Why waste money on pre-made Easter baskets sold in stores? The plastic dump trucks won’t last, and the beach pails are a cute idea, but they won’t last either, and what if you don’t live near a beach? The cheap, flimsy toys and meager amount of lower-grade candies aren’t worth the money. Neither are most of the things sold on the holiday aisle meant for you to stuff your Easter baskets with. Those things are going to end up on the floor or in the garbage can before brunch, and you know it. The obvious alternative is to stuff the baskets with candy. You can do better than that.
Consider buying each of your children their own big, sturdy baskets with handles (not sold as Easter baskets) that you can spray-paint in colors they like.
Maybe they’ll look forward to finding out what’s in their very own baskets each year; this could be one more family tradition you make your own.
Stuff your kids’ baskets with the usual fillers: A good quality chocolate bunny or lamb, plastic eggs filled with gourmet jelly beans, speckled malted milk balls, and marshmallow peeps– or not; you either love peeps or you hate ‘em. Maybe leave out the plastic eggs filled with money; they’re the least-creative thing ever put into an Easter basket, and what message do they send?
Here’s my list of Easter egg basket fillers that are actually worth your money and will give your children lasting pleasure.
- A potted flower and/or potted herb. Or both! I prefer Gerbera daisies because the size and colors of the blooms make a big impact, and rosemary because it gives off a strong, pleasant scent when watered. Let your child tend their very own plant indoors in its pot or outside if they want to plant it.
- Flower or vegetable seeds are often recommended, but I think they’re better in theory than in practice. It takes patience to wait for them to sprout, never mind how long it takes them to bloom.
- Books! Pat the Bunny, Runaway Bunny, Make Way for Ducklings, The Night Before Easter, Knuffle Bunny, or a religious book about Easter are the obvious choices. But you could choose among other Easter and spring-related titles—and there are a lot. If your child is older, consider including a chapter book.
- A CD of children’s sing-along songs. Everybody needs music. Play it in the car on the way to school to give them a happy start to their day, and you may find yourself singing with them.
- New socks. No, I’m not crazy. This was one of my favorite gifts to give—fun socks, maybe in cartoon or quirky prints for sleeping or wearing on cold mornings, and pastel socks, striped socks, argyle socks, or whatever you find that fits the bill. Roll up each pair of socks in a ball, making sure the good side is out, so that they look a bit like Easter eggs. You may have a child who insists on wearing the quirky print socks to school. Ah, well. When you’re a kid, life is supposed to be fun.
- Fun undies, depending on your child’s age. Batman, Spiderman, LEGO, and Star Wars are some that are available for boys. For girls, you can choose Frozen, Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, My Little Pony, and Justice League, among others. Stores are full of choices. Roll each pair into the best egg shape you can and tie with a ribbon, unless you can find plastic eggs big enough to hold one pair each.
- Glow in the dark stickers for the ceiling. They make a child’s bedroom, which is supposed to be their haven, a bit magical.
- Play–Doh. Again, I’m not crazy. If you’re worried about the mess, buy an inexpensive vinyl tablecloth with the polyester fabric backing. Put the vinyl side up and let the kids play on the kitchen or garage floor or on the back patio. You will not have Play-Doh matted into your carpet. Also, the fabric backing keeps the tablecloth from slipping, and the vinyl can be wiped clean. Then roll up the tablecloth and save it for next time.
- Paint with water books. For little ones who aren’t so great with watercolors or crayons yet, these are perfect.
- Shrinky Dinks. You may remember these from your childhood. Because a hot oven is required, adult participation is absolute necessary. Draw or trace an image on the sheets, color them, cut them out, put them into the oven. It’s fun to watch your creations shrink as they are heated.
- A package of strawberry or blueberry muffin mix, prepackaged or homemade. All that’s necessary are the wet ingredients (berries, too, if you’re making them from scratch). They’re easy to make, and your house will smell delicious on Easter morning. Include some novelty paper muffin liners.
- Kids love stickers. Buy a couple of packages on the greeting card aisle and slip them into the Easter basket.
- A Dymo labeler. You might have had one of these as a kid, too. Stay away from the fancy labelers with keyboards. The manual rotary dial labeler is a classic, and it keeps kids busy for a long time. Admit it: You had fun with yours long after you ran out of things to label. Your kids will, too.
- A plastic egg with a gift ticket good for one game. “This ticket may be exchanged for [whichever game you buy] Candy Land, Operation, Let’s Go Fishin’, Hi Ho Cherry O (great for learning to count or practicing counting), Tiddlywinks, Uno, etc. (If you choose Uno you can put the card game in the Easter basket, because it fits.) Of course, you will have already bought the game you’ve chosen so you can let your child exchange their ticket for the game right away.
- A snazzy new toothbrush. Oh, no! First socks, then underwear, now a toothbrush. What could I be thinking? I’m thinking that if you buy the right ones, your kids will love them.
- Bubble bath or fizzy bath bombs. Mr. Bubble never lets you down. Fizzy bath bombs are just what they claim to be, exploding fizzy bubbles in the water from the tub bottom up to the surface until they fully dissolve. These were designed for adults, but that’s because we’re not supposed to outgrow fun.
- And, finally, for the child who can’t abide a blank page, novelty pencils, magic markers, crayons, coloring books, drawing pads, or even (yes, some kids would be thrilled) a small packet of stationery cards for writing secret messages to pen pals, even thank you notes and notes to grandparents. Some dear little ones will write love notes to their parents. Add a couple of rubber stamps and inkpads to this, and you have a winner. Don’t forget the postage stamps! They’re as important as batteries on Christmas morning.
Good luck, moms and dads, and have fun thinking outside the box—or basket. Easter is under a week away.