A book exchange party is a fun activity for a kids at the holidays. You can do one as part of a classroom holiday celebration, with a scout troop, or for a play group. You can even throw a book exchange party at home just for friends.
I love the unwritten message of giving books as gifts. We are showing children how much we cherish books.
Our local public school includes a book exchange as part of the classroom holiday parties for Kindergarten and First Grade. So I’ve seen Liam do two book swaps at school, and I’m about to do two more with my twins this year.
Actually, the first kid’s book exchange party that I attended was when Liam was a toddler. One of my mom friends organized it. We had 4 or 5 toddlers around the same age, none of whom needed any more toys, especially with Christmas coming. It was a sweet and simple way to help our little ones understand the concept of giving and receiving gifts.
How to Organize a Book Exchange Party
1. Set a price limit – For new books, $5 is adequate. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for some suggestions. For used books, you could use a lower price limit, perhaps $2.
2. Wrapped or unwrapped? – Decide whether you want books to be a surprise to open, or whether you want to call children up to choose a book.
3. Gender neutral or boy/girl? – Asking parents to send gender neutral books makes distribution easier and avoids stereotyping. However, some boys and girls may be more excited to participate if they can give, say a truck book or a princess book.
4. How to distribute the books – There are several ways to exchange the books.
- Put all the books on a table, either in one pile or in girl/boy piles. Then draw names to decide
who chooses first.
- Have the children sit in circle and pass the gifts around a few times, either to music
or a set number of passes. This works best when the gifts are gender neutral or
when you have enough kids to make a girl circle and a boy circle.
- Have children draw partners to exchange with. If you have an odd number of kids,
plan to have one group of three. This works best when you are confident that
everyone brought a similar quality book.
- Tape a slip of paper with a number to each book. Then have children draw numbers to find out which book is theirs.
- For older kids, do a white elephant style exchange – add in a few absurd books for hilarity, such as a potty training book, a used nonfiction book about cockroaches, or a baby book for the wrong holiday (affiliate links – Books and Giggles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)
5. How to handle kids who don’t bring books – Especially if you’re doing your book exchange in a public school classroom, be prepared for kids who do not bring a book. To handle this problem, you’ll want to enlist the teacher, who knows more about each child’s home situation. She can then either give the parent an extra reminder, or simply provide a book for the child. You can quietly ask a few parents to donate an extra book to cover these kids. Or, the teacher may be willing to use book club order points for this purpose.
6. Communication – Be sure to give parents a few weeks’ notice, and a reminder closer to the date of the party. Set clear expectations. Don’t forget to provide contact information for parents who have questions.
UPDATE: I created these free printable book exchange party invitations for you! They are for wrapped, $5 gender neutral books for the classroom. There’s also a version to use for home or other non-school organizations. To download, just fill in the form here. You’ll also receive a second email inviting you to receive my free weekly-ish newsletter (I hope you do!) Happy book swapping!
That’s it! It’s really not hard to organize a book exchange party. Make a few decisions up front, get the word out, and have fun with it. After the book exchange, cuddle up with your child and enjoy a new story.
Finally, here are a few gender neutral books under $5 which would make good book exchange gifts.
This post is part of the Bloggers for Public Education monthly series. This month we’re focusing on holiday celebrations. For more on this topic check out what my teammates have written: