By Kelly Gunzenhauser

My husband and I have very different memories of our Christmas stockings. For him, stockings were where the batteries for his toys showed up. For me, stockings saved me from the letdown of opening the last present. Presents are done…but Hey! There are stockings to open still! And yes, there were batteries in there, but also one or two special things, and always some really good candy to snack on. As Santa gets ready to stuff stockings this year, here are some ideas for him to think about.

Old-fashioned fun: Think hand-held games, like that game where you jump golf tees over each other in a triangle pegboard, or “Wooly Willy,” the drawing board of the man’s face with the magnetic pen and the metal shavings, or even tops (the kind you spin by hand). Although these may not have the electronic draw of video games, they are great time-passers and will seem special and appealing because they were found in a stocking.

Winter warmers: My son got an Angry Birds hat for his birthday, and I thought it would make a great stocking stuffer, as would any hats with faces, new mittens, socks with separate toes, silly tights, and even rolled up character pjs. Disperse a little candy amongst the clothing items and you have a cuter-than-usual way for Santa to give clothing for Christmas.

Candy is Dandy: Speaking of candy, a few carefully chosen pieces can be really special in a stocking. Old-fashioned peppermint sticks (the kind that are crumbly on the outside), hard Christmas candy (the kind with the little pictures and different shapes—my favorites were always the trees), ribbon candy, red-and-green-wrapped kisses, peppermint bark, yogurt pretzels covered with red and green stripes, and even plain old candy canes hung around the stocking top are all special, just-for-Christmas treats.

Musical toys: Penny whistles, harmonicas, kazoos, jingle bells, and other noisemakers are special, old-fashioned toys that fit well in stockings. They have the added bonus of looking extra shiny and special when sticking out of the top of the stocking!

Travel-themed goodies: If part of your Christmas involves traveling, stuff your kids’ stockings with travel-themed goodies. License plate games, maps to your destination, new DVDs for the car, car bingo, brochures, new CDs to listen to, mittens and goggles for a ski trip, or other travel treats can heighten the anticipation for the trip.

Little things: Watches, earrings, rings, new ear buds for MP3 players, special gel pens, and other small goodies and accessories are typical big things that come in small packages. A stocking definitely counts as a small package.

Promises of things to come: Concert tickets, gift certificates, gift cards to favorite restaurants, iTunes cards, and other goodies that let older children pick out their own treats are great to put in stockings.

Grown-up stockings: I always wondered why my parents had flat, empty stockings. One year I even sneaked in early and dispersed some candy into their stockings before I woke them up. (Just one piece each, mind you!) As a result, Santa pays attention to grown-up stockings in my family’s house now. Some winners have included special coffee for Christmas morning, jewelry (of course!), a new planner, pistachios, Jelly Bellies, airplane bottles, and spa stuff.

What would you like in your stocking this year? Write it here and maybe, just maybe, Santa will find your list.