Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas for Big Families

A woman in a large family group that I follow asked for advice and support about announcing her seventh pregnancy. She said her mother complained about all their kids and how expensive buying gifts for all of them was becoming. Her mother didn't want her having any more children. She actually said gift-giving expense was one reason why.

People with large families have made a lifestyle choice. We have accepted loud cramped homes, hand-me-down clothes (with MASSIVE clothes storage organization by age group), shared bedrooms, and shared toys. We have shrinking kitchen tables, lines at our bathroom doors, and lots, and lots of laundry. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm pretty sure the majority of super-sized families don't expect extravagant, if any, gifts for their children.

When a family grows so large that gifts start to get uncomfortable for the gift-giver I feel very simply people need to either stop gifting or they need to get creative. Both of those are acceptable solutions to the gift giving dilemma. Gift giving should be meaningful and fun. It should be out of true desire to do something for somebody. It shouldn't be forced and it shouldn't be required. I decided to share some ideas on creative gift giving for big groups. This could be for any size family but I had large sized groups especially in mind. Younger kids can be hard to include in some of the outings. For babies or young children a small toy or other younger themed outing may be more appropriate.

Time to get Creative!

Family Dining
Large families tend to eat out less due to cost. Eating out is special! Taking a family out to eat is a fun idea and let's everyone spend some fun time together. Alternately, gift certificates can be given.

Pizza (or Chinese take out) and a Movie at Home
Dinner and some popcorn make such fun movie night evenings!

Movie Theater Outing or Gift Certificates
It's expensive to go to the movies, but some theaters have early morning weekend movies at even deeper discounts than the matinees. Pair this morning outing with a box of donuts and some milk for lots more fun! There are also cheap movie houses that play last months titles for just a few bucks. If you are lucky enough to have an old theater in your area they may be playing old fashioned Christmas movies like It's a Wonderful Life. I saw even local big name theaters had a special showing of Home Alone this month.

Plays and other Shows 
Tickets to a play or other show is a very fun and memorable idea. Most areas offer low cost options to do this. Community plays are often lower in cost than bigger traveling shows. High school or college plays can be a great resource too. Taking advantage of matinee performances can be a big money saver. Around the holidays there is usually something for everyone if you just check your cities events. If needed, different aged kids could attend different shows. Magic shows, children's musicians, and other local talent could also be explored!

A Christmas Pageant
Know of an old fashioned Christmas Pageant being held? Or, what about a living nativity event with real animals? These yearly events are often held at churches and are usually free for the community. Take the special people in your life to an event like this and then top off the evening with a ice cream or some other special thing. I know one church that serves hamburgers, hot dogs, and hot cocoa for free at their living nativity!  

Advent Calendar Tradition
Every year my cousin Michelle mails our kids advent calendars. Over the years we have had five, six, seven... and now this year makes nine calendars mailed to us -one for every child (and now an adult child, too). This is a very fun family tradition and one that is very thoughtful. We open them all together at 6:30 pm each night. It's a huge, loved, sweet tradition and gift. Look at their faces! They will never forget this at Christmas time!
December 1, 2016
Rec Center Passes or Membership
Swimming passes for indoor winter-time sessions, or a family pool pass to use in the coming summer months are great gifts! My Grandma Smith sent the kids some Christmas money a few years ago and we all spent some of it to buy a six month family membership to the YMCA.

Children's Museum or other Family Membership
Memberships are often a great value for large families. It's often cheaper for us to just get a membership than to pay admission for 8-11 people. Our children's museum (where there is something for all ages) would cost over $100 for us to get in one time, or we can get a yearly membership for as low as $80 and use it all year long.

Skating, Ice Skating, laser tag, indoor rock climbing, indoor trampoline park... or any other other indoor place
These types of places are all great outings for a group. For the most they part can cover a wide age range. All of these places usually have gift certificates. Mini-golf and paint ball are largely outdoor activities, but they still make good gifts and can be used when the weather warms up! 

We love family game gifts and have gotten many over the years! Most big families can be covered age-wise with just two various aged board games.

Family Hobby Ideas or Seasonal Ideas
A family that camps might enjoy some new gear or supplies like tents, lanterns, sleeping bags, and so on. A family that fishes might enjoy some new fishing supplies. Think of how the family enjoys their free time and consider gifts that may be useful and enjoyed by them together. Wintertime ideas might include sleds or other snow play items. A hammock , all ages tree swing, or moveable outdoor fire pit are fun ideas. We have this platform swing, it's amazing and holds 250 lbs!

Art Supplies
A great group gift than can reach all ages. Ideas: crayons, markers, gel pens, paper, tracing paper, googly eyes, yarn, small canvas, paint, paint brushes, scissors, pencils, erasers, a pencil sharpener (we go through electric ones like crazy!!), pens, rulers, stencils, and drawing books. (Draw-Write-Now are such cute, fun, and educational books.)

I've had a few family members gift us blankets over the years. Some have been bought and some handmade. I have kept nearly every blanket ever given to us dating back YEARS ago. In fact, I got a unicorn blanket from one of my mom's sisters when I was eight years old and I still have it. Blankets are very personal, cozy, thoughtful gifts. My step-mom Kathie made us all Christmas gift blankets a few years ago (and hats and scarves another year!) and we all still use every single one. In fact, Everett's covered up with one such blanket right now. Over a decade ago Kathie gifted the kids fleece blankets and most of them are still around here. Blankets do not have to be specially made or expensive either. Walmart sells soft fleece blankets for $5.00 or less every year around Christmas time! This year they had huge ones too (adult size) for only $7 and they seemed really nice! Blankets are great gifts. (My mom made two baby blankets for Madeline, my friend Beth made a beautiful blanket for Everett when he was a baby. My cousin Michelle made us a tie blanket for Penelope, and my friend Karen made a tiny newborn blanket for Everett when I was pregnant with him. I have them all!)

Pajamas for everyone
PJ's, like blankets, are good gifts.

A Box of Fun and Umbrellas Make a great Gift
My sister, Christy, sent the kids a bunch of games to share along with sunglasses and umbrellas for the whole family! Umbrellas for everyone?! What a FUN gift!
December 2015

Throw a Gingerbread (Graham Cracker) House Decorating Party or a Hot Cocoa Bar party
This is a fun way to spend time with loved ones, and a fairly cheap activity! Could turn into a fun tradition, too. 

Paint Your Own Pottery
At many paint your own pottery places you get free studio time if your group is a party of 10 or more people. You just buy your pottery pieces and the studio time/glaze is free. We did this one year with the kids. We brought food trays and drinks and had a ball in the private party room! Most pottery pieces start around $5.00 and go up from there. We actually used Christmas gift money from family to help fund our pottery party! I blogged about it over here.

Light Display Outing.
Almost every area has a drive through light display within driving distance. We have one that has great Groupon deals every year too. We take our whole family loaded in the passenger van and not only do we get admission to drive through, but we get a 8x10 printed picture taken with Santa too. All for under $20.00. (Price is normally just over $40.00, which isn't that bad either for a huge group outing.) Something similar would make a great festive gift!

Gourmet Apples or Toffee (or other gift basket of goodies, Sherries Berries, fruit arrangement, Etc.)
Ricky's parents have sent us many lovely baskets, popcorn, and fruit over the years and it is always the best time! It's such a great big family gift idea! We huddle around the kitchen savoring and enjoying, talking and having a ball together! Last year they sent us this Toffee. They are not kidding when they say it's the best toffee on the planet. You have NO IDEA. We had the most fun devouring it! It's made by a small family-run business. Another best ever: Aunt Sharon sent us Mrs. Prindable's Apples  HOW can these apples be that delicious? They are so fantastic. These are all such fun group gifts to get! Not to mention perfect for people who really don't need more "stuff."

Build A Bear
Build A Bear is such a fun family gift idea. If necessary, this could also work for the young kids while the older ones do a different outing. Ricky's parents did this for the kids one year and it was SO much fun!

Magazines are great gift. Ricky's Grandma, Meme Goode, gifted us with Country Magazine for years and we adored it. It was full of beautiful pictures and stories from long ago. We loved it.  Grandma Smith has gifted our kids with years of Ranger Rick Magazines and we still have most of them. They now get National Geographic for kids from her. It's really a neat magazine that spans many ages! Here's a picture of Layla reading it to the kids at bedtime one night.
New Moon, American Girl, and anything from the Cricket Publishing Company are great magazines to check out as well. Cricket has magazines for all ages and are ad free. I can't even begin to tell you how great their publications are!

Something to remember: Gifts Often Keep on Giving in Large Families
When gift giving to a large family most of the time one gift lasts for many, many years, because it can be enjoyed by so many other children later. Nobody knew that when Ricky's sister gifted this adorable coat from Baby Gap to Layla that we'd be putting it on Madeline 11 years later! Now that's a lasting gift!

Remember it's not the gift, it's the love behind the gift!!! Gifts come in all shapes, sizes, and can just be in the form of time spent together! 
Merry Christmas!!!

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