How to Give Meaningful Gifts for the Holidays

How to Give Meaningful Gifts for the Holidays

Last year this time, author Jenna Zark and I teamed up to discuss inexpensive gift ideas on a Twitter chat. We discussed a number of things from books to concerts to giving through charitable organizations. You can read the whole chat at the end. So, what are some meaningful and yet inexpensive gifts you or your child can give this season?

Giving Time:

One of the most valuable gifts is the gift of time. For a mom, you may just want a morning away from the kids. It sounds terrible, but it’s true. Mom’s need time away, time with other women to connect. I remember my mom giving me that gift. She watched the kids for me while I was able to go grab a cup of coffee or tea with other moms who were a bit older and could encourage me because they’d been there.

As we raise our kids, they need time with us. My nineteen-year-old still wants to do things as a family. He’s willing to take off work if there’s a family event. We’ve done camping trips, theater, and eating out, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes tagging along with my husband on a job becomes family time. We make a day out of it and go to the beach, see a movie afterward (okay, that got expensive, but the job he went to paid for Monsters, Inc.). A family night can be time together. I’ve written several blogs on how to do this. One is on family nights, another on connecting with them, and the last on spending time with your kids.

Our husbands need our time as well. I think that’s one reason why women often feel so stressed. We have so many people asking for our time and attention. One year, I created a booklet for my husband full of coupons that he could redeem. Some needed advanced notice, but they varied from a date out to a game of Scrabble after the kids were in bed.

Gifting Service:

In the Twitter chat with Jenna, we discussed how to teach our kids to give. One of the big takeaways I had was that we need to teach our kids how to give by serving. This could be as simple as doing a chore for someone else. Think about it. As a mom wouldn’t you love it if someone did the dishes for you or cleaned the bathroom? My birthday present one year from my kids was when they cleaned the house for me while I was gone! It was so nice and appreciated.

Many towns at this time of the year have soup kitchens or other areas that a family can go and help in. One of my favorite memories with the three middle kids was four and half years ago. We went to San Francisco on a youth trip. We enjoyed sight-seeing, but after two days of viewing the town, we then ended up in the SOMA district helping in different ministries together. We sorted peaches for the food bank, served food at St. Anthony’s during the lunch rush, and handed out survival packets to homeless. All four of us returned different. To this day, the three of them will not pass a person begging on the street corner without giving out food if we have it. I’ve even seen them plan ahead and pick up something especially for that person!

Handmade gifts:

These are my personal favorite gifts. It shows the time and effort someone took to think specifically about me to make a gift. I have some of these hung on my Christmas tree as ornaments. Each year, my mom makes ornaments to celebrate the year. I’ve received hand knitted scarves, bath salts, and food. As a little girl, I remember the year we received doll clothes that Mom had made for my sister and me. The next year, Grandpa made us cradles for our dolls. Grandma and Great Grandma made the blankets, matress, and pillow to match the cradle.

Doll with blanket
doll I received that my mom made clothes for and the blanket my Great-grandma crocheted

What kind of handmade gifts can you or your child make? Think through the strengths of you and your child. Are you artistic? Do you love to bake? Can you carve? Then think through how your strengths can meet the need of someone else. I’ve given away portraits as gifts. I always love it when my sister-in-law makes a plate of goodies for us. My son made me a shelf in woodshop his freshman year. It still sits in my classroom as a nice display for nick-nacks. Homemade beauty products are simple to make. The web is full of recipes you can use. DIY natural is a site I found with many practical resources.


While considering meaningful gifts, make sure you consider the person. What does the recipent like or need? I’d love to hear your reactions. What gifts have you enjoyed receiving or giving?

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