Siblings “Non-Gift” Christmas Gift – Your Modern Family

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

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 either. They need to understand this.

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.

There is a reason that I would rather spend our money on vacations than on toys.

I can remember, being a child, and thinking about buying gifts for my family (my parents, my brother, my aunts).  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 a tradition a few years ago and we’ve stuck with it.  It’s been one of my favorites.

Instead of BUYING gifts for one another, they GIVE an act 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.

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

printable certificate

Here are a few examples to get you started:

“I will…”

  • Clean your room
  • Clear your dinner plate for the week
  • Unload the dishwasher for you
  • Read you a book
  • 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.


While this one costs a little bit of money ($1 each), it’s not much.  You’ll love to see what they come up with with their dollar!

If you do want your kids to have a store-bought gift from one another, we also have another semi-tradition.  

We do this one sometimes (which is why I called it a “semi-tradition”), but sometimes we just skip it and do only the certificate.

A few years ago, we added in another tradition.  The kids buy a $1 Christmas gift for their siblings and they exchange them on Christmas Eve.  This is a gift that the kids buy for each other, without any input from us.

The week before Christmas, we take the kids to the dollar store and give each of them $5 (that gives them $1 to spend on each person in our family).

They walk around the store with me (or with Mickey) and buy 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.  Sometimes, they’ll buy something silly for each person, but sometimes they do a great job and buy something that they know the other person could use. 🙂

Some years, we give them a few more dollars to buy something for their grandparents, too, because seeing what they buy (without any input from us) is so much fun for everyone involved!!

A few examples from the past few years:

  • 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.   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!
And this one… 
Sign for 50 Non-Toy gifts.

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