1. Candy canes (inexpensive and space-filling).
2. Ribbons & bows.
3. Small toys from your child's toybox, such as small cars, fast food meal treats, small dolls, anything tiny that you can put on a string, attack a hook to, or sit on the tree.
4. Cookie cutters (Hang them on strings or ribbons).
5. Popcorn garlands. (Make a bowl of plain popcorn and poke through puffs with needle and thread, attach thread lengths to make a longer garland.) This one is suitable for outside trees, too.
6. Candy garlands. (Using thin cord, tie around both ends of wrapped candy for one style, or only one end of the candy for a hanging style. Lollipops can be set on branches or hung from string, or tied into garlands.)
7. Cranberry beaded garlands. (These are beautiful. Use needle and strong thread to stitch through the center of each raw cranberry. Can space with raisins, for a different look, but the garlands won't last quite as long.)
8. Home-made hard or salt dough shapes. (There are many recipes online and in magazines at this time of year.)
9. Colored thread spools. (String into batches of three, or make spool people, or thread them on wires in wreath shapes.)
10. Old-fashioned bobbins. (Not the little ones for sewing today, but the big long spools of yesteryear. Hang them from ribbons or make a tree-topper out of one that still has thread.)
11. Paper umbrellas.
12. Plastic or paper mache fruit.
13. Paper scrolls of poems.
14. Scraps of holiday sheet music.
15. Old holiday cards, cut into discs. (Use something circular as a guide, mark around the best part of the card, cut within the line, punch a hole and hang with string or ribbon. Or, use plastic lids as your guide, then glue the card into the center of the lid for a windowbox look.)
16. Twizzlers or ropey licorice garlands.
17. Ribbon angels. (Again, there are how-to instructions online, but you basically make a bow for wings, a cone of ribbon for the skirt, and attach these to some sort of "body" and/or "head" with thread or hot glue. Paper bodies work, as do wooden, toilet paper rolls, and almost anything you want to experiment with.)
18. Tiny treat bags filled with goodies and tissue paper. (The Dollar Tree often sells three to five tiny gift bags for a dollar, which would leave it up to you how much you want to spend on filling them. But, you could also use little natural-cloth teabags, tulle circles, wedding favor boxes, or anything small that holds the goodies you want to give.)
19. Paper cones, filled. (Like the bags, make sure some tissue or tinsel is showing at the top of the cone/bag, and put a little something inside.)
20. Small nutcrackers.
21. School supplies - pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, sharpeners, glue sticks, etc. (Attach with string or ribbon.)
22. Paper vouchers, rolled up for surprises. (I give vouchers for my game, every year, to those who say they enjoy playing it. But, you could use any game. If you play Monopoly with your children, give a voucher for extra starting money, or a Get Out of Jail Free card, or choice of which token to use while playing. Come up with a voucher for an extra story at bedtime, or letting the child choose their favorite meal, or anything you think they'd like. Write it on a small piece of paper, roll the paper into a scroll, tie with a small ribbon or rubber band, and hang it on the tree. One of the best rituals of coming years will be discovering what's on the vouchers. My kids ASK for this, every year.)
23. Flowers, any kind, any size, silk or live, whatever you've got. Baby's breath is a great addition to almost any tree, if that's what you've got.
24. Lightweight plastic snowglobes. (Attach with ribbons, but don't use glass globes!)
25. Key limes, kumquats, and other fresh citrus. (String them individually with needle and thread, or tie a ribbon around larger fruits and hang them. The limes and kumquats make a decent garland, though a little heavy for small trees. If you have whole cloves, poke those into oranges in patterns and hang with ribbons or thin cord. These will go bad quickly, sometimes. Be prepared to throw away anything that's turning brown or getting old.)
26. Cheerios or other circular cereals. (Last year, I made only edible ornaments for my grandson's holiday visit. These circles were among his favorites once he figured out he could eat everything on the tree. String them into single-strand ornaments or garlands, or shape them into tight groupings for wreaths.)
27. Fruit by the foot garlands. (These get hard, like ribbon candy, after they dry out. Once you're happy with where they're placed, leave them till clean-up.)
28. Individually wrapped dried fruits, such as prunes, little boxes of raisins, and apricots. (Hang with strings or thin cord.)
29. Tiny paper messages. (Like the poems and vouchers, only perhaps you'd want scriptures on each one, or a verse of Taoist philosophy, or advice to a loved one. Anything you'd like to share with your guests - even wishes for the coming year, or pictures from catalogs of things you would like to have someday.)
30. Miniature baskets of goodies. (You can get little bamboo baskets, or crochet baskets, or make them out of paper like the ones for May Day, and fill them with the kinds of things that don't easily fit elsewhere, like nuts or jelly beans. If you're worried about having them fall out, wrap the goodies with plastic wrap or netting inside the baskets.)
31. Miniature books. (String a ribbon around the center and hang.)
32. Pet toys.
33. Fans. (paper, lace, bamboo, whatever you've got or can make)
34. Photographs. (Framed or not. If not framed, tape a piece of string to the back for hanging. If framed, use cord or ribbon to attach to the frame through the hanging bar on back. Little ones work best, so as not to overweight the tree. If you want to print photos, you can frame them with circular plastic lids, like the holiday cards idea.)
35. Fabric swatches. (Take a length of pretty or colorful fabric and roll it into a long garland, drape on the tree. If you only have short lengths, hang squares or fans of fabric. No fabric stash - cut up a holey piece of clothing into long strips.)
36. Tulle fabric ribbons or garlands. (For garlands, roll the fabric like above. For ribbons, cut into lengths an inch or two wide, string together with fancy bows, and drape around the tree. Or, just make little bows of tulle. I mention this one separately because it's so versatile and looks so good, plus it comes in a lot of colors and is very inexpensive to buy.)
37. Rag braided garlands. (Take inch or two wide lengths of fabric and braid them like you would for a rag rug, tie off the ends and use the braid for a garland instead of a rug.)
38. Hair bobs, such as packages of bands, hair bows, barettes, bobby pins packages, hair clips, brushes & combs, or whatever you want to give.
39. Felt cut-outs. (Use cookie cutters for shapes, or magazine pictures of holiday shapes, draw around them on felt, cut out and hang with hooks. Or, buy pre-packaged bundles of pre-cut shapes.)
40. Foam cut-outs.
41. Jewelry and charms. (String necklaces together for a sparkly garland. Hang bracelets like wreaths. Charms and earrings make little glittery ornaments. Use whatever you have that you aren't planning to wear for a while.)
42. 45 rpm records. (Hang them on a larger tree. If you don't want or care about the records, you can hot-glue several together to make a wreath. Or, use a larger 33&1/3 rpm record and hot glue items onto it, using the record as the base of the wreath.)
43. Plastic or foil wrapped cookies.
44. Leaves in fall colors, especially red and green.
45. Shoelace garlands, especially if you have colorful shoelaces.
46. Scarf garlands. (Use like fabric swatches.)
47. Belt garlands.
48. Strands of beads for garlands or hanging ornaments.
49. Colored artwork or print-outs, framed like the holiday cards.
50. Musical instruments.
51. Small figurines, such as plastic animals or soldiers, ceramic owls, or whatever you've got that pleases you or fits your tree theme.
52. Lego creations. (Make figures, toys or ornament shapes with the blocks, then hang.)
53. Herbs and spices, dried or fresh, bundled and placed on branches or hung with ribbon.
54. Dead electronics, such as no-longer-working cell phones, pagers, small answering machines, and small game systems. (If you've got the money, hide your new one amongst the old ones for a surprise gift. Or, if you want to be mean, wrap all the old ones, give first, followed by the new gift.)
55. Potpourri pomanders made from circles of tulle and potpourri.
56. Sample-sized anything, such as shampoos, deodorants, hand lotions, bar soaps, and other goodies, especially if you have a college student home for the holidays.
57. Wire stars. (Cut short lengths and use pliers to shape into stars. Hang with ribbons.)
58. Plastic straw art.
59. Woven straw art.
60. Macrame ornaments.
61. Macaroni garlands, colored or not.
62. Sports pennants, cloth or paper.
63. Bad CDs, strung on ribbons.
64. Baby stockings and booties, along with other goodies like pacifiers, real or candy.
65. Sewing notions, such as needle packets, spools of thread, stitch markers, seam rippers, garlands of measuring tape, etc.
66. Doll clothing on toy hangers, old or new ones for gifts.
67. Tablecloth tree skirt. (Take an old round plastic tablecloth and cut to the center, then cut out a small circle in the middle, wrap around the base of the tree.)
68. Fabric swatch tree skirt. (Use any length of fabric that's long enough to circle around the tree and hide the base.)
69. Numbered containers for Advent treats. (Use bags, baskets, whatever, marked with numbers, fill as desired, then let the kids open one each day. If you have many children, add their names to the containers.)
71. Old watches, timepieces, gears, and other mechanical goodies.
72. Female glitz, such as polish bottles, nail files, tweezers, eyebrow curlers, makeup compacts, small jewelry and makeup pouches, clippers, ornamental hair combs, etc.
73. Itty-bitty stuffed plushies.
74. Kitchen aids, such as measuring spoons, whisks, spatulas, tinned spices, salt and pepper shakers, etc.
75. Napkin rings.
76. Origami figures and foldings.
77. Crocheted or knitted mini stockings, or store-bought mini stockings.
78. Needlework and fibre creations, if you're talented that way.
79. Banners. (Felt cut-outs attached to tiny dowel rods - maybe even toothpick-sized - and hung by cord or ribbons attached to each end of the dowels.)
80. Postcards, travel brochures, maps, and other pictures of faraway places.
81. Playing cards.
82. Tarot cards.
83. Cocktail picks.
84. Wine charms.
85. Empty matchboxes, matchbooks, and collectible small tins.
86. Birdseed treats, especially nice for outdoor trees.
87. Bird feeders made from single-use sized plastic drink bottles, especially good for outdoor trees.
88. Electronic tealights.
89. Dead 8-track tapes and cassette tapes. (Hang them, and maybe use a dead reel-to-reel spool for garland tape.)
90. Beader's delight, such as small beading tools, small containers of beads, beading trays, beading thread and needles.
91. Gardener's delight, such as seed packets, spades, plant food, etc. Nothing poisonous, please.
92. Pet lover's delight, such as cat treats, small cat toys, leashes as garlands, etc.
93. Buttons. (Strands for garlands, either side-by-side or tightly packed lengths, and thread into drop ornaments or wreaths.)
94. Snack-sized bags of chips and goodies, along with candy bars and other pre-packaged edibles, even tins of Altoids and small candies.
95. Tea lover's delight, such as individually wrapped teas, cloth teabags, small tins of loose teas, tea balls, child-sized tea sets, etc.
96. Small office supplies.
97. Coffees and coffee supplies.
98. Knitting or crocheting supplies.
99. Pocket-sized tools.
100. Energy drinks, small cans and boxes of fruit juices, and little plastic bottles of drinks.
101. Paper dolls.
102. Butterflies and faeries.
103. Use your imagination!
Also, don't forget to give your tree a theme. Go with an all-candy or goodies tree, or match the tree to the colors of its surroundings (such as all black & white, or burgandy & gray, etc.). Make your tree a portal to Toyland, or a women-only tree. Go traveling by hanging postcards, but don't forget to add toy planes or cars or boats. If you have a family member in the military, use toy soldiers or airmen and toy medals, ribbons of red, white and blue. Want a steampunk tree, go with gears, watches, and model air balloons. Whatever your theme is, be creative. Nobody has to go without decorations.
(images from Dover and Lolcats)