Cheap Gifts
posted by Amy

Like many families, we're always trying to keep the holidays simple and keep our houses from being overwhelmed by stuff. (I'm on a personal mission to spend just one Christmas morning minus the annoying task of opening a cheap plastic toy that's been imprisoned by a ridiculous amount of packaging. Maybe this will be the year I succeed!)

My biggest challenge is coming up with useful suggestions for the phone calls and emails which start coming around this time of year from relatives asking what Josie, Henry, and Vincent might want for Christmas. This year, I'm determined to do better than, "Uh, Pokemon cards are still popular..."or whatever random thought escapes from my mouth.

So, here's my list of inexpensive items my kids, ages 7, 9, and 13, would be thrilled with:

TAPE. Scotch tape for art projects, duct tape for...well, wallets, hats, shields and swords, and even whole outfits. You name it, Vincent can make it out of duct tape.

PAPER. Colored construction paper, leftover paper your workplace is going to recycle, lined paper (to staple together and make into books, perhaps), anything they can write on, color, cut into pieces, tape (see #1), and/or staple.

STAPLER. It would make my whole house happier if the dad in the house didn't have to stomp around trying to find who stole the stapler. (Hint: try Josie's room first, then Vincent's.) A stapler + a box of staples = tons of creations.

SCISSORS. My kids are 7 and up now; it's time for real scissors. The child-safe ones don't work anyway, so they just borrow the good ones, prompting the dad in the house to again have to stomp around looking for the scissors.

PENCILS, PENS, CRAYONS: It's tempting to get kids the biggest, fanciest boxes of these. Resist that temptation. Go for ten good markers which will last a while, rather than 100 cheap markers which will make my head explode when, after two weeks, they all appear to have run out of ink.

BOX OF ART SUPPLIES (a.k.a. your recycling pile). What looks to you like empty oatmeal and cereal boxes, milk jugs, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, newspapers, and magazines looks to Josie like HEAVEN ON EARTH (a.k.a. craft supplies). Stick 'em in a box marked "_______'s ART BOX" and you're golden.

I could go on and on. (Oh, wait, I already have.) What am I missing? What small, inexpensive and/or free items would YOUR kids love to receive?