here. How about you? Do your kids give gifts to their siblings? Do they pick names or give to everybody? Do they prefer to make or buy?

P.S. — How we handle Santa gifts. And my best tips for doing creative projects with your children.

39 thoughts on “Gift Giving Traditions”

  1. I love your sibling gifts Gabby — I actually have “start crafting holiday gifts” as one of the upcoming bullets on my new Weekly Blueprint column. I’ll link up this post so folks can glean ideas. :-) xoxo

  2. Such a good post, thanks for sharing! My husband and I are trying to get away from buying tons of gifts for all our siblings (we both have many, and as they marry there will be more!), but it’s tricky to change the trend. I love these ideas both for my adult family and for my kids one day!

  3. One of my very most favorite of your already brilliant ideas. I bookmarked this before I even had kids. I love this tradition and I think this year my kids will finally be old enough to ‘get’ it (oldest two are 4 and 2). Thank you for reposting!

  4. haha, you must have seen my comment yesterday on your pinterest write up! Tell your readers that Pinterest is another great place to find inspiration for handmade gift ideas.

  5. THANK YOU for all the links :) Money is tight this year so we’re focusing on handmade gifts for the holidays and it’s pretty much up to me. The hubs will make something like truffles… we haven’t decided yet… but everything craft sew-y falls to me. Ack. I’m thinking potato fabric printing might be nice and something the Babby could assist with – or just make one for herself along side me…

  6. Truly, this is one of my favorite things that you share! I love the different levels of expertise, the real-life aspect of actually doing the craft with your kids (what works and what fails!), and how much your kids enjoy it.

    I’ve done some Christmas crafting with my nieces over the years and some of their favorite activities have been 1) making pillowcases, and 2) decorating white baby shoes with permanent markers. Fun stuff!

  7. can’t wait to see what you come up with…your creativity is truly inspiring! this goes along so well with the advent conspiracy movement. have you heard of it? making handmade gifts is so much more thoughtful than some random sweater from the mall and the memories your kids will have of doing this for each other are priceless!

  8. I can’t wait to have my granddaughters over so we can go through the projects and pick one to do. I have been thinking of how I can help them understand that Christmas is more than an orgy of made in China toys from stores . I also want to find a project where we can give back to those less fortunate. I love the season but the holidays have gotten so out of hand and kids are besieged with messages about buying stuff.

  9. i’ve been dreaming about those mugs since the first time i’ve read them. i went to goodwill here and saw none that were of use. :( how crazy silly would it be to buy them full retail?!! – i’m just a type junkie and need to make these this year.

    love that you do tell us what they make, and can’t wait for the ‘french edition’

  10. I’m thinking my daughters are actually old enough this year to do some handmade gifts…I’m going to revisit your past posts and see what they might enjoy. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. We have the same sort of tradition … the thought of my children buying each other a gift or worse gathering up personal treasures: a stone a scrap of shiny paper… all wrapped up in layers and layers of gift wrap…times 64 gifts nearly made me lose my mind!!! So everyone picks a name and then they make something really lovely that the recipient will like. They come up with the most amazing ideas every year and they are by far the most popular gift to open… these could be our entire Christmas and our kids will be thrilled… here are last years: and the year before:

  12. I’m inspired and already making plans for my 3 and 6 year old to make each other gifts this year. Thanks for posting this so early in the season, gives me lots of time to get on it! How do you handle the gifts the kids give to you and Ben Blair?

  13. we tried this last year but it is definately hard (kid made things that will actually be used) and it is usually cheaper just to buy! (which is sad)

    Keep coming with the ideas as I might need some. Last year one young daughter made googly eye pet rocks (we chose interesting shaped ones and eye placement made rocks that looked like – a frog, a bird, a bear etc) and one daughter made felt iphones! They are still hanging around and used by small kids! we basically sewed 2 felt rectangle that contained a bit of clear plastic in the middle – sewing machine went through it! and added a white rectangle on the front on which we used fabric markers to make the apps!

  14. i married into a family that loves to give gifts, but every year I struggle with what to buy. personal, handmade things seem like the way to go. i love the mug idea, thanks for sharing!

  15. I was reading India Knight’s “The Thrift Book” last week & was delighted that she’d given the web address for your family’s 2007 Christmas creations. Her notes said it was a great place to look for gifts kids could make for other kids.

  16. Your ideas inspired me to try this last year with my own kids, and we made snow globes and a glittered letter – age appropriate, and they LOVED getting something handmade from the other. This year it’s going to be a superhero cape and ….. possibly a decorated journal. Either way, it’s a great tradition & one I hope to continue for many more years. Thank you!

  17. I have to say, your children’s handmade gifts for each other are my absolute favorite thing to read about on your blog! I think it’s a brilliant idea and such a lovely tradition. I’m planning on stealing this idea when my children are old enough.

  18. This is also one of my favorite things about your blog. My kids love giving each other gifts. My daughter prefers to make and my sons like to buy gifts. I can’t wait to see what you do this year!

  19. I absolutely love your tradition, and although we have only one child so far, if siblings ever enter the picture I definitely plan on adopting this! Thinking back on my own childhood, it seems ridiculous that my Mom would take me out shopping to pick out gifts for my big brothers and sisters…I think we all would have had way more fun creating our own gifts and learned new skills in the process! Fun! xo Laura

  20. This is such a good idea. I’ve often thought that my kids should be giving at least one gift to each other at Christmas, but making the gift is an even better idea! The monogrammed mug idea is just adorable.

  21. Thank you so much for this idea! I found your posts about this while researching kid crafts and what can I say, we have now started this tradition at my house, too. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but once I had this idea in my head, I kept finding more and more projects we could do.

    For our first year, we ended up doing bookmarks and a simple tee with an applique ( I just did a post about this linking back to your blogs: But we have plans for more – for the brother’s birthdays and for next year.

    Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

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