Gift Ideas for Christmas

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Gift Ideas for Kids & Family  


Christmas Gift for Comfortable Inlaws

Nov 2008

Financially speaking, my inlaws are very ''comfortable'' so can buy anything they want or need. And since we don't live near them I am not good at recognizing what would suit them. On the other hand, with my own parents that live nearby, I always know what to get for them because I know they could always use a new (fill in the blank) and they are fond of (fill in the blank). My inlaws are good at buying gifts for us, things that we really would never buy ourselves, that just take up room, like, Christmas tableware and decorations that are not our taste, yet I do use them (because they were a gift) and I really appreciate the thought and the gesture. I feel like I have a hard time buying something when I know it's just extraneous ''stuff.'' My husband and I try to be environmentally conscious, try to buy things used when possible, and try to avoid a lot of unnecessary stuff to prevent waste and keep our footprint smaller when we can, but we are suckers sometimes for some of the latest technology to go with our computer or what not. And Christmas time is the biggest sucker time for us. Back to my inlaws: any suggestions for around $100 that would be appreciated and hopefully at least somewhat useful? anon

How about food, be it snacks, prepared meals, or grocery? Floral delivery or seed delivery if they like to garden. Fruit baskets? Chocolates? Box of statinery or correspondence cards. Crystal

What about a digital picture frame. You can get them at Best Buy for about $100 (some are less, depending on size) and load it with a few pictures to get them started. That is what I plan on doing for my in-laws and filling it with pictures of my kids. Just a thought. Anon Anon

If you need to give them, or they will be slighted if they don't get, a ''thing'', then my advice might not be helpful. But otherwise, consider a gift card from, a non-profit web-based organization that matches teachers in need of funds for basic and enrichment projects with donors who can give any amount of money. It is really fun to find a project or type of school/classroom you care about, and to help that teacher buy furniture, supplies, books, etc. The gift cards allow you to fund a donation for the receiver, but the receiver can choose where to give the gift card funds. MANY of my relatives, some of whom have expressly asked not to receive ''things'', will be receiving these gift cards this Christmas. Liz O.

I suggest making a donation to an organization or cause that they support in their honor. We do this for all of our extended family and they are always thrilled that we have done something meaningful rather than givng them a token that they don't really need! Maggie

Ah, this is my favorite kind of question! I too have ''comfortable'' in-laws, and it is ALWAYS a huge challenge, so i will look forward to the others who answer. As for me, we have had success giving the following: 1. photos of grandkids 2. gift cards to a really nice local (where they live) restaurant (I usually find out in the course of casual conversation) 3. annual pass to one of their favorite museums 4. overnight at a nice B/hotel 5. gift cards to local theater company/orchestra/opera/whatever Sometimes it hasn't worked, but for the most part, they have seemed quite pleased. Good Luck!

What about a donation in their name to a charity that your in-laws support? I started doing this when I realized that my father didn't need another book, DVD, trinket, whatever. He always supported the Boys and Girls' Club, so now I make yearly donations, at the holidays and on his birthday. He loves it! And we both know that the gift is going where there is real need. Carolyn

I'll tell you what I want: an AEROGARDEN!!! kevin

Do you have small kids? Have the kids make them pictures and then frame them. Or go to one of the online photoshops (I like but there are many others) and make them a calendar with pictures of your family for them to enjoy all year long. These are some things that I've done for years and the family always appreciates it. I've also made some mugs on snapfish too. there are lots of relativly low cost and low stress options there. Good luck! M

If you think they'd appreciate it, you could make a donation in their honor to one of their favorite charities. When I do this with my parents, I usually supplement it with a paperback I've enjoyed during the year or some other small gift. Pam

I would do a Google search of their town, and find a notable or famous restaurant, or just a highly recommended one, and buy a gift certificate. You can have it mailed to them, or mailed to you, so you can put it inside a nice, personalized card, and then mail it to them. They can go and have a nice dinner (or two) on you. I don't know if you have kids, but you can always do a ''grandma & grandpa gift'' with your kids names on it, or with your kids' artwork included. Try some websites like, where you can personalize gifts (jewelry, clothes, blankets, keepsakes, mugs, artwork...). Good luck! heidi

I know they live in a different city, but you could find (via the internet) a local playhouse or restaurant that has gift certificates. My in laws have made it clear they don't really want anymore ''stuff.'' So, we get them tickets to a show or a certificate to a nice restaurant near them. Also, food gifts are great. We have had great luck with wine and gourmet baskets for out of town relatives. You can do ones heavier in fruit if they are health conscious. Lastly, living or flowering gifts are always appreciated, especially some of the lovely flowering bulb gifts that can provide some indoor color in the winter and late spring. All of these types of gifts are readily available for online ordering and direct shipping, so it is very easy to do. Here are some companies I have used successfully for these types of gifts:

I'm in somewhat the same situation with my extended family, parents, siblings, siblings' spouses, nieces and nephews. We're all reasonably affluent now (no one's rich) and usually can buy ourselves those little extra somethings when we want to. But we have a long tradition of Christmas presents. And we all live hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

A solution that I came up with a couple of years ago was to make a donation to a charity in that person's name and then to give them a little something extra: a book, a CD. I try to pick charities that have some particular interest to the person. For example, my brother and sister-in-law really love dogs, so I give money to an animal rescue site, then find a cute little something for their dogs. For my father two years ago, I gave money to a fund that was helping small businesses in New Orleans rebuild, then gave him a CD of New Orleans jazz. A good site to find such gifts (and some charities themselves) is thehungersite.come, where you can click through to various worthy causes, give them a little money, and order gifts that will help those causes too. I helped pay a teacher's salary in Afghanistan for my mother and bought her a lovely pashima shawl from the same area.

So far everyone has been quite happy with this. It gives them the warm glow that comes from doing good, and they get a little something for themselves too, which (of course) we all like. Dianna

My parents are also pretty comfortable, and we very often buy them gift certificates at their favorite restaurant where they live in Florida. They love getting this as a gift. Maybe that could work for you. Gift giver

How about making a donation in their name? We always do that for our family members who are well off. They don't ''need'' anything and there are so many people who are honestly in need. Our family members are very happy with this kind of present. give in their name

Hi there- when we were in a similar situation, we established a practice of donating to a charity in the recipient's name. It takes some work to find one that is close to the recipient's heart - but it has always been appreciated, especially if the charity provides a gift acknowledgement to them. This way, you can give to the ones that are truly needy, and delight your inlaws all the same. trying to make it Happy Holidays for all

Instead of ''stuff'' for Christmas how about an experience? I think that this is a good idea, no matter how much money or space someone has. How about tickets to a play, concert, or restaurant? Or a night at a B & B? Or a membership at a museum? Another idea is food. It only takes up space for a short while - very nice chocolate, or olive oil, or wine. A basket of gourmet goods from our local producers would be nice - there are local chocolate (Charles), cheese (Cow Girl Creamery), olive oil (Round Pond and others), and of course wine makers to choose from. There's Rancho Gordo that does dried beans. Full Belly Farm offers gift baskets. Most of these places will even ship for you. Too Many Geegaws

Dear Gift-buyer, I have a similar situation with my in-laws. I would suggest you check out the nonprofit charity called Heifer International. It's a pretty incredible organization - in case you haven't heard of it, they allow you to purchase a farm animal for a family in need. The families live in the Ukraine, South America, Asia, Africa - all over. The family is expected to raise the animal, and hopefully benefit from the animal (for ex, sell or use its milk or eggs) and then benefit from the offspring as well. To give you an idea of the prices: One llama is $150, one goat is $120, one sheep is $120, one pig is $120. A set of tree seedlings: $60, a trio of rabbits: $60. Honeybees - $30. A flock of chicks or ducks/geese is $20. Their catalog can be found at

It's a pretty fantastic organization. Sixty Minutes did a great piece on them once. If you check out the catalog you'll get to read about them and their mission in much better detail than I can provide here.

Another idea, though more money than you want to spend (perhaps you could go in on this with other family members): an electric composter, which apparently fits into a standard kitchen cabinet. Apparently you can purchase one for $300 at Final suggestion: photo books and photo calendars of your best photos from the year. Last year we made my MIL a photo calendar, including shots of all the family members, indicating their b-days on the calendar, etc, and she claimed it was one of the best gifts she had ever received. Photo mugs are good too. Just make sure you put the order in soon enough for it to arrive on time - this is a popular thing to do, and I think it gets really jammed in the second half of Dec.

A photo book of the entire year's pictures can be really fabulous, too - you can add captions for the pictures, and an extensive book would probably be in the range of what you want to pay ($100-ish). It's time consuming to make them (but also fun) so don't leave it til the last minute. good luck! Mari

I'd get them a digital picture frame and put pictures of the family in it. In laws love that stuff (no matter how comfortable they are) and you can help them change the pics to whatever they want in the future - vacations, pets, friends, grandkids, whatever! They're right around $100 and they sell them everywhere - I saw one at Bed, Bath & Beyond last month. You are so thoughtful to want to get them something nice - they're lucky to have you as a daughter-in-law. Happy Xmas Shopping!

One gift I've given the past couple year's to my Mom & Grandmother (who need nothing else) is a calendar w/ pictures of my daughter. I've produced these through Shutterfly. It is really simple to make & a great keepsake. I take a lot of photos so I try to pick one to a few pictures for each month that I took the previous year. My family has really appreciated this simple gift. Jennifer

Gift for friends & family who have everything?

Nov 2007

Does anyone have holiday gift ideas for family or friends that seems to have everything, but still likes appreciates a nice gift? anon

hello, i have recently enjoyed giving certificates to nice restaurants ($75-$100 for a couple or teachers) they may not (or may) ordinarily go to. for ex: chez panisse cafe, slanted door, bewolf, la note, mokka coffee... a very well received gift. or, tix to a show or sporting event are always nice if the recipient is a fan and doesn't already hold season tix. teens like itunes giftcards and movie tix. or, experiences together -- perhaps for a girlfriend a ''lunch date'' or ''pamper date'' coupon that you treat her to and are present for/the best part! and consider your trade. are you able to offer a skill to a friend or elderly person in your family? a haircut? organizing services? dog walking? the possibilities are endless... get creative! school auctions have generally turned me off to ''things i don't really need'' and on to ''experiences to remember''. hope this helps!

We LOVE the alternative Gift Catalog from Heifer International. Heifer is a non-profit organization that works to promote sustainable community development around the world by giving culturally appropriate Living Gifts. Their online Gift Catalog says: Choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and help children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. Click any of our gift animals and find out how your gift will provide families with resources they need. I received a teacher grant to go to Honduras this past summer and visit their projects. It was an experience I will never forget, and I will keep working hard to promote their good work. Michelle

I llike to give an experience, instead of an item, when possible. A gift certificate for a meal or a massage, or a date for tea together, or a sports event, or perhaps an art class that you could do together. I've got children on my list who have everything, and this is a fun way to build a memory together. i don't want too much stuff either

Basically, stuff that they haven't gotten yet and stuff that they can do, instead of have! Just released books, magazine subscriptions, gift certificate to a new/talked-about restaurant, tickets to a concert... anon

How about ''experiences''--gift certificates to a nice restaurant or spa, tickets to a concert or play, etc?

cheese baskets - california cheese - whether they live in california or not. check out cow girl creamery. I had huge success with fiscallini cheese (out of modesto). I really am a fan of consumable gifts - plus its great to have some nice cheese in the fridge around the holidays for guests etc. tk

Give them a gift certificate to This website coordinates loans from people and distributes to those that need it to better their life. It is wonderful to see where your money is being used. We can only afford $50 right now but we are helping 2 women and it feels great. It is not a donation, it is a loan. You get your money back and can take out or re-invest. DiAnn

Not toys, not money for nieces and nephews

Nov 2007

I have 5 nieces and nephews to buy for, ages 6 months to 11 years, who live far away and whose parents buy them all the latest stuff. In the past I have given savings bonds and gift certificates, both of which I would personally like to receive, but which feel so impersonal and are probably unsatisfying to a child opening gifts on the big day. I also don't want to clutter their houses with toys, and it's hard to choose books for kids. I prefer to do all my shopping online, since I need the gifts shipped them and don't have time to browse in shops. Could any of you recommend gift ideas or websites where I could browse for useful/educational gifts? I'm thinking perhaps crafts kits. Any advice would be much appreciated. Needing inspiration!

Think tickets, subscriptions and memberships. You can find excellent magazines for any age child with any assortment of interests at and most kids love getting mail! Or research museums and zoos that are located in your relatives' area and buy them a one-year membership, or a one-day pass, depending on budget. (Most of these places have websites you can use for the purchase.) You can send along a thematically related small toy, perhaps; something like a stuffed animal or a book about animals to accompany a zoo membership.

For older kids, something like a movie ticket or amusement park pass should be well received. But also, something as ''impersonal'' as a Target gift card can be a ticket of sorts -- it provides the opportunity for a fun shopping trip where they get to make their own choices, instead of having to appeal to their parents, ''can we get this?''

One of the advantages of a magazine subscription or an annual membership is, if the kid likes it, for NEXT year's gift you can just renew. :-) Holly

A great store (and online store) for educational materials is Lakeshore Learning. ( It's a store that many teachers go to for buying materials for their classrooms but it's also a great resource for parents. (And wonderful relatives who are interested in buying thoughtful and useful gifts!) The products they offer online are categorized by age and/or grade so it makes it easy to know what is appropriate for each age group. -Mom who appreciates useful/educational/environmentally friendly gifts

If your neices and nephews are at all into playing board games, I highly recommend (horribly repitively named, but still great). ELGames is probably one of the most robust I've ever come across as a source of fantastic and treally fun and challenging educational games that appeal to all sorts of kids and adults.

The site is nicely organized by both age and genre, so if your 7th grade nephew likes sports games and his 4 year old sister likes puzzles and their parents want them to learn something about religion, you don't have to go any further than the site. It's also a great resource for class gifts. There are lots of great games that classrooms, camps and after care programs would like as well. It really is by far and away the best site for fun and interesting games for everyone. Likes to give games

How about magazine subscriptions? Carus Publishing, the folks who put out Cricket magazine, also have a host of other quality magazines for kids of various ages. Cricket fan

How about a magazine subscription? They are a hit in our house. Cricket Magazine Group has magazines for all ages, including infants. And they have no advertising. Here's the Website: jo

I have a number of website links for Waldorf-type toys/crafts... Why not get the older kids a knitting kit or a felting kit. This could lead to some real interest in a hobby at some point (children as young as 6 can learn to knit). These places also have some nice things for babies that can't be found at toysrus! Check out a few of these websites (Many of their things are not imported and many are made by WAHM's) (located in Sacramento) I just LOVE these places!

I'd definitely go with the craft/art/nature/etc kit idea. Check out Magic Cabin, Nova Natural, and Rosie Hippo. The websites are great and they have all kinds of wonderful kits! craftastic mom

Craft kits and science experiments are great ideas. But also consider magazine subscriptions -- Ranger Rick, National Geographic, National Geographic for Kids, Reader's Digest... all great choices, depending on the age and interests of the kids. And comic books, too -- X-Men Classics and Spider-Man Classics are classics for a reason. And maybe MAD magazine? a

I love getting and giving magazine subscriptions. There are tons of child-focused magazines, like Cricket, Ladybug, National Geographic kids or Discovery kids. It's really fun to get something in the mail! Also think of outdoor/exercise focus gear-bug watching kits and roller skates, a gift card for running shoes, jump ropes, etc. anon

Books! Books! Books! You can research them online and buy them that way too (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Cody's). 8 year olds love the Magic Tree House series (50+ books in the series). 10 year-olds love the Boxcar Children series (100+ books in the series). Both excellent mystery series and I still have to meet a boy or girl who didn't like them. Crafts are popular with girls (beading/jewelry making). Michael's is the store for that and they also sell online. Just google Michael's craft store. Anonymous

We encourage relatives to give museum memberships. Since they are a bit pricey, it is usually given to a whole family or both children. But, we love being able to attend the museum all year and use the membership reciprocally when we travel. Memberships are also tax-deductible! Tickets are also a good gift--to shows or events. Our local park & rec also offers gift certificates that my kids can then use to select a class or activity to attend. When we use the gifts, we always try and remind the kids that going is a gift and who gave it to them. Enjoy! Hardin

Sounds like we have very similar nieces and nephews! When my first niece was born, I made her a Christmas Tree ornament for Christmas,a nd have done so every year since--for all nieces and nephews, godchildren, my own child, young friends and the like. I make about a dozen every year, which is a big commitment, but fun when I finally get around to it. It's not a toy, not a video game, not a glam dress--they'll get those things from their parents and grandparents (I'm talking about nieces and nephews, here, not my other young friends). Sometimes, I don't even know if they like them, I never hear. But I keep thinking that one day they'll come across years worth of personal, hand-made ornaments and be thankful. Even if that never happens, I do have fun making the ornaments, and now my son joins in the fun (which is a gift for me!).

Other ideas for gifts that fit your bill: how about a donations in their name to an animal rescue or conservation organization in their area (one that would appeal to their own interests)? that could start them on a life of giving. Or how about giving them subscriptions to magazines? The folks who put out Cricket have a lot of good magazines for different ages, and with their own subscription, they'll get something new every month. Next year, just renew! Happy Holidays! Carolyn

My grandmother, who had the same criteria as you, hit on the perfect gift for my son when he was not even 2 -- it was National Wildlife Foundation's ( toddler magazine ''Animal Baby''. After a year or so he upgraded to their preschooler magazine ''Your Big Backyard'' which he still loves at age 4.5 (they have another upgrade too called Ranger Rick). Every now and then he says ''Mommy, is there any mail for me? Did My Big Backyard come today?'' He absolutely loves getting mail. So my suggestion would be a magazine subscription like that. It doesn't create clutter as they're small (or recyclable), they're usually fairly reasonably priced, and you can order online. Voila! BTW, when we've given this gift, it's gotten rave reviews from parents. mom of a happy reader

Lakeshore Learning ( has some fun craft kits and quality educational stuff. I also like the offerings from Cricket (, including their magazines, which are a bit pricey but make nice non-cluttering gifts. Lastly, museum memberships (or tickets to specific things, if the memberships are too costly) and other intangibles are great for people who don't need/want clutter. JP is a website set up to help people in developing countries start businesses, make a better life, etc. They coordinate loans (start at $25) and then distribute money to people who have applied.

You can give them a gift certificate to Kiva (at the least the older kids). Then the parents can go online to and read all the stories of people who need the loan and the child can choose who they want to help.

It is not a donation, it is a loan. They will get the money back and then can help another person. You can replenish again and again so good holiday/birthday present for future.

Teaches children (and me) to give to others but also allows us to watch what they people are doing with our money. It is very cool and it makes me feel good. We can only afford $50 right now but I know that is making a difference to another person. DiAnn

My boys ages 4 and 7 love these types of things which are not toys or money: - cartoon character toothbrushes or bandaids (seriously popular) - a washcloth with a sports team or favorite animal on it that is their own - Ditto for cloth napkin/placemat that is unique and theirs - disposable camera (not so great for the environment but such a treat once in a while) - art supplies - folding stationary (ie fold and mail - envelope and letter paper in one)or note cards with some fun theme - cool new waterbottle (check out the Sigg ones or KleanKanteen) - a real grownup wallet These types of things are repeatedly their favorites of the Christmas/Birthday gifts, more than the toys which can be very hard to pick well... - Charis