To get the dinner conversation started, provide some topics along with the soup and encourage guests to discuss them between courses. Print out a word (and its definition) for each guest, have the words blown up 400 percent and printed at the top of 11-by-17-inch sheets, then use the sheets as place mats.
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Let everyone see the writing on the wall with holiday messages spelled out in big, bold stencil letters. Attach them with Blu Tack (a puttylike removable adhesive) so they don’t hurt the paint. For extra pop, place neon-bright construction paper behind a few―or all―of the letters.
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Duct Tape Centerpiece
Now duct tape has a thousand and two uses. Create a centerpiece for a holiday table by wrapping colored tape like ribbon around different sizes of plain white boxes. (Try the same technique with real gifts and colored masking tape.)
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Whiteboard Place Mats
Liven up a dinner by using dry-erase whiteboards as place mats. Mark each with a guest’s name. After the meal, pass around a bowl of markers and play hangman. Wipe the boards off and they’re ready for the next party.
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White Mailer Gift Wrap
Think white mailers are too blah-humbug for wrapping gifts? Not when they’re jazzed up with starburst tags in Day-Glo colors. Just slip in the goodies, close the bag’s self-seal flap, then poke a hole to attach the tags with ribbon or use double-sided tape.
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Pom-pom Place Settings
Nothing says fun like pom-poms. For a kids’ party, tuck a place card into a slit on an eraser (made with an X-Acto knife), place the eraser and a paper napkin on a plate, and toss on the foam pom-poms.
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Calculator Paper Garland
Why make paper chains when you can make a glueless garland from a roll of calculator paper instead? Start at the top of the tree and unwind.
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Pick up a batch of round stickers―anything from gold seals to three-ring-binder reinforcements―and some colored paper. Then gather the kids to whip up cards and gift labels that are as much fun to make as they’ll be to receive.
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Cupcake Liner Candy Holders
For a kids’ party (or to bring out the kids in grown-up guests), fill paper cupcake liners with penny candy and set them out in bright-colored plastic pencil cases―a presentation to make Willy Wonka proud.
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Key-Chain Gift Tags
Add a fun touch to a gift box by using a bright key chain as a tag, attached with big rubber bands in place of ribbon. The recipient will love it, even if it doesn’t go with a bow-wrapped Lexus in the driveway.