Planning ahead to next year - Xmas gifts for kids who don't really need anything - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 05:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not talking about kids who have everything they could possibly desire.  I'm thinking about kids who have been raised to have modest expectations, whose basic needs are met comfortably, and who have plenty of fun, basic stuff to play with.

 

I have worked so hard to simplify our possessions and expectations.  I don't want to add useless stuff to our clutter.

 

We have a pretty scaled-down Christmas, but I always make sure there are things to open under the tree.  Santa brings unlabeled gifts that are for the whole family to enjoy, and occasionally a gift where there is one identical or comparable thing for each person.  Last year everyone got backpacks.  This year everyone is getting new pillows and sheets.  I like keeping it utilitarian - putting stuff under the tree that we need anyway.  I also typically go heavy on books, CDs, art supplies, and something new for the house (this year it's an outdoor thermometer.)  And we try to include one new family game.  And smaller stuff in stockings (this year it's a book light along with a typical group of food and art consumables).

 

My DH insisted from the start that we would not have things like toothpaste and underwear in our stockings.

 

And I also don't believe in hanging onto something for months and months until Christmas if it is needed or would be highly appreciated "now."

 

So...where does that leave us?  We have what we need.  I want to give my kids at least one new fun shiny sparkly thing at Christmas, but I don't want to give them something that I know will turn into clutter.

 

We're not into electronic entertainment - my kids don't use the computer, so no options there.

 

We have a family's worth of sleds, snowshoes, ice skates, snow-fort-making-supplies.

 

We have plenty of books, though I always give them more.

 

I also always give them things like art pencils, blank books, nice coloring books, good sharpeners, erasers.  They have nice paints and brushes and paper, crayons, markers, etc.  I was thinking of switching to regular pencils and pens as they get older.

 

They already have personalized backpacks, duffel bags, bookbags, and mugs.

 

We have been so blessed with hand-me-downs and deep sales that they all already have extra hats/mittens/gloves/etc.  They all have nice wool socks already.

 

None of them collect anything, THANK GOODNESS.  (LOL.)

 

My DH's passion and work is games, and we have a lifetime's worth (no joke - shelves full covering one wall of our office.)

 

One year I gave them rechargable flashlights, and unfortunately I have to send two back for warranty replacement.

 

They all have warm down comforters and blankets and sleeping bags, and now will have new pillows and sheets.  They all have bathrobes and slippers and warm long johns and sizes of all of those things to grow into.

 

We severely limit sugar and have other food restrictions, so I can't just throw a bunch of candy at them.

 

We have umbrellas and musical instruments (and books) and hairbrushes and clocks...LOL.

 

Craft kits have not historically done well in our house. They become clutter very fast.

 

We are not into smelly stuff (bath salts, etc), we make our own candles, and I won't let my kids wear makeup, though I suppose we could start getting into lip gloss.  We already have body paints.  Body glitter?

 

And other people usually give them something of the "use it and get tired of it" variety.

 

Anyway, sorry this is so long; I am all set for this year, but I'm already thinking about next year, and I'm at a loss for ideas.  I really don't want more STUFF in my home, but I also cherish the tradition of having at least some wrapped things under the tree...  We have moved very far from the traditional consumerist American tradition, but I still love the opening-presents thing and the feeling of them getting something "new" (though I do buy some gifts secondhand and regift things, etc.)

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this whole situation, as I assume I'm not alone here, and I would also love some ideas for future Christmases...


- single homeschooling mom to 16, 14, almost-12, and 10
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#2 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 07:44 AM
 
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My older two are both getting duffle bags this year  (fun ones from LL Bean).  Previously we just basically survived with the few duffle bags we have around, but 1. as the kids get older we don't have enough space even for just weekend trips and 2. these have their names on them and are personalized for them.  I think the kids will be thrilled.


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#3 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 08:27 AM
 
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Sounds like you and your family have everything that they need.  You pretty much shot down any suggestions one might have since anything you might possibly need prior to next year doesnt make sense to suggest since:

 

Quote:
 

And I also don't believe in hanging onto something for months and months until Christmas if it is needed or would be highly appreciated "now."

 

So can you focus on something they "want" that isn't neccesarily a need? It sounds like any gift for the individual is is not really for the individual but instead 

 

Quote:
 a gift where there is one identical or comparable thing for each person. 

 

Maybe next christmas could be about celebrating the unique aspects of each child. Getting them something they really *want* that still falls into your value system and won't contribute undo clutter.

 

Maybe one of them loves to bake? Would a speical miffin/cake pan, a rolling pin, fun apron, etc be too much clutter?  I still have a the small set of copper bottom pans my mother gave me when I was 7.  I treasure them now though I am sure they were "clutter" to mom who already owned pots and pans. Still they were mine and I loved that she "got me"

 

I don't know your kids likes/dislikes so no tangible suggestions. Just an idea....


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#4 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 09:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Maybe one of them loves to bake? Would a speical miffin/cake pan, a rolling pin, fun apron, etc be too much clutter?  I still have a the small set of copper bottom pans my mother gave me when I was 7.  I treasure them now though I am sure they were "clutter" to mom who already owned pots and pans. Still they were mine and I loved that she "got me"

 


Hmm, that's a thought, getting them their "own" of something.  I like the apron idea - I still have a personalized kitchen apron that my mom got me when I was a teenager, and it's still my favorite.

 

I don't mean to shoot down ideas before they emerge...and I do keep some stuff until the holidays (like right now we really need new pillows and I'm waiting and waiting even as the kids are complaining that theirs are flat and lumpy...)  Maybe I need to be stronger about hoarding things throughout the year. 

 

We take a rather community-based approach to property in our house, where each kid really doesn't have a lot that is their own (including space - we still share our room with the two youngest, and the older two share a small room.)  All of my kids are close in age, or at least the two sets are close within the set, and so their interests tend to be practically the same.


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#5 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 10:05 AM
 
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 We take a rather community-based approach to property in our house, where each kid really doesn't have a lot that is their own

 

I was thinking not so much of something that one of them "owns" (IE: this is mine and not yours) but I guess that is is some of it, especially as kids get older.  I loved that those pans were "mine" even though my siblings used them too.  I loved taking them with me when I got my own place.

 

I was more thinking about celebrating what is unique about each child. Maybe your kids all love the same things and have all the same interests as you mentioned.  But maybe there are things that are different and that could be a nice thing to recognize during the holiday celebration. 

 

That's what made me mention baking/cooking.  Maybe one kids has always shown an interest in baking but the others not so much. Another science.  One child might appreciate the baking stuff and the other a microscope (just random examples).  Not that each them might not use and appreciate the others gift but the focus is on the individual. "I know how much you love to bake with me.  I thought it was time you had your own things in the kitchen" or "I thought we could all learn to bake xyz together".

 

Also- I don't think it about "hoarding" all year long.  A "need" is a need.  If a kid needs new shoes in Sept you aren't going to wait until December to get them. 

 

But wants are a different animal all together.

 

For example my son developed an interest in birds this summer.  It started casually but he got more into as the summer moved into fall. I dug out out my old Peterson guide and he really has been having fun.  He has mentioned casually how cool binoculars would be, then he could really see close up etc. Long story short is that he is getting brand new binoculars for Xmas. I saw a great pair of birders on sale in early August. Could he have been using them all along?  Sure, but I know he is going to be so excited on Christmas morning. It was not an "immediate need" so I didn't mind waiting. And the whole family will enjoy them for years to come.


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#6 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 10:49 AM
 
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My two cents is that it's way too early to plan for Christmas next year :)

 

No, it doesn't make sense to hold on to something for a year unless it's clothes they are going to grow into perhaps.

 

By next fall, you will likely have an idea of interests and hobbies they will have at the time, and can find something suitable to fit that.

 

And there's nothing wrong with having very few gifts. Christmas gifts were always supposed to be a token anyway.

 

So don't put so much emphasis on the gifts (like thinking about them a year ahead of time), trust that you'll find something when the time comes, and figure out ways to make your celebration more about other things - doing a reading together, walking in the snow, making special Chirstmas-only food, making candles, etc.

 

You've got my envy (or something less ugly than envy, surely there's a word) for how nonmaterialistic your family is. DH and I are pretty nonmaterialistic but we have not managed to escape the deluge of gifts for DD and her attendent love of such gifts. DH buys DD a single gift from "Santa" and that's it. I don't give her anything at all, technically (though of course the idea is that the Santa gift is from both of us, but it's really DH since it's his idea and he's the one who picks and buys it). I'd love to give DD gifts of the sort you mentioned but I feel restrained from giving her anything since she gets so much from everyone else and it would just get lost in the mountain of junk.


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#7 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 11:19 AM
 
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And there's nothing wrong with having very few gifts. Christmas gifts were always supposed to be a token anyway.

 

So don't put so much emphasis on the gifts (like thinking about them a year ahead of time), trust that you'll find something when the time comes, and figure out ways to make your celebration more about other things - doing a reading together, walking in the snow, making special Chirstmas-only food, making candles, etc.

 

I was thinking the same thing.  Worthy, you might rethink the urge, the feeling that it's necessary to have lots of presents to open.  I really don't see how you can fit your minimalist principle with that need. 

 

Though I'd really have to put my foot down about toothbrushes in the stockings! Lol!  That's an awesome, funny tradition.  We all get a tooth brush.  The kids each get a box of cartoony bandages that I never buy the rest of the year.  They get mini bottles of mouthwash.  Goofy brands of chewing gum (like old-fashioned Glee gum at Trader Joes). 

 

Your family could bake cookies and take them to a senior home.  


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#8 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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Though I'd really have to put my foot down about toothbrushes in the stockings! Lol!  That's an awesome, funny tradition.  We all get a tooth brush.  The kids each get a box of cartoony bandages that I never buy the rest of the year.  They get mini bottles of mouthwash.  Goofy brands of chewing gum (like old-fashioned Glee gum at Trader Joes). 

 

We do the same thing!  New toobrushes, toothpaste and funny bandaids (last year they looked like bacon strips! eeeew!)  


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#9 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 02:04 PM
 
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My kids are also very nonmaterialistic... we really had to work very hard to create a need or want for something in them for a birthday or christmas.  And that was just to have something to tell others since we only bought gifts for others not ourselves... now we do no gift christmases.  Even when they believed in Santa they would ask for things like a happy family on christmas (one time my daughter asked Santa for a jack-in-the-box, I was so excited to finally have something!)

 

Anyways, one gift idea I have for you is to start taking notes of things your kids do this year... funny things, precious things, things that are so uniquely them, admirable things, along with pictures and then you can put together a photo story book of the year for them.

 

I noticed while you have every other bag imaginable it seems, I didn't see any waist packs... my kids love these and also stuff we fill them with, swiss army knives, specialty trick opening mirrors or mini notebooks, photoviewers, headlamps (I thought this was a really silly gift someone got us once, but I am amazed how often these have come in handy!), sunglasses, nifty compacts and cases they store whatever they want in, also electronics, compasses, magnifiers... and I know you have books but we always like to get the playset activity books (one of my favorites of all time is The World Record Paper Airplane Book, but one that has involved even more endless hours of fun for my kids is the Complete Castle a 3d Adventure book... I imagine you may already have lots of these sort of build things up and play with them type books though...)...

 

How's your outdoor space?   Maybe some baby trees or plants or some sort of building kit they could all work on to put together, an all weather ping pong table...  A new phone system  (maybe you already have something but it seems they are always being improved upon and you could get everybody their own handset and they can call each other on them... at least my kids can spend hours doing that, it seems)

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#10 of 22 Old 12-01-2010, 05:18 PM
 
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Many kids in my family get magazine subscriptions as a gift from me. They keep coming all year and are recycled into various crafts too.


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#11 of 22 Old 12-02-2010, 04:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My two cents is that it's way too early to plan for Christmas next year :)


Our holiday schedule is so packed with activities and traditions that I have found it works best to have things completely planned by 10/1 and mostly obtained by 12/1.  And I always seem to be in a budget crunch at the end of the year and can't afford to just go out and fund Christmas the month before (I almost posted this in the F&F forum, because it's half a frugality and half a decluttering question, for that reason).  So it's an all-year bit-by-bit thing - I can spend all year waiting for deals and stashing secondhand items.  And when it's done early, I don't panic and stress at the last minute.  Works for me.


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#12 of 22 Old 12-02-2010, 06:49 AM
 
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Are you members to any zoos or museums? Such memberships are treated as gifts from my parents and renewed when my parents visit each year.

 

Do you have a camera the kids can use?

 

We love card games. Sets is a fun one adaptable for all ages.

 

Are there any classes the kids would really enjoy?

 

trips to do something new (eg white river rafting) you can plan in advance and tell them about on Christmas day?

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#13 of 22 Old 12-02-2010, 11:34 AM
 
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What about thinking along the lines of activities that could happen throughout the year?  Maybe a special class...pottery or something that they would enjoy.  It might be best if it occurs in Jan/Feb so they don't have too long to wait.  Or tickets to a play or some other event that the whole family gets to go together.  This year we talked with our kids about exchanging less gifts and instead going to some inexpensive plays in our area.  This also spreads out the holiday season.  Two weeks ago we went to Grease put on by the local community college, last weekend we went to Annie put on my a small theater in our area.  We have Anne of Green Gables coming up as well as the Nutcracker put on by a small local ballet.  Just a few ideas.  I am enjoying reading this thread as these types of ideas have been swirling around in my head the last few months.  I would like to set up some new traditions for our families so every December it isn't like we're reinventing the wheel, but instead do similar things each year regarding gifts and such. 


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#14 of 22 Old 12-02-2010, 12:31 PM
 
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How about an experience instead of a thing? A special trip? Something along those lines. Magazine subscriptions if your children like to read magazines. Special classes that they might be interested in. One year my parents got me ice skating lessons for my birthday and to this dates it is the best thing I have ever been given. I loved it and it really gave me something to remember, more than any toy/bag/book did. 

 


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#15 of 22 Old 12-03-2010, 10:11 AM
 
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I did not see bicycles mentioned.  There are a lot on Craigslist.

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#16 of 22 Old 12-03-2010, 11:51 AM
 
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Maybe you are getting overwhelmed because you are aiming for too many gifts?

 

Right now we are doing 3 gifts (for the 3 wisemen's gifts) for DS -- a homemade pillow pet, homemade felt food, and a book. His '12 Days of Christmas' stocking will contain little wooden animals. It sounds like you could easily do 3 gifts for each kid -- a book, a CD, and a game. Stocking could contain art supplies. But you could cut this back even further & each kid gets one gift. Or get a family gift & give a small representational gift to each kid -- Y membership & each kid gets a new swimsuit, zoo membership & each gets a stuffed version of their favorite animal, etc. Stocking could contain coupons -- wrap up boxes with a slip of paper in each that they can redeem throughout the year -- making cookies, going out for lunch with dad, family picnic, 1-on-1 time with mom, host a sleepover, go to the lake together, etc. Or you could also do something like write something special about the kid on each slip of paper, like a strength bombardment.

 

I also hate holding onto things until Christmas & tend not to wait. But you can try to be a little more discerning of which things to tuck away for Christmas. To me, pillows would be something I'd give them right away -- they need a good night's sleep. Same with essential clothes or school supplies. Things that you can tuck away are books, cool art supplies, a sweater in kid's favorite colors, CD's, games, etc. -- things they can get by without for a bit. I usually don't bother tucking anything away until Oct./Nov.

 

Do your kids give gifts to each other (and to you & DH)? If not, that's something to consider instituting -- then there will still be plenty of presents to open but less of it would need to come from you (or Santa or whoever).


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#17 of 22 Old 12-05-2010, 04:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Maybe you are getting overwhelmed because you are aiming for too many gifts?

 

 

I don't know, maybe - as it stands right now, there will be three gifts for each kid to open, plus a couple of small things in their stockings along with food.  That doesn't sound like too much to me, though I will think on it.  Some of it is that I wrap groups of things in multiple packages (a set of six books got wrapped as three gifts, for example; new art paper got wrapped as two gifts.)  I wrap that way so that each kid has an equal number of things to open.  I could wrap things so they each have two, or so they each have four, and the only difference is paper and tape, yk? 


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Do your kids give gifts to each other (and to you & DH)? If not, that's something to consider instituting -- then there will still be plenty of presents to open but less of it would need to come from you (or Santa or whoever).

 

The kids don't give gifts to each other at this point.  It would make my pre-Christmas much more complicated if I had to coordinate four kids buying three to five gifts each to surprise each other (and us) with.  Yikes.  I know that is an important value for some families, but it makes my logistical side shudder.  It's easier for me to come up with things for under the tree than to help them do it.  Maybe that will be controversial, I don't know.  I loathe taking kids into stores, and the alternative of supporting them in doing handmade things in secret for all their siblings, who are nearly always home together, sounds like a headache bigger than I'm willing to take on.  When they are all a little older it will be different.  I guess keeping this job for myself does proactively limit what we end up with - no cheap plastic junk or questionable themes, where if my kids were picking stuff out on their own, I think it would be harder for me to channel the outcome, especially given what would undoubtedly be their dollar-store budgets.

 

Also, extended family plays only a very minor role in our present-giving.  My parents give the kids one gift each; this year it's a magazine subscription (and I assume this will probably be their tradition from now on.)  That happens after the holiday; we exchange token gifts with my sister's kids on Thanksgiving (this year the girls got hair ties and the boys got bookmarks.) My family is pretty minimalist and DH's family is out of the picture.

 

But for those who have other sources of "stuff to open," I can see how it would feel easier to pare down to just one gift per kid from parents/Santa. 

 

And I really do love that they get to open things.  My youngest's love language is gifts and she talks about it and looks forward to it all year long in a way that her less materialistic parents and siblings don't.  She also still believes in "the magic."  But I will think on this some more.  I will see if I can envision a smaller pile for next year.

 

I appreciate all the suggestions in this thread - they got me thinking in new ways, and there are some great gift ideas here.  I had forgotten that my oldest has been asking for a microscope for a long time. 

 

Ygle, I love your waistpack ideas and the "explorer stuff" that you listed.  That is great.  For so long my kids were too little for stuff like that, and I still haven't completely shifted gears yet (my youngest was still eating crayons at age 4-5...gah.) 

 

Thanks.


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#18 of 22 Old 12-05-2010, 05:37 AM
 
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I was also going to say give experiences.  A class or membership to a zoo or museum.  You can still have something to open.  For the zoo membership - maybe it comes with a zoo tshirt to wear on outings or a book on animal care or a journal for recording observations.  A museum could come with a science kit.  Just depends on what your child is interested in.

 

You could do a family scavenger hunt to a special outing - each child gets to open a different clue/item needed when you get there.  Depending on your climate this could be an outdoor hike/picnic, a special movie outing you've all wanted to see, a trip to an aquarium, etc.

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#19 of 22 Old 12-06-2010, 08:28 AM
 
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By the time my sister and I were pre-teens my mom started giving us stuff like lotion, pretty soaps, lip gloss, etc. in our stockings and we always liked those. Sure, there's a family bottle of lotion but it's nice to have your own little one in a fun fragrance. I don't know if boys would appreciate them as much but I think it's worth considering.

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#20 of 22 Old 12-06-2010, 01:07 PM
 
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Does you family camp?

 

My crew loves to camp and there is always some camping equipment that we need.  Right now we could use an additional sleeping pad and kid sized sleeping bag.

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#21 of 22 Old 12-09-2010, 01:04 PM
 
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I've been thinking about this too. My family is going through a major change with my grandmother's passing Thanksgiving week. Now the only family we have really is my mom, brother, and sister. Dh's family is out of the picture as well so we don't have a large extended family to do gifts. I'm thinking about redoing the way we get some things throughout the year. My mom always got us a new set of pjs for Christmas. This is a family tradition that won't change but I'm wondering if there are other things that can be replaced only at Christmas time. Most things don't get replaced every year though and that's where I've had issues. The only thing I can think of so far is to do the consumable art/craft supplies or memberships that others have suggested. The memberships aren't going to be very useful for us though because we don't live near many attractions. We wouldn't travel over an hr to aquariums or zoos and such enough to use it as a gift. Things like karate or dance classes and such don't work either since in my area they all work on a school year schedule. I'll be watching this thread and I'll post again if I come up with any ideas.


Michelle mom to DD , DS , & lil DD plus and spending my days
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#22 of 22 Old 12-09-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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Do they like to play dressup, or might they like it if they had some stuff? Maybe you could get some sort of trunk or vintage suitcase for them all to share and store a modest amount of dressup stuff in, then give each child a garment or a few garments - cloak, crown, scepter, pointy princess hat, glittery length of silk, length of velvet, hat, mask, glass beads, long opera gloves, stuff like that. That could let you do the individuality, in terms of which items you give to which child, but also have a common theme.

 

And given how much time you have, it wouldn't have to be icky polyester/acetate children's costume stuff - you could find natural fiber stuff, or maybe make it or hunt it down at vintage stores.

 

Crayfish

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