Inexpensive Children's Gifts Part Two
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Heirloom Recipes
Get all the recipes that may have been handed down through the family and copy these and put in binder and give as gifts. Most enjoy the historical ties back to older family members and cherish them. Another idea is to hit the antique stores. Most have very affordable items that certain members of the family might have collections of, such as decorative cups and saucers, pipes, walking canes, costume jewelry, etc. Stay away from the costly items and really search in advance (it helps to know the people your buying for too).
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Handcrafted Pillowcases
I suggest making homemade pillowcases for each recipient. Trace their name on the edge with stencil, embroider them and then finish sewing so the back side is hidden. My Grandma did this for us when I was about ten and I loved it! I am currently doing this with both mine and my husband's family each year on the christmas rotation. For me, this organizes what I am giving for another 5 years.
Homemade Gifts for Kids: A Basketfull of Ideas
You can make t-shirts for the kids. You could tie-dye something for them.
Make the pre-teen girls a basket of nail polish, beading supplies, hanging things for backpacks, etc.
Little girls LOVE dress-up stuff. Make them up a box of flashy garage sale/thrift store fancy dresses. Dance clothes work well. Add some cheapo (but flashy) costume jewelry. Add some shiny shoes (find them at thrift stores). My daughter loves to dress up and is in heaven with her big box of shiny, flashy and very fancy clothes!
If you can sew, find some remnants and make a beautiful princess dress or wedding dress complete with a veil or tiara. Take a pair of your old high heels and glue sequins and shiny stones to them!
Toddlers LOVE bubbles. Send them a HUGE bottle. If they're really little, include a film container and tell the parents to put a little bit of the solution in the container. That way, they have very little spillage and the child is thrilled that he/she can blow their own bubbles!
All little kids love band-aids and stickers. Send them a whole lot of them!
Make a crafts box. You can find clearance items, odds-n-ends that you might have in your house. Throw in a pair of scissors, glue, a ream of paper (less than $3), glitter, whatever and the kid will be happy for hours!
If the child has something that they are very interested in, buy them a book about it.
Homemade Gifts for Kids: To Learn and Grow
I like to give magazines and personal gifts that encourage little minds to learn and grow. For example, a decorated basket with a kit for making fun shaped sidewalk chalk costs less than $5. Another well received gift for a nephew was a large selection of paper airplane directions and paper. Again less than $5. Once a homemade, small (3 feet x 2 feet) indoor/outdoor sandbox ideal for small toys, turned into a family treasure. We had fun painting and decorating the box as well. Also, condier creating a gift certificate good for a trip with you to the local science museum, movie, art gallery or what ever, can make for some great QT.
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Confetti Eggs
Our family likes to make cascarones (confetti eggs) for gifts. Tap the end off an egg. Wash out and dry. After you have a dozen or so, fill each egg half full with confetti. Cover the hole with a bit of glue and a square of tissue paper. Put them back in the egg carton, which you can also decorate.
Now they are ready to crush on unsuspecting heads! (We find uncles, dads and other kids to be the best targets). Confetti goes everywhere so this is an outside toy.
Cascarones are also great money-makers at carnivals. Sell them by the half dozen.
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Artistic Endeavor
I'm not sure of the ages of the nieces and nephews, but if they're between 5 and 10, how about an artist's kit? Usually right after school starts, school supplies go on sale. You can usually get a good deal on colored pencils, crayons, markers, paper (colored and plain), etc. at this time. You can also check the dollar stores for these items plus a nice box or something to organize the supplies (or a plain box and add stickers to the gift so the kids can decorate it themselves).
Homemade Gifts for Kids: 'T' Solution
One year, instead of "buying" gifts for everyone on our list, we made them t-shirts. You can buy plain white t-shirts relatively cheap, for about $5-7 in our area, and some fabric paints and/or markers. Use your imagination! Put things on them that they're interested in. If you aren't artistically blessed, just cut out some shapes, take them onto the tee and paint over them. (this will give the outline of the object ) It doesn't have to be perfect, and it doesn't have to look professional. It was a big hit! I think it ended up costing us, factoring in the cost of the paints and markers, just under $8 per shirt, which was less than we would have spent if we had "bought" store gifts. Plus, we had a ball doing it!
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Beyond the Ads
Depending on the age of the children, I have come to learn in my vast experience at gift giving that it's that 99 cent coloring book or squirt gun that holds their fascination, longer than the 20 dollar "Ninja Barbie" or the 50 dollar Vulcan Death Spaceship. (or whatever seems to be the hot ticket this week) In fact, I think at least half the reason we buy these expensive toys is not to impress the child, but the parents.
Now, I know what it's like to have that soft spot for your nieces and nephews who need only to give you that longing puppy dog stare to get you to cave, and before you know it, you're looking at a second mortgage. But there is a way!
- Packaging - Children love opening presents. If you spend a little more time and give that extra effort into the packaging of the gift, the child will have fun, undoubtdedly like whatever you bought, and the parents will see and appreciate the thought you took in doing it. It doesn't have to be expensive, just creative! Use stamps, paint, glitter, etc.
- All children love things that make noise! And more often than not, they are cheap. Kids will love them, the parents will hate them (that's why their cheap after all), and your wallet will thank you. Although my brother and sister-in-law have informed me that when I become a parent myself they will reward my thoughtfullness. I can hardly wait.
Remember it's the thought, not the price, that matters. (unless their teenagers...then you're sunk!)
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Wooden Wonders
Look for patterns for wooden toys if you have access to wood tools and saws. For the younger ones, a set of building blocks are great and easy! They are just squares, rectangles, arches, etc. Sand down the edges put them all in a sturdy container for them to keep them in. You can leave them natural wood or paint them bright colors.
For girls, you can make a simple dress by getting a sweatshirt (a size or two bigger) and then sewing a skirt onto the bottom. To make the skirt, just cut a straight strip of fabric and gather a bit as you sew around the dress. Hem the bottom and you are done! You can also include a matching scrunchie (fabric and elastic) for her hair.
Homemade Gifts for Kids: The 'Thing Box'
One of the best gifts we ever received from our uncles was a "thing box". They had made a simple box from balsa wood with a hinge lid and some rope handles. Inside the box was a variety of art & craft bits and pieces - butchers paper, small scissors, pencil case, crayons, chalk, coloured paper, glue etc. Each box was painted in a bright colour with matching coloured items inside where possible. It was a great hit with all of the nieces & nephews and I still use the box today (a number of years later). You could collect items for the box during the year and obtain most of them through discount stores.
My two uncles also had a homemade gift policy. We were only allowed to give them gifts that we had made ourselves. This policy encouraged us to be creative and put time and effort into our gifts making them unique. It also taught us that you don't have to spend a lot of money for a gift to be appreciated (our parents also appreciated not having to pay for the gifts we gave).
Another way to reduce costs at Christmas in large families is an idea used by my fiancee's family. Rather than each person having the expense of buying a gift for everyone, each family member is allocated only one name to buy for. (Names are allocated by drawing out of a hat and a $ figure for the present is set, eg. AUS$30). This way rather than giving a multitude of smaller presents, each of us gives one larger present that otherwise would have been too expensive ( Usually this is something the person wants but could not afford themself).
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Walking Stick
I made a walking stick for my nephew, and it was a big success. I've seen walking sticks decorated with animal paw prints in catalogs for about $25. I made my own by smoothing a stick with sandpaper, then with a knife, shaved off the bark to make a flat edge about 1" wide by 10" long. I then went to the library and found books on animal tracks, and drew the animal foot print with the name of the animal under it. I put eight or nine animal foot prints, up the side of the stick on the shaved, flat edge. I then used a woodburner to burn the figure into the wood. The ones I've seen in catalogs were painted, but burning is more permanent. I then covered the whole stick with several layers of polyurethene, and put a rubber cap (made for furniture, chair legs to protect floors)) on the bottom end of the stick to protect it. My stick was bent at the top, which made a cane-type stick, but you could also drill a small hole in the top and loop a piece of leather to carry it or hang it up. You could also decorate the stick with leaves and their names, fish, wildflowers, or anything else that the child is interested in.
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Boy Dress-Up
When a reader suggested giving a box of dress up clothes, purchased frugally at a second hand store, the gift was specifically aimed at a girl. However, I can state from experience that boys enjoy these types of gifts as well. I encourage people to think about expanding a child's options in life by giving gifts that don't necessarily comply with culturally determined stereotypes. Of course, the giver must take into consideration the child's predelections, but experience from my own childhood and observations of others have shown me that all children love to learn new things and can grow from any gift that encourages creativity.
Returning to the previous example, a box of dress up clothes may include old halloween costumes (pirates, ghosts, firemen, tarzan, suits, etc.) which many children of any sex would love to have in their closet. My parents were hippies and provided me with an ecclectic selection of clothes to play with and I often had more boys than girls interested in dressing up since they didn't have a chance to otherwise (and the selection wasn't limited to froo-froo dresses, etc). This led at least one friend to become more active in school plays because he liked the theatre atmosphere.
Furthermore, gifts which include teaching something such a cooking, gardening, carpentry, etc. are truly good for both sexes. One of the best gifts I received as a child was a carpenters tool kit and some lessons on how to make a bird house and some other simple projects. This has translated into being handy around the house later in life and saved me quite a bit. I guess what I really want to say is that many skills people can teach benefit both sexes and often lead to a well rounded and capable individual, so keep an open mind when giving gifts. Education and imagination are two cornerstones to a good life and something I can't imagine living without.
A faithful reader in Miyagi prefecture, Japan
Homemade Gifts for Kids: Craft Lessons
I bet that if you visited craft stores and toy store craft sections, you could come up with some ideas to put together a craft kit yourself. It seems that a lot of the dollars go to packaging!
If you are crafty, and the recipients live close, you might even include a "Saturday morning Craft making session/lesson" coupon or invitation. This might, for instance, mean giving all the 9 - 12 year old girls the same gift with varying color choices, so that when the cousins get together, it is fun for all.
One could write up the instructions and photocopy for each of the recipients, then purchase the supplies in bulk and divide so there is enough for a couple projects for each child.