Festivities & Celebrations

Holiday Gift Guide – Help Wanted!

Thinking up gifts is difficult any time of year, but it’s especially challenging in December when you have to buy for family members you barely see.

Last year I published a Gift Guide For Boys with lots of suggestions of items that boys between four and twelve might like. Readers commented with additional fantastic ideas.

This year I’m going to do the New and Improved Gift Guide. I plan to publish it earlier than I did last year, to give non-procrastinators more time to take care of this aspect of the holidays, because what else do you have to do now that the Christmas cards are done?

Second, I’m going to expand the coverage to gift suggestions for all types of people – spouses, elderly aunts, teachers, and girls. I hope to cover a variety of budgets.

Take a minute and think– have you ever given the perfect gift and been very proud of yourself? Have you ever received something wonderful? If so, and you’d like to share, let me know in the comments below or email me at anneglamoreATgmailDOTcom.

If you would like to remain anonymous let me know; if I can link to your page, let me know that as well.

Let’s start those zany, creative, exotic ideas coming!


  • becky k

    hey anne, loved your guide last year and flashlights are forever stuck in my mind as great gifts for kids. girls love them too as I watched my goddaughter play with one for hours, making up all sorts of games!

    we were given a very stylish but casual chip and dip from crate and barrel much to our surprise we use it all the time for quick appetizers. we were also given a bathroom radio and never imagined liking it but again, use it all the time. those are just two things we weren’t so excited about at the time but turned into faves!

  • Kimberly

    As a teacher can I ask you for the love of god, please, please, PLEASE take all apple related items off of your list. (This also includes all school bus, crayon, and “inspirational teacher” themed geegaws). Unless you’re dealing with a first year teacher, I promise you we have more than enough “Apple Crap.”

    Oh, and another thing? Those gift cards to the local bookstore or educational supply/toy store? While appreciated, they aren’t the super fabulouso gift you all claim they are. Sure, we appreciate them, and it saves us from spending our own money on stuff for your kids, but think about that for a sec…What you’ve essentially done when you give a teacher a giftcard like that is say, “I bough my kid a present; you can pick it out.”

    Finally, the home baked goods? Lots of teachers don’t eat them. The prevailing attitude being, “dude, I don’t know what your kitchen is like, or what your hygiene policies are. Also, I’m not sure if you baked these before or after little Jackson got a “D” on that report, so I’m not certain there wasn’t anything “extra” in the mix.”

    So, um, yeah. Teachers like wine. Or gift cards to restaurants. The movies are good too.

  • Jen

    One of the more random gifts I have given was a Black N Decker Power Tape Measure. My 4 year old nephew LOVED having that tape measure.

    I got a Roomba for my birthday one year. That’s genius. Unless you have tassled rugs around your house. Then it’s a nightmare.

    The kids decorated pottery for the grandparents one year. My mom always makes popcorn for my son, so he made her a popcorn bowl at the paint your own pottery place.

    The best gift I got as a teacher was money. I’m serious! Straight up cash. I think every family chipped in $5, and I had 29 students.

    My husband made blocks for the kids one year out of scrap wood. They’re awesome and didn’t cost us much.

    I need ideas for my mom! Otherwise I’m going to get her a new toaster oven for their summer place. Dad, too. He’ll get a dustbuster.

    Happy Shopping!

  • KLee

    As a teacher, I will second the veto of all the apple-related items. We could pretty much decorate entire houses with apple stuff, and still not run out.

    Though, one year, I did get a galvanized milk pail filled with a $25 gift certificate, boxes of microwave popcorn, and several boxes of things like chocolate covered raisins, Junior Mints, and things like that. It was a very nice gift.

    The best thing that I think I ever GAVE was my husband (who has a sword collection) *really* wanted the Godric Gryffindor sword, and I got it from him, and hid it deep within the bowels of my closet. I then bought a fake plastic toy sword, which I wrapped and put under the tree. When my husband opened it on Christmas morning, he was a little chagrined at first, until I ran to the closet, and pulled out the real thing. I think it’s the only time in our marriage that I’ve actually managed to pull on over on him for Christmas.

  • Casey

    Delurking to add to the great suggestions above…

    I have a hard time every year trying to decide on gifts for parents, grandparents, etc. They all pretty much have whatever they want- and if they don’t, they go and get it during the year. Last year, I took pictures of my daughter from birth til then (she was 5) and made a video montage (sp?) set to music. I used songs like “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, “Ballerina Girl” by Lionel Richie, and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Isreal Somethingoranother (the Hawaiian guy). I managed to keep it a surprise despite having to go to their houses and looking through their pics. There was not a dry eye in the house when they watched it.

    It was a little time consuming going through all the pictures and picking out the music, but well worth it. When our apt was destroyed by a fire in June I realized how glad I was that I had done it.

  • Liz

    I suggest DVDs of tv shows YOU love that your loved one may not have seen.

    Shows I have given to family:
    Both dads got “Foyle’s War”
    Niece got “Gilmore Girls” and “Joan of Arcadia”
    (they live in the country and have no tv reception).
    Nephew got the animated version of The Tick and some other shows like that.

  • jenny uk

    My dad always said a good present is something the other person would treat them selves to if they had the money but dont. So think about what they do, hobbies, sports etc and get them something to do with that thats a bit special, I love photography so a huge memory card would be boring to some but I would be thrilled!

    I dont know about some but I hate receiving bowls, plates etc unless its something I have pointed out and said “Oooh thats nice” otherwise its someone elses taste and you have to find somewhere to display it. My grandma buys me underwear every year, not too bad when you’re 5 and its pretty, but I’m 32 and the style she buys hasnt changed much! Not as bad as the all-in-one sleep suit she bought me in my early 20’s, great, a babygrow!

  • Becky

    I am also a teacher, and though I am new to the profession, I never wanted people to give me anything from the apple/school bus/crayons/anything appliqu├ęd genre. Unless you’ve seen the teacher wear such a thing (there are some of us who do commit such fashion crimes), it should be avoided at all costs.

    I agree with the other teachers that gifts that acknowledge our lives outside of the classroom (coffee/restaurant/bookstore/movie gift cards, etc.) is very appreciated. Be very careful with lotion/body wash type gifts. I’ve gotten a few of those from students and it always makes me wonder if the kid or parent thinks I need help with hygiene. (I don’t, as far as I know.)

    And by far the best gift I’ve received, though it sounds cheesy and cliche, is a handwritten letter from a parent or child thanking me for what I do. Starbucks cards don’t hurt, though.

  • Sandie

    I love to buy magazine subscriptions for people I don’t know too well, but well enough to have an idea what their tastes are. Aunt Debbie out in CA likes running so by golly, she gets RUNNER magazine! I don’t know if it’s a good gift or not, but it does give all year:)

    As for teachers, I always buy Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. What is the going rate for gift cards for teachers? I usually do 20 but don’t know if that is too cheap. I really love the classmom who coordinates cash. Rock on!

  • shokufeh

    Yesterday, I gave a four year old boy a gift he loved – water flutes for the bathtub. Warning: give them as a gift close to bathtime, or kids may want to experiment with them around the house. Or give them along with a towel.

  • Charlie on the PA Tpk

    I am the antithesis of the kind of people you are speaking about.

    People ask me – notably my much-better-half, what I want for presents. The answer is always the same: if it’s something I want or need, I’ll buy it myself. It’s not that I wish to take joy from people, it is simply that the things I don’t already have are either things I don’t need or are outrageously priced.

    For example: I’d love a Hummer; but I can’t justify the price tag. It would be foolish to expect someone to give me one, so I certainly do not ask anyone for this item.

    So I am sort of a reverse-Scrooge. I’ll buy for others, but would rather expect to recieve nothing.

    Gift cards have become vogue, but why? When I was a kid, it was considered rude to give someone cash. But now we can give plastic, and that’s OK?

  • Shelley

    I’m putting together something for my girls this year because they love to write and draw. They are always stealing our computer paper to do this. So I’m putting together arts and crafts sets for each of them based on their age and interest. I’ll have different types from paper, from construction to sketch to plain white. I’ll include washable markers, some paints, fat crayons, colored pencils, stampers, stickers, etc.

  • Bhamdining

    For my daughter’s teachers and babysitters, I have “dressed up” a gift card to Barnes & Noble (I figure you can get books, music, movies, games, calendars, coffee or even Godiva chocolate there, so there should be something for everyone) by choosing some of my daughter’s more abstract artwork (so it doesn’t look so kid-sy), scanning it into a digital file and making a coffee mug at Shutterfly.com. I add a small caption “artwork by … 2007”. That way they have a little something personal, attractive and useful along with the impersonal gift card.

    Similarly, a big hit with my family each year are personalized calendars from Shutterfly. For the ones that are closer to my daughter, I use photos of her combined with her scanned artwork. For those who aren’t as close, I use some of her scanned artwork as well as some of the more artsy photos my husband and I have taken during the year.

  • Kendra

    The newest ‘cool’ gift around here for the 16+ set is gas gift cards. When they have some to lots of different stations you know that they will always have a way to get some gas, and the parents appreciate that they don’t always have to belly up. This was also a good add on for my SIL last year when she was having a tough time financially-a tank or 2 goes a loooong way.

    I say no to cash because it gets spent on stupid stuff but the gift cards (when to the right place) are gold. Even my 6&8yo boys love them because they can get the one bionicle that they want.

    My mom also gave my kids 4-day Disneyland passes this year for their birthdays (we’re in SoCal), and they got Disney dollar GC’s from aunt and uncle. HUGE hit-we get to go a few more times and I wont have to spend the $ on more crap that breaks.This can work anywhere-is there a zoo around that the kid/family loves to go to? What about a museum, amusement park, waterpark? Year passes to these places are usually pretty reasonable and it keeps on giving. This can also work if there is a big vacation planned (My SIL asked for Disney dollars for a year before they took a 2 week vacation to Orlando-she didn’t spend a dime on her kids for souveniers or candy/snack stuff the WHOLE TRIP. Genius, if you ask me.)

    Wow-I didn’t realize that I sound like the GC queen. These are my best ideas though. I’ll wait to hear about gifts for my parents-that is who I really need help with!

  • Karin

    I agree with Shelley, art supplies are the best gifts. Kids are always running out of crayons and markers etc..I love getting anything homemade from my friends like a loaf of good bread, cookies or cakes, because I hate to bake.

  • Jen

    This may be the first year EVER that I may actually bowl my mother over. I got her a wine refrigerator/cooler that has two “zones” for reds and whites. If you have a wine lover on your list, this is great, and because most are in the $600-$2000 range, they wouldn’t expect to get one as a gift. My mom casually mentioned wanting one about six months ago, and I researched them. Turns out there’s not a huge difference in quality between the really expensive ones and the cheaper ones, just a few features and the materials used. I got a dual-zone with wood-faced racks for $150 at Target!

    And if you have any tween or younger girls on your list, there is an infinite variety of High School Musical products that will thrill them.

  • Ginger

    My 12 year old son just informed me yesterday that he would like a metal detector for Christmas this year?!? I always fill up the stocking with shampoo, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. hoping one day he will get the hint! Last year his favorite gift was a baking kit and we still bake something together every week!

  • Elizabeth

    For the kiddos, we have followed Parenting Magazine’s Toys of the Year feature in their November issue each year, and our kids and nieces, nephews haved loved everything. If you don’t get the magazine, you can always go to their website and look at the list: http://www.parenting.com It’s arranged by age which is helpful.

    Also, we got a gift of Table Topics. This is an acryllic cube that has hundreds of conversation starters. There are different versions – families, teens, couples, travel, wine, golf, girls night out, etc. We keep ours on our dinner table and each night choose one question – this usually keeps the conversation going without having to pull another card – great for teens and pre-teens who don’t like to talk to mom and dad during dinner! They sell these at retailers all over the US, but you can also order from http://www.tabletopics.com

    Anne, BTW, I am from Birmingham, transplanted to Florida and I read you daily to keep me from getting homesick!

  • Barb

    My son will be heading off to college next September so one thing we are getting him is a touch screen GPS so he can find his way around whatever new town he goes to. I also have a new rolling duffel that I plan to fill with goodies and necessities for him to take but I’m thinking that might make a better high school graduation gift. Last year I bought my hubby an Ipod. He never asked for one but he loves oldies music. I loaded it up with a bunch of music and he uses it EVERY DAY. Just once he forgot to bring it to work with him and he acted like it was the end of the world.

  • Megan

    I am all for getting ideas of what to buy everyone. We have decided to set up a private website for family and friends with our kids gift ideas. This way they can comment and say what they got, or see if someone else already got it. It helps with birthdays also. We seem to get the same stuff all the time and my house is full of things we don’t use.

    As for what we are getting others. A friend who recently had a baby will receive a bib-clip from Kippiis. I love these things and it was the best find for my child. It is like those dentist clips, but much nicer. I figure I used a paper towel anyway. So, for the $14.99 I paid for the thing, 99 cents of papertowels went a long way.

    For the kids, I no longer get small items just because. My daughter got an American girl Bitty Baby complete set last year. It cost me less than $200, which is less than I had spent before and each piece was individually wrapped. The boys want a the WII. Between the 2 of them I think that is a good gift. Split down the middle it will be a little over $200.

    I would love for teachers to elaborate on their best gifts. Always looking for an idea.

    I give the in-laws a photo album from shutterfly or kodak. They do have everything and they take it with them on vacation.

  • Holly

    After working as an aide at several schools then being a parent, I realized that high school teachers are the least acknowledged during this time of the year. If your child doesn’t want to risk their reputation by giving gifts to their teachers, mail a gift card to them at the school. It will be an unexpected surprise for them and your kid won’t suffer.

  • Grandmother Wren

    What a lovely site you have here! A real treat to visit!
    For my gift suggestions, I like the clutter-free gift ideas on the Fly Lady site –
    She has lists of creative, simple living gifts for everyone on your list including grandparents and “those other special people who touch your life”
    I’m not affiliated with her site in any way –
    I just think it’s a great resource to pass along…

  • jo

    When I was a teacher, my very favorite present was a large Hershey’s bar from one of my kids. He picked it out and bought it himself which is why I loved it. I liked the fact he picked it out himself. (Although I’m a sentimental sap and I liked and kept everything the kids gave me. Good thing I only taught 1 year. My entire house would be filled if I kept that up)

    Personally I’ve been asking for camping equipment. There’s tons of different little fiddly things you can get. It comes in a range of prices and it’s one of those things that I wouldn’t buy for myself. But then again I also make my family send me a list of suggested things with the penalty for not responding being coal… or maybe pajamas.

    (Also not to slam Grandmother Wren, but I’ve heard bad things about Flylady and once you’ve joined you can never get away.)

  • lynn

    I rarely score a real hit, but my best was when I gave a new college grad (neighbor’s son) a copy of Bittman’s cookbook: How to Cook Everything. He loved it, and he told me later that he used it a lot. It’s great, with simplified recipes of just about everything.

    When his brother graduated college and was moving to NYC, I gave him a copy of Zagat’s NY and a copy of Bittman’s book, too.

  • Sommer

    I think the very best gift in the world for parents, older people, friends and family members would be the gift that keeps on giving and is GOOD for them. I am trying to give more eco/health friendly gifts and the Get Clean kit, valued at over $3400 in natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies would be my favorite. I’m biased but I give this all the time for showers, wedding, etc. and it is a HUGE hit. Check it out. Through the end of November there will be a FREE membership ($19.95 value) on this kit for your readers if they click on to my site, http://www.greenmom.info

    The other gift I love giving that keeps on giving is the purple plate. A gift that’s encourages compliments, warm fuzzies and gratitude. http://www.thepurpleplate.com

    Can’t wait to see the compilation of ideas. Are you making a book?

  • Kate

    I think a great gift this year would be the Planet Earth DVDs. I got them for my grandparents, but they would be wonderful for all ages (well, maybe not really little kids). The footage and scenery are amazing, and the set of DVDs is quite long, so it will keep them busy for a while!
    I also love the magazine subscription idea, as well as photo gifts for people close to you. For families with kids, you can’t beat a year-long pass to the zoo, museum, or tickets to a special event (or even passes to the movies).
    I like to do theme gifts, too. So, this year we’re giving my in-laws a “stay at home and relax theme”. They’re getting The Office DVD, a book for each of them, a cheese board and knives (they love cheeses), maybe some microwave popcorn and slippers, and a gift certificate to their favorite take-out place.