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Last Minute Gift Ideas: It's All in the Box

Who says that thinking in the box has to be boring? Give the gift of surprise with these minimal supply ideas.

Stop starring at empty gift boxes and wrapping paper, and stop racking your brain trying to think outside the box for the perfect gift idea. Instead, hop into the box with these not so square ideas that can be created with the blank supplies in front of you.

All you need to complete any of the following is an empty box, scraps of gift wrap, a writing utensil, and a little creativity. Consider recycling a box that you received a shipment in and cover the outside with the gift wrap. You can also substitute card stock scraps for something sturdier.

Family Bonding Box

Whether for your family or someone else's, encourage spending time with family throughout 2011 by creating a bonding box.

Fill a box with suggestions for family activities and instruct that one be selected once a month (or more often if desired) to be done together.

You can either put the activity cards in the box yourself, or just give the supplies and instructions for the family to help create. For example, if there are 4 people in the family, each member could submit three ideas to the box, and then choose one a month to do throughout the year

Don't share the ideas so that each time one's chosen it's a fun surprise. However, make sure to set ground rules regarding what's allowed in the box so Johnny isn't disappointed when you draw out his "Go to Disneyland!" activity card and you have to break his heart.

Here are some examples to get the juices flowing:

  • Movie night of Johnny's choice
  • Family pizza creation night
  • Go to the park/sledding
  • Family game night
  • Visit Grandma and Grandpa
  • Make a favorite dessert
  • Take a random road trip

Newly Engaged Think Box 

Help a newly engaged couple get off to a good start by facilitating useful conversation between them. If you are married, or have been before, think of things you may wish you had discussed prior to the nuptials.

Write each thought-provoking question on one of your scraps and place it in the box. If possible, give them one question for every week up until the day they tie the knot. Explain in a card how the couple is to use the box and specify the timeframe for completion that you had in mind when making it (i.e.: draw one item per week/bi-weekly/month)

Couples invest months and even years to plan one day of their lives, but this gift helps prepare them for the rest of those days spent together. Here are some suggestions:

  • How many children, if any, do you see us having together?
  • Should one of use stay home after we have children (if possible)?
  • How do you want to spend holiday time between our families?
  • How much of our income would you like to devote to savings?
  • What traditions would you like to have?
  • What are our differences? What problems to you see potentially arising from these differences? How can we handle this?
  • What do you expect from me? (Financially, housework wise, etc…)
  • Is religion going to play a role in our life together?

Retirement Fun Box 

Retirement is a new stage in a person's life and can sometimes come with an initial, "What do I do now?" feeling. Help a newly retired friend or loved one embrace their newfound free time with a box filled with fun suggestions on how to spend it.

Think of hobbies the person might enjoy, or even things that you believe they should at least try once. Like previous suggestions, select a resonable amount and then inform the recipient how often to select from the box.

Have fun with these ideas and don't take them all so serious:

  • Go to a restaurant you always wanted to try
  • Start a blog and invite the family to follow (this may require finding out what a "blog" is first)
  • Sit at a coffee shop all day and write your life philosophy
  • Sign up for a pottery class
  • Start a book club with friends
  • Make your own sushi rolls at home
  • Go bowling
  • Decide on a Broadway show to see

Children's Boredom Box

"I'm bored! I don't know what to do!" Sound familiar? This year, keep your sweater sleeves from getting stretched out from all the tugging by creating a Boredom Box for your child.

Fill it with fun suggestions for them to do and encourage them to use it when they can't come up with something to do on their own, or when their personal choice of activity doesn't quite mesh with the household harmony.

Children can be fickle so what goes over big one day, may not work the next, but don't discourage. Try to come up with activities that they might not regularly get to do or that may seem like special privileges to them. Kids also love recognition, so think of ideas that allow them to perform or create.

Make sure that you have supplies handy for any of the ideas you put in the box. Consider the following:

  • Pick and print a favorite picture of yourself and send it to Grandma and tell her how you're doing. Maybe color her a picture too!
  • Create a dance to your favorite song and perform it for me later. Use at least 10 different dance moves. We can even record it if you want (and play it at your high school graduation party!).
  • Ask mom for an old pair of socks and create puppets from them. Create a play, or act out one of your favorite books, with them for the family later.
  • Take a piece of "treasure" from your room and hide it somewhere in the house, then create a treasure map for me so I can try to find it (offer to make one for them after they make one for you).
  • Go through your room and find 5 items to give to someone less fortunate than you. Think about clothes, toys, or books that you'd be willing to give to someone else. I'll do the same!
  • Draw me a picture of our family and house only using your non-dominate hand, then draw me one with the other.

Now stop worrying about the gifts you don't have and start working the materials you do have! There's no need to brave the packed mall and last-minute shoppers when you already have everything you need to give a great and thoughtful gift.

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