As a gift basket designer, there is no piece of merchandising that makes me shudder quite as much as the shrink-wrapped atrocities, so-called Easter baskets, at the grocery and drug stores this time of year. Every time I see a sweet grandma or a harried father pluck one from the shelves, I am seized with a violent urge to shake them and yell, "Don't spend $25 on that piece of trash!" Anyone can design a special Easter basket with a child's favorite candies and toys that won't break when you unwrap them. You can spend that $25 and make a really spectacular treat or spend half as much on a modest basket that is still WAY better than the pre-made baskets with the defective parachuting men and the nasty off-brand "chocolate-food" that may be 50% lard, 50% HFCS.
Growing up, our Easter Bunny always gifted us with beautifully, specially chosen treats and little gifts in our baskets. Even when money and time were tight for the Bunny, she always went to lengths to choose gifts and candy for my siblings and me, and we set out our color-coded plastic buckets each year knowing that there would be something special for us the next morning. All you Bunnies can do it too. Here's a little guide to help.
1. Invest in nice baskets. If you have more than one kiddo, different colors are fine, but try to get similar sizes to prevent basket envy. I bought tin buckets from Hallmark (post-Easter sale) for Hubby, the Nugget, and Lil Sib. I still put out my pink plastic bucket from my parents. If you buy nice buckets, you don't need to replace them each year and you will end up saving money in the long run. If money were really no object, I'd buy the gorgeous Sabrina baskets with personalized fabric liners from Pottery Barn Kids.
2. Paper grass is nicer looking, and recyclable too! Either way, try to bag up your grass and reuse it for next year, or if you lack the storage space, it makes great filler for care packages.
3. Go easy on the candy. Pick out about 3-5 of your child's favorites. If you have a lot of kids and need to save moola, buy big bags of jellybeans, m&m's, Reeses' pieces, etc and stuff them inside plastic eggs. Remember to wash the eggs before putting unwrapped candies inside.
4. Hit the Dollar Tree or Target for the rest. I have been to many, many dollar stores, and the Dollar Tree is far superior to all others. They carry actual overstock from stores, and much of their stock is a name brand or at least name brand quality. Target, Michael's, and JoAnn also have nice dollar bins.
Here are some themes for Easter baskets (all are unisex):
a. Old Fashioned Fun: marbles, jacks, hi-bouncer ball, paddleball, punching balloon, wind-up toy
b. Go Outside and Play: sidewalk chalk, bubbles, butterfly net, bug house, magnifying glass, jumprope, water bombs (foam balls you soak in water and act as reusable water balloons)
c. Craft Kit: pipe cleaners, feathers, glitter glue, double stick tape, colored popsicle sticks, felt, safety scissors
d. Mailbox: stationery, pencils, pens, postage stamps, postcards, return address labels, decorative rubber stamp and stamp pad, stickers
e. For Baby: Easter or spring themed board book, Baby Mum-Mums, cute socks