How to prepare for a Plastic Free Christmas!

By the way kids hate wooden toys except wooden trains or those wooden bees we have in New Zealand but there are only so many wooden trains a person can give and the wooden bees are for toddlers!

And for a start we can’t use wrapping paper! Last year all the wrapping paper was made of some kind of plastic that even sticky tape rejected. And sticky tape! We would not use that either. String then and newspapers or decorated butchers paper for wrapping. I am good with that.

I think at least half of this is a discussion with the children about why I am not giving plastic this Christmas. So they get it but not in a way that decreases their joy when they do receive plastic from someone else!! How to phrase that sentence.

I have always been the book giver- safe in the knowledge that later in life all my dears will understand. As long as the books are collected. Because every year I see my books set aside by the parents for later! Maybe I should be giving hope chests or book cases.

Also by making a stand I make all the other givers of plastic wrapped gadgets and plastic toys and plastic made garments, feel judged in a way. Some grandparents get offended very easily especially by their peers. Especially me! Somehow I have made an artform of saying the wrong thing!

Anyway! For us today I would like to make a list of Christmas presents ( other than books book cases and hope chests) that I can wrap and that would travel, for all ages, that will excite all the little people who would rather have a bright pink dolls house made entirely of plastic!

Just drop all your ideas in the comments – riff off each other. I need help. All I am sure of is that I don’t want to continue to contribute to the bags and bags of plastic that go out to the curb the day after Christmas!

Wine for the parents is a wonderful plastic free gift!!

Already I feel a list coming – but I have put the bread in the oven so I have twenty minutes to shower and get ready for work – then when the buzzer goes off I take the lids off – turn the pots and I have another twenty minutes. Usually by the last minute of baking bread I am stood at the door ready to exit with my hot loaves on their cooling trays in the bin ready for travel.

Talk soon c


  1. As a retired librarian, I tend to give a lot of books, which I know aren’t the thrill of the minute for the kids. But I also give a lot of art supplies. And sweet treats!

  2. Congrats on your decision. These are my main non-plastic gifts for adults at Christmas: An Amayllis bulb in a ceramic pot; a book; a bottle of wine. Inexpensive too.

  3. The toy company Melissa and Doug has some wonderful wooden toys. The packaging isn’t always plastic free, but it is a place to start.

    Diecast cars and planes

    If you have an Amish community nearby they sometimes have handcrafted toys and other gifts.

    I’m going to think more and will drop back in later!

    • Melissa and Doug – wonderful toys. And not all wooden. Last Christmas I found a set of metal pots and pans with metal spoons, etc. all hanging on a metal rack for my almost 2-year-old great-granddaughter. I hated the idea of plastic so when I saw the set I grabbed it. I know the “kitchen” she has is plastic, can’t help that. I can’t tell you that the pots and pans are always on the rack, but I can tell you she plays with them a lot and I think they will last a very long time.

  4. How about giving them an experience? A gift certificate or tickets to a place you know they would like, or even a handmade gift certificate promising to do something special with them the next time you see them. It probably won’t be as exciting for them on Christmas Day as the plastic toys, but I bet it would be a lot more memorable for them in the end.

  5. How about tools, small scale of course but proper ones, for things like gardening, woodworking, cooking, sewing etc…and a book to show them “how to”. As a child I always loved getting art supplies or things for baking, growing, sewing 😁

  6. One present I gave my grandson which he really enjoyed is sponsoring an elephant at the Sheldrick Trusk Kenya. They have a wonderful IG feed with stories about the elephants and other animals they adopt and they send you news of ‘your’ elephant. I think it was 50 for a year… Another idea is a subscription to a magazine like National Geographic as they enjoy getting things in the post. Or an online course in something that interests them. All plastic free!

  7. It’s books here as well. My daughter has asked that we do this, which hasn’t settled so well with others in the family. The girls know that I buy used if possible, and I tuck in a sweet treat and perhaps a bit of art supply as well. It has not always been this way, but I have watched in years past as the new toys are relegated to a distant corner within days after arrival. We use cloth bags and share them back and forth for Christmas and birthdays as well. The girls are also learning that as they outgrow books, we pass them on in other ways to children who can use them.

  8. A hot loaf of homemade bread sounds perfect for this cold morning! I give and have given books to the grands but as two of them now are teens they want gift cards to go shopping although the older boy wants his own tools. I can get behind that! Clothes they outgrow, if not passed down, get sold at resale places and the money goes toward newer clothing. This year the little guy (3yo) is getting clothing that has his favorite cartoon characters on them. From hats down to shoes! Morning miss c… t

  9. I work pt in a children’s science museum (The Asheville Museum of Science) & we have all kinds of experiment kits & science books for children (beginning with Baby’s Firsts). And stuffed animals of our mtn. region. And prisms, gyroscopes, atomic motion models, radiometers, Moh’s hardness scales, minerals, magnets, tops. Some plastic parts may be in the kits, but much is glass & wood. If the children are at all interested in science or you want to lead them that way there are lots of toys & gadgets to give.

  10. It’s a shame about wooden toys, though a friends of mine hand carves wooden spoons – they make great grown up presents. On the plus side, in a few years to come they will probably be delighted by pickles, preserves and even home made bread. Home made sweets without sugar? There’s an amazing Christmas Medieval Market Fair in Vic, Cataluña, where people buy all sorts of food and hand crafted items as Christmas presents.

  11. I don’t know how old the kids are and what kind of kids they are, but for ages (and for me STILL), the best present besides books is nice drawing paper and pencils. Creativity is always in. And I remember simply melting when someone gave me a nice drawing pad.
    My grandmother used to regift lots of things. She had lovely possessions, and throughout the years they would appear as gifts. She would say, “Will you take special care of this for me?” It was lovely.

  12. Why not think about special hot chocolate mix that you create and pkg in glass jar and accompany with special mug and ‘mug rug’? If your grands could be interested in bread making or cookie making, what about bread and/or cookie mixes that you prepare? I hear there is a resurgence of interest in ‘paint-by-number’ kits, and that might be another idea that could work.

    • My California children are all
      Gluten and Dairy free . This is their mothers choice so sadly I never cook or bake there in case I get it wrong. I long to pass on my breadmaking .

  13. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s suggestions. I have no children to do for at the holiday anymore but these are great ideas I used before. I have ordered flowers online from the local country I am sending too. Finding a florist online in their neighborhood and ordering direct. I’ve sent my son a check to buy a movie pass for his wife as that’s the only downtime she seems to get. For children, I’ve had the time to go to craft fairs and find handmade items they might enjoy. I make most of my gifts now except for books and journals or art supplies. I’m going to check back on this list later today. Love this idea.

  14. I give used books and shop at my favorite antique mall. My family doesn’t NEED anything so this works perfectly. And for children, I always give books. I’ve done the amaryllis in antique/vintage pretty dishes but that doesn’t travel well!

  15. Also when I read the title first thing this morning my brain thought you meant providing a Free Plastic Christmas. No charge! hahahahahaha

  16. Great ideas everyone! I’m spending Christmas with my two sons and their families in a warm beach area, so sand toys are a must. Plastic free? That’s harder to do but you have some great ideas. We just have to get back to basics. Books are always given and new pjs for Christmas, with a dinosaur or super hero on the shirt work well. Over the last year and a half, I have subscribed to a S.T.E.M. Crate delivered monthly to each of the 3 grandsons 2, 4, and 8 years They love getting something in the mail. They get to do some things themselves and the parents enjoy getting in on the fun too. Most materials are recyclable when done. So Christmas will be small gifts and concentrating more on good food and spending time together. I think we are all remembering our quieter family times. We would get 1 gift from Santa, 1 from our parents, our Christmas stocking with an orange in the toe and rarely mail from far away family. Good memories.

    • That is exactly like our Christmas- and when we were all a little bigger mum would give us 2 dollars each to buy something for our siblings – there were 8 of us so we saved our pocket money madly. One for FC one from the parents then one from each sibling!
      Always always a small pile of books and one especially from mum – she bought the best books. We would read all Christmas dAy afternoon.

  17. Books always books! Hand made items, jams and jellies and bread! Large cardboard boxes…no joke! Once I got a big cardboard box at work…
    it had held a big machine. I folded it up took it home and painted it,cut windows in it and a door. I made a play house that could be folded up
    and put under a bed when not in use. It was great fun to make and fun for the kids!

  18. Introduce them to the world of bread baking, or cookie making, give them a whole day of cooking fun things to eat and give to others.
    Or give them seeds and small tools for their own vegetable and flower garden, then spend time helping them to plan and work in the garden and harvesting the garden and arranging flowers.
    Take pictures with them and help them make a memory book. Or show them how to keep and record a daily journal of what’s important to them.
    Kids love the time you spend with them more than the gifts you buy them. Granted your time is a priceless commodity to you, but spending time with children means so much to them.

  19. My Granddaughter and I enjoy those wooden puzzles. The 3D puzzles that once put together they can paint, then play with. Amazon has several choices, animals, trucks, dragons, trains etc., plus they come in different grades of difficulty for different ages and they pack flat! We enjoy doing them together but she usually does the decorating on her own.

  20. Books for kids and consumables for adults, like homemade cookies, jam or chutney and handmade products like body oil bars, lip gloss in little glass pots, and things like cute, themed post it notes or good wine or whiskey! I use tissue paper and ribbons or string for wrapping.

  21. I don’t know how crafty you are but some of those “tie off” homemade blankets (throws) look pretty cute and no doubt something they would love for a long time. I know our grandkids have loved the ones they have received or maybe you can make them together. If you can’t make them (I hear they are very easy but I am not crafty at all) I know someone on Etsy would have them. Perhaps a special necklace for the little girl. Maybe a collection of pretend dress up costumes/play clothes. I have seen kids turn a big cardboard box and some play clothes into something pretty special. Plus you have to travel with it all……….

      • Walmart has fleece blankets for $2.50. You can use those to tie. I crocheted an edging around them and gave as gifts.

  22. I have a large family and for some years now we no longer give presents to adults but donate to charity instead, most people have too much stuff anyway so we are all happy with this arrangement. It is always very interesting to see the scope of chosen charities across the family. Of course buying for all the grand children is more challenging environmentally speaking. I try to give essentials but with a particular individual interest, and of course books are always a great gift. I do remember when my own children were youngsters giving them wooden toys, they were always somewhat underwhelmed but they now wish they had been more appreciative and wish their own children would be, funny old world.

  23. I found this interesting:, I have 7 step grands, 6 are 19 & up, one just turned three and there’s one due in May. I gave the 3 yr, old a subscription to Ranger Rick Cub, all about wildlife and animals and geared to 4 and under. He loves it and loves that it comes in the mail to him. They have two more publications available as a child gets older. I have given each grand a Christmas ornament every year since they came into my life also. Of course, the ‘bonus’ kids and the 6 older grands also get a ‘green’ gift. They do like that!

  24. You made me laugh and feel like I’m in good company… we have often discomforted the other grandparents who believe more is more. Some great ideas here. I particularly love the idea of giving plants, and have done this on occasion to kids who kids… Do you remember those soft fuzzy lambs ears plants that used to be common in flower gardens… little kids love them. Books are my go-to small kid gifts, only given in person with time made for at least one read through at the time of giving.. which is not easy I know if it’s Christmas Day… we often do a pre-Christmas day of Christmas in July. The bigger kids have graduated to cash so they can buy things they want. Over the years I have also given successfully torches (good quality, metal)… boys in particular love them; pocket or Swiss Army knives; crystals – carved, natural, hanging lightcatchers; dreamcatchers and hanging mobiles… much handmade inspiration from Oxfam’s catalogue. I refuse to do gifts on demand for any occasion for adults rather waiting until I see something special in a second hand or antique shop, if they like that sort of thing as I do. Books, always for any age if they are readers. Local products… honey, macadamia nuts and we have a nearby lemon myrtle farm which makes lovely products. Beeswax wraps, fruit & veg and carry bags, silicone bags, wraps and bowl covers. I have seen some very cool stainless steel lunch boxes and containers for kids via Insta posts. Homemade things like: fragrance spray using vodka and essential oils; lemon cleaner; dried herbs and salt seasonings; tea; condiments.. all in nice reusable jars which I offer to refill. I know some of these will not suit your circumstances but may help others in their plastic free quest.

    • I enjoyed reading this. Great suggestions. And you saved the best for last, those home made things. Very creative.thank you!

  25. There were always books at Christmas (birthdays too). I’ve made knited, sock and rag dolls wrapped with a blanket for the doll, wooden trucks, cars or other vehicles (I never played with dolls, I liked trucks much better). When the kids were very little they got a burlap or canvas bag of blocks (just odds and ends of wood that were around, sanded and finished with either non-toxic bright paint or non-toxic clear finish). A ream of copy paper, colored pencils or crayons, we didn’t do coloring books, we drew. A magnifying glass and guide book to bugs, or leaves, or something similar. A doll family made of clothespins with pipe cleaner arms and clothes of bits of cloth and some yarn for hair. Paper dolls, there are quite a few interesting ones available from Dover books (loads of really great books there – I had a huge box when I was a kid and it was one of the greatest gifts, a house, castle, fort, store and much more. Show them how to make a “telephone” with clean cans and string. A bus made from a cardboard oatmeal container that can be painted. I’m sure there’s lots more but these are the kinds of things I gave the step-grands and that they liked more than the plastic.

  26. Bees wax candles, Bees wax wraps, individual glass or stainless steel candle holders. Ceramic piggy banks with a special coin from you. Bee Hotels for the garden. Books always. Brown paper bags for wrapping. Laura

  27. Some of my best-remembered non-plastic childhood Christmas presents: Always story books; a small brass telescope; a huge box of coloured pencils and pads of paper made from waste paper from my father’s office, marked on only one side, which later graduated to watercolours, brushes and pads of watercolour paper; any kind and size of hardback notebook; a good fountain pen and coloured inks; books of birds and flowers and animals, a small sewing box, hand-sewn and knitted clothes for my doll; a set of glove puppets with carved wooden heads made by my grandfather (the following year he gave me the puppet theatre to go with them; a Meccano set (I had to keep that one away from my brother); huge jigsaw puzzles; a painted box for my toys with a dragon on the lid and my initials; a doll’s house I shared with my sister, made by my grandfather; a basket of small gardening tools and seeds and my own plot in the vegetable garden; a harmonica; a kaleidoscope… well, I could go on. And how about using furoshiki, reusable Japanese wrapping cloths for the gifts? They could be made from repurposed cloth if you had time and the inclination.

  28. PUZZLES – age related puzzles. Some can even be framed and hung. I have a lovely one my daughter made for me after her rabbit quit chewing on the pieces. She had to use Magic Markers to color in the chew marks!

  29. NZ has some great cardboard kit sets of creatures and birds to make up. My big hit was a nature journal for my granddaughter last year. Books are the main thing though, ones that I can read to them. We don’t do sugar but there are more sugar free treats appearing in the shops now.

  30. I love all the ideas here. This year my sister has requested ONE present from each person for her kids. It is the same for birthdays. They end up with so much stuff they never play with. Funny thing is, after my nephew’s (4) last birthday I think the thing he played with most was the big box that something came in – he had endless fun with it, it became a car, a house, a rocket etc. Just proving that kids really don’t need big expensive gifts! I want to give presents this year that encourage them to get outside. Kids spend too much time inside, we spent our childhoods wandering wild and I hate seeing them miss out on this.

  31. Once I hit upon what I think is a good idea, everyone in both of our families get it! One year it was cloth bags to put recyclable plastic bags for reuse in, and another year it was loofah sponges that we grew in the garden for use in the bathtubs. No one knew quite what to think of them, especially the loofahs, but everyone learned that loofah sponges are a type of sponge grown in the garden! 🙂

  32. Books are always gifts in our house. Other gifts might be interesting calendars (I love new photos every month), many in aid of some nature organization. If the child or adult would like to learn to knit or crochet you could buy or make up your own beginners kit.

  33. We realized our granddaughters were not able to ‘see’ the many pictures the rest of us were sharing online. So we began WRITING books for them. One of the best was “When My Dad Was … (insert the age the child is this year).” We then shared pictures and stories about when their dad was growing up. Every page or so we would include a photo of the child – alongside one of her dad. Made for really interesting discussions about how they look alike – and also lots of questions for their dad about what he was doing, who his friends were, etc. Loved that idea! Another was a book called “My Grandmas Have a Farm”. We then did a photo tour of the farm – writing about the animals – pictures of us working with them – and lots of pictures of the girls when they were here helping too. These books still hold prominent places on the girls’ bookshelves. Found a great little company called ‘Blurb’ that made the process fun, easy and affordable. I believe it is in the States as well?

  34. Used to have a set of Lincoln Logs to build things with. Fairly certain they were a handed-down toy from a cousin. And have totally got you on the saying/doing the ‘wrong thing’ issue. (But that tends to happen a lot when you don’t trudge with the rest of the herd, doesn’t it?; )

  35. I crochet and sew.
    I give bowl cozy, potato bag, apron. Crochet lap blankets and afghans, dish cloths and scrubbies, hats, scarfs.

  36. Don’t forget about blank books. You can turn a nice blank book into a sketchbook, a journal, a scrapbook, a cookbook. I bake cookies for family and friends and pack them in tins. One of the things that makes them special is that my mother has a tradition of several kinds of cookies that we only have at Christmas, which keeps them special. I am the main baker now and I usually make four kinds: cocoa shortbread (put unsweetened cocoa powder in for some of the flour and add a little extra sugar and vanilla), maple butter cookies (from Smitten Kitchen), pfefferneusse and ginger thins.

  37. Lee Valley has a large Christmas catalog, and many of the toys in it are plastic-free. The problem with some is that they have plastic wrapping – the Giullow balsa gliders. For cooks, I make a line of cutting boards, spoons, and spatulas out of cherry (which started out as firewood). these are popular gifts and have no plastic. I also make rum-soaked fruitcakes for presents. good look with your quest!

  38. Making drawstring fabric bags to hold gifts in can be inexpensive if you sew and have remnants. The bags themselves can have multiple uses from toy storage to stuffed toy sleeping bags to organizing bags for a suitcase.

  39. Im coming late to the party…. But those balsa wood model airplanes are fun. Also a magnifying glass. And colored paper and a book explaining how to do origami. Beads and something to thread them on. Small metal, ceramic or wood containers for storing treasures. Materials for making a kite the old fashioned way. A round glass bottle stopper – you look through it and the world is concentrated and turned upside down. Materials for making and decorating crowns. Many of these are things you would give and then do with them – and your time would be a crucial part of the gift.

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