This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

I wrote this post several years ago, but it’s still one of our favorite Christmas traditions.

Christmas has always been our favorite time of the year.   We love to find special traditions, drive around and look at lights, stay up later than usual to watch Christmas movies,  hang candy canes on the tree (and then take them right back off to eat them!)

We also try to remember that it’s easy to get carried away on gift-giving, so we work hard to remind the kids of the Reason for the Season.  It’s the reason we also work hard to find meaningful gifts for our parents and children.

We want our family to have memories of times celebrating Christmas together.   In ten years, our children will not remember the gifts that were under the tree, but they will remember these moments when we spent time together.  

Honestly, they will treasure the memories more than the gifts (even if they don’t realize it yet).

Christmas gift idea for brothers & sisters

Tradition One: Four-Gift Christmas (with a twist)

Every year, we think about what we want to give the kids, and every year I say, “We should stick to the four-gift idea.”   

Some years we are better at sticking to it than others, but no matter what, we always want to remember that Christmas is not centered around what gifts they will or will not get on Christmas morning.

Opening gifts are so much fun, but I want to make sure that it’s not becoming the focus.

Our children are relying on us to teach them what Christmas is all about: Jesus, giving to others without expecting anything in return, being kind, being grateful, and loving one another.

At the same time, our kids depend on us to teach them that you don’t have to spend money to give something.  This is important.

I want them to know that you don’t have to spend your money to show someone that you love them.
You don’t have to give (or get) the best gift.

I think that it’s important to teach them these things because we want them to be grateful and gracious.

Giving your time is more important.  Showing someone that you love them & care for them is more important.

kids together

I think that in this day and age, we are working hard to fight against the norm of “getting what you want when you want it.”

I want our kids to understand that money does not equal happiness.  I want them to see that you don’t have to spend money to give a great gift.  The BEST gifts are the thoughtful gifts that come from the heart.

Things Do Not Equal Happiness

Things do not equal happiness either. Our children need to understand this, especially with all of the pressures around them to ‘buy, buy, buy.’

The latest phone or device isn’t going to solve any problems, and if it does bring you joy, it will wear off as soon as you have seen the NEWER model being released… it’s short-lived, unlike experiences and memories or Non-Toy Gifts for Kids.

There is a reason that I would rather spend our money on vacations than on toys. With all of that being said, I do LOVE to give gifts (bought or made) because, as they say, giving is better than receiving.

I can remember, being a child, and thinking about what I wanted to give my family (my parents, my brother, my aunt & uncle). I loved coming up with the perfect gift, which was usually something that I’d make or do for them. My parents taught us that making gifts was the ‘better’ gift for them.

I get it now.  It took time.  It took thought.  It took love.  I want our kids to know this is true in our house, too.

So, we started an “Acts of Service” tradition a few years ago, and we’ve stuck with it most years.  It’s been one of my favorites.

Tradition Two: Acts of Service

Instead of trying to find gifts for one another, they are each in charge of making one gift certificate for each of their siblings.  This means that in our house, they will each end up with three certificates (one from each sibling).  These will cover one act of service.

printable certificate

They are writing out how they will serve their brother or sister on their certificate.

Examples of Their “Service” Gift Certificates:

“I will…”

  • Clean your room
  • Clear your dinner plate for the week
  • Unload the dishwasher for you
  • Read you a book at night
  • Make your bed for two days
  • Eat your vegetables one night at dinner so that you don’t have to, but you still get a snack (our kids loved this choice!)
  • Let you pick what movie we watch for movie night or which game is picked for Family Game Night.
  • Take out the trash on your night

The overall idea is that we are teaching our kids about serving each other – doing something nice for someone else and without asking for anything in return.

I feel like this gift certificate idea teaches them that IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A MATERIAL THING TO MEAN A LOT.

Tradition Three: Dollar-Store Tradition

Another fun tradition (that didn’t start out as a tradition, but quickly became one that they LOVE) is our Dollar-Store Tradition. If you do want your kids to have a store-bought gift from one another, this is a fun alternative.   

While this one costs a little bit of money ($1 each), it’s not much. Plus, it’s so much fun.  You’ll love to see what they come up with with their dollar! The gifts that they pick out are ones that THEY pick out with NO input from us at all.

A few years ago, we did this on a whim, after our kids saw the “school holiday store,” and decided that they wanted to buy each other a gift. They went in the next day with a few dollars, but it was done (it was only opened for two days. oops!)

So, we went to the Dollar Store.

We gave each of the kids $1 per family member (not including themselves).  
They buy a $1 Christmas gift for their siblings and they exchange them on Christmas Eve.  Some years, they also buy a gift for Mickey and I, along with their grandparents. It’s so much fun to see what they pick out for everyone.

IMPORTANT RULE: The gifts that they pick out are ones that THEY pick out with NO input from us at all.

This is why it’s such a special tradition. I love seeing what they give us – it’s so special. I love seeing how they changes over the years, too, like when each of our kids reached the age of 5 or 6, they bought me fake flowers.

I have a vase in my bedroom that holds all of the fake flowers that they have given me over the years. It now holds Four bouquets. One from each of them at that age. I have a little note tied onto each bouquet that has the name of the child that gave that one to me & they year that it was given. It goes to show what they think mom’s like.)

The week before Christmas, we take the kids to the dollar store and give each of them a dollar per person that they will be buying for that year.

When they are too young to shop alone, they walk around the store with me (or with Mickey) and pick out one thing for each person in the family (parents and siblings).  They each have their own basket and no one is allowed to peek in another person’s basket.  

Honestly, it’s really fun to see what they can find for $1.

Sometimes they’ll spend their dollar on crafts and make gifts for everyone.  Sometimes, they’ll buy something silly for each person, but sometimes they do a great job & buy something that they know the other person could use. 🙂

Seeing what they buy (without any input from us) is so much fun for everyone involved!!


  • One year, Beau bought Mickey a pair of camo work gloves because he said that Mickey always had to warm up the car with his hands in his sleeves because it was so cold in the mornings.  Mickey wore those gloves any chance he got.
  • About five years ago, Jack bought me fake flowers that I still keep in a little vase in my room with a note inside that says, “Jack bought these for me for Christmas 2011”.  (He bought me fake flowers for about three years in a row… and he BEAMED with pride when he gave them to me, year after year.)
  • Ethan bought me a hand-held mirror about three years ago and I still use it.  He knew that I used the tiny mirror in my eye-shadow case to see the back of my hair after I braided it, so he wanted me to have a bigger one.
  • Allie bought me purple nail polish last year because she said that it would match my favorite cardigan.   I wear it every chance I get.
  • One year, Ethan and Jack bought each other the exact same gift- a toy finger-skateboard.   It was so funny that they both liked it so much for the other one.   (Oh- and they all bought some sort of tool for Beau that year… and every year since! haha!)

Those gifts did not cost a lot, but they all had meaning.   That’s what matters.

The kids exchange their gifts to each other on Christmas Eve (if they can wait that long!)   It gives them a chance to pay special attention to these gifts.

The best gifts are from the heart… 

50 stocking stuffers the kids will LOVE!
Sign for 50 Non-Toy gifts.

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Thanks for this certificate. I’ll use it.Im always looking for these . I give my grandkids memories too!!