Christmas Gift Alternatives So You and Your Family Can Go Green, Simple, and Handmade

Christmas Gift Alternatives

Christmas gift alternatives to help your family go green, simple, and handmade this holiday season!

By Wendy Priesnitz

Christmas has traditionally been an important time in the life of many families. It can also be a great opportunity for sharing the rationale and principles behind a simple, eco-friendly lifestyle with others, especially young children. But if your extended families and friends aren’t as environmentally or socially aware as you are, the commercial hype can set up a troublesome conflict. Here are fifteen suggestions for Christmas gift alternatives for kids of all ages, and from children to other family members and friends.

  • Children love personalized gifts, so create a simple book about the child, written and illustrated by you. (Or, if you’re not artistic, use reprints or scans of family photos.)
  • Collect and package all the makings for hand puppets – brown lunch bags, googly eyes, scissors, markers etc. Or assemble a collection of child-sized gardening tools, some seeds to grow plants that would interest kids – like beans, sunflowers, and pumpkins – and a small pair of gardening gloves, in a pail.
  • Record audio or video interviews of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles; you can ask them to discuss their memories of the person you plan to give the gift to, or your family’s history, especially funny or meaningful anecdotes.
  • Frame one of your best photographs. Buy a frame from a local business or artisan. Or make one yourself out of stiff paper or cardboard, decorated with colored paper, old wrapping paper, beads and/or leaves, small pinecones, or seeds.
  • Make your own calendar using cut-out pictures, photos, and/or drawings.
  • Assemble a collection of favorite recipes for a young friend or family member just setting up housekeeping.
  • Get out your video camera and make a film of the kids putting on a play. Mail it to the grandparents with a personalized holiday song as the finale.
  • Bake a basket of muffins and cookies and deliver them to neighbors.
  • Teens can create hand-decorated coupons promising babysitting while friends, neighbors, or family members take some time away from their own kids.
  • Create coupon books of certificates for your children – ten gift coupons for them to redeem during the year. One could promise a Saturday afternoon building a playhouse. Another might be a promise of tennis lessons (by you), an afternoon of making cookies, or a weekend Harry Potter marathon.
  • Your teenager could make coupons to give to Dad, promising to wash the car, make dinner, clean up the basement, or other chores.
  • Assemble a gift basket with compact fluorescent light bulbs, forms for getting rid of junk mail, healthy recipes, some weatherstripping, and cozy slippers (so grandma can stay warm while turning down the heat a few degrees).
  • Give a membership or a donation to a local cause such as a soup kitchen, a shelter for battered women, a local environment group, etc. Call local churches, synagogues and charitable organizations for ideas.
  • Give a membership to your local zoo, museum or art gallery, or “adopt” an animal at the zoo or to support an endangered species.
  • Check out these additional ideas for hand-crafted, eco-friendly Christmas gift alternatives.

Wendy Priesnitz is the author of 13 books and the editor of Natural Life and Natural Child magazines.

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