Looking to add some extra fun with some gift exchange ideas for Christmas? Look no further, I've got you. Christmas can be such a fun but stressful time of year. The thought of coordinating a group gift exchange initially sounds like more work, but it actually isn't. There really only needs to be one person within the family who does the organizing and they'll still come out in front.
There are many ways you can make gifting fun (well besides receiving what you asked for right?!). But seriously, we all get so much from giving gifts, so why not find a creative format in which your family, friends, and colleagues (any social circle for that matter) can participate in?
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Why use gift exchange ideas and games?
There are many different ways you can arrange a Christmas gift exchange but the benefits include:
- Fewer gifts to think of. Usually, a gift exchange involves one person bringing one gift. Although as you'll find out below, you can set these rules yourself. Fewer gifts mean you'll be spending less time thinking of gift ideas for everyone within your family or friend group.
- Spending less on gifts at Christmas time. Even if you have a larger budget for the exchange, you can still ease the financial burden.
- Quality gift giving. If organizing a higher budget exchange, it will mean the quality of gifts will be better and people can get something they really want. Rather than stretching out your budget to buy lots of tiny little gifts for everyone, spending one larger amount on one person works out for you and for them.
- Reduced clutter. So now that we don't have as many junky presents flying around, it means less wastage. That's not just good for the environment but it's much better for keeping my kid's playroom organized too. They just accumulate so much, any parent can relate to that one!
- Without a gift exchange, some of us struggle to stick to a smaller budget for those close to us. When I have a larger set amount for just one gift, I find I'm less likely to go over budget in search of something amazing.
I just came up with these few ideas off the top of my head as this is what I personally like about gift exchanges. I know there must be more. Feel free to pop a comment at the end of this post if you've got another great reason for fun gift exchanges.
Here are the gift exchange ideas for Christmas shortlist:
- Simple Secret Santa
- Christmas Trivia Game
- Christmas Gift Exchange Dice Game (free printable)
- Finish the Christmas Lyric
- Santa's Toy Swap
- Christmas Gift Treasure Hunt
- White Elephant Theft
- Left Right Poem Gift Exchange
- Christmas Ornament Swap/Craft
- Cocktail Swap
- The Gift of Fun
- One (Very) Specific Gift Idea
- Consesseuir Gifting
- Thrift Gift Exchange
- Experience Gifting
How to organize your Christmas gift exchange
The organization behind your gift exchange will have similar steps to organizing a party (speaking of organizing a party, check out if you check out my post on Practical Tips for Planning a Party, you can grab the free printable planner and shopping lists).
#1 DETERMINE YOUR EXCHANGE LOCATION
For most, this will be fairly easy. Many of you have come here as your Christmas party, lunch, or event is already planned. If you haven't decided on a date, you will need to do this to ensure you give everyone enough time to buy gifts. Once you have the basics, consider more about at what point during your event would be best to perform the exchange.
#1 WHO IS PARTICIPATING?
There may need to be some discussion between family or work colleagues to see if there is even interest in a gift exchange. You can show them this article, with some fun ways on how you can swap your gifts! I find with family Christmas, sometimes we don't even know who will be there on the day until a week or a few days before. If this is the same scenario for you then select an idea or game that will easily account for this and not ruin the fun if someone doesn't come along with an assigned gift. There are some fun exchange options you can choose without even knowing who you are buying for.
The type of Christmas gift exchange idea you choose will also depend on your guests, will your family be there? Grandma or children? Some gag gifts I would not want my grandmother to see! Ages tend to play a big part in the conditions or rules you can set for your group gifting. The gifts all need to be age appropriate as we often either don’t know who will be getting them or it's left to the luck of the draw.
#2 SET A BUDGET
Your budget can range anywhere from $5 to $200. I had a family Secret Santa exchange for a few years where we would budget $100. Once children came along we changed it. But even spending that amount of money, we were all still out in front spending $200 as a couple rather than spending our usual $50 budget on each family member.
When thinking about setting a budget, it definitely needs to be less than what you would spend on everyone there. If your Christmas gift exchange is for the workplace, school or a social group then you'll likely want to keep the budget low. Typically somewhere between $5 – $20. However, I have known work colleagues to get really upset at more than $10 which seems fair when they've also got family to buy for. So just know your attendees and what they would deem reasonable (or ask a few of them!).
THE FUN GIFT EXCHANGES
Without further ado, here are some great ideas and games you could use for your gift-giving this Christmas.
Simple Secret Santa
In the past, I have participated in Secret Santa gift exchanges where we all still provide gift suggestions for ourselves. This is particularly good for exchanges that are higher in value. We all want to give someone a gift they will love and none of us want to waste our money. Once we have allocated the names we simply circulate group texts with the participants with ideas for ourselves. That way we don't know who is buying for us but they can all see our suggestions. These aren't guaranteed, just suggestions.
Christmas Trivia Game
For this Christmas gift exchange idea, each person brings a wrapped gift within the specified budget. All of the gifts go into a pile. A person is selected as the moderator to ask Christmas trivia questions (typically the organizer). If you like you can download a printable Christmas Trivia game like this one or even use a Friendly Feud game. Or you can simply research some questions ahead of time.
Whoever answers the question correctly first will get to choose a gift to unwrap. Once you've unwrapped a gift you cannot answer any questions. There are several ways you could go about this – ask people to put their hands up if they have the answer (sounds kind of tame to me). Or for more rowdy fun have them yell it out; say their name first; or ring a buzzer/bell.
Funny trivia questions work best for these, perhaps even some dad-style jokes and puns. Keep your players in mind and be sure to throw in questions for all age groups. If you choose to, at the end of the game, the moderator can choose the last gift or steal one from someone else.
Christmas Gift Exchange Dice Game
This gifting game comes with a free printable that you are able to download here. You will need a set of dice. Playing the game involves everyone sitting in a circle and placing all wrapped gifts in the center. You can contribute 1 gift each or 2-3 for added fun.
Starting with the youngest person, everyone takes their turn to select a gift. The oldest player rolls the dice first and follows the prompts on the game card. The game ends once the final gift is unwrapped and everyone keeps the gifts they have in hand. If someone ends up with their own gift, they can either trade it with someone else or just keep it.
Finish the Christmas Lyric
This one reminds me of the parcel-the-parcel game I loved playing at Birthday parties. Everyone sits in a circle, one person is holding a gift. The game moderator plays the music. When they stop the music, the person holding the gift must sing the next lyric to unwrap it. If they cannot finish the lyric either the person next to them can choose to sing it or you can start the music again to send the gift around.
This could be quite a long game for large groups, you could pass around two gifts at a time. Another version of this game is to either create your own list of lyrics (or download some lyric cards like these) and then ask people to shout (or sing) the next lyric. You could also do this within the gift passing circle particularly if you don't have access to music. Or the moderator just likes the sound of their singing voice better.
Santa's Toy Swap
Teach children the importance of giving to those less fortunate. On Christmas Eve they can select a nominated amount of toys to leave under the Christmas tree. When Santa delivers new gifts the next morning, he will also take the preloved toys back to the North Pole. His elves can then upcycle and regift to other children. Or he can swing past a refuge/Salvation Army on his way home to give these additional toys to less fortunate children.
Christmas Gift Treasure Hunt
This Christmas gift exchange idea is usually best with smaller groups, your children, or the grandchildren. Hide gifts around the house then provide your players with fun clues to run around and find them. Ensure they have a basket or box to put their haul in! You can come up with your own clues ahead of time. Or to save you time, I do also sell downloadable Christmas treasure hunt clue cards.
White Elephant Theft
Also known as Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa. Set your budget, this one will be a secret until the moment the gift is unwrapped! Place all of the gifts into a pile or a box.
Decide on who will choose a gift from the pile first. There are multiple ways you could do this, kids might go first, draw straws or draw numbers from a hat to see who selects first. The first person unwraps their gift. The next person can either choose to steal that last gift or choose to unwrap a gift. This keeps going with those who have their gifts stolen being able to choose to steal from someone else or unwrap another gift.
There are some variations to the Dirty Santa gift exchange. You can wait until everyone has unwrapped their gifts to allow the stealing of any. You can also set a 3 strikes rule whereby any gift that has been stolen or any person that has been stolen from will end the game with what they have on the third strike. Some people also don't like the stealing component so you can take that out completely.
Left Right Poem Gift Exchange
My mum first introduced the family to this game last year. We had everyone of all ages playing. The rule was, if you came on Christmas day then you needed to buy a gift to the value of $20 that would suit anyone attending. If you didn't come then you didn't need to bring a gift. Armed with a gift exchange story/poem everyone sits or stands in a circle. The organizer then reads the story. They can be involved in this game too.
You can also complete this game by adapting a well-known book. I have seen The Grinch Who Stole Christmas used. In this scenario, the rule would be that every time the word Grinch was said everyone would pass left, and every time the word Who was said, they would pass right.
Christmas Ornament Wrap or Craft your Own
This is pretty straightforward and a great budget-friendly gift idea if you choose to swap your existing decorations. You might want to set rules on the decoration swap. For swapping existing ornaments and decorations, you might want to set a “perceived value”. If you are buying new gifts then there will need to be a budget.
You can also bring an ornament, unwrapped to place on the tree when you arrive. At the selected time (typically toward the end of the party) everyone gets to choose an ornament to take home.
Everyone can craft an ornament themselves at home. But even more fun is setting up a crafting station where everyone can make their own ornament at the event. They can then take their own creation home or you can choose to do as above and place your made decorations on a tree for others to pick which ornament they would like.
Alright, you guessed it – this one is definitely not kid-friendly. Everyone brings a gift bag or box with the ingredients to make their favorite cocktail. Exchange amongst yourselves or play any of the games listed here whereby the player gets to “win” or choose their gift.
The Gift of Fun
Choose a specific type of gift that everyone within your exchange must buy. Given that you are all there to enjoy yourself, the condition of this exchange is that everyone must buy gifts that can be used to entertain or for fun on the day. These are best opened at the beginning of the party so that everyone can experience them throughout the day.
If you have many people you could organize groups, switching them around from time to time so you get to hang out with everybody. Then set timers so everyone can go to a playing station. You might wish to have one or two stations where everyone can participate so ensure you all get enough quality time with everyone. Ideas include garden games, coloring/drawing activities, crafts, puzzles, magic tricks, and board games. Even kid's toys such as lego and play-doh. Most adults I know enjoy some time getting back to their inner creative child with these things.
One (Very) Specific Gift Idea
Similar to the Gift of Fun concept this Christmas gift exchange idea will probably work better for smaller groups. Narrow the gift exchange idea down to an interest you all share. Such as Lego. Everyone can bring a lego set to swap. You can even all sit around and make your creations during your celebration.
This is great for friend or adult parties. Everyone brings a gift related to food. Ideas include wine, chocolates, a cheese-making class (or similar), gifting your favorite foods in a gift bag, and international food gifting (this could be a complete rule itself).
Thrift Gift Exchange
You can make up your own rules for this one but the idea is that once a budget is set, the gifts must all be purchased from a thrift or second-hand store. This is a great budget-friendly way to keep the costs down at Christmas. You could also come out with some hilarious and unique gifts.
Typically for larger budgets and adults, this requires you to buy an experience voucher. There are plenty of websites that offer these types of gifts relative to the area you live in. This idea is also great for family and friends in other cities and countries that you may not be with for Christmas but would like to also participate. Using a service like Tinggly is great as they are a global provider.
The types of experiences would be specific to the area such as painting classes, various tours, spa packages, BBQ cooking classes, hot air balloon adventures, laps in a race car and so so many more.
Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas
There are no hard and fast rules to these games and gift-giving ideas. You can always modify them to suit your occasion. Many of these ideas can also be combined.
Creating a fun way to swap gifts at Christmas time makes it so much more memorable. It's also great for teaching children that Christmas is about more than just receiving presents. When they look back on the years, they won't typically remember what toy they received but rather the great time they had with family and loved ones.
I would love to hear any of your Christmas gift exchange ideas, or any variations to the ones listed here. Pop a comment in the comments section further below.
Other resources you may like:
FREEBIE: Merry Christmas Printable Banner
FREEBIE: Editable Farmhouse Family Christmas Sign
ARTICLE: Festive Farmhouse Christmas Table Decor (free printable)
ARTICLE: 21 Last Minute elf on the Shelf Ideas
SHOP: Christmas Party + Activity Printables