Good Ideas for a Gift Exchange


Gift exchanges allow everyone to share in a holiday without the need to buy a present for every participant. While the Secret Santa exchange is commonly used by both offices and families, there are other exchanges that infuse a bit more excitement or good-natured challenge into the mix. Choose exchange ideas appropriate for the participants. For example, personal items usually aren't suitable for a work exchange.

Handmade Exchange

  • Instead of the standard gifts, decree all gifts must be handmade. Blankets, scarves, jewelry and baked goods usually top the list of handmade items. For those who aren't crafty, a hand-assembled gift basket or jar of cookie mix is an option. Alternately, don't require handmade gifts but instead rule that gifts cannot come from a store. While many of the presents will likely be handcrafted, this also allows participants to shop at nontraditional places such as craft fairs and rummage sales.

White Elephant Exchange

  • The point of a white elephant exchange isn't the gifts, but the fun had by the participants. Each guest brings an attractively wrapped, anonymous gift. Everyone draws a number, with the person drawing number one going first. The first person chooses a gift and opens it. The second player either chooses an unwrapped gift from the pile or steals the gift from the first person. If they choose to steal the gift, the first person gets to choose and unwrap another gift. Play moves around the group, with each guest deciding on whether to open a new gift or steal a gift from a previous player. White elephant exchanges don't require lavish presents. You can set the rules for everyone to bring tacky or silly gifts, for example.

Right-Left Exchange

  • A right-left exchange is like musical chairs, but gifts are used instead. Everyone sits in a circle and holds the gift they brought in their lap. The game leader then begins the game by saying "right" or "left." The guests pass their gift to the person next them on the side indicated. The leader can read a story created for the occasion that has the words "left" and "right" spread throughout it, if preferred. Record the story before the exchange so everyone can participate and no leader is needed to read. Another option is creating a right-left game spinner. At the end of the story or a predetermined time, everyone quits passing the gifts and opens the one on their lap.

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  • "The Complete Tightwad Gazette"; Amy Dacyzyn; 1998
  • Photo Credit gift gifts. image by L. Shat from
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