Many public schools don’t allow gift exchanges during the Christmas season, but some do and certainly many private schools do. Many fun games can be created to make the gift exchange really fun and festive for kids.
There are several activities you can impose to make the gift buying interesting. For example, you can declare that one of the rules of the gift exchange is that gifts must be handmade or put together in some way and not purchased. You can take this a step further by declaring that the gifts feature the school’s colors in abundance. Perhaps they might also somehow incorporate the school’s mascot.
Definitely in a gift exchange with children, there should be a low dollar limit on the gifts (such at $5).
But once the gifts are ready, there are many fun exchange activities and games that can be used to make this even fun and memorable for the kids.
You can use a “white elephant” gift exchange method; here the kids draw a number and choose their gift from the pile of gifts in order by the number they drew. They can exchange their gift for a different one if they choose. A gift can only be “stolen” three times and the person who drew the first gift can “steal” a gift at the end of the gift exchange if they like. Kids always get a kick out of the “stealing” aspect of the white elephant gift exchange.
Children enjoy buying gifts for other people, so having them draw names is an excellent activity for a gift exchange. To add a twist, make the gift activity interesting by telling the children they can’t tell their recipient they are buying for them. Then create a fun activity during the exchange itself to play up the “mystery” element of the gift exchange.
In the mystery scenario, you can have each child open their gift, then try and figure out who it is from. If the children were asked to make a gift, this can be particularly fun, as some children might have drawing skills, or woodworking skills which might make it easier or harder for the other children to decide who have them a gift.
As the children open the gifts, have them guess who the gift is from. If they are wrong, they have to do a little dance or silly physical act before making another guess. This repeats until they guess the right giver of the gift they have been given.
Another fun activity for gift giving among children in a classroom is to have each child make a game piece for an unknown game board. Everyone brings a handcrafted game piece (there can be rules as to its size, for example, no larger than 2 inches high), to play with on the communal game board.
The “game board” can be nothing more than a large rug that’s been fashioned into some sort of game, ideally a Christmas-themed game. Always popular is “get Santa back to the North Pole” played much like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. Since most children know how to play these games, the learning curve is small and at the Christmas party, they can get to playing right away. To keep with the gift exchange idea, each child can be asked to bring their handcrafted game piece wrapped and the pieces can be exchanged as gifts before everyone plays on the big game board.