Creative Gift Exchange Ideas

By Alisa Bangerter – Studio 5 Party and Ideas Correspondent


White Elephant – Everyone loves the old standby white elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings a wrapped gift (with a certain theme or worth a set money amount). This way to exchange gifts goes by many names but the idea is to give everyone a number and when their number is called they choose a gift and open it. They also have a choice to steal a gift that has already been opened by someone else instead of choosing a wrapped gift. If they steal a gift, the person who had a gift stolen can choose a new gift or steal from someone else. A gift cannot be stolen more than three times and the game ends when all packages are open and everyone has a gift.

Cake Walk Exchange – Have a cake walk type gift exchange. Place numbered paper stars or ornaments randomly around the floor. When a certain bell is rung or music played, everyone stands on a number. Draw a number and the person standing on the number drawn gets to choose a gift first. Continue until all gifts are chosen. Options: attach a number to each gift and the number the guest is standing on gets that numbered gift. Numbers corresponding to gifts could be given to guests as they arrive instead of being drawn.

Holiday Trivia Exchange – Have everyone bring a wrapped gift. Place the answers to holiday questions on the gifts. Read the questions and the person giving the right answer gets the package with the answer on it.

Holiday Laughter Exchange – Place answers to Christmas jokes (do a search and you will be able to find a lot of cute holiday jokes online) on gifts. Give everyone a joke and they get the gift that has their answer on it. Make sure to go in a circle and read the jokes as a group.

Christmas Card Match – Cut Christmas cards in half. Attach one half to the gifts. Give each person one of the Christmas card pieces and the gift they get is the one that matches the half of their card.

• Pass the Parcel Exchange – Have everyone sit in a circle. You will need a pair of dice, a hat (Santa hat or winter hat), gloves and scarf and wrapped gifts.Have each person in the circle take turns rolling the dice, passing to the next person after their turn. If they get doubles they hurry and put on the hat, gloves and scarf and try to unwrap the first layer on the gift. Have the gift wrapped in many layers and the person can keep taking layers off as long as they do it one layer at a time. If someone else gets doubles they have to hurry and get the hat, gloves and scarf from the previous person and put them on and try to unwrap the package. Play continues until someone reaches the true gift inside. Have several gifts to be opened. Option: Play with the dice only and have each person who gets doubles unwrap one layer. Have numbers wrapped in the layers which could correspond to a gift they receive or to gifts that people brought to the party. Make sure to wrap candies and trinkets in some of the layers for extra surprises. Some layers should have nothing.

Treasure Hunt Exchange – A fun way to distribute gifts is to have a treasure hunt. This works well if it is for a family party. Clues could be given to each person as to where their gift is hidden or have an actual hunt that leads from place to place.

Holiday Cheer Exchange – Have everyone sit in a circle and grab a gift (doesn’t have to be one they brought). Have someone be the commentator. Have questions that require people to exchange gifts. For example, have everyone who is wearing red exchange gifts. Next have everyone who has their Christmas tree up exchange gifts. Have some very easy items and some harder and make sure everyone will have a chance to exchange.

Left, Right Gift Exchange – Create a story (or use a Christmas story such as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and add the left and right words) using the words left and right. Have someone read the story and when the word “right” is said everyone passes the gift to the right. Do the same with the word “left”.

Gift Guess – Pass out a gift to everyone. Take turns trying to guess what is in the package. If the person is right they can steal from someone else or get an extra prize.

Rewards on a Ribbon Exchange – For this exchange you will need ribbon or yarn. Use one piece of ribbon per gift. Wind ribbon through the house and intertwined with the other ribbons making a fun web like maze. Attach the end of a ribbon to each gift. Give the other end of the ribbon to each person and they get to unwind the ribbon to find their gift. Hide gifts if desired.

Musical Gifts – Play pass the presents as you would musical chairs. Play the music and when it stops that is the gift the person gets to open. This is more fun if you pass one or two gifts at a time.

Christmas Carols Exchange – Write the first lines of Christmas carols and place in a bag. Place the remaining part of the song on each gift as guests arrive. When it is time to exchange, each guest pulls out a line of the carol and must match it up to the gift that has the rest of the song. They must sing the song before opening the gift.

TV Game Show Exchange – Play exchange games based on TV game shows such as: Let’s Make a Deal, The Price is Right, etc.

Graduated Boxes Exchange – This is a fun way to exchange one gift that actually doubles as a game. Wrap a gift in a small box. Keep placing it in larger boxes and wrapping them until you have a very large box. Each box will have a new message on it as they are unwrapped. The first message could read something like: “This gift goes to the person wearing the most red.” That person would unwrap one box and the next message might say: “This gift goes to the person who had all their shopping done by Dec. 1st.” Keep playing until the last person gets the package. Make sure to have each guest get the package at least once so try to create messages that are unique to each person as well as some general ones.

Christmas Bingo Exchange – Play Christmas bingo. When someone gets a bingo, they get to choose a gift. The next bingo can steal the previous gift or choose a new gift.

Santa’s Bag Exchange – Have Santa come and distribute all the gifts.

Birthday Exchange – Gifts can be exchanged by birthdays. For example: everyone who has a birthday in July exchange gifts, etc.

Gift Wrap Game – Place gifts in a closed box. Give each partner wrapping paper, scissors and tape and some ribbon. Each person must place their dominant hand behind their back and not use it or they are disqualified. On the word “go” each team must wrap the present together using their one hand, The first couple done gets to keep the gift they wrapped. This could also be timed and gifts given to the teams based on their times.

Gift Auction – Give party guests play money during your party – maybe from winning different games or for things such as arriving first, for wearing red, having their stockings hung, etc. Have someone be the auctioneer and have the “audience” bid on the items. Make sure everyone can get an item. (Gifts can be brought from guests or have the host provide them.) This is fun to have each winning bidder open the gift to see what he/she “bought”. Have enough gifts so guests can bid on several items if they have enough money left.

Santa’s Sleigh Exchange – Play the game fruit basket but change it to “Santa’s Sleigh”. Place gifts under chairs. Assign everyone a holiday word (several people must have the same words) and when their word is called they must change places. If “Santa’s Sleigh” is called, everyone must trade places. Play for a determined amount of time and then everyone gets to open the gift under the chair they ended up sitting on.

Guest Guess Trivia Exchange – Have everyone write three things about themselves on different slips of paper and put them into a hat. Each guest draws a paper out of the hat and tries to guess who it is. If they guess right they get to take that person’s gift and give them theirs. Play goes around several times so make sure you have people write enough facts if you have a large group.

Name That Christmas Carol – Exchange is played like the game “Name that Tune.” Play a few measures of a Christmas song. The first person to correctly guess the carol gets to choose the first gift. Continue play until everyone has a gift. Gifts can be unwrapped or wrapped and you can add the opportunity to steal a gift if you want. Be creative.

ABC Gifts – This gift exchange is more of an idea rather than a game. Have everyone draw names before your party to determine who they will purchase a gift for. The rule is that the gift they purchase must start with the letters of the persons name they drew. For example, if someone chose the name Carol Davis, they could purchase a CD. Encourage people to be creative. Set a monetary limit and let everyone explain their gifts. This can create much laughter.

Charity Exchange – Have everyone write their favorite charity down on a paper. Have everyone draw out a charity and then donate to that charity in honor of the person whose favorite charity it is. Make sure guests know about this before so they know about the donation.

Whose Gift Is It? – Randomly give everyone a gift by whichever method you choose. Each person must guess the giver of the gift and if they get it wrong they must stand up and sing a Christmas carol. This works well if it is a secret Santa gift exchange and everyone has been assigned a certain person to buy a personalized gift for.

Deck of Cards – Pass out a deck of cards to everyone. Using a separate deck of cards, hold up one card at a time. Whoever has that certain card gets to choose a gift or steal a gift from someone who has already opened their gift. Play continues until all the cards in the deck have been used.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Story Exchange – Give everyone a word form the story “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Make sure the word is used only once. Have someone read the story and when the person hears their word they must stand up and say “Ho Ho Ho” and grab a gift. The story continues until the gifts are all chosen.

Dice Gift Game – Set a timer for about 5 minutes. Set everyone in a circle on the floor. You will need a pair of dice and a wrapped gift(s). Have everyone start rolling the dice and whenever someone rolls a 6 or 12 they grab the gift. Play continues until the timer goes off and the one left with the gift get s to keep it. Do this several times.

Gift Exchange Themes: Sometimes it is fun to assign a theme as part of your gift exchange. The possibilities are endless. Below are some themes to get you started:

• Spend no money – bring something from around your home

• Thrift shop purchase

• A gift with a set money amount

• Tacky holiday sweaters

• Ornaments

• Food items

• Cookie exchange

• Anything red or green

• Assign everyone a Christmas carol and they must bring something that has to do with the carol

• Camping items

• Tools

• Recipe with ingredients

• CD’s or DVD’s

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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