Earlier this week, our neighborhood playgroup had our 7th annual winter/holiday book exchange party with our children. Yes, we’ve been doing this for seven years, which means we started when our oldest children were a mere few months old. Though our playgroup no longer meets weekly, the children eagerly anticipate this book exchange party every December, and no matter how busy our schedules get, the moms in the group do our very best to make this gathering a priority! Read on for a little information (and hopefully inspiration!) for how we run our book exchange.
Our book exchange started when our little playgroup consisted of five families, each with one child, and every child was between five and seven months old. Rather than buying Christmas presents for each child, my brilliant friend Courtney from OT OuTside suggested that we do a white-elephant style gift exchange, but with children’s books instead!
And so, the idea that is still going strong all these years later was born. Our group has ranged in size from five families to 13 families, from 5 tiny babies to more than 20 small people, but we’ve persisted each year! (And we remain ever grateful that we’re not buying gifts for all the children in the large group!).
So, how does this book exchange work? Each child who is going to participate brings one wrapped children’s book to the party. When the kids were all smaller, the chosen books were usually a mix of board and picture books. The wrapped books are piled under the host’s tree, and the children play (or run wild) until the book exchange happens.
Once all of the families have arrived, each child draws a number from a bowl to determine the order in which they unwrap books. Then, we all gather around the tree, and the party/chaos begins! The children usually run to grab a book when their number is called, and no sooner has one child chosen one then another one is ready to grab the next.
But y’all, the best part is that our group chooses AMAZING books to bring to this party! Somehow, our playgroup members have such wonderful taste in books that our family almost always comes away with two books that are completely new to us (and trust me, new-to-us books can be really hard to find, as you can imagine…)! Over the years, a few favorites we’ve received have been Bear Stays Up for Christmas, Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears, Hug Machine, Giraffe Problems, You Will Be My Friend, and The Jolly Postman (which wasn’t new to me, but my classroom copy had gone missing long ago so I was thrilled to have a copy for our house). This year, we left with Camilla, Cartographer and A Homemade Together Christmas (which was actually one of the books we brought, but we had been reading a library copy, so I didn’t argue when my younger daughter chose it… Now we have it for our permanent collection!).
Possible ideas for future years: We haven’t gotten into the more typical white elephant activity of having the option of stealing books from others, and I’m not sure we’ll ever evolve that way. We have tossed around the idea of splitting the kiddos into two different groups, so that one group can bring chapter books if they want and the other can stick with picture books… I’ll let you all know next December if we decide to do that or not!
And food… Unrelated to the books themselves, we always have food — and given the size of our playgroup at times, the food has always been very easy to make and abundant in amount! Some years we’ve had potluck, other years it’s been simpler snacks… And this year we had pizza delivery, bagged salad, and leftover Thanksgiving pies!
Has our amazing playgroup inspired you to have your own children’s book exchange? Do you already do something like this with your friends? Please tell us all about it in the comments below!
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