by Roy Anderson, contributing writer

RAISE YOUR HAND if you’re one of those parents who wraps up underwear and socks and puts it under the Christmas tree, trying to pass if off as a present for your kids? (Yes, my hand is raised, and I’ve got a sheepish grin on my face.) Maybe it’s the practical side of me, or the fact that my own mother seemed to think it was always a good idea to give what we thought were just “necessities” as gifts, but this year I’m intrigued by the idea of going in different directions with gift-giving for my loved ones.

A few years ago, when we had seven children at home and the idea of even thinking about Christmas seemed daunting, our family decided to simplify. Probably inspired by something I read on Pinterest, we told our kids they could choose four gifts: “Something I Want, Something I Need, Something from Santa, and Something to Read.” That first Christmas was a hit and caused our children to really focus on things that mattered most to them. We coupled this tradition with a “Family Night of Giving” where we went to a local store one night in December and each child was given some cash. They looked around the store and gave all of their cash to someone they felt needed it. What an amazing experience to see adults show gratitude (and shock) as a small child reached up to give them a few dollars.

One unique idea I’d like to try this year comes from some moms I know who started giving “experiences” to their children instead of tangible gifts. In one family, children receive one “experience” and one gift from Santa. Experiences can range from going to see a musical, attending a professional sporting event, or going to Chuck E. Cheese on a daddy daughter date.

One family likes to give an experience gift that allows their children to develop a talent like guitar lessons, cooking lessons, gymnastics, or horseback riding lessons. I can relate. When I was 13, the only thing I wanted for my birthday was saxophone lessons. That was the first time I remember my parents giving me something I truly desired, and I am still grateful for my mom driving me across San Jose, relatively far from our house in the Bay Area, to make sure I could be there every week. I know it was a huge sacrifice for her, but it meant so much to me!

One of the most unique gifts I’ve heard of comes from a family with four small children who let their kids choose a stock to purchase from the stock market. Now, they let their kids check on their own stock to see how much it’s worth and have been able to teach their children about something many adults don’t understand!

So, bag the underwear and socks this year and use your imagination! See what fun and inventive gifts you can come up with.