As a child, opening the stocking came last. After all, when I was growing up, my Christmas stocking was usually filled with underwear, socks, and maybe some candy. Very practical, but not very Christmas-y. I guess my parents thought it best to throw in some necessities to put a small dent in the usual clothing budget. Not a bad idea, and as a parent, I think I tried that one Christmas myself. I mean, you’re going to have to buy those socks and underwear anyway, so why not let them do double duty as gifts, right? It didn’t go over very well. But, what does a parent on a budget with four young children do?
Well, I did two things. First, I limited the number of stocking stuffers to only three items that added up to under a certain amount. Second, I implemented some DIY stocking stuffer ideas for kids that I list here. I also included some other low-cost ideas that pack a lot of fun. My favorite stores for stocking stuffers are Dollar Tree and Five Below. Save your money for those educational STEM toys instead!
Easy, Cheap DIY Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids
So, here’s what you do for this DIY stocking stuffer. You buy a package of these little wooden cubes.
Depending on the ages of your kids, you might purchase cubes that are a bit larger. The ideal size is about 1 inch. Divide up the cubes in this way:
- 2 cubes for characters.
- 2 cubes for places.
- 2-3 cubes for problems the characters face
- 2 cubes for solutions.
Once you have done that, you will write a word on each side of the cube according to character, place, problem, or solution. For example, there are twelve possible characters. So, on each side you would write a different one–maybe rabbit, dog, boy, girl, snake, fairy, truck, dragon, cat, duck, elf, and dwarf. For the twelve possible places, write a word representing those places on each side of the two cubes. And the same for problems and solutions. If your children are not reading well yet, you could try simple drawings or small icons you grab from the internet and glue on. Use clear nail polish to create a varnish so they don’t peel off. The real fun comes from tossing the cubes and seeing what comes up. You might get a rabbit who lives on a space ship trying to get out of jail and solves his problem by blowing on it. See how silly it can be? With all the different cubes, the possible combinations are almost endless. You can see how this game can inspire even the most reluctant storyteller.
Don’t want to make your own? Check out these store bought Story Cubes.
Conversely, if your children are a bit old for story cubes, you could use those same wooden cubes for endless Suduku options. You will need at least twenty five cubes per set. Each cube should have the numbers one through five on it, with one side a repeat (since the cubes have six sides). Suduku puzzles require that all five numbers appear only once for each column and row. They obviously can’t appear in numerical order, but they cannot be repeated in any one row or in any one column. For some practice at this using pictures, you can download a set of suduku puzzles for kids for free.
Pick Up Sticks: A Favorite Among DIY Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids
To make this old-fashioned game, grab a package of bamboo skewers at the grocery store or Dollar Tree. You will also need a small paint brush and different colored acrylic paints. Or, you could use some thick permanent markers in different colors.
This is a very easy DIY stocking stuffer idea for kids. Just count the sticks and divide them into four equal piles. Each pile will be painted/colored a different color. Let them dry. How to play: each player is a different color. For younger players, you may want to reduce the number of sticks for each player. Basically, you mix up the sticks, hold them all in one hand, and then let them drop. Like Jenga, the idea is to remove your colored sticks without moving the others’ sticks. As soon as others’ sticks move, you forfeit your turn. The person who removes all of their sticks first, wins.
Mini Bowling Game
Using mini Christmas trees or stand alone wooden animal figures, you can make your own simple table top bowling style game.
I suggest painting them or decorating them in some way and of course, including a small rubber ball. Or, you could include a small bean bag instead for a knock ’em down game. You could assign points to each animal and arrange them in different ways depending on skill and age to create a challenge.
Tumbling Tower Game
Of course, this doesn’t really need explanation. But, you can make your own game from lumberyard scrap or a couple of 1×1’s if you have a power saw. You can also buy long, square rods at some craft stores and cut it into pieces. Just carefully measure so that each piece is exactly the same size. To add a bit of challenge, divide the pieces into three equal piles and paint each pile a different color. Paint a wood cube with those three colors represented on the six sides. Then, pieces are removed according to what color each player rolls.
Puzzle stocking stuffer ideas for kids
One of the easiest ways to create a puzzle is using those wooden cubes again. Personally, I prefer larger cubes, especially for small children. But, a cube puzzle can be quite challenging because you could create six puzzles in one!
Start with only nine cubes. Put them on a piece of paper and trace around the square that they form when you line them up in a 3×3 formation. Now, you have a template shape you can use to create six different puzzles. Just cut out six of these squares and draw a somewhat detailed, colorful picture on each one. Flip them over and on the back of the first one, spread a thin layer of wood glue. Now, arrange the cubes in that 3×3 square over the glue so that the picture is stuck to the surface of the wood. Let it dry and then you can use a box knife to separate the cubes. That’s one puzzle. Do the same with the other pictures.
Jacks is an old single player game that lots of kids used to play, especially on the sidewalk. Traditional jacks were multi-pronged metal “stars.” But, you could use other small objects about 1 inch in diameter. They should not roll and a child should be able to hold all of the objects in one hand at one time. You will need about eight or ten of these objects. You will also need a small, very bouncy rubber ball.
How to play: drop all of the objects at once onto a smooth surface. They should be fairly close together, but not toooo close. The object is to see how many objects you can pick up each time you bounce the ball. So, the child drops the ball and quick grabs a few objects with his other hand before he has to catch the ball again. Do not let the ball bounce again after the initial drop! Watch this video for the official rules of play and to see real jacks. Since real jacks can be hard to come by, I substitute other small, non-bouncy objects.
Non-DIY Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids
Some of these can still be DIY, such as hair bows or body care products, but most of them are store bought. However, they are often pretty inexpensive. These are easy, quick win type small gifts that fit pretty much every budget and family size. And, you can find them almost anywhere. I recommend looking at Dollar Tree, Five Below, or the sale bins at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.
- small notebooks
- glitter pens
- fun socks
- deck of cards
- hair bows
- bubble bath/body care
- miniature vehicles or animals
- self-hardening modeling compound (such as Playdough minis or Crayola magic bags)
Need more fun ideas and activities for Christmas? Check these out!
These pretty little wreath ornaments make a cute addition to your own tree or for gifting. Woodland Birds Ornament from Heart and Soul Homeschooling
This ornament project can become a yearly keepsake of your child’s growth. Imagine covering the tree with the hands of your children over the years. Or, string them together for an “Over the Years” type chain. Handprint Candy Cane Ornament from Homegrown Motherhood
This is quite a project, but certainly helps with organization and consistency, especially if you have a large household. Simple Christmas Family Traditions: An Advent Tree from Whole Child Homeschool
Got some scrap wood? Print out the nativity figures and you can have a simple, easy nativity for your kids to play with and practice some handicraft skills. Nativity Set for Kids to Make and Play With from Orison Orchards
This simple manger craft is easy for preschoolers and craft-challenged older kids and the results are beautiful. How to make a fork painted manger set from Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland
Games and other projects
Like board games? Add a bit of Christmas flair to your game with these ideas. Christmas-Twisted Classic Board Games from The WOLFe Pack
Got an old Scrabble game or alphabet tiles from those younger days? Don’t throw them out! Try this simple and cute way to reuse them. Scrabble Tile Christmas Ornament from I Choose Joy!
Check out these three fun holiday projects that teach a bit of science. Holiday-Themed Science Projects from Homeschool On the Range
Here’s a sneaky way to get in a bit more math practice. Check out the free printable for early elementary at Christmas Cakes One More One Less Printable Worksheet from The Art Kit
We usually make a gingerbread house at Christmastime, but not a nativity one. This is a clever way to use candy and gingerbread. Gingerbread Nativities from Hess Un-Academy
Outdoors and more!
These pretty and functional little bundles using natural materials are safe and fun to make. DIY Firestarter Gifts from Making Room 4 One More
Need some ideas for how to enjoy the outdoors during the Christmas season and beyond? Grab these ideas from a mom who lives off grid in the snowy north. You’ll be inspired. Outdoor Christmas Activities for the Whole Family from An Off Grid Life
The ideas in this post will have you thinking. Make this Christmas different and relevant by taking a look at other cultures around the world. Cultural Family Night: Christmas edition from Stand Up, Reach Out
Working from home? Got a large family with lots of littles? Maybe you’re just overwhelmed with all that’s going on. No problem! Check out these ideas for a meaningful Christmas with less stress. Simple Christmas Activities for Busy Working Homeschool Moms from Thrive at Home