These fun gift exchange themes and games will make your Christmas parties and celebrations a whole lot more fun! Go beyond the simple Secret Santa idea with gift exchange games, themed gift exchange ideas and even plenty of fun gifting ideas for kids too!
But don’t feel like these gift exchange games are just for the holiday season!
Many of these themed gift exchange ideas can just as easily be used for other special occasions throughout the year – birthdays, showers and more!
Funny Christmas Gift Exchange Games
Christmas gift exchange ideas are a popular activity for a Christmas party or during an office gift exchange. These gift exchange games and themes are fun ideas for your next Christmas party:
1. White Elephant Gift Exchange (Also Known As Yankee Swap Or Dirty Santa)
One of the most popular gift exchange games, White Elephant is a fun way to exchange silly and unique gifts with your friends, family members or coworkers.
Simply set a budget and have everyone bring a wrapped gift, then take turns choosing a present from the pile.
The rules for a white elephant gift exchange or a Yankee Swap are simple.
Each person involved draws a number and this determines the order of choosing gifts.
The person with number 1 chooses any gift from the pile under the Christmas tree and opens it so each person in the group can see what it is.
The second person can then either choose a new gift from the pile or swap their gift with an already unwrapped gift.
As the gift swap continues, any person whose gift is taken away in this manner gets to choose a new gift from the pile or steal another.
They can’t steal back what was just stolen though and there is a maximum of 3 swaps per turn.
The game goes on until everyone has had a turn. Then you go back to the start and player one can again choose to steal or choose a new gift that is left wrapped in the pile.
Dirty Santa gameplay ceases once a person declines to steal. Whatever you are holding at the end of the Yankee Swap will be your Christmas gift.
It’s always entertaining to see what people end up with!
2. Left Or Right Game
This fun gift exchange game is perfect for large groups and can be played with any type of gift.
Have everyone sit in a circle, holding a wrapped present they brought with them for the exchange.
One person reads a story out loud while everyone passes their gifts to the left or right depending on the words read.
If the story says left, all gifts pass to the left. If the story says right, all gifts pass to the right.
You can also find story variations for the left right game on YouTube or Spotify, so you can play it rather than having someone read it aloud.
The game goes on until the story ends, and the random gift each participant holds is theirs. That is unless you’ve all ended up with the same gift (although this is quite unlikely).
3. Dice Roll Gift Exchange Game
This is a great gift exchange game for families or small groups.
Each person brings a wrapped gift and takes turns rolling a pair of dice.
Depending on the combination rolled, the player can either choose an unopened present from the pile or steal someone else’s opened present.
The game continues until all presents have been opened and are with their final owner.
There are various dice roll game rule printables available online that have different rules for each number that keep the game exciting and unpredictable!
You can get my Christmas dice gift exchange game printable in my store.
4. Musical Chairs Gift Exchange
Musical chairs is a common game for parties that are well-loved by both kids and adults.
You can add a unique twist to musical chairs by turning it into a gifting exchange game.
Arrange chairs in a circle with a gift underneath each chair. Play music while everyone walks around the circle. When the music stops, whichever gift is beneath the chair you’re sitting on is now yours to keep!
For a party game alternative, you can also play this with a single gift per round, with all the players battling to be the last person with a chair, winning musical chairs in the typical way and scoring the gift at the end.
With this version, each round, remove a chair and the person without a chair is out of the running for the prize.
Keep going until there’s only one chair and one player left. They get the gift.
5. Treasure Hunt Or Scavenger Hunt
Organise a treasure hunt party where every player is given clues that lead them to a hidden gift.
Each person’s clues will eventually lead them to a wrapped gift, colour coded with their colours.
Once each person has found their gift, they return to the party area and unwrap it together.
You can do this so you have. specific gift for each person or make it random and have everyone draw their clues out of a bowl and follow whichever they end up with.
6. Hot Potato Gift Exchange
This is another simple and fun gift exchange game that’s perfect for large groups.
Gather everyone in a circle and have them pass around a gift while music plays.
When the music stops, the person holding the gift is out of the game.
Continue until there’s only one person left – they are the winner.
This game works for a single gift, rather than a gift exchange where each person gets a gift. It’s a little bit like a reverse pass the parcel.
7. Spin the Candy Cane
This game is similar to spin the bottle but with a festive twist.
In this game, have everyone sit in a circle and takes turns spinning a candy cane.
The person who has a candy cane pointing at them can choose a gift. But don’t unwrap it yet.
If the candy cane lands on you again, you can choose to either steal someone else’s gift, or open your gift to keep.
Keep spinning the candy cane until each person has a gift from the pile. At this point, the remaining gifts can be opened.
8. Saran Wrap Ball Game
The saran wrap game is somewhere between being a fast-paced variation of pass the parcel and a dice roll game.
The game is played with a giant ball of plastic wrap layered with prizes throughout. The more prizes, the bigger your ball and the more layers to unwrap.
Everyone sits in a circle and one person begins unwrapping while the person to their left begins rolling the dice. As soon as a 6 is rolled, that person gets the ball and begins unwrapping, hoping to reveal some of the hidden prizes.
The game continues with whoever last rolled a 6 being in control of the ball until the next 6 is rolled on the dice, making it chaotic and hilarious. Whatever gifts you unwrap are yours to keep.
You can make it harder by using two dice and rolling doubles or by having the person unwrapping wear oven mitts to make it really challenging. Great for adults!
You can also use Saran Wrap challenge cards (or coal cards as they are also known) to make it even more challenging!
Gift Exchange Themes For Adults
These gift exchange theme ideas can be adapted to suit different special occasions – not just Christmas!
They are a fun way to take the overwhelm out of choosing gifts by giving a specific theme to the gifting.
8. Secret Santa
Secret Santa is easily one of the most popular Christmas gift exchange ideas and one that most people are familiar with.
We actually do Secret Santa with both sides of our extended family members to save money each Christmas. This also takes the pressure out of trying to come up with gift ideas for each family member, since we have a big family on my side!
The rules are simple and they can be adapted to suit any type of gifting scenario – family gift exchange, office gift exchange, kids’ class parties. Whatever the occasion!
Each person is randomly given the name of another person participating in the gift exchange.
They then buy a gift for that person within a designated price range.
The identity of each Secret Santa is kept secret until gifts are opened, adding an element of surprise to the exchange. Then you can choose to keep it a surprise or make guessing part of the fun.
Choosing names can be as simple as drawing them out of a bowl if everyone is together, or having someone organise the exchange so there are no risks of drawing yourself.
We use Draw Names each year for our family exchanges and have done for many years. It sends an email and guarantees you don’t draw yourself (or anyone you had last year).
Download my free Santa gift tags for your gifts:
9. Favourite Things
The purpose of the gift swap is to give someone something that you love.
Each person participating in the exchange brings a gift that is one of their favourite things.
It can be anything – a book, food item, beauty product, or something unique and personal to them.
This theme allows for more creativity and thoughtfulness in gift giving. Plus, it’s always fun to see what everyone’s favourite things are!
This is a lovely idea for a friend gift exchange but it can work just as well in the workplace or with other groups.
10. Set Budget Gift Exchange
It’s easier to think of gift ideas when there’s a set budget.
For instance, set a budget where all the gifts must be under $10. This means no one feels pressured to spend a lot of money and it gives fewer choices within budget to make gifting easier.
This is great for an office party so employees won’t be burdened with spending for an item outside of their budget.
They still get to enjoy the gift exchange without guilt and each participant gets a little something special still.
We always add a set budget to our family Secret Santa too, typically between $50 and $100, depending on everyone’s situation that year.
11. Handmade Gift Exchange
This gift exchange theme idea makes gift giving more personal.
You’re not only giving the recipient a unique, one-of-a-kind item but also your time and effort.
Handmade gift exchanges are perfect for those who love to craft or those wanting to reduce their gift spending.
You can choose to allow handmade treats and food as part of your DIY gift exchange too.
12. Destination Themed Gifts
This gift exchange theme is perfect for those who love to travel or have a favourite destination.
Each person buys a gift related to the destination.
This could include traditional items from that country, travel accessories, local snacks or drinks, or anything else that reminds you of that place.
This one can be a fun option if someone is moving abroad and you’re having a farewell party, or if they simply have a passion for that place in the world.
13. Recipe Exchange
This is a great idea for a foodie gift exchange and can be done in a few different ways.
Each person brings one of their favourite recipes to share with the group so that everyone goes home with a collection of recipes.
To make it extra special, you could have each person bring the key ingredient for their recipe (ideally a non-perishable one).
Alternatively, you could have everyone bring pre-made dishes to share and then swap recipes afterwards.
If you want them all to match, consider creating a shareable template on Canva that each person can use so they look the same when printed, but sometimes it’s more fun to let each personality shine through, handwritten included!
14. Thrift Shop Exchange
Are you good at finding hidden gems in a thrift shop?
Test your skills and have some fun with this gift exchange theme!
Set a challenge that each person must visit their local thrift store to find a gift for their nominated recipient (or for the guest of honour).
This is a great way to bring some humour into the gift exchange, plus it’s environmentally friendly by choosing preloved items.
Will someone end up with a crazy hat or a funky vase? Maybe it’ll be a retro vinyl or vintage jewellery.
14. Gift Card Exchange
This gift exchange idea is perfect for those who want to keep it simple and easy.
Each person brings a gift card of a predetermined amount to the exchange.
You can either gift one specifically for a certain person, catering to their interests, or make it a random draw, and each pull one out of a bag so you don’t know which you’re grabbing.
The gift cards can be anything from Starbucks, Target, cinema cards, pamper vouchers and much more.
16. House Themed Gifts
Plan a themed gift exchange where all gifts relate to the home. You can make them general home gifts or be more specific.
For my bridal shower, my bridesmaid organised a gift exchange where each guest was given a different area of the home to buy a gift for.
As an example, one guest was given bedroom, another laundry or bathroom and so on.
You might need to double up on larger rooms if you have lots of guests coming but this was a really lovely way to get some beautiful home decor and functional items for our home before our wedding.
17. Funny Mug Swap
This might sound like another white elephant exchange but funny mugs are still useful!
If your group loves to drink coffee or tea, this might be a fun gift exchange theme idea.
Everyone brings a novelty coffee mug (bonus if it’s personalised) and you can also throw in some hot chocolate mix, specialty teas or coffees too.
18. Colour Gift Exchange
Choose one colour or a palette that everyone will follow. You can buy anything as long as the item is within the colour scheme.
For instance, the colour green and each person must gift green gifts or at least those that are predominantly green.
19. Christmas Ornament Exchange
If you’re planning on hosting a Christmas party or holiday gathering, consider having an ornament gift exchange.
Each person brings a handmade or store-bought ornament to the party and it’s exchanged with someone else.
This is a lovely way to add new ornaments to your tree each year.
Around Christmas time, this has become a popular gift exchange theme on Disney Cruise Lines, with guests organising to exchange ornaments with other guests in organised group settings.
20. Favourite Book Exchange
For the book lovers out there, this gift exchange theme is perfect.
Each person brings a wrapped copy of their favourite book and it’s exchanged with someone else in the group.
You can even add a note explaining why you love that particular book so much.
This is a great way to discover new reads and have meaningful discussions about your most loved literature.
This is the gift theme I am using for my best friends’ Christmas gifts this year (shhh…don’t tell them! And hopefully they ren’t reading this yet).
21. Alphabetical Gifts
If you’re planning themed gifts for a certain person, or even as a group exchange idea, you can have everyone choose a gift that starts with the first letter of the recipients name.
So for example, if the party is for Tonya, all gifts must start with the letter T, such as tea, a teddy bear, a tennis racquet etc.
If you’re doing this as a group exchange, do a random name selection and follow the same rule based on who you draw.
22. Sweet Treat Exchange Or Cookie Swap
Who doesn’t love desserts?
For this gift exchange theme, each person brings their favourite sweet treat or cookies to share with the group and everyone gets a chance to try different goodies.
This is a great option for those with a sweet tooth or for holiday gatherings.
In addition, you can also set a rule that all treats must be homemade, adding an extra personal touch to the day.
Gift Exchange Ideas For Kids
Who loves gifts more than anyone else? Kids of course!
Actually, I don’t know how true that is. I rather love surprises myself. But there’s no doubt kids love the gift-receivinggift experience and there are plenty of fun gift exchange themes for children as well!
Many of these ideas will work well at a kids’ Christmas party or as a classroom party.
23. Kris Kringle
This is essentially Secret Santa by its other popular name.
Just as with the standard rules of the game, each participant is given the name of a child to purchase a gift for. This is typically organised by a teacher or parent.
Before the exchange of gifts takes place, each child brings their gift and places it under the tree, addressed to their Kris Kringle recipient.
Kids can take turns opening their gifts and attempting to guess who they might have been from.
If doing this as a class gift exchange, you might want to set a fairly small budget of $5-10 to keep it affordable.
24. Storybook Exchange
Almost every child has a favourite storybook to read.
Why not make it into a book exchange? Kids can bring their favourite book wrapped and ready to give away.
This is actually a wonderful idea for a child’s birthday party where you don’t want to end up with a heap of toys and instead ask each guest to bring a favourite book.
We did a similar thing for my first baby shower, with each guest bringing a favourite picture book to start growing our home library. Most of them wrote a sweet message inside so my daughter still has all these books, despite having outgrown the stories.
25. Gift Wars
Gift Wars is essentially a kid-friendly version of Dirty Santa.
Everyone brings a wrapped gift and places it in the pile.
Each child takes a number out of a jar and takes turns to pick from the pile in order of their number, opening their gift for all to see.
The next person can either steal an opened gift or take one from the unopened pile. This keeps going until everyone has had a turn.
This is always good fun but I would suggest setting guidelines on how many times a gift can be stolen so it doesn’t go on forever and no one is left disappointed without a gift at the end.
26. Toy Swap
This is essentially a toy-based version of clothing swaps for adults.
Set up an area with tables or blankets where kids can bring their gently used toys to swap with others.
Kids can then take turns choosing new toys to take home with them. This not only promotes recycling and sustainability but also teaches kids the value of sharing and giving to others.
It’s a great way to declutter your own home as well! Keep in mind that this might be more suitable for older children who can understand the concept better.
27. Outdoor Gifts
If you have a group of kids who love to play outside, consider an outdoor gift exchange where all gifts are related to outdoor activities.
This could include things like bubbles, hula hoops, jump ropes, water play activities, sidewalk chalk and more.
28. Game Exchange
Introduce kids to classic games that aren’t played in front of a screen.
The game exchange theme will encourage children to try new board games, card games and outdoor games, to encourage tech-free days at home.
Older kids are at the age where they start to identify themselves with a certain fandom. A child can be a Potterhead, a Disney fan, a Stranger Things enthusiast, or a fan of any universe they take an interest in.
The key to finding the perfect present relating to their favourite character, fandom, or film.
This often happens naturally if you have a themed birthday party.
My nephew got so much Spider-Man gear for his 3rd birthday party since that was the theme. Actually, my Marvel party was similar and I loved it!
30. Homemade Gifts
Teach kids how to make homemade gifts for a more personal touch. Children can make friendship bracelets, and handmade cards, draw pictures or paint rocks to give to their peers.
This works well in classrooms or in small groups of children.
How to Organise A Gift Exchange
Depending on the type of gift exchange you are planning, they can take a little extra effort to set up. Especially if gifts are to be for a specific person rather than at random.
Here are a few ways to make planning a gift exchange easier:
- Set a budget for gifts to keep things affordable.
- Determine if gifts should be wrapped or unwrapped.
- Decide on the method of gift selection, whether it’s random or through name drawing.
- Set rules and guidelines, such as spending limits or specific themes.
- Have a spare gift or two in case someone forgets to bring one.
- Consider the age range and interests of participants when choosing gift exchange ideas.
It can also be helpful to use a gift exchange website for anonymous draws. I mentioned Draw Names as a personal favourite, however, there are many other options.
This is great if you’re having trouble getting all the participants together at the one time to do your draws. It also means no choosing yourself too!
The other option is having an organiser (which is probably you if you’re here reading this).
This person can still join it but may not have the same surprise as everyone else if it is a Secret Santa type of gifting game.
Conclusion: Best Gift Giving Theme
These gift exchange ideas make the usual celebrations unique and more memorable. It allows people to interact and have so much fun. The experience builds connection as gift-giving reminds people of the true meaning of Christmas. You might even start a new holiday tradition!
Check out these gift guides for every occasion:
- Gifts for active kids
- 101+ non-toy gifts for kids
- Teacher gifts they actually want
- Gifts for people who love to cook
- Last-minute Mother’s Day gift ideas
- DIY Father’s Day gift ideas
- Last-minute Father’s Day gift ideas
- DIY Valentine’s Day gift ideas
- Older sibling gifts from new baby
- New mother gifts
- Non-chocolate Easter gifts
- Unique stocking stuffer gifts under $15
- Gifts to give a whole family
- Gifts for men who have everything
- Clutter-free gift ideas
- Gifts that keep on giving
- Subscription boxes for families
- Experience gifts for kids
- Class gifts for kids
- Gifts for newborn babies
- Handmade gifts kids can make