How to Host a Children’s Book Exchange Party

A book exchange party is a fun activity for 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 Christmas 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.

closeup of Christmas gift with title "How to Host a Children's Book Exchange Party"

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

It’s not hard to plan a kids’ book exchange party. Here are a few considerations:

  1. Set a price limit – For new books, $5 used to be adequate. I think with inflation it might be easier if the limit was closer to $10 now. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for some suggestions.
    For used books, you could use a lower price limit, perhaps $5. If you have enough turnaround time for shipping, I like Thrift Books for used books.
  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. Unfortunately, more and more these days you may want to look over books before handing them back out – just to keep away from any possible controversy. If you want them wrapped, you could drop them into gift bags.
  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 fun book exchange games you can play to distribute 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 a 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
  1. How to handle kids who don’t bring books – Especially if you’re doing a classroom book exchange in a public school, 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.
  2. 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.

Download Free Book Exchange Parent Letters

Holiday Book Exchange parent letter shown with a pen

I created these free printable book exchange parent letters for you! They are for wrapped, $10 gender-neutral books for the classroom. There’s also a party invitation you can use for home or other non-school organizations.

These are actually an update of a set of invitations I made several years ago, so I’ve included those too, but with an updated suggested price.

To get your very own set of these, you can sign up right here:

I’ll add you to my weekly-ish newsletter too – it’s full of ideas and more free printables. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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.

Finally, here are a few gender-neutral books that would make good book exchange gifts. Happy book swapping!

book exchange party free invitation featuring holiday lights and a snowman carrying books
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:


  1. Such a fun idea! Now I'm trying to think how I could possibly arrange this as a library event….hmmmm…you've got me thinking!

  2. Great tips! I love the idea of throwing in some "gag books" for an exchange for older kids! #made4kids

  3. This is such a cute invitation. Is there any way to edit it? We had decided to go with a $5-$7 range and I would love to put that info on the invitation.

    1. I’m so glad you like it. I’m sorry – I don’t have an editable version. That’s definitely something I can consider in the future, but I probably won’t have time to figure it out for this year.

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