There’s something especially magical about that first holiday season with a baby. If you’re still pregnant, the season is filled with special anticipation, and baby’s first holiday appearance keeps Kodak in business for at least a year. This might also be the start of your families doing something “extra” when it comes to holiday shopping. Grandparents who were especially frugal as parents are even vulnerable.

But, especially in today’s economic climate, it’s important to be respectful of all our resources, including our money. And, teaching our children that the simple gifts are really better takes a good role model or two. Without taking any of the joy from the gift giver, or muting the celebration, here are five ideas for gifts that honor your green values:

Grow Your Garden Green

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Gift Tree program helps you give ready-to-plant trees to everyone on your list. In a gift that keeps on giving sorta way, plant the tree in a pot for the winter and have a special celebration when you move it to its permanent home in the spring.

If you give a tree to your own family, talk to your kids about what the tree signifies (maybe a special memory, the new baby or a loved one who is no longer with you) and use the opportunity to learn all year. Hang crafts from the tree all winter (it works, I promise) and decorate the tree to every celebration you can think of.

Eye of the Beholder

Grandparents and aunts and uncles will cherish something handmade and useful. Take a string and mini-clothespins (you can even decorate the clothespins) and package them with a selection of art work from your family. Kids can draw their own, moms and dads can print pictures or do something more grand. As the year goes on, send regular packets of new art to clip and keep the collage fresh.

Conversation Starter

If you need a budget-friendly green gift for several families, consider doing a holiday conversation starter. Find or make a box and print questions on small slips of paper that fit in the box. This can be a simple project or you can go all out and design your own paper and decorate the box. Sample questions could be, “What’s the best gift you ever got, and why?” and “What’s your favorite part of the holiday?” or make up your own. The idea is that as you share your holiday meal with family and friends, the conversation starter box ensures that everyone gets a chance to share something meaningful. The boxes can become a family tradition, and you might print updated questions each year for a follow up. If you haven’t announced your pregnancy yet, you can have fun leading the family to the new arrival with the theme of the questions.

Family Library

Offer to take some books (or toys) that your kids have grown tired of, and swap once every month or two with the families on your gift list. The books can go in a circle, and aunts and uncles can add extra favorites or just swap out what their family no longer reads. Since books are so expensive, it’s a fun way to stretch your investment and share something about your family. Grandparents will enjoy reading together via Skype or video and your kids will love their favorite stories with the reader’s own spin. Books can be sent media mail, which is very affordable, and every month all the families will get something new without a big price tag.

Family Craft Night

Instead of expensive presents and Martha Stewart workload, let the family decorate your home for the holidays – together. Provide craft supplies, and if you wish, set up tables for things you want made. A wreath station, tree decorating area, snacks or cookie baking, or a family-wide holiday card circle are all possible ideas. It really is about the time spent laughing and recalling holidays past, as well as looking forward to what’s in your future. Older kids will have fun recycling items all year for craft night, and some advance prep allows you to buy supplies on sale.

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