Once upon a time I had all my shopping done and wrapped well before Thanksgiving, but the past few years I've not been so proactive.
I've seen a few "Top 10" lists on other blogs and thought it was a great idea for mine, as I sort out what special things, and some good deals, that I like. Some of these gifts are things I've done in the past, or doing this year, and others are things I found that I like and am thinking about giving.
1. Last year my church encouraged us to give in a variety of ways, and my family and I chose to give a family in another part of the world a bunch of chickens, but you can choose other things, such as a goat, ducks, and even "accessories" like vaccinations for the animals or a chicken coop. I did it through World Concern last year. A Complete Chicken Package is only 75 and includes 20 chicks, food, vaccinations, and materials for a chicken coop. Twenty chickens alone cost only 30 dollars! Truly, there is an animal or a package for every budget. This is a great gift idea for the kids to be involved in. I know that my in-laws pretty much have everything, and they love it when we give them gifts that make a difference in the world.
2. As mentioned above, sometimes it is difficult to buy things for people who seem to have everything, but I've found that most people enjoy experiences. My middle child loves to golf with Grandpa, my youngest wants to go to see The Nutcracker at the local ballet company, and we're incorporating that as a gift for Grandma too. Concerts, theatre, even a picnic by the lake are all experiences that can be just as meaningful, if not more, than a gift in a box. (In Advent Conspiracy terms, this is called "Giving Presence.")
3. Every year the Desiring God store has a wonderful sale around this time, with three bargain set options for only 10 dollars for 4 books! John Piper's new book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is worth over 10 dollars alone, and this set also includes Spectacular Sins, The Gadarene and Finally Alive It is a great deal if you have friends that are readers in your life and enjoy John Piper. The website offers free shipping to orders over $30 and you can also choose to make a donation towards Piper's Desiring God ministries as well.
4. Portraits. My kids are growing so fast, many of my family enjoy family portraits, or portraits of my kids. Professionally done or candid, they are always appreciated. Find a nice frame and you have an instant gift that will be treasured.
5. Similar to portraits, one thing I did a few years ago was find cute little photo ornaments to fill with photos of my kids. My in-laws loved them and they are now a keepsake favorite that go up on the tree year after year. Photographed in black and white, they have a classic, timeless feel to them.
6. Music. Either iTunes or an actual CD or concert DVD, music makes a wonderful gift. Many think that a gift card isn't very thoughtful or creative; but I have found that I'm always inclined to keep the iTunes giftcards I purchase rather than give them to others. ... so if you get an iTunes gift card from me, know that you are truly loved because my first thought is to keep it and not give it to you! (So much music.... so little time) Same goes for gift certificates for booksellers like Amazon, Borders or Barnes and Noble. Better yet, support an independent bookseller!
7. One of my favorite Kid Gifts is simply the gift of silly art that brings me back to my own childhood. I'm artistically challenged, but I never had a problem creating elaborate scenes through the ease of a thumbprint. A copy of Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing book, a black fine-tipped pen, pad of paper and a stamp pad will provide hours of imaginative "art" that any kid can do and have a great time doing it! Ed Emberley's other drawing books are a hit too.
8. A Pillow Pet. Okay, this one is NOT creative or original but my kids absolutely love their Pillow Pets. Plus, they are very useful and quite soft. My kids actually enjoy going to bed more because of their Pillow Pets. You can find them for as low as 14.99 at Ross or other discount retailers, and I've seen them at Target and other places for about 19.99. Did I mention they are actually pretty cute too? Excellent gift.
9. Anything Apple. There. I said it. In my opinion, Apple, not diamonds, is a girl's best friend. I'll gladly take an iPad or a new Nano. (or, a new Macbook Pro, but now I'm really dreaming)
10. A very practical gift is a family pass or annual pass to a museum, amusement park, aquarium, or zoo. This gift will be appreciated all year!
11. I stumbled on this site called Azizi Life and I fell in love with this Nativity Set. Isn't it wonderful? From artisans in Rwanda and provides a way for them to make money at a fair price. I think 35 dollars is more than a fair price for this very unique set! It is sold out right now, and I can totally see why!
12. Not a gift, but a fun alternative to wrapping paper is a technique called furoshiki. I usually use this to wrap small gifts like books or small boxes, and the fabric I generally choose to use is dish towels! Why? Because they are a very usable, practical part of the gift that can be reused again and again, but you can use any fabric.
I'm sure I missed quite a few things and I'm always on the lookout for creative, fun, unique, or gifts that support causes, and I'd love to hear your suggestions and things you have found that you'd like to share.