For the holidays, birthday parties, or any group gathering, a white elephant gift exchange adds a lot of fun and laughter. Many guests will be familiar with this idea, but for others, a white elephant swap will be a new experience. Either way, each exchange is different and amusing and can be set up in various ways.
Especially when money is tight, people need inexpensive ideas for entertaining. A white elephant exchange takes very little planning by the host, and is free, fast, and easy to organize. A gift trade is the perfect party activity for children, teenagers, adults and seniors. It is appropriate for all ages and good for multi-generational family gatherings.
- 1 What is a White Elephant Gift Exchange
- 2 White Elephant Invitation Wording
- 3 Sample Party Game Trade Items
- 4 How a White Elephant Gift Exchange Works
- 5 Various Ways to Play a White Elephant Party Game
- 6 What is a White Elephant Party Game
- 7 Party Trading Gift Ideas
- 8 How to Play a White Elephant Gift Exchange Game with Dice
- 9 Playing a White Elephant Game with Stealing
- 10 Brainstorming Ideas for Gift Exchanges
What is a White Elephant Gift Exchange
This is an easy party event that helps break the ice and gets people laughing.
A white elephant gift exchange is a fun group party game or activity, where unusual, funny or re-gifted items (usually found around the house) are traded. A white elephant is something inexpensive that a person no longer needs or wants. Each guest appropriately pre-wraps their own anonymous gift (for instance, in holiday gift wrapping paper for a Christmas party) and brings one wrapped present to the party. This way, other guests won’t know what items are being traded until the gift boxes or bags are opened at the gathering.
White Elephant Invitation Wording
Along with the usual party invitation information (date, time, location), guests will need to know about the gift exchange. Some sample invitation wording follows.
We are having a secret White Elephant Gift Exchange!
For this gift-trading activity:
Please find one previously owned, unwanted item around your house.
Wrap this ‘white elephant’ trade item attractively, like a present.
Do not put a tag on the gift, as this is a secret gift exchange.
Bring your wrapped item to the party!
Unfamiliar with white elephant trades? A white elephant gift for this party might be something like _______________. Use your imagination!
Questions? Please Call!
Invitation phrasing may be changed to fit the occasion. Guests can be asked to bring a certain type of gift, as well.
Sample Party Game Trade Items
Often white elephants are humorous items, such as a tacky decor object, an under-used exercise item, or a silly stuffed animal. The gifts are generally used or odd, and not expensive. Often, an actual white elephant shows up in the form of a toy or statue.
One thing to keep in mind is the age of the guests. Younger children may expect a real gift, so guests could bring an unwanted toy or game in good shape. Tweens and teens can usually take a joke better. Either way, it might be a good idea to warn guests if exchange gifts should be silly or not. The main ideas are that no one needs to purchase anything, that each guest needs to bring one wrapped gift, and that the trade is fun for all.
How a White Elephant Gift Exchange Works
At the party, a white elephant exchange can work one of several ways. One is a simple swap. Gifts are set in one area as guests arrive. At trading time, everyone simply takes one gift they did not bring. Everyone sits in a circle, taking turns opening their gift as others watch (and are hopefully entertained).
Various Ways to Play a White Elephant Party Game
It is easy to convert a basic White Elephant gift exchange into a unique party game. This activity involves very little planning, yet is still entertaining. Read White Elephant invitation and more party planning ideas in the article What is a White Elephant Gift Exchange Activity?
What is a White Elephant Party Game
For a White Elephant event, each guest brings one ‘interesting’ previously owned or re-gifted present. Each person will also take home an equally unique recycled gift. The game requires one wrapped present per person (host included). The host should have a couple spare gifts on hand in case anyone forgets one.
Each guest wraps his or her White Elephant attractively, to cleverly conceal the true nature of the treasure inside. People often grapple over the most interestingly wrapped presents, so cute or pretty wrapping makes the game funnier. No tag is needed, as gifts are kept anonymous.
Party Trading Gift Ideas
White Elephant trades are most amusing when gifts are somewhat useful (not total junk), but a bit humorous.
This is the time to ditch that silly orange hat or unloved Christmas sweater. For a tight group of tweens or teens, a present trading game gets especially hilarious.
How to Play a White Elephant Gift Exchange Game with Dice
To play with dice, guests sit in a circle and pass a tray and a pair of dice. The first player rolls the dice. If that person rolls doubles, he or she chooses any gift but their own from the pile. This continues around (and around) the circle of guests until everyone has rolled doubles and has one gift. For a simple version, guests can then open their gifts one by one in the opposite direction.
Playing a White Elephant Game with Stealing
As an extra element, ‘stealing’ may be added to the game.
In this version:
If player #1 rolls doubles, he or she picks a gift from the pile.
If player #1 does not roll doubles, the tray is passed to player #2.
If player #2 is lucky enough roll doubles, player #2 can either chose a gift from the pile or (if #1 got a gift) nabbing the present from player #1.
The game continues with player #3 being able to choose a new gift or grab the first or second player’s item, and so on.
The tray and dice continue around the circle until everyone has a gift.
In some versions of the dice game, players open a gift after they get it, so players can see what they are stealing. A popular item at one such party was a giant chocolate kiss.
Gifts may also stay wrapped throughout the game. This version is funny because players often spend time stealing a nice-looking gift back and forth, only to find out at the end that it is a real dud.
Brainstorming Ideas for Gift Exchanges
Party planners can find more ideas for present trading party games by talking with friends, making up new rules, or searching White Elephant or Yankee Swap online. In any case, a used gift exchange is always fun, cheap, easy, and a big party hit.