I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of handmade gifts. Those who know me are aware that I make most, if not all, of the gifts that we give. We are teaching that to our children as well. We take it a step further however. It is easy to allow kids to make the fast, instant gratification crafts. While those do have their place. After all, kids love to simply craft just for the enjoyment of the creativity involved. For gift giving however, we like to go the extra step. Instead of the fast paper crafts and such that are so popular, why not teach an actual skill?
A simple craft that is also very functional is are coasters made from rope that has been wrapped with strips of fabric and coiled. Making the coasters about 10 inches diameter makes a wonderful trivet for setting a hot kettle on. Made into a rectangular shape, these can be made large enough to be a placemat. If the child wants, they can use the same technique to form a basket. If you are using recycled fabrics, these are very inexpensive to make but are lovely gifts.
If you have a child who loves to paint, why not get some blank books/journals made with a plain canvas cover? The child can paint the covers to personalize the journals. They can also paint items like potholders, fabric napkins, aprons, and tea towels.
Using decoupage, a child can make anything into a beautiful gift. Using decoupage on wooden or the paper mache boxes and containers can transform them into beautiful pieces of art. Paint, then decoupage a recipe box, cigar box, or any container that would make a nice gift. Using decoupaged napkins or tissue paper over the outside of a clear glass votive candle holder/jar are beautiful when in use. An old craft idea using decoupage it to buy a pretty floral scented bar soap, such as English Lavender. Find a pretty paper design that is smaller than the soap. Apply a layer of the decoupage glue to the top of the bar of soap. Lay the paper design on top and apply another layer of decoupage glue. I let that dry until clear and add another coat of the decoupage glue two more times. This soap is not to be used for washing, but makes a pretty bar to tuck into a dresser drawer to scent the clothing as a sachet would do.
A favorite with our daughter is to make decorations. Whether it is something for the table or to hung in a window, Little Miss enjoys it. This year, she, along with Pookie, are helping make holiday decorations. A simple paper weaving project is making placemats for Thanksgiving. Using brown paper, cut strips of the paper about 8 inches longer than you want the width of the placemat for the horizontal strips. Vertical strips are cut 8 inches taller than you wish the placemat to be. Lay the vertical strips side by side and tape one end down to make the weaving process easier. Weave the horizontal pieces through the vertical, starting 4 inches from taped edge. Once all strips are woven, the 4 inch excess is folded over and tucked under a woven strip to create a nice finished edge without having to use glue or staples. The strips to be woven can be any width that you choose. You can paint the paper prior to cutting the strips out if you wish. I prefer using the brown paper for this project as it is heavier than regular paper and will hold up better.
Making ornaments are fun for the family. You can use clay and cookie cutters to make simple ornaments. Paint the ornaments after they have been baked or hardened. Scented ornaments, such as the applesauce-cinnamon dough ornaments are wonderful to make. They smell scrumptious. Use a brown clay to make “gingerbread” ornaments. Dimensional paints become the “frosting” decorating the gingerbread characters. If making decorations for others, why not have a gingerbread house making afternoon? Bake all the pieces one day, then decorate the houses the next day? Use crushed hard candies inside the cut out windows before baking to give the houses colorful glass windows. Add a string of battery operated lights and you have a beautiful addition to any table!
The whole idea behind this is to help show the children how to give of their time and talents. It is way too easy to go shop at a store and purchase a gift or simply get a gift-card. There is much to be said for the handmade gifts. I love the look on our daughter’s face when she gives a gift that she made. The joy is so precious to see. Yes, she is happy to give a store-bought gift, but you can see a difference when the gift is one that she worked hard to make. It is a joy that is long remembered.