Need an activity for a group of adults who want cool prizes? Trying to phase out of stockings for your older kids and into something equally as festive but a little less expensive (especially if you find yourself getting real gifts that cost a lot for stockings). Want to eliminate a gift exchange but still have prizes for people to take home? Whatever scenario—the Plastic Wrap Gift Ball Game might just be the answer!

We do this fun activity with our young adult children on Christmas Eve, and it would also be a great activity for a youth group, class party, family get-together, or office party—almost anywhere! It is simple to make (honest!) and fun for a crowd.

The idea is that you fill layers of plastic wrap that are rolled into a ball with gifts (candy and trinkets for a small-budget party or other things a little costlier for a bigger-budget gathering (see ideas below)). Then you pass that ball from person to person to unroll it. As it is unrolled, the person doing the unrolling gets whatever falls out or is in that layer (better description below).


1) Take a bunch of small gifts—see suggestions below…basically the size of a dvd or smaller will work well

2) Lay the first one on plastic wrap that is pulled out then start rolling the plastic wrap around the prize.

3) When it is covered, lay another prize on it and roll again.

4) When you come to the end of the roll, open another roll and tie the end of the first with the beginning of the second.

5) When you are done with all of the prizes, you will have a huge ball ready for play/gift giving!

The “ball” is getting bigger–we are on our third roll of plastic wrap now! The kids will pass the ball around the room to the next person, unwrapping another layer each time as their “prizes” fall out!


1) The people playing all sit in a large circle and the ball is placed in the middle.

2) The person designated to go first tears away the plastic wrap (the ball is on the floor in front of them) and gets the first prize he comes to/first one that falls out.

3) Then he passes it to the next person (or moves it over in front of the next person who does the same.

4) They continue to do that…they might see something they like better under the next layer, but they get whatever is next in the wrap.


As I mentioned above, you can put in it whatever you would like, but keep in mind when filling the ball how many people you will have playing. Do you want each person to get one thing? Two? Five? Be sure you have enough items spread throughout it for the number of people playing.

The number of rolls of plastic wrap needed will vary according to the size of the gifts, the number of people “playing,” the number of gifts/prizes that you want each person to take home, etc. We use seven or eight “cheapo”rolls from Dollar Tree to make the sized ball in the pictures. Those rolls have a small amount of plastic wrap on each roll. The next year I will probably buy a larger roll from Wal-mart and possibly spend a little more but have less tying together of the rolls.

If you are on a super tight budget, you could assign each person to bring two or three or four items (give a suggestion list). At the beginning of the party, someone could sneak away and make the ball with the items that people brought. This would make the activity affordable but still ensure that there is X number of prizes.


Your choice of gifts and prizes will be based on many things, including…..

1) Whether this activity is in place of other gifts you would normally get them.

2) If it is just for extras, like candy and trinkets that you put in their stockings, then you would probably want to limit it to $.50 or one dollar items, such as packages of gum, candy bars, nail clippers, etc.

3) How many people will be opening the ball and removing things. For us, we have seven adult kids and four kids-in-law. Thus, I try to have at least forty-four items in it so that each “child” receives four gifts or prizes approximately.

4) Your family’s Christmas budget. Since this is replacing some of their gifts this year, I will put a little bit costlier items in it than I did when it did not replace part of their gifts. Therefore, this year, we will have DVDs, nicer earbuds, and some $10 gift cards. Keep in mind that whatever you start is somewhat what people come to expect. (This is, of course, true with any gift of giving situation. Even going down to gift cards this year for us is challenging simply because that is not where we started with our adult Christmas gifts.)

5) What types of things you want them to end up with. I have been on a minimalism kick for the last couple of years; therefore, I am opposed to giving them more things to have lying around their houses since I don’t want things lying around my house either. Of course, sometimes nicer/more usable things are more expensive. Generally speaking, I try to stay away from too many Dollar Tree items and Target dollar bin items unless these are truly usable prizes.

Other Thoughts

• Watch out for things with strong scents. Cinnamon car fresheners, peppermint candy, wintergreen gum, pine cone room scents, etc., can make your prizes smell and/or taste those scents/flavors.

• Things can get broken, so watch out for things not packaged. For example, my non-peppermint candy canes were all in pieces.

• If having things even in cost is super important to you, you could handle this one of two ways: You could be sure that every layer of the plastic wrap has similarly priced items. For example, you could put Chapstick, fluffy socks, and a five-dollar McDonald’s card in if you want each layer to have roughly eight dollars with the stuff in it. Or, you could do it such that the very middle of the ball has all the expensive things in it and the outsides of the ball have gum, mints, masking tape, etc. In this way, they would open the lesser-priced things first and then expensive things last. Both of these ways in sure that somebody doesn’t just end up with $1.50 worth of stuff and somebody else is up with $30 worth of stuff at the end.

*Don’t be offended if people trade at the end. That is a big part of the fun for our kids. “Hey, I’ve got a Super Size Twix here….anybody got any Skittles they want to trade?”


In order from less expensive for a club or group to more expensive for a family or “stocking substitution”:

Gum, mints, Lifesavers, TicTac’s, and other small gum and mint items

Favorite candies—use my Kids’ Faves Sheet {free!} to gather vital info on your children’s favorite things!

Hand sanitizer, talcum powder, hand lotion, chapstick, nail clippers

Playing cards

Travel toiletries

Toothbrushes and mini toothpaste

Office supplies such as pens, highlighters, sticky notes, envelopes, etc

Stress balls, yo yo’s, Silly Putty

Dollar Tree items

Ear buds… And more earbuds

Fast food gift cards

Car wash cards

Wal-mart gift cards

Movie theater tickets

Hand warmers

Small window scrapers



Pepper spray

Meat thermometers (I’m all about meat thermometers for my kids’ kitchens!)

Hand-held portable games (Yahtzee, etc.)

Coupons for a ream of paper from our print center (we have a small press publishing company….Character Ink Press)

Five dollar bills with a sticky note to use it towards something specific

Laundry soap pouches in double zipper bags

Spices (especially more expensive ones like real vanilla or a blend)

Kitchen gadgets that are super useful

Soup, coffee, tea, and cocoa packets and add ins

Personalized calendars and other small family pic items

Flashlights and batteries

Mini Lego figures

Zippo lighters (in a box)

Card games such as Pit, Uno, Dutch Blitz, Skip Bo, Rook, Phase 10

Travel games

Tylenol, Advil, Emergen C

USB flash drives

Household miscellaneous scissor sets, masking tape, pliers, extension cords, etc.

Favorite team paraphernalia

Fuzzy socks

Bathroom miscellaneous such as Q-tips, cotton balls, Band Aids, etc.

Inexpensive sporting tickets (or museum)—sometimes I’ll stick in $5 or $10 bills that say “To Use at Your Next Museum Visit”

Phone chargers, car adapters, etc

Oven mitts

Plexus X Factor, ProBio 5, Children’s Chewables, Ease Cream tubes, or Slim drink packets.

Tiny plasticware containers, little zipper type bags (craft, pill, etc., sized)

Table top mind games (Cracker Barrel style)

Gas cards

Chip clips, carabiner clips, zip strips

Penny, nickel, or dime rolls

Small feather dusters, scrub brushes, cleaning cloths

Dish towels and dish rags