Every year, I tell myself to never, ever, use that plastic Easter basket grass again. I have clear memories of doing so last year after picking it out of every crevice somehow for months on end. Yet I just opened up my Easter holiday decorations box to prep, and what’s in there? Two fresh large packs of plastic grass. This year, I am throwing them away and using tissue paper instead.
We’re less than two weeks out from Easter, a holiday I am slowly trying to up the ante in celebrating for theological reasons. I’ve also been on a slow revision of the Easter baskets away from garbage candy and towards more meaningful and wholesome gifts.
It has helped in this transformation to see that giant corporate conglomerates like Hershey’s not only sell candies that are horrible for our family’s health, but also morally abominable. Of course, with six kids I also need to stay on some kind of reasonable spending level.
So here are some items I’ve found to fill Easter baskets with higher-quality treats and more gift-quality items to mark our celebration of Easter as the pinnacle of our religious observance. No shade to Christmas, of course, which we also thoroughly enjoy.
Herb-Flavored Lentil Snack Packs
Farver Farms is a family-owned farm in Montana that my in-laws introduced us to at Christmas. They sell delicious “lentil crunchers,” which are flavored roasted lentils. The seasonings are truly amazing and the lentils an excellent protein source. I keep a packet in my office for when I need a quick blood sugar boost midafternoon.
I can’t decide if my favorite flavor is chipotle or dill pickle. My husband’s is hickory BBQ, which has a wonderful gourmet sweet-smoky flavor. I bought my kids the giant bag of simply salted lentils for their afternoon snacks, and they devoured it. It’s great for road trips, too.
For Easter baskets, they sell a six-pack of conveniently snack-sized packets, which happens to work out perfectly for my six kids.
My favorite children’s picture books are from Kloria Press. Because family members read little people the same books repeatedly, these books teach us all the words of classic hymns.
“God Loves Me Dearly” is an especially good thematic match for Easter. Its book trailer is below.
One of the best Easter picture books we own is “The Very First Easter,” by Paul Maier. It is beautifully illustrated, not trite or saccharine (which I think makes children think “God stuff” is unserious), and Bible-focused. I’m not a big fan of the frame narrative storytelling format generally, but I don’t find it obtrusive here.
I also love this Easter picture book, “The Easter Story,” because it is essentially straight Biblical text, paraphrased a little for small children’s understanding. It is another beautifully illustrated one. I only wish there were a hardback edition. I always buy hardback books when I can because they stand up to kid abuse way better. This is one of the picture books I added to our Easter collection this year and can’t wait to read with our kids in the 50 days of Easter.
When I was a little girl, like many other grandmas, mine hosted an Easter egg hunt at her house after church on Easter Sunday. In her plastic Easter eggs, though, grandma put dollar bills. I like that today as yet another thing to put into a plastic egg that isn’t endocrine-disrupting candy.
To make it a little more sparkly, however, I’m going to put “gold” Sacajawea dollars into the eggs instead of dollar bills. We also use the “gold” dollars for Saint Nicholas’ day during Advent.
Our local bank now mixes the Sacajawea “gold” coins with the newer presidential $1 “gold” coins.
Mini Sticker Books
Dover Publications publishes tons of sticker and coloring books, and I like to buy their inexpensive mini sticker books through ChristianBook.com (the latter sells at a discount). I buy a bunch at a time and put them in everything — birthday gifts, Christmas stockings, cards.
A New Bible (Or First Bible)
I recently bought a single-column New King James Bible for myself, and I love it. The single column seems more readable and intimate. It’s a fresh, new way to pursue a lifetime read.
This is a great young person’s version of the single-column Bible, and surprisingly inexpensive. A hardcover may be less sensuous but it is far more durable, making it more portable for kids who might like to slip it into a backpack for school, camping, or road trips. It’s also NKJV.
I especially like both the NKJV and the English Standard Version. I went with the former for my personal Bible because I’m using it to memorize scripture as well as read daily, and I want to memorize a readable classic text, which makes the smoothed-out child of the King James Version best for me. But for regular personal reading, I also recommend the ESV and KJV.
My all-time favorite story Bible is this one, from Concordia Publishing House. I love it because it stays close to the Bible’s text and is beautifully illustrated. It holds the entire family’s attention. This Bible is the one from which the “Easter Story” picture book mentioned above is drawn.
Fresh Art Supplies
I buy my kids’ art supplies on sale and stash them in a cabinet until they wear out their previous ones. I only give them one set of things at a time and don’t replace it until they’re almost all trash. Easter is the perfect time for a refresh because the art supplies from school prep in September are usually worn to nubs by now.
I’ve stopped buying our basic art supplies from Michael’s because last year I was shopping one day in June and my six-year-old son asked me what “Pride Month” was after seeing it plastered on every marketing surface in the store. (I told him it was people celebrating that they hate God and his Ten Commandments.) So now I buy my art supplies from Hobby Lobby.
Hobby Lobby regularly posts 30-40 percent off sales on basic supplies like markers, colored pencils, brushes, and paint. I’ve found their store brands to be great for kids because they aren’t expensive but also aren’t junk. We also like to shop there for art and craft kits as presents for Christmas and birthday parties.
Other inexpensive but much-beloved kid items from Hobby Lobby I’d recommend for Easter baskets include scratch pads and those silly food and animal eraser sets. Those erasers are almost currency at my kids’ school. And scratch art keeps kids of many ages busy for hours.
To go along with your fresh art supplies, you may wish to tuck into the Easter basket this lovely, recently restocked, Ed Emberly-esque book from the ladies at Theology of Home.
Small Wooden Toys
I discovered Maple Landmark on New Founding’s Align Guide. They have several items that make excellent Easter basket (and Christmas stocking) stuffers. I love their “games to go” section for small items children can play with in waiting rooms, on lap trays during road trips, and more. It gives them something to do without erasing their brains with screen time.
My five-year-old loves memory, so this travel memory game in a little cloth sack is perfect. They sell multiple themes. My older children are learning music theory with their music lessons so this game reinforces their knowledge while they play with a younger sibling.
We also have a wooden train set that I like to build on with new pieces at holidays. Maple Landmark has many, many train pieces that fit the typical wooden set. My young ones are always fighting over the magnetized engines and train cars, so I’ve gifted them their own.
Don’t forget a princess (or prince) wand!
Even though we’re close to Easter I think if you order today it’s likely these should arrive in time. I’ve found the shipping from all these folks to be exceptionally fast.
To fill out baskets without spending much more, I like to swoop by a dollar store (now the $1.25 store — thanks, Brandon!) and grab some sidewalk chalk, huge bubble wands, yarn, and crochet hooks. Those keep the kids going for a nice long time.
For non-garbage candy — because yes, we do sugar up on our highest feast day — I simply run by Trader Joe’s and the local farmer’s market and pick up a few things that can be divided among our plastic eggs. My favorite low-sugar yummy from Trader Joe’s are their almond-butter-covered almonds.