The “Favorite Things” Gift Exchange

Whether there is a chill in the air or not, the holiday season is upon us! Many of us moms have already been planning holiday activities and festivities for months and with that comes the inevitable discussion about gift exchanges! We organize gift exchanges with our mom friends, our book clubs, our work mates, our extended family and others and, I don’t about you, but the “White Elephant” gift exchange lost its sense of haha for me sometime in the nineties…

A GIF of a young child throwing a present at the base of a Christmas tree. Text states: Stupid white elephant.

Then there’s the standard gift exchange which has the potential to be okay but there’s usually someone who’s a stickler for complicated rules about the exchange, particularly around stealing {an item can be stolen twice but not if it was just stolen by the person to your right except if they had their choice stolen or if it was unwrapped already – say what???} and while there’s always a highly coveted gift, there’s also usually a dud…

A GIF of a confused man wearing a Santa hat opening a present and pulling out a simple painting of flowers. Text states: The wait what?

What if I told you that, with The Favorite Things Gift Exchange, all this can be avoided and everyone participating in your gift exchange can walk away happy ?

A GIF of a happy women wearing a Santa hat smiling, jumping and clapping her hands.

What is The Favorite Things Gift Exchange?

The Favorite Things Gift Exchange is the easiest and most successful gift exchange I’ve ever participated in. You can organize it for any group and you don’t need to keep track of who’s bringing a gift and who’s not, decide on any complicated rules, keep track of steals, or have any secret worries that your gift might end up being this year’s dud!

Here’s how it works::

  1. Each person who wants to participate in the gift exchange brings TWO of the SAME favorite item {hence the ‘favorite’ things gift exchange}. These two items should be wrapped – always a fun chance to express your creativity and festive spirit!
  2. Everyone who is participating in the exchange puts their name in a hat TWICE.
  3. Each participant takes turns drawing two names from the hat to receive their favorite thing! Right before, during, or after your favorite things are opened by the lucky recipients, you share with your group why the item is your fave.

A GIF of a woman wearing a Santa hat and singing.

Okay, you don’t have to do a musical number to explain your favorite thing but this is a wonderful way to get to know your friends, colleagues, cousins, or neighbors better. I love hearing why each participant chose the item they did! In fact, I have very special memories of Favorite Things Gift Exchanges with my friend Stephanie who passed away from breast cancer just over a year ago. When we first started this tradition for our annual work Christmas party, we had no idea she had only a few short years ahead. I am so glad that I and the rest of my team took the holiday season as a chance to share a little bit of ourselves and our stories on a deeper level rather than just exchange arbitrary gifts.

There are a few rules to consider ::

  • Set a price limit, and remember it’s going to be doubled! I find a limit between $15 – $20 per item for a total out-of-pocket cost of $30-$40 to be reasonable for most groups, but you could certainly adjust the limit up or down. I have participated in Favorite Things exchanges with a limit of $5 and loved how creative people were! For example, one guest brought fancy boxes of tissues that we moms never buy for ourselves! Low or high, the limit does not affect the fun of the exchange.
  • The favorite “thing” can be one item or more than one item, homemade, store bought, thrifted or any combination that fits the price limit. One year, I thrifted cool cookie jars, filled them with homemade cookies and included my fave cookie scoop as my favorite “thing.” Definitely NOT the dud gift!

A GIF of a plate of cookies and Cookie Monster with other Muppets and people in the background.

  • Decide who will draw names first and share about their favorite thing and what order you will go in. At my former work gift exchanges, usually the boss went first then we proceeded around the circle. It was very relaxed with no guarding your gift against possible theft!
  • You can’t draw your own name or the same name twice. The idea is that each person leaves with two different gifts, the favorite thing of two other people!
  • You can do this exchange in mixed company or for different events. I organized a My Favorite Things bridal shower {the bride got one of everything and each guest left with one gift – hello not having to buy party favors!} and I have hosted a My Favorite Things kick-off party for other clubs I’ve been involved with. IF you have both men and women in your group, be sure to specify gender-neutral faves or keep the names separate so that the dudes don’t end up with your favorite lipstick! {I may or may not be speaking from experience.}

A GIF of an elf standing in a mall reading a sign that states: The perfect gift for that special someone.

If you decide to try the Favorite Things Gift Exchange, be prepared to spend A LOT of time mulling over your favorite things! Unlike so many other things in our lives, this is a fun topic to think about and it even helps you to know yourself better! Somehow having to declare a favorite to yourself and others is a good exercise in insight and self-acceptance.

A GIF of two women. One is holding a kitten. Text states: The heart wants what it wants.

The My Favorite Things Gift Exchange is a fun alternative to the usual gift exchanges during the holiday season and can be a fun, meaningful tradition with your friends and family. I hope you’ll consider trying it out this holiday season! What would YOU bring to a My Favorite Things gift exchange?!

The "Favorite Things" Gift Exchange. Logo: Houston moms blog. A photograph of a pile of wrapped presents.


  1. Good site! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes
    and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified when a
    new post has been made. I have subscribed to your
    RSS feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here