Stocking Stuffers They’ll Actually Use and Enjoy

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twaddle-free stocking stuffers

I grew up with the special Christmas tradition of waking up to a stuffed stocking. Granny had knit my Santa stocking by hand when I was a baby. I still have it, 42 Christmases later. My mom has knit FishPapa and the kids each their own special Santa stockings.

There’s a special way to handle stockings, at least in these here parts. Once everyone is awake, including the parents, we can open stockings, stuffed by the parents. Stockings come first, then breakfast, then the rest of the presents.

That’s the way I did it as a kid. That’s how my children do it. That’s how my children’s children shall do it. Amen.

I’m not really sure how the tradition came to be, but my older kids instruct the younger ones in the ways of Christmas morning just as I laid down the law with my siblings many years ago.

Stocking Stuffers They’ll Actually Use and Enjoy

Another tradition that I’m honing is filling the stockings with things that aren’t junk. Years ago I came to the sobering realization that I was stuffing the stockings with things my children really didn’t enjoy or appreciate.

The items that I paid good money for ended up getting chucked. By me. In summertime. When I was crabby and resentful.

I vowed to quit it with the junky stuffers and focus on consumables and meaningful items that wouldn’t become one more thing to pick up before I went to bed at night.

Here are some of the categories I focus on when considering what to buy for stocking stuffers:

stocking snacks


Since we open stockings before breakfast, I like to pack healthy snacks in the stockings for the kids to munch on. This can include dried fruit, fresh fruit, granola bars, small cereal boxes, fruit leathers, and juice boxes, as well as special treats like a bottle of soda, a box of cookies, candy, or a gift card to a favorite restaurant.

I also like to include cocoa mix and a fun mug.

Once the snacks are devoured, the kids toss the trash, cherish the new mug, and life goes on.

stocking crafts and toys

Toys for small kids

Small toys for little people are nice filler and are generally cheap. Items like stickers, crayons, and light sticks are consumable, time-consuming boredom-busters for young kids. I love it that I can eventually throw them away, guilt-free.

While stuffed animals can breed faster than bunnies, I’ve found that a select, small, cuddle toy is perfect, especially if they are bean-baby size. Years ago, my aunt gave FishBoy16 a monkey and bear dolls. These two were his constant companions and the characters in stories we would tell each other. We still have Monkey and Bear, some 12 years later.

Small crafts are also good for young children, serving as a present and experience all in one. Check after Christmas sales this year to buy crafts for next year. That’s where I got the mug kit above.

I love giving the littles toys that they truly cherish, or those that I can easily chuck when they’ve used them up.

stocking fun stuff

Entertainment for bigger kids

Obviously, not all those things work for bigger kids. For the older set, I’ve found that books (even used paperbacks), movies, card games, and gift cards work. They fill the stocking, but also provide age-appropriate entertainment for the older set.

All my kids are big fans of the corn and rice-filled heating packs that I’ve made over the years. My husband and I love them, too! If you’re economizing this winter by turning down the heat, treat your people to heat packs!

Books, games, and movies are all things that we truly enjoy. When purchased wisely, they are kept forever and used often.

stocking toiletries

A variety of toiletries

Toiletries are appreciated by kids of all ages. If they are very young, small soaps or bath color tabs are very fun to receive. Girls will appreciate new ponies (aka hair ties), nail equipment like files and polish, and maybe lip gloss. My older boys appreciate pit stick (aka deodorant) and shaving equipment. Yes, I have two boys  who shave!!!

Everyone likes to have their own “stuff” for getting ready. That makes tooth paste, new brushes and floss, mouth wash, lotion, and shampoo great additions to the stocking. Kids feel like they are being pampered, but it’s stuff you know they need and will use.

(Or at least they hope they will use it. Ahem.)

My kids get pretty jazzed about the different “flavors” of shampoo. We’ve been buying Suave Kids for longer than I can remember. I love their 2-in-1 formulas. Having shampoo and conditioner combined in one product makes hair care super fast and easy.

I particularly love the new Purely Awesome variety which is hypoallergenic and tear-free, contains no artificial dyes, and is lower in sulfates than the leading 2-in-1 shampoo. I picked up several bottles last week to use as stocking stuffers for my kids. The Purely Awesome is also available in Coconut, and other scents within the Suave line include watermelon, apple, raspberry, cherry vanilla soda, and more.

Giving my kids toiletries is filling a “need”, but there is now such a fun range of products to give, it feels more like a gift than say, new gym socks.

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What are YOUR favorite things to stuff stockings with?

Disclosure: I’m partnering with Suave and Lunchbox to share with you details about the Suave line of shampoos and hair products. I’ve been compensated for my time spent writing. All opinions are my own.

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  1. I like giving my teenager fun and silly items. Last year it was hillbilly teeth and flubber that makes interesting body noises. I love your idea of breakfast items.

  2. ‘That’s the way I did it as a kid. That’s how my children do it. That’s how my children’s children shall do it. Amen.’
    As the oldest child (of 7) and grandchild (both mothers and fathers families), I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love that statement. I literally laughed out loud. 😉 So nice to know I’m not the only one! Awesome stocking ideas as well! I’m always looking for fun and useful ideas to fill them as we try to keep things like candy at a minimum.

    1. Well, I am holding the statement loosely. A little. My children’s spouses might not do it this way, so that may be subject to change someday. But, I know my kids love this for now.

  3. This year the kids are each getting gum, an ornament, christmas socks, and underwear–the fun kind I don’t normally get. Maybe we’ll throw some extra candy in too.

  4. For the Princess (who is now 19), gift cards for itunes and Starbucks are always a big hit. I work throughout the year to score those as cheaply as possible (or FREE!), often times makeup, perfume, smell good stuff and then some of her fave candy are in there too (got the candy free at CVS during their pre-black-Friday sales!).

  5. Seriously – Anne last week. You today. My stocking post is scheduled for Thursday. Great. Minds. 🙂

    In other news – my family tradition was the same (stockings together, then breakfast, then the Christmas story, then gifts), and shall be forever more. 😉 Hubs didn’t grow up with stockings, but he jumped right in once I showed him how much fun it could be. 🙂

  6. Great ideas to get me thinking! I was going through the things I have stashed and realized I really need some more stocking stuffers. In our house, just like my house when I was growing up, kids are allowed to get up early and get into their stockings while the parents try to get a little more sleep. The presents have to wait till the parents are up. This gives us a little more time to sleep and keeps them busy! I usually include a couple of small Lego sets which gives them something to do too. Great idea on the breakfast items. I sometimes include a magazine geared towards a specific interest for the 13 yr old boy – like Lego or science and usually some new nail polish for my 8 yr old daughter. This year she is getting a tape dispenser and a huge supply of clear tape. Sounds crazy but she is going to be thrilled and I will be happy because she will stop using up all my tape! It’s a win-win. 🙂 My son is getting a fleece lined winter had rolled up in his – he will love it – and my daughter a new pair of fleece gloves in an obnoxiously loud color that she will think is great. Fills a need and the stocking.

  7. Oh another one both my kids like – the new rolls of decorator Duck tape. They have cartoon characters, camo and even a glow in the dark. My kids think it’s awesome.

    1. Great idea about the duck tape. My kids will love this! Just like Heather, I bought both my kids their very own fun tape dispenser for their art boxes. We give each child a box or bag filled with art supplies. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  8. We like to get foods we don’t usually have the rest of the year–cans of cashews, thin mints, gluten-free treats (for some of us).

  9. Several years ago my family switched from stockings to decorated fleece bags that my mom made – we were always finding that we had stocking stuffers that didn’t fit so well in a traditional narrow stocking. I love giving consumable snacks that my boys consider to be treats, as well as toiletries – like my favorite shampoo that I consider a bit of a splurge. And tape! When my twin boys were 4 years old or so they were THRILLED to have their own rolls of masking tape. Office supplies are so fun. 🙂

  10. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to borrow. My youngest is into any type of magnet, springs, wires, etc for his “projects.” His grandparents get him Lowes gift cards. Heaven help us as he’s getting a soldering iron this year.

    I will have to ask, Jessica, who is that Avengers movie REALLY for? 😉

  11. My mom always put in things like deodorant, toothpaste, little candies and nail polish and the like. When I got married, my husband laughed when he unwrapped toothpaste in his stocking our first Christmas morning together. 🙂 But, I liked the idea – it was something we would use and prolonged the unwrapping fun.

    Now, I give a small candy, underpants (usually Christmas themed or otherwise fun undies), shampoo. We are each getting some goat milk soap, undies for the males, two baby items for the baby in my stocking (Santa knows we’ll need something for the baby coming – baby goat milk soap and breastmilk bags), and a favorite candy for the boys/men. The dog gets bones to chew while we open gifts. 🙂

  12. Definitely not Suave or any other toiletries. That would get a weird reaction. I usually have one package of truffles or some other kind of candy. Always, an itunes giftcard. This year, I will be adding a winter beanie/hat from my son’s new middle school. I think I put in a package of white socks last year, just to fill up the stocking (also because my son goes through socks like most people drink coffee.) I think I also put a mini flash light from Brookstone in it, also an ipad cleaner.

    When he was younger, I would put a package of small legos in the stocking.

  13. Our local theatre sells discounted movie tickets as a fundraiser this time of year and I always buy two for each kids and put them in their stocking so they can take a friend to a movie sometime. My kids LOVE this gift.

  14. At our house, everyone gets assorted chocolate candy and a candy cane in their stockings. This year the men are receiving disposable razors purchased for pennies around Father’s Day, bags of pistachios or almonds, and a gift card to Lowes or Home Depot. The women are receiving purse size hand lotions, assorted kitchen gadgets (can you ever have too many wooden spoons and measuring cups/spoons), and a Target gift card. My daughters are receiving fun pencils and erasers, a pair of earrings and a pair of slipper socks.

  15. My children and all the other stocking recipients get candy, toiletries, and toothbrushes he he he … They also get new rosary beads to remind them of their faith.

  16. My 27 month old little boy LOVES to draw, color, and paint, so he’s getting colored pencils (they don’t break as easily as crayons), finger paints, stickers, and a drawing pad in his stocking this year. I stocked up at the Dollar Store. It was inexpensive, and he’ll be one happy kid. We’re also about to potty train, so we’ll throw in fun big boy underwear and a new character toothbrush too. Add some candy, and he’s all set!

  17. I was thinking about this post today as I was out Christmas shopping. I really tried to focus on small, but nice little practical gifts rather than trying to figure out something fancy. I bought snacks, some candy, special sodas, super soft socks, and things like that, for people. I feel good about them because I know they’ll be consumed and enjoyed. Honestly, the socks were my favorite–someone gave me that idea a few years ago, and I like to get them for ladies I know. They’re the super soft fluffy chenille type, and they only cost a couple of dollars each. I think they’re nice for hanging out at home in the winter. Thanks for the idea of keeping it practical and simple.

  18. I like to give little fun things in the stockings. Like for a little girl maybe some play make up or nail polish. For a boy a toy card or trading cards. For teenagers, hair accessories or body sprays from Bath and Body for girls and car magazines or a video game for boys. Oh and definitely candy.