“Mom, can I have an iPhone for Chanukah?”

Like it or not, Chanukah gifts are one of the main ways that many Jewish families try to counteract society’s attractions at this time of year. But in this year’s economic situation, buying mega-gifts for the kids is difficult, if not impossible, for many Jewish families.

So what are Jewish parents to do?

The basic approach I share with parents is to remember that the greatest thing we can give our children is ourselves. Children need and want our time and attention. When they get good quality time with us, the lack of material things and toys is a minor issue, if one at all. When they don’t get the love and attention they crave, they need more toys and material acquisitions to help fill their emotional holes. Not getting the mega-toys then becomes a real sticking point.

Of course the kids should still get some presents—and something they like—but gift-giving shouldn’t be the focus of your Chanukah this year—or any year, for that matter.

Practically, this means getting home from work earlier to light the Chanukah candles with the kids, planning out Chanukah activities, and canceling or minimizing any adult commitments in order to focus on the kids. Most kids are in school for Chanukah, or most of it, but don’t let the week be like any other week. Each day should be special in some way.

Here are some low-cost or no-cost activities to help you get started. I suggest different activity nights, but certain activities can be combined and some evenings can be just “hang out with the family” nights. Don’t stick to the list—figure out what is right for your family. Please post any additional ideas you have in the comment section below.

Spinning Dreidels can be a whole evening’s activity. Get a bunch of cheap and fun dreidels and tops. Buy a large pack of chocolate coins, jelly beans, toffees or whatever. Get down on the floor and play with the kids. Some families organize tournaments such as a Dreidel World Series. Don’t forget to let the kids win.

Outdoor Chanukah Lightings are organized by Chabad Houses around the world, and are a favorite with children and parents alike.

Frying Latkes is fun. Make it into a family affair, and watch the oil.

Make Your Own Apple Sauce: It is fun and easy. Peel and chop and boil. (Fill pot halfway with apples, the rest is water. Add something sweet.)

Family Party: Designate one evening for a family get-together. Include as many relatives as you can. This can become a looked-forward-to family tradition.

Friends Party: Let the kids invite over their friends one evening. This can be combined with one of the activities mentioned here, or doing something else the kids want to do.

Crafts Night: Look online for a variety of craft ideas for Chanukah. Choose a few and have fun!

Star Gazing: What is more appropriate on the Festival of Lights than to watch the stars? Most city folk today rarely see a sky full of stars. Wait for a clear evening and drive into the countryside. Bring a blanket and lie down to look up at the stars. Alternatively, or in addition to this, go to the planetarium.

Edible Chanukah Shapes: Make menorahs and dreidels out of cookies. You can find cookie-cutters in the shape of the Star of David, or combine two triangles.

Book Reading Night: Go to the Jewish bookstore or library and choose a few Chanukah- or general-Jewish-themed story books. Hundreds exist, and many are quite good.

Movie Night: Get the popcorn, pillows and blankets, and cuddle up together as you watch one of your favorite series of Itche Kadoozy together.

Children’s Museum: Visit a children’s museum or science museum that you haven’t been to for a while.

City Activities: Scan your local newspaper for fun winter activities.

Chanukah Snowball Fight: Depending on the weather and temperature in your location, use the cold to your advantage. Make a Greek soldier out of cardboard, stand him in the yard, and have the kids be the Maccabees and throw snowballs at him until he gets knocked down.

Greek Bowling: Each pin they knock down is a Greek soldier. For each soldier they get a chocolate coin, etc.

Chesed Night: Chesed means kindness. Choose an evening and go do a family activity of caring. Pack food for the homeless. Visit an old age home or hospital to bring Chanukah cheer. Do something for others and let the kids see that being Jewish is about giving, not taking.

These are, of course, only some of the ideas out there. Look online for more. Ask the kids what they want to do, emphasizing that the activities should be free or low-cost.

And make sure to emphasize to the kids how happy you are that Chanukah has arrived so you can spend more time with them.