What it is: A Christmas gift pass/exchange activity, kind of like a white elephant gift exchange, but for younger kids. It’s easier and faster than a white elephant gift exchange and, because there’s no actual choosing involved, will probably lead to less gift-picker remorse/tears.
Best for: A classroom of children, anywhere from 12 to 30ish.
What you need: Each child will need to bring a wrapped gift for this gift exchange activity. It would be nice to set up some rules or a theme beforehand, like everyone bring a wrapped book, or the gift should be anywhere from $3-$5, or please keep it gender neutral, etc. You’ll also need this printable poem to read.
How to play: Have everyone sit in a circle on the floor. Then you can start one of two ways. You can have all the children put their gifts in a pile in the middle of the circle, then let everyone go up and pick a gift. They can probably all go up at the same time. Tell them they’re not going to end up with the gift they pick, so it’s not a decision to stress over. For an easier way to start or for younger children, just have each child hold the gift he or she brought.
Once everyone is seated in a circle and holding a gift, explain how the gift pass will work. You’ll read a poem aloud, and every time you say the words right or left, the children will pass their gift in the direction you say. (So the children will need to have at least a basic understanding of right and left.)
Then start reading the poem aloud. It’s an adaptation of the famous “‘Twas Night Before Christmas” poem. The key difference is words have been added – the words “right” and “left,” as many times as I could get them in. (It unfortunately messes with the rhythm a little bit, but it’s for the sake of the game.) Any time you come to one of those words, bolded and underlined for your convenience, really emphasize it. Make sure all the children pass their gift in the right direction. If your class is young, it might be nice to have another parent or teacher helper to oversee the passing.
Hopefully the kids will enjoy it, listening in anticipation for the words and watching the gifts move around the circle. And it’s a great way to practice directions, too. At the end of the poem, everyone keeps the gift he or she ends up with. Then all the children can open their gifts, either together or one at a time.
Note: I didn’t come up with this game. I remember playing it as a child at a class party, but I can’t quite remember when. I couldn’t find the text anywhere, so I wrote a new version. The original author of the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is Clement Clarke Moore.
Printables: Here’s the free printable poem you can read! The instructions are also included on the printable.