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End gift exchanges for students?
Old 12-30-2015, 06:23 PM
 
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Several teachers in our school have suggesting an end to Christmas gift exchanges among children. The sticky situations and money difficulties are affecting how the kids can participate.
Most of us ask students what they have brought, but after this year I'm ready to have them wrap presents at school. I had 4 students bring in items (not all toys) that were picked up around their home because they didn't weren't able to shop. I purchased 3 and our parent group provided 3. (Not a problem, but one "re-purposed" gift from home slipped by me.)
Has your school had exchanges and then ended the practice? How did this go for your school? We would like to approach our P about this, but I'm pretty sure he'll tell us we have to approach the parent organization and I'm not sure it's even worth it.


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Old 12-30-2015, 06:50 PM
 
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We had a gift exchange for our students for many years. They were supposed to bring a school supply type gift for $3-$5 that could be for both boys and girls. Over the years, we had some kids who would receive deluxe items that they really loved, others would receive practical, useful things, some received toys, some got things that were gender-specific for the other gender, and some got things that were obviously recycled from home. We always felt that we had to have a few spare gifts on hand in case someone forgot theirs or someone brought something really inappropriate. The clincher was one year, when I had a special needs student who read on a first grade level (in 4th grade) who received an adult level novel.

I decided things had to change, and approached my team about doing away with the gift exchange. At first they were hesitant. It was tradition. I made the case of our families who really couldn't afford it, kids who received so much at this time of year that they really didn't appreciate it, and how we could make things easier on our families by eliminating it, so we decided to try it for a year. It's probably been about 5 or 6 years now without it, and I LOVE not having it. The kids don't miss it at all, and it makes things so much less stressful all around. I also think it lessens the focus on receiving, at least to some small extent.

Our room parents plan our parties, and this year, I had been out on medical leave during November. When I came back, I contacted my room parent about our holiday party and asked what was planned and if she needed anything. She said she had talked to some of the other parents and they were thinking about doing a gift exchange. I shot that down immediately, politely, but firmly.
I wish you luck getting rid of your gift exchange. I think you'll be happy you did.

Last edited by roo; 12-30-2015 at 07:54 PM..
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Goody bags
Old 12-30-2015, 06:59 PM
 
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We go a goody bag gift exchange for the boys and for the girls. This year, I had 20 students, 10 boys and 10 girls. Each girl brought in 10 small gifts of the same type (a holiday pencil from a set of 10 counted as a gift, or a small lip gloss) and the boys did the same. They get the gender-specific bag on the day of our party, right before leaving for the day. It is anonymous, and everyone receives the same things, so there are no hard feelings. What I also like is that if a student doesn't turn anything in, it's fine because the students are still getting plenty in their goody bags. I don't allow candy or other food because of allergies, but that's the only restriction. The parents like it, and so do the kids. This was an idea from someone on PT, and now, all my grade level colleagues but one do it. I have tried Secret Santas and grab bags, and they did not work for me like this idea does.
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:17 PM
 
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This is the first year that I did a gift exchange and overall it turned out ok. (My first year on this kindergarten team that has always done it). I was worried because the price limit was $5-$10, but all but 3 brought a gift.
In the past, I usually had students bring a stocking and enough small treats for the class - my suggestions were pencils, fruit snacks, party favors, etc...They were then able to fill their stocking with a bunch of stuff. Much more affordable than a gift exchange.
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:21 PM
 
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I stopped doing them years ago. It was too stressful in many ways. I haven't had a parent ask about it in probably 5 years. I think they are relieved to have one less thing to do during Dec.


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No formal rule
Old 12-30-2015, 07:57 PM
 
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No formal rule! I only did it once because it was common at my new school, of course, one kid brought in a used gift wrapped and a kid whose mom was out to get me ended up getting it (it was all random) and mom was CONVINCED that I purposely gave the gift to her son because I was "bullying him" all year. She complained to the principal and the principal actually made me apologize to the boy and the mom! SERIOUSLY? I'm avoiding that all together now and am not doing it!
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Old 12-30-2015, 09:32 PM
 
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We did it many years ago and I was so glad to get rid of it! As a parent I absolutely hate them as well. One more thing to do, and one more piece of junk I don't want in my house.

We've also done a book exchange. That was slightly better, but again there was always inequities.
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Stocking stuffers
Old 12-30-2015, 10:14 PM
 
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I did stocking stuffers this year . It was a great hit. I asked parents to bring in stocking stuffers for 18students. I had purchased beach pails at the end of summer for 10 cents on clearance . I then used a paint pen and wrote all my kids name with the year on them . With the stocking stuffers that were sent in I stuffed the pails and they were adorable. Parents sent in candy , trinkets , erasers , pencils and I put in a scholastic book. Kids were happy and so were parents
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Wishing Tree gift idea
Old 12-30-2015, 10:20 PM
 
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When I taught 4th grade, I cringed at the thought of doing a gift exchange. I came up with an idea that "paid it forward."

I sent a letter home, asking the parents to provide $3-5. I then went to the local charity tree (we call it Christmas is Sharing, some call it Angel Tree, or wishing tree - it differs depending on the community). I picked a number of wishes that the students would be excited to fulfill. I focused on toys for younger children mostly. (Later, because our community is relatively small, I contacted the organizer of this project as I wanted to avoid the possibility of one of my 4th graders unknowingly shopping for a younger brother or sister! She was always very accommodating with this)

What a hit! We would talk about the types of toys on the wish ticket, how much they might cost, if batteries or accessories were needed/wanted.The students signed up for the group they wanted to be in. I usually had about 4 kids per wish.

Then, I contacted the local department store (more of Woolworth's type) and made arrangements with the manager to bring the kids down and shop for the wishes. Oh! What fun they would have! They had a budget, and these kids squeezed those dollars tighter than you could imagine. Talk about savvy shoppers!

If there was any money left, they would purchase batteries, extras for the toys, or whatever they thought the wishing tree group would need. Even tape or wrapping paper.

Every year, I would get rave reviews from the store manager and the workers as to the behavior of the students while shopping, they would get sincere thank you's from the organization, and positive reviews from parents thanking me for getting their kids to realize the fulfillment in giving to others. Once parents discovered what the project was, I had many give more than the $5, or matching what their child would come up with.

It was such a win-win. I realize that this idea may not be ideal for younger grades, but perhaps changing it up a little to reflect the age group?
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That. Is. Awesome.
Old 12-30-2015, 11:35 PM
 
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That idea is absolutely awesome, Beach Glass. I hope you don't mind if I steal it for next year?


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Book gift exchange
Old 12-31-2015, 04:28 AM
 
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My school does a book gift exchange ,they set a price limit. It works really well for our young students
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Old 12-31-2015, 06:37 AM
 
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We are not allowed to have students exchange gifts. We are barely allowed to have parties in the classroom based on holidays.
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Old 12-31-2015, 06:58 AM
 
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We have not done gift exchanges at school in over 15 years. The students do have a party and sometimes I incorporate a game that involves all of them getting a book. None of the students ask about gift exchanges for the party. It's nice to not have to deal with hurt feelings when students receive something that they don't want.
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Little confused
Old 12-31-2015, 07:42 AM
 
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I hate gift exchanges. There is always the person that ends up buying something super expensive and nice, and there is always the person that buys the 50 trinket from a gum ball machine. It always ends in hurt feelings.

P.S. I'm a bit confused as to why a gift exchange now. Don't they usually happen before Christmas.
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gift exchange
Old 12-31-2015, 09:01 AM
 
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I quit doing that years ago. I ran into the same problem where kids weren't bringing in gifts so I had to buy extras to make sure everyone had one. Then there was always at least one person who wasn't happy with his/her gift, then it turned into hurt feelings for the person who brought that particular gift.

No thanks. The kids don't even ask anymore. We just have a party and I tell kids they can bring goody bags for everyone if they want to - usually about 3 kids do, so everyone goes home with that many goody bags and all are happy.
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Another Thought
Old 12-31-2015, 09:02 AM
 
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Several years (early in my career and my classroom was bare), instead of a gift exchange between students, I asked the kids and parents to buy something for the classroom.

At school, we discussed what kinds of things the kids would like to have in the classroom that they did not have...better pencil sharpener, more rainy day/snowy day games, etc.

For those students who could buy something, they did. Others did not. Some families chipped together to keep the cost low.

After the holidays, each child wrote two thank you notes to the families that gave us gifts. It was a nice way to incorporate letter writing skills.
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Old 12-31-2015, 09:53 AM
 
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Our school never endorsed gift exchanges but instead, we had a giving tree.

* The students brought scarves, mittens, gloves, and hats and the tree was decorated with the items to be given to children who needed them. Sometimes parents would send coats and boots.

*Under the tree the students placed food items to donate to the food pantry. It was an informal contest to see if we could top the number of items donated the previous year. There were so many food items under the tree they needed to be hauled away with carts!

*It was wonderful to see all the gifts our students had given to others. No gift exchanges just plenty of gifts given to others who were less fortunate.
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Re: No gift exchange now
Old 12-31-2015, 12:07 PM
 
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I related my experience this year in my OP. It seems other teachers also feel that families might be tight on money and the exchanges could be changed.
I have a feeling the topic will come up when we return to school. I just wondered what other teachers might have experienced.
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Old 12-31-2015, 12:53 PM
 
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You are more than welcome to use the idea!! After all, isn't that what this site is all about?!

If you need any help closer to next season, feel free to pm me, and I'll help out however I can.
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gift exchange
Old 12-31-2015, 03:38 PM
 
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I can't imagine why schools would want to have gift exchanges. I like the idea of doing something for a cause. St Jude's Hospital has a fundraiser where students pay $1 to wear pajamas. Wouldn't it be great to teach them that the holidays are about giving, not getting?
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Great idea!
Old 01-01-2016, 04:42 AM
 
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We used to do a St. Jude's Mathathon. I'd love to have the kids do something like that. We could make party day a pajama day and let the kids pay during the upcoming days. A dollar always seems to be available for candy or Santa shopping. This would be great for the older kiddos. Thanks for the idea.
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Old 01-01-2016, 11:10 PM
 
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When I was younger, I actually on the other side of this. We used to have a holiday carnival. How the gifts were given were, you'd put your free tickets in a jar next to the item in the auditorium. If someone else won that item, you'd end up winning something you didn't want. I ended up with a nerf shot gun like ton with foam arrows. You'd also get candy and other junk. I hated my gift, I ended up hiding it somewhere and pretending (when I got home) that I got nothing. My mom (being the big mouth she is) decides to tell the most gossipy PTA mom this. This (in the school and neighborhood I lived in) was like going to the superintendent. Of course she was so passive aggressive, "I still think it was lovely despite my daughter not getting a raffle gift, (Insert more compliment)". When they found it, they basically told me I should be happy I got such an expensive gift and not lie. I cried and said "It was a boy's toy" and they claimed it wasn't. That year was terrible. Every thing that involved me (good or bad) got turned into "the girl who lied about the Christmas raffle". The next year, i specifically given a very cheap toy. It was a girl's toy, but it looked like it came from the dollar store. From then on, my dad would take off of work a day early (my mom stayed at home), and we would do something as a family and I would skip the nonsense. The best is a few years later, I did get "revenge". The same gossipy mom and her crew were in charge of the book fair. I loved reading. My family encouraged. My mom went with me and we ended up spending like 200 dollars. The mom and her click didn't help us with one book we wanted and we ended up finding it on our own. The principal came out when my mom came back to take me mom. As she was coming, the gossipy mom was saying how cheap everyone was and the low sales. (She didn't help us and didn't see the stuff we got). The principal goes to her "You didn't see Mrs. A spend $200?". My mom (being passive aggressive) said "She was must have been busy". I said with a nonchalant way that wasn't couched "Gossipy mom has been mean to me since the Christmas raffle. She refused to help us". She was basically pulled from all volunteer work after the book fair.
 
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My last book exchange this year
Old 01-02-2016, 11:44 PM
 
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I have always done a book exchange and to avoid upsetting anyone's beliefs I never prefaced it as a Christmas gift. During December our science theme is weather and seasons and we have a "winter" party and our social studies theme relates to standards about citizenship that specifically talked about the behaviors of a good citizen including sharing and giving to others in the community so we do a book exchange during our winter party and we related it to that. However, never again for me. I always purchase a few dollar books from scholastic incase a few kids don't bring a book for the book exchange but this year I had only 6 out of 22 students bring a book. I didn't even know what to do. I knew some parents would be upset if there kids didn't get to do the book exchange after they spent money to purchase a book so I basically just pulled the 6 kids aside during the class party and we played the exchange little game (I would name an action and if it was an example of good citizenship the kids passed left and if it was not good citizenship they passed right) while the others were working on other activities with a parent volunteer. It went fine but I swear to you I will never do another exchange.
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our "Secret Santa"
Old 01-04-2016, 07:20 PM
 
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I teach in a small school where there is only one class per grade. A few years ago, I got together with two of my colleagues and we decided to do a "Secret Santa." We divided our classes up so our students would not get anyone from their own class. Then, each student picked out a name, and that was their "Secret Santa."

Now, instead of buying a gift, we had the kids make gifts using only the materials that we had supplied (stickers, popsicle sticks, beads, gemstones, colored paper, glitter, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, etc.). My colleagues and I coordinated our supplies so that each class was given similar supplies to use. We were amazed at how wonderful this project was. Most of the gifts were creative, thoughtful, and truly appreciated.

This is something that the kids ask about every year!
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Love that idea.
Old 01-05-2016, 06:25 PM
 
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I wish I didn't feel the pressure from parents to have "gifts" and time constraints for instruction. That would be such a fun way to exchange.

Last edited by SteelerFan; 01-05-2016 at 06:26 PM.. Reason: spelling error
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No gift exchange
Old 01-09-2016, 04:14 PM
 
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I switched to a book exchange many years ago with a $3 limit. But even that got to be a problem. In second grade we have such a huge range of readers. Most students brought an appropriate book, but there were always a few that were not (coloring books, board books!, used books)
About 3 years ago, I stopped doing the book exchange and not one parent questioned it. We have a nice party with games and food and sometimes a small craft.
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