Large Family Gift Guide by the 4 Moms

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Gift giving can present special challenges in a large family.  It can be hard to come up with enough different ideas to make each child feel special.  It can be hard to budget for all the gifts you’d like to buy your children.  Sometimes it seems hard just to think of ideas that won’t land in the trash or at the Goodwill by the end of the month.

Over the years, we have come up with some ideas that stood the test of time.  These are the gifts that are still remembered with fondness many years later: games that are still played, toys that are still loved, toys and books that have been loved to pieces and replaced and loved again, experiences that still come up in stories.  Here are some of our best ideas, from our house to yours.  I’ll update this list as we remember others.

Gifts for babies and toddlers:

Special/personalized Christmas ornaments – a timeless gift for children too young to notice or care if you give them a gift.  These will be precious in years to come.

Favorite books in board book format – Our list includes Goodnight Moon 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for Preschoolers, The Runaway Bunny, The The Going-to-Bed Book, Goodnight Gorilla, The Very Hungry Caterpillar 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for PreschoolersBrown Bear 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for PreschoolersThe Very Busy SpiderWhen I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth 4 Moms: Top Ten Books for PreschoolersMiss Spider’s Tea Party, and Guess How Much I Love You.


Gifts for young children:

Gears! Gears! Gears!– Noisy enough to make me question my sanity, but too much fun to leave off the list.  Even I couldn’t keep my hands off these!

Duplos/Legos – You can never have too many.

Blutrack Racetrack – Requires some creativity and help from older children, but fun & durable with far more possibilities than cheap plastic racetracks.

Video collections – One year we gave each child a different Little Rascals DVD, so that as a group they received a sizeable collection that they all enjoyed.  Another year, the older girls pooled their funds to give each of the little children a classic Disney animated feature that they remembered from their own youth and wanted to share with their younger siblings.

Personalized pillow cases (stuffed with a fluffy new pillow) – Easy to make with fabric, appliques, etc.  that will be special to the recipient.

Gifts for older children and teens:

Kindle – The base model is not expensive, and gives a bibliophile ultimate access to countless free classics and other books.  Megan has enjoyed hers immensely and amassed an impressive library with very little additional expense.

Old books – I say “old books,” not just used books, because our older children much prefer an old hardback to a new one, and paperbacks are considered consumable and/or disposable in our house.  Hardbacks over 60 years old are some of their most treasured gifts.

Speed Stacks stacking cups with timer mat – More fun than they look! We bought our first set at a homeschooling conference after our kids got hooked. We later found a second set at a thrift store.

Gift cards – While some persnickety adults may feel slighted at receiving a gift card in lieu of a “real” gift, I have never known a child to feel that way – and it doesn’t take a large amount to thrill them.  Our girls especially love gift cards to secondhand stores, where they can get even more for their money.  They appreciate that the gift-giver understands and knows them well enough to know that they love to shop secondhand.

Group gifts/experience gifts

Trampoline – We found ours secondhand, and years later it is still holding up well under daily use.

Video game system – We carefully chose games that worked best with multiple players, discouraging and even forbidding those that were limited to single players.

Zoo pass

Laser tag equipment – We haven’t done this yet, but I suspect it would go over very well in our rough-and-tumble group.  Several of our children love airsoft wars already, and I think laser tag would be a perfect initiation for those who haven’t caught the bug yet.  It would also be less likely to dent the fridge or break the mirrors on our vehicles.  🙂

What have been some of your best ideas over the years?  What have you never tried, but think it sounds like a great idea?

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  1. Balance bikes are pretty much the coolest kids’ toy ever. They’re aimed toward 2-5 year-olds and usually made of wood. They don’t have pedals. The child starts out by moving the bicycle Flinstone-style, then gradually gains confidence and intuitively lifts up his or her feet once it gets going. Littl ones move from those to a regular bicycle without ever needing training wheels or having to be taught how to ride. They’re a bit pricey, but totally worth the money, even for one child. (Obviously the value for the price goes up in a large family, as they will last through every child and probably grandkids as well.) I wasn’t sure about the use of feet rather than pedals, but when I saw the two year-old I was babysitting able to easily keep up with his eight and ten year-old brothers, I was sold.

    • Thanks for the idea. I looked at balance bikes on Amazon and they do look very cool! I might suggest it as a gift for Parker this Christmas if the older girls want to pool their funds like they did last year. If not, it would make a great gift for his third birthday in June!

      • You’re welcome. I can’t recommend them enough. Good luck with the upcoming birth, move, etc. Planning and executing a wedding, giving birth, and moving house within the span of about a month, and with ten other kids to worry about? Not going to lie, I think you might be insane. No worries, though. All the best people are. (I’d put a little winking face here, but I think the emoticon ends up looking more sinister than playful when it converts to the little yellow guy.)

  2. My parents buy us kids birthday and Christmas presents at garage sales and thrift stores. It is amazing how much stuff you can get for very little money but still looks very nice.

  3. Susan Wallace says:

    I have 6 children, ages 4 to 19. If you give each child 2 toys, that means we have 12 new toys in the house, which is a lot of things. The children share, so it seems like everyone got 12 toys.
    I used to take the children to the dollar store and let them purchase something for each member of the family, but then we were overrrun with cheap toys. Now I encourage the children to give a sibling a toy that they have outgrown. It means more to them than if I give them money to buy a gift. They have fun cleaning and dressing the old doll or teddy bear. The recipient doesn’t seem to mind that the toy is not new and even appreciates that their sibling would give them their special toy. Thrift stores are great places to find gifts. Hundred dollar Barbie houses can be purchased for five dollars, and you do not even have to put them together. Books that look brand new go for a quarter. We have even given and received used books and toys for birthday parties for our family and friends. Clean toys in good working order are always appreciated, even if they don’t come in a box.

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