A friend recently described her approach to buying holiday gifts. She does everything a very particular way in order to feel good about the presents she gives. Our discussion got me thinking about how I approach gift-giving.

I realize I also have a particular perspective when I choose what to give others. I’m not talking about buying all the gifts from a certain store or fitting them into a theme. Instead, I try to come up with unique ideas for everyone on my list.

Here are four different (and not mutually exclusive) approaches to gift-giving:

Experiences

Experience-based gifts can be a visit to a museum or theme park, tickets to a play or sports game, a dinner out, or even a trip to a special destination. But there are other ways that a gift can be an experience. A few years ago, my brothers bought my son a rocket. It was a great gift in itself, but the best part was that they made it with him and then went to a park to shoot it off. He loved spending the time with his uncles.

Humanitarian

One of my favorite events of the season is a “social conscience” market. It’s such a great idea! You can approach the gift-giving season with the goal to help others with your purchases. Buy from companies that use their proceeds to benefit others, or follow ethical hiring and manufacturing practices. Shop at small, local businesses instead of big box stores. Or give to a charity in a loved one’s name.

Go Green

My friend’s gift-giving goal was to reduce the amount of waste she produced through her purchases. She avoids using shopping bags, or buying items that include lots of packaging. She is also careful to buy things she knows the person really wants, so that random toys, books, and gadgets don’t end up in a landfill. She also wraps gifts in reusable or recycled materials, like a bag or basket, whenever possible.

Expand their Minds

As a former teacher, this is my personal favorite! My children know that I often choose educational gifts. Nowadays, many gifts carry a “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) label. How-to-books or lessons in new skill are another educational gift option, as are arts and crafts materials. There are a variety of companies that offer a subscription for a monthly box containing a craft project, science experiment, or engineering building project.

No matter how you approach the challenge of putting unique packages under the tree, I hope you and your family have a joyous holiday!