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Inexpensive stocking stuffer ideas

Little gifts that won't break the bank

Stockings stuffed with little gifts have long been the icing on the Christmas cake that made kids feel like they received an abundance of gifts each year. But with so much financial belt-tightening going on these days, many are abandoning the tradition to save cash. Before you axe stockings from your holiday, consider stuffing them with some of these inexpensive gift ideas.

Christmas fun bands, set of 50 (Oriental Trading Company, $3)Fun fillers

Filling up the bulk of a stocking with the latest brand-name toys is an expensive proposition, even if you stick to the small ones. Luckily, party supply stores that make the inexpensive goodies for children's birthday gift bags make lots of little trinkets with a holiday theme. These toys and novelties come in bulk and variety packs that can be easily split between multiple stockings. While their low cost means they could break by New Year's Day, they'll offer plenty of fun for the duration of your kids' holiday vacation. Pick from holiday novelties they can wear or small toys to keep them entertained (and quiet) during Christmas concerts and services.


Wind-up insects (Pearl River, $3)Unusual online stores

Stocking stuffers don't necessarily have to be holiday-themed to delight and entertain kids. The Internet is inundated with stores selling all kinds of unusual gifts that kids will enjoy long after the holiday season is over. While kids love opening the brand-name toy they've been asking for, there's something special in their expressions as they discover toys in their stockings that they've never seen before or even imagined -- no matter how large or small the toy is.


Play-doh 24-can fridge pack (Target, $15)Break apart sets

Large, multiple-piece toy sets may be too expensive as a stocking stuffer for just one child, but they're certainly affordable if you split them up among several children. If you absolutely must have brand-name toys in your child's stocking, breaking apart sets is the way to go. Make this option even more affordable by splitting up add-on sets to accompany your kids' larger gifts. For example, if your kids are into cars, get each child a Hot Wheels play set for their main gift, then fill their stockings with extra cars. You can do the same with doll clothes or extra Play-doh. Larger sets of blocks and connector sets can also be broken down into smaller sets that kids can use on their own or they can practice sharing by playing with them all together.


Snow in a Bottle powder candy, set of 12 (Oriental Trading Company, $7)Edible fillers

The Christmas cookies, candies and treats you bake up each December are probably more than enough sweets to last your kids until spring, but kids always appreciate having their very own stash of holiday goodies that they don't have to share. Plus, edible stocking stuffers will take up space without costing a whole lot and you won't have anything (except wrappers) to throw away once they're finished with them. Buy individually portioned holiday treats or maybe even bake up some of your own. Consider giving a large popcorn ball or a frosted sugar cookie with personalized decorations like their name written in icing -- just wrap the treat in colorful plastic wrap and you're all set! Buying candy in bulk is another inexpensive option, but don't just dump the treats straight into the stocking or you'll have a mess on your hands. Portion out the treats into little cloth gift bags or holiday-print sandwich bags.


Seen here: Crayola Metallic FX Crayons (Dick Blick, $2)Crafts & activities

Holiday-themed craft and activity books go a long way toward filling stockings and they provide hours of fun, too! Buy holiday-themed craft kits kids can assemble on their own or buy bulk crafting supplies that your child can use year-round. Holiday-themed coloring and activity books are easy to find at local discount and dollar stores, but you can just as easily make your own. Just print out free Christmas coloring pages from online resources, staple them between a few sheets of red construction paper and you're done! Add an extra-special touch to the homemade gift by giving a few special crayons to go with it -- like a small pack of Crayola's glitter, glow-in-the-dark or metallic crayons.

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