Sep 12 2012

18 small gift ideas to send in your Christmas card

By Veronica Batton, Unbound writer/editorVeronica Batton

Around the holiday season, a lot of sponsors call and ask what they can send to their friend for Christmas.

Sending small items that fit in a regular envelope are the best gifts to send to your sponsored friend.

Packages must be no larger than 9 x 12 inches, weigh less than a pound and be under an inch thick. Larger packages result in high customs fees and run the risk of theft.

What can fit in an envelope that small, you ask?

Well, a lot! Here are 18 small but awesome gift ideas for your sponsored friend!

1. Make a friendship bracelet. My niece makes friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss, which you can get at any fabric store and usually cost less than a dollar. (Check out the D.I.Y. tutorial!)

Friendship bracelet

My nieces Hanna, left; Emerson, middle; and me (Veronica). Hanna made these great friendship bracelets for Emerson and me!

2. Include a bookmark in your Christmas card.

3. Send a photo of yourself. When I visited a sponsored child’s home in India on a mission awareness trip, I noticed the family hung the sponsor’s photos all around the home. Sponsored friends love to receive photos from their sponsors!

4. Stationery. Who doesn’t like fancy paper?

5. Baseball cards. Do you and your friend bond over baseball? Send a card of your favorite player or team.

6. Paper dolls are a great idea for any young child. I loved playing with paper dolls when I was a child and I found a great website with templates for dolls, clothes and accessories. Simply cut, color and send!

7. Send your friend some stickers.

8. Postcards from your state or places you have visited.

9. Make a paper frame out of cardstock or heavy paper. Don’t forget to include your photo!

10. Finger puppets: When my nephew was born, I made him a set of finger puppets out of felt. I cut out animal shapes and sewed them together. You can also use fabric glue or a hot-glue gun, just don’t forget to leave a spot open for those little fingers!

Anderson and his finger puppet

My nephew, Anderson, with the bat finger puppet I made for him.

11. Try painting a picture or sketching something for your friend.

12. Silly bands are tiny rubber band bracelets in different shapes. Kids love them, and you can usually get a package for just a few dollars.

13. Send miniature party favors such as a pinball maze or other flat games.

14. Miniature memory games are great for little kids. You can even make your own with cardstock or heavy paper.

15. Miniature coloring book (no crayons please ó they often melt).

16. For older students try school supplies they might not be able to access. For example, when I was in college I used post-it page flags all the time! You can also send fancy folders, post-it notes or index cards. (Just make sure your envelope is less than an inch thick.)

17. Send your friend a pocket-sized journal with a pretty cover. (I found one for a friend of mine at World Market for only $3.)

18. Wooly Willy mini games are great to send to your friend. Wooly Willy is a toy that uses a magnetic wand to draw hair, a beard and eyebrows onto a cartoon face.

Wooly Willy

Wooly Willy has a “magnetic personality.”

Any ideas spark your interest? We have more gift ideas on our Pinterest page. If you decide to send your friend an item from the list, post a comment and let us know what you think! Happy Christmas!

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59 thoughts on “18 small gift ideas to send in your Christmas card”

  1. I have discovered a great way to get my packages to Uganda and fill them with useful gifts. They are never tampered with and since doing this I have always received a picture back with my sponsored child wearing the clothes I sent her. I purchased flat 9×12 mailing envelops (not bubbled) , a small food scale (about $25), and a Seal a Meal for about $45. At Christmas I sent 4 packages. In the fist package I placed a new dress, cute matching hairband (bought at Children’s Place), a recorder ( the music ones they use at schools that are like a flute), socks, a pocket harmonica I bought at a music store for $11.00 and a cute colorful cloth pencil holder. The second and third packages each had 1 pair of pants and matching top, socks, underwear and a headband, all bought at Children’s Place. They 4th packaged was our Christmas letter with pictures printed on paper from our iPads. I also print off 10-12 pages of dot to dot, numbered coloring pages or ABC puzzles etc. I weigh the contents of each package so I stay under 16 oz. After I determine what I can place in the package I place the items with the mailing envelope and customs form on the scales. Always leave enough weight allowance for the plastic used to seal the package. Place the items in the “seal a meal” plastic provided and seal it up. The air will all be removed and it will be compressed down to meet mailing requirements if done properly. Place in the 9×12 envelope and use wide plastic packing tape to seal all the way around the outside of the envelope. I believe it cost $16.75 right now for 16 oz – if I go over that I have to redo the package to assure it will be received in Uganda because of the custom fees on that end. The package with our letter and the dot to dot papers cost about $5.50 to mail and I mail them separate from gifts because of the weight and they will not be crushed when I use the “seal a meal” . ALWAYS remember to put your child’s name and code that are provided to you on stickers, on each package inside and on your letters ( tape them on). I have had great success with this- the items can be seen through the plastic and are not lost, separated or tampered with.

    Kathy P.

  2. I was told I couldn’t send my sponser child anything but a letter. Now I am reading I could have been sending him small gifts. I think there is a miscommunication here and it makes me sad. I wish I would been encourage to do this earlier. Thank you.

  3. I am wondering how our birthday and other contributions are made to our sponsored child. We sent extra money for his birthday and received a letter saying the foundation gave him sheets on his birthday. Was this from our donation or should we send a separate gift from us. Was our money toward the foundation as a whole. I just want to make sure we are on the same page. We felt bad. We hope to educate ourselves better to have a good relationship.
    Thanks and God Bless you and the people of Legazpi, Albany Philippines

    1. The Christmas and Birthday funds are general funds that are used to give all the sponsored members a gift and celebration during their birthday month or the Christmas season. The donations to these funds are split equally amongst all the members, and they are then given a gift that they really need, much like sheets, new shoes, etc. These funds ensure that your child and any other whose sponsor may not have been able to send an extra donation, will have a happy holiday. You are more than welcome to send a Christmas card or small gift, but your sponsored friend will receive a gift on your behalf!

      -CFCA Sponsor Services

      1. Thank you very much for clearing that up. We will make sure we send him something directly from us on his next birthday that is recommended from your site.
        Our prayers go out to Philippine people that were devastated by this terrible storm. We have already donated…those of you reading, please consider a disaster donation toward those in need.

  4. Several years ago I sent some drawing paper and colored pencils to my sponsored child in Zamboanga in a 9×12 envelope. Nearly a year later the envelope arrived back at my house. She never received it. I don’t know why; perhaps they were trying to make the family pay extra money to collect it. I was very disappointed. I haven’t tried mailing anything other than letters since.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Tony. We’re sorry to hear the gifts didn’t make it. The mail systems are a little different in each country, and even in different cities, so it can be difficult sometimes to know what will go through and what won’t. Thanks for still sending letters to your friend.

      -Jordan Kimbrell, Writer/Editor

  5. Great ideas and but i think sending 3d pop up Christmas card is the most liked gift that for my friend. Let me know if you know any good sites for Christmas cards.

  6. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. This is my first year doing this, and I appreciate the help. I visited our local religious articles store and found a beautiful card in Spanish and a small book in Spanish about our Lady of Guadalupe. Also sending stickers and a notepad.

  7. I buy Spanish language childrens’ books at my library systems’ sale that they have periodically where they sell off their surplus, old or unpopular books. My child is young and small and I have no problem sending pants, shirts and other clothing items in a 9 x 12 manilla envelope.

  8. I use TYVEK envelopes. They are very, very thin and lightweight, but durable and waterproof. They are great for international mailing…then your money doesn’t all go to shipping fees, and you have more “weight” to send, not waste on the packaging!!

  9. Are you allowed to send seeds? I have done this in the past, thinking it was a way of being self sufficent, helping with food, but now I wonder if it is allowed. I have also sent small sewing kits, they are flat, with thread, needles, buttons. Combs, stretchy headbands, simple knit shirts. Being wary of food, I have sent individual packets of flavored drink mixes that could just be added to water as a treat, this wouldn’t melt. Whenever we travel I look for Holy Cards and booklets in Spanish. One time a set of 4 booklets were of lives of the saints, although I don’t know spanish, I could pick out my favorite saints in each book and send a note mentioning that.

    1. Great question, Mary! Sending seeds through the mail can be a bit tricky. Each country has different rules when it comes to seeds and agriculture.

      I suggest visiting the U.S. postal office website to check the list of items you can mail to your friendís country.

      If you are interested in helping families become self-sufficient, you can also donate to the CFCA livelihood programs. These programs help teach new skills to parents and grandparents of sponsored children. The parents and grandparents learn these new trades to earn income for their family. Click here to check out the CFCA livelihood programs.

      Thanks so much,

      ~ Veronica

  10. My family and I have been mailing packages to our kids in the Philippines for many years, so I thought I would comment on this. I purchase a 8.5 in x 11.25 in Scotch plastic bubble mailer envelope. It rains a lot in the Philippines, so I think the plastic is best. I have recently purchased a mail scale at my post office, but for many years I did not have a scale. I would purchase small items (candy, toys, pictures, letters, etc) and place them in the envelopes. (The best place to look for small gifts is the party section of a department store – lots of fun things there). I would go to the post office BEFORE I wanted to mail the packages and ask for several customs forms for the Philippines so I could fill them out at home. I would write a letter and put the CFCA sticker at the top and place it in the package. When I would take the packages back to the post office, I would leave them open and have the post office weigh each one, explaining that they cannot weigh more than 1 lb. If a package was over a lb, I would remove something until it was a lb. (go when the post office is not busy, it takes a little time). Having the customs forms filled out ahead of time is a good idea. After the package is a lb, I seal it up and go to the next one. 1 lb costs somewhere between $9 and $11 to the Philippines from St. Louis MO. I have always received a letter confirming that our kids received the packages. They LOVE them. It is so much fun to hear back from the kids after they have received a package from us. I hope this helps anyone mailing packages to their sponsored friends!

  11. We have sent various items through the years, such as; match box cars, small lotions and lip balm, emery boards, small artist kit with paints, kitchen towels, wash clothes, balloons, small packages of candy or gum, pencils and sharpeners, small books, playing cards or small travel games, tote bags that can fold up, we also pick up trinkets and post cards from our travels. We have sent rosaries and prayer books and cards as well. We have our eyes open all year long for birthdays and Christmas, so we don’t go in panic mode looking for stuff to send in November. It is so much fun when we spot something cool to send, we get six of the same thing sometimes because we sponsor four children and two aging. Some gifts are ageless.

  12. My elderly person lives in Venezuela. I sent a Spanish prayer book – pocket size – but never heard if it was received either. Are laws in Venezuela more strict than in other countries? Shall I just forget sending her anything – just the birthday/Christmas extra contribution through the program?

  13. How can one be certain that items are being received? We have sent small coloring books and stickers but have not heard whether or not they were received. We get letters from our sponsored child’s mother — because the child is only 4yrs — and she sends pictures that our child has colored for us, but no mention of receiving items sent. I would like to continue to send more personal items, but I worry that they aren’t being received.

    1. I have the same concern as to whether the children actually receive the gifts. One one occasion I had indicated a gift was enclosed and a follow-up letter from him said he never received it. I do frequently get letters indicating the gifts have been received but not always. My sponsored children are teenagers now and I sent them a Spanish-American dictionery that they enjoyed. I have also sent bags, barrettes, t-shirts, and coloring pencils. I would reiterate that most of all they enjoy letters!

    2. Thanks so much for your question, Lisa Marie. I know many other sponsors feel the same way. I suggest including a note with your letter that reads, “Please let me know if you received the coloring book and colored pencils I sent along with this letter.”

      I also suggest placing the item in a small Ziploc bag, and attaching a label to the outside of the bag. The label should include your friend’s Child ID number and your CFCA ID number.

      Check out this blog post for more mailing tips: “Sending a package to your sponsored friend? Read this before you do!”


  14. I now sponsor an elderly woman whose grandsons write letters for her. Does anyone ever send gifts for an elderly person’s children or grandchildren?

    1. Thanks for your question, Ruth! You most certainly can send items to your sponsored aging friendís grandson. Just make sure to specify that the item is for the grandson. Thanks! – Veronica

  15. Pat, as one of my sponsored friends was becoming a teenager, I noticed from her photos that she had pierced ears, so sent inexpensive earrings or bracelets or a girly visor. A boy or girl might like a baseball cap.

  16. I have also sent holiday decoration. We also have a college age girl and I also have pretty much run out of ideas. I do also send candy (not chocolate) tooties rolls, hard candy, etc. I also try to send a small token gift for her younger sister(high school) younger brother (grade school)

      1. Judy, thanks so much for your question! I would recommend mailing the items separately. That way your package won’t fall outside the recommended guidelines. Good luck!
        ~ Veronica

    1. Thanks for your questions, Pat and Beverly! Here are some ideas for teenage girls: hair bands, pocket mirror, small make-up bag and stationery. You can never go wrong with a journal! Good luck!
      – Veronica

  17. I send my little ‘kids’ stickers–they seem to love them. Just got some that are the alphabet, which will be a bit more educational. I receive many wildlife calendars so send those-more for the animals represented than the calendar. harder to select for is the teenage girl I sponsor. Any ideas?

  18. Love these ideas, especially the personalized ideas, like photos or drawings. You can find inexpensive little journals and other items in the dollar section of Target, as well. World Market has some great finds, too, as you mention.

  19. There are some great ideas, things I did not think of when my child was younger. Other things could be all occasion cards – I do some stamping of cards and send them or make stationery with something stamped on it. I like the idea of stories translated!

  20. For an elderly person: band aids, flat samples of any toiletries, alcohol wipes,
    translated news stories about their country,possibly with color photos from the internet, a thin pair of socks.

  21. Well, I can suggest a few things that I have sent and the children have received. Prayer cards, rosaries, dental floss, special flavor toothpaste, toothbrushes, colored pencils, pens, calculators, stickers and decals, small coloring books, combs, brushes, hair ribbons and bands, fruit flavored gum, socks, colored markers….and most important many letters giving encouragement, love and prayers. Sponsors don’t forget to write the ones you are sponsoring they treasure your letters. God bless!


      1. Judy, the best thing to do to ensure delivery is keep the package within the guidelines. There are so many great ideas posted here. Maybe try sending no more than 1-2 small things at a time to keep the envelope thin and lightweight. Good luck!

  22. Veronica you rock! So glad to meet you in January. And I see by your last name that you had a very successful wedding – I hope!
    As for other suggestions off the top of my head. For older children and for the aging you may want to send them Sudoko puzzles. They make books that have the instructions in english and spanish.
    You maybe able to send thread on a flat spool. I know in Africa they love to have sewing types of things. Will try to think of more later!

    1. You rock, Cheri! It was great to meet you on the awareness trip to India in January. And, yes, I’ve been happily married now for nearly five months.

      I never thought of Sudoku puzzles or thread; what a great item to send to your sponsored aging friend!

      Thanks again, Cheri!
      ~ Veronica

  23. Great ideas for children. I sponsor elderly persons and would like some ideas on what to send them with my cards and letters. Thanks to any one who can help.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rosanna! I love the ideas that Rose and Cheri have suggested. Another item that might be useful to an aging friend is a credit card-size magnifier. Sometimes they even have magnifiers that come with an LED light. Pocket-size calendars are a good idea, too. Good luck!
      ~ Veronica

    2. I sent a map to our little guy in El Salvador. I drew an arrow to where he lives and to where we live. He had met our grandaughter so I marked her home as well. I got the nicest letter in return. He pinned it to the wall and he really loved getting it.

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