13 unique and fun gift ideas for white elephants

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Move over, Secret Santa! There’s a louder, wilder, and funnier gift exchange in town, and it literally steals the show. It’s called a white elephant, and while it’s competitive (in a good way) and can be a bit chaotic, it guarantees everyone will have a good time. White Elephant gift exchanges are a hoot to do with friends, family, and even colleagues (and they’re a great icebreaker in a professional environment). Don’t know what to wrap? Here are some inspirations for bringing the best white elephant gift to the party.

What exactly is White Elephant, anyway?

White Elephant – also known as Dirty Santa or Yankee Swap – is pure, unadulterated mayhem. Arguably the most competitive holiday tradition, this is a game that calls for giving your best friends quirky stuff and DIY gifts they probably don’t need (but will definitely find hilarious). The gist of White Elephant is quite simple:

  • Each participant brings a single Christmas gift or Christmas present to the White Elephant Party. The gift is placed anonymously in a pile. Each participant then draws a number or numbered card — don’t worry, it’s not a card game.
  • The participant who drew the lowest number chooses a present from the pile and unwraps it.
  • The participant who drew the next lowest number is next and can choose between choosing a new gift from the pile or “stealing” the already unwrapped gift from the first participant.
  • The third participant can then choose a gift from the pile or steal one of the two gifts unwrapped in the previous rounds.
  • This goes on until everyone has a gift to take home or friendships have been ruined forever by questionable gift theft. (Just kidding! But seriously, it can get hot.)

In short, White Elephant is a lot like a Secret Santa gift exchange – just a little meaner.

What are the rules of White Elephant?

While everyone has their own home rules, here are some standard White Elephant rules to guide you as you play:

  • Continue the exchange until everyone has had a turn for a gift.
  • If someone “steals” a popular gift – perhaps this therapy coloring book or the wine bottle night light – the person being robbed can either steal someone else’s gift or choose a gift wrapped in the stack.
  • A gift can only be stolen once per turn.
  • A gift cannot be immediately stolen from the person who just stole it.
  • Once a gift has been stolen three times, it is removed and cannot be stolen again.
  • The exchange ends when the last wrapped gift from the stack is chosen and opened.

Ultimately, the rules and limits for White Elephant gifts are up to who is on the exchange – just be sure to set them all before the game starts!

What are the best White Elephant gift ideas?

Now that you understand the rules and are ready to play, it’s time to dig deep for inspiration for fun gifts! Here are 13 perfect white elephant gift ideas that are sure to be a hit on your next exchange.

mini desktop vacuum cleaner

Researchers at Harvard University recently found that a cluttered desk can hurt productivity, so help your friends clean up with a small, rechargeable desk vacuum. This small but mighty device (Buy on Amazon, $12.99) can clean dirty surfaces and dusty keyboards like nobody’s business, and can also remove grime from Bluetooth speakers, iPhones and any other gadget that requires a little TLC.

Hot dog and bun toaster

Grill two hot dogs and their buns at the same time? Sign me up! This fun white elephant gift (Purchased on Amazon, $23.99) makes it easier than ever to enjoy one of America’s favorite foods. Simply add your buns and weiners and toast them in the small appliance. To make this white elephant gift even more fun, consider adding a condiment or two for the lazy foodie in your life. (Think: ketchup and mustard).

Tamagotchi

Give someone the thrill of caring for (and possibly killing) a tiny pixelated animal. These little egg-shaped digital pets (Buy on Amazon, $15.99) are sure to have everyone fighting to bring one home. Just be warned: if you forget to take care of this awesome white elephant gift, your Tamagotchi will beep, and beep, and beep, until it catches your eye. In other words, only steal this gift if you’re willing to commit!

Toilet spray “Before you leave”

This practical gift (Buy on Amazon, $9.54) is both fun and useful, especially in the office when you’re stuck sharing the bathroom with others. For even more laughs, wrap this gift in a roll of toilet paper.

head massager

Did you know that head massages promote hair growth? It’s true – light pressure on the scalp stimulates blood flow to the hair follicles, causing them to produce thicker strands of hair. This holiday season, give your friend the gift of healthy hair with a head massager (Buy on Amazon, $10.39). These nifty little tools not only support a healthy mane, but they feel great and are especially useful for wiping away all that work stress after a long day.

Sea Monkey Kit

A perfect pet in a pack, Sea-Monkeys are fun and lovable little creatures that are too small to cuddle but big enough to enjoy. Plus, these low-maintenance little pets are fantastic for anyone who can’t seem to keep plants alive. Bring this unique gift (Buy on Amazon, $14.99) to the exchange, and it’s sure to be a hit.

mini waffle maker

A waffle maker (Buy on Amazon, $12.99) is probably one of those kitchen appliances you never bought because you didn’t think you needed it — kind of like your popcorn or the waffle iron. citrus fruits gathering dust in the corner of the kitchen counter. But then someone gives it to you in a white elephant trade, and you quickly wonder how you ever lived without it.

table cornhole Board game

Super easy to store and even easier to transport, a tabletop cornhole game (Buy on Amazon, $19.99) makes an especially great gift for co-workers. Whoever ends up with it can quickly create an intra-office cornhole tournament at their desk.

Avocado growing kit

Want to bring a cool gift to the holiday party? Consider an avocado grow kit (Buy on Amazon, $9.96) your contribution to this year’s White Elephant game. Although it takes about five months for a sprout to sprout, whoever receives this gift will have a blast watching their favorite toast topping come to life. Plus, who doesn’t love avocados?

Succulent Candles

Succulents are quite difficult to kill, but for some special people… it can happen. Instead of bringing live succulents to the exchange, opt for adorable succulent candles (Buy on Amazon, $10.99) to enhance the decor of the recipient’s home. Not only do they look real and make great gifts, they don’t need water to stay green.

office boxing

Whether you call it White Elephant, Dirty Santa, or the Grinch Game, the holiday gift exchange of rolling, selling, and stealing is a lot of fun. This office boxing gift (Buy on Amazon, $9.95) will be among the most coveted on the exchange — and the most stolen. A client driving you crazy? Bored by your boss? Can’t stand Barb’s unsolicited office comments? Save your work and hit the mini punching bag instead.

Zen Garden Litter Box

Zen gardens evoke feelings of tranquility, calm and peace – much like essential oils and a full glass of wine. For a fun take on these soothing gardens, consider offering a litter-inspired one. This little desk accessory (Buy on Amazon, $8.99) is perfect for cat lovers and is sure to bring a lot of laughs every time it’s used.

sound machine

Last on the list, but not least, is a mini sound machine (Buy at Barnes & Noble, $13.99). Perfect for the office clown, you can create applause, drum rolls, wine bottle clinks, giggles, boos and more with just the press of a button. It makes work meetings a lot less boring – don’t boo the boss or you might just look for another job.

The essential

There you have it: 13 unique and fun white elephant gift ideas that are so much more than a coffee mug or a gift card. From tabletop games and pets to small appliances, gadgets and gadgets, these gifts are sure to be a hit at your next exchange. Just be sure to review the basic rules before playing so everyone is on the same page.

Whether you’re with friends, family, or co-workers, the White Elephant Gift Exchange brings people together to share laughs, create memories, and have a good time. Don’t take it too seriously if someone steals your gift. After all, you can always win them back next year!

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