Making Gifts At Home Keeps Kids Busy, Makes Memories And Teaches Skills

Want to do something nice with your family for needy kids?  Or just to make something for shut ins and the elderly? Maybe you're tired of the rat race at Christmas time and want to put some meaning back into the giving. 

Here are 55 low cost or free craft ideas you can use anytime of year to put smiles on faces.

Small Crafts 

Tile Trivets and Coasters  

If you can get old tiles from contractors or floor covering stores, or buy the new economy ones for a few cents each from places such as Home Depot, paint a design on them or use your computer and print out family photos etc., and decoupage over the picture onto the tile, and cover with clear sealer. 

Scented Hot pads

I have just seen a home made hot pad for the table that was filled with either potpourri or small beads of fragrance (perhaps wax).  I didn’t take it apart to look, but I would imagine you could fill your pads with candle shavings or bath beads, potpourri or some spice such as cinnamon.  Test it before you give it away, to make sure your filling choice is safe for an ordinary pot temperature and won’t leak wax out onto a table.

Refrigerator Magnets 

These almost need a category for themselves since there are so many possibilities to make one.  Cloth, paper, cardboard, tile, foam, felt etc.  Buy a package of round magnet discs or a roll of magnet tape and cut off small pieces.  Attach to the back of your creations.  They can be animals or bugs, cut out shapes of leaves or books for Bible verses, etc.  You can attach ribbon, yarn and other doo dads for more fun. 

Bean Bags 

Have your kids cut out material roughly 12" square.  You'll need two for each bean bag.   Put the 2 pieces of cloth together with the good side of the material touching, so it's inside out.  Sew up 3 sides for them on your machine, turn the bags right side out, and let them fill the bags with dried beans or peas.  Tuck the last side's edges into the bag and sew across to close.   

Use unusual patterns of material, or have the kids paint or decorate them with glitter glue before you sew them up.   You can trace their hands on the cloth and paint their handprints, or attach googely eyes and felt pieces cut out to resemble facial features.  (Nose, mouth, etc.)  

Tennis Ball People 

Need about 6 or more tennis balls and colored felt squares.  Cut out eyes, nose and mouth shapes from felt and use yarn for hair.  Add them to tennis balls and arrange in a basket.  (Line basket with attractive material.)  If you  really like Tennis ball art, and want to make something new, you can buy colored wool and pull off gobs of it, roll it up and glue it to the ball.  Create animal faces or funny men’s faces.  Paint the balls (zebra stripes, raccoon mask, etc.) 

Scented Pillows or Pillow Corsages  

You can make a small pillow the same way as the bean bags, but if you choose, you can make a different shape than a square.   If you'd like insert a strip of lace in between the two sides of the pillow, and on one side, a couple of lengths of ribbon (that you tie in a bow later).  

Fill the pillow with cotton balls, batting or potpourri.  You can use perfume or spices or whatever you have.  

Attach a diaper pin to the back and pin it to a pillow of someone who is bedridden, or use the ribbon ends to tie it around their wrist.  

You can decorate the pillow or write I LOVE YOU on it.  

Flowers 

If you'd rather, create a small corsage with fake flowers and tie with ribbons, attach to a stiff card of paper cut out in a heart design and spray with perfume.   (Warning:  some individuals are sensitive to perfumes and chemicals and may rather have the pretty thing without the scent.) 

You can also glue a paper doily over the stiff card and thread the ribbon through the card to tie on the flowers with.   (Tip:  Use a hot glue gun to make it more durable.) 

Kleenex flowers  

If you have someone near you who can show you how to make Kleenex flowers, you can make them and attach them to your loved ones' pillows.  

Fold a single Kleenex lengthwise, in an accordion shape, then fold the strip in half, tie with ribbon or string, and feather open the ends into "petals".  

Coffee Filter flowers  

Take 3 coffee filters, one inside the other.  Poke your finger in the center of them, driving the whole center downwards into your other hand (making an "O" shape with the fingers of the other hand).   Now you have a point of filters down in your left hand, and the frilly edges of the coffee filters sticking out.  Again tie or twist the bottom half or 1/3 of the "stem" so it remains stable, and then fluff out the frilly edges of the filter.    

If you like, you can dip the very edge in food coloring, or trace along it with a marking pen.  The wetness of the ink streaks down into the filter making a pretty pattern on the flower petals.

 

T Shirts 

T Shirt Pillows  

If you have an old T shirt that you loved the picture or design of, or something that is a collectible and you've never worn it, you can sew the holes shut and fill it with batting (cotton stuffing) to make a nice little pillow.   Add a bow tie or your favorite buttons, handprints etc. 

T Shirt Diaper Aprons  

Slide a T shirt onto a coat hanger and sew up the neck hole to keep it in place on the hanger when you're done.  (You could tie die an old dirty T shirt to recycle.)  

You'll need various pockets cut from old clothing, or make your own.  Make them from various materials if you like or decorate the pockets.  

Use smaller pockets on top, large and deep ones in the bottom.  You can either sew both the front and back of the shirt together for more strength, or sew across the bottom and leave the center open to fill with clean diapers.  

Imagine what you'll need in the pockets, and make it the right size and spacing.  

 

Neck Ties  

Clothing - Sew several together to create a skirt, or attach them to older vests and shirts to make something old new again.  

Curtain/table runner/doily/bedding - Sew several together to make a lovely curtain or table runner, doilies or ties for your bedposts (especially if you have fabric hanging from a high canopy) or want to create one.  You can even create a lovely headboard for your bed from them. 

Cover a headboard with ties, side by side, letting the wide point of the tie hang down towards the pillow.  This could be a lovely focal point to do a “bachelor pad” theme. 

Throw pillows - Tie one around a throw pillow on your couch, decorate the pillow as if it were a man’s shirt complete with tie. 

Thong bikini - if you're clever with sewing, you could create a one of a kind bikini from old ties.  

Patches - Cut them up into squares or pieces to use as quilt sections, or patches over other clothing.  

Rugs – sew or twist and tie them into lovely rugs.  

Potted plants – cover a pot with colorful ties.  

Headbands – tie one around your head as a headband, esp. the narrow ties. 

Bibs/Aprons/Tote Bags – the list is endless.

 

Canned Gifts 

Tootsie and Dollar Bill Rolls in a jar.  Reuse a glass jar or get a new mason jar.  You will need a bag of tootsie rolls, and several paper money bills.  Take each paper bill and roll it around a pencil to shape into a roll.  (No need to tape or glue in that shape.)  As you are filling the jar with tootsie rolls, tuck in the dollar bill rolls all around and through it, so they are visible on the sides of the jar as well.  (Instead of money, you could use small pieces of paper with love notes, fortune cookie type inserts or Bible verses.) 

Tinned Treats - You can wash out any tin cans without sharp edges and fill with treats.  Cover or paint the outside if desired, and top with a cloth or paper doily tied over the top with ribbon.  

Pickled People - If you have a mason jar, or glass you can see thru, make some round little cloth faces about 3 inches across, with eyes and glued on "hair" (yarn etc.) that look as real as possible.   Two per jar would be enough.  Fill the jar with cotton batting and slide a face down in the outside against the glass on two sides.   Try to make them look like soft sculptured dolls, with puckered cheeks like Cabbage Patch dolls.  

Cover the lid with a sweet gingham or checked cloth, tie with a ribbon and hang a card on it that says "Pickled People", to and from (like a regular gift tag).  Include the date made or given. 

Brownie "Sand" Art – layer the dry ingredients to a brownie recipe in a glass jar, and then add a card hung from it that tells what else to add (water, oil and eggs usually) and the cooking instructions.  

 

Potted Table Pieces

Pens in a Pot   

Materials:  small clay pot, package of 10 stick pens, florist's tape, Bushes of fake flowers, Dried beans or peas, Spray paint if desired  

  • small (4" across) clay pot, spray paint or decorate as you wish
  • Plug hole in bottom of pot with tape or cardboard insert on the inside
  • Fill pot with dried beans or peas
  • package of 10 stick pens, unwrap, remove the caps from the pens
  • Bushes of Fake flowers, cut stems apart

Use florist's tape to secure one flower stem to each pen, (the tape makes the pen appear green and as if it's a flower stem)

Stick the pens point down into pot, set pot on table near phone or wherever pens are needed

When you need a pen, pull out a flower, use it and return it.  

You can also use this idea with tootsie rolls or wrapped candy, instead of flowers 

 

Taped Gifts 

Make your children, or shut ins, tapes of Bible stories, or other inspirational material.  Sing them hymns, tell jokes or just record the voices of your children for grandparents who live far away. 

Memories 

The very best gift idea I've ever known is to make a tape recorded biography for your kids and grandkids.  This gives them the sound of your voice, and the information they will desperately want one day.  You can tell them about their relatives, names and addresses, the times you had as a child, what jobs you did, where you went to school, how you met your spouse, and what things you believe in.  You can also tell them each what you really love about them, and what you see as their finest points. 

I don't think anything could be more welcome than flattery that lasts nearly forever, long after you've gone.  If you can't use a tape recorder, try video camera or just writing it out in a journal, or typing it in your computer files.

 

Favorites

Puzzles 

There is something really magical about puzzle pieces.  You can buy cheap sets and use the pieces to line home made picture frames, or create standing table top pieces, candle holders and name plates for doors from them. 

Take your photos to a place like Wal-Mart and order a puzzle or calendar from your favorite pictures. 

Wooden Spoons 

Take wooden spoons, and paint all over white with regular latex paint.  Let dry.   With a small brush, paint either pink or black circles (irregularly shaped circles) on the spoons' handle and back of the bowl part.  Leave the inside "bowl" of the spoon white.  

These spots represent pig and cow spots, depending on the color. 

Now take some fake flowers and ribbon, with a hot glue gun.  Tie the ribbon around the spoon handle down near the bowl, and lay a stem or two of flower stuff on top of the ribbon.   Glue it down and then tie the ribbon again around spoon handle and stems.  Do it any way you can that will be sturdy and look good. 

You can then write with a fine point marker on the bowl something like "God bless this house" or "God bless this mess." 

Hammered Wind Chimes 

I love the sound of wind chimes, and they should be very easy to make, but if you have no money for copper or steel tubing, try old silverware (hammer out flat), pennies, or any metal scraps you have available, even old metal pans from camping sets that have gotten rusty, or saw blades.  

If you have bamboo plants nearby or children's wooden blocks, tongue depressors, ice cream spoons, etc., try experimenting with other materials than metal.  

 

Practical Gifts 

First Aid Kit  Assemble basic first aid items, or humorous novelty items, and pack them into a child's lunch box or an old mail box. 

Happier Day Kit  Depending on who the gift will go to, prepare some items that would make their day happy and relaxed.  Perhaps some individual tea bags, or bath salts, tickets to a movie, lottery tickets or aromatherapy candles.  Anything at all that the recipient might like to put a smile on his/her face.

One easy way to give a chuckle is to save the comics from magazines and newspapers for a few days and make a collection to give, or just include one cartoon here and there in your envelopes when you write to loved ones, or make a get well cheer package for someone in the hospital. 

Relief from Boredom Kit  Everyone gets bored sometimes, so gather some age appropriate items that your recipient might like.  Crafts projects, magazines, movies, tickets to events, etc.  Perhaps you're more the serious type and your gifts could be books on entering the stock market trade, fixing your house, or vacationing in paradise. 

Gym Kit  Gym pack.  Basket with large towel and small towel, pair of shorts and shirt, bathing suit and sun lotion.  May add sneakers, socks, or coupons for local gym, sports drinks or journal to record your weight.  Might also put in popular diet book. 

Internet or New Career Kit  Share links to online advice forums and newsletters such as Get Organized Now, and Money Making Mommy.  List of jobs available to homebodies, and things that you can start yourself and build into a business.  Ways for kids to make money at home too.  May add in sites for education, recipe places and freeware. (Check out my lists of ways to make money at www.chastityrose.com/make_money.htm and www.chastityrose.com/publishers.htm.)

Motivational/Inspirational Kit  Self help, motivational books, such as You Were Born Rich by Bob Proctor, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and the Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles (free online).  Make a CD, or buy some music to lift the spirits.

Do a homemade, “Clean Sweep”.  Get everyone together for two days and offer to help sort and file everything that needs putting away.  Hire in housekeeper to clean, or carpenter to build storage.  If no money and/or no outside help, do the cleaning yourself and purchase cheap units at Wal-Mart or some store. 

Christmas DeCluttering Party.  Invite the family, have a snack and let everyone take home what they want from your big box of no longer wanted items that you’ve cleaned out of your house for the holidays.   Especially nice are extra baking pans and pots, blankets and quilts, things that new couples or younger families haven’t had the chance to acquire.  Anything left over, ask someone with space in his or her vehicle to take to charity. 

Give a coupon to family members’ children for a 4-week crafts class.  Let them come over once a week and build something under your direction.  Can also be used for cooking, sewing or mechanics, whatever you have knowledge of and can pass on.  The best part for the kids will be spending time with you, and to be treated as if they were important enough to pass on this information to. 

Coupons homemade:  good to wash your car, water your plants, cut your grass, walk or sit your pets, babysitting, cooking a meal, cleaning house, baking special items, sewing, teaching, resume preparation, portraits made, etc.   Whatever you don't mind doing.  You'd be surprised just how valuable some of these chores would be as a gift!

Special notices:  Give the gift of your opinion.  Write a frame-able card that tells a person what special qualities you’ve noticed in them, and what you hope for their future.  Special thanks for service people, your mailman etc. 

Offshoot of this idea – find newspaper front pages of the day each person was born, look up the meaning of their names, include a recipe from their culture if different than ours, who was president at the time, and a world map of the world as it was on that day.  Head it all up under the title “You are Unique and Wonderful, and I’m glad to know you”.  Try aging the paper to be framed with some crackling paint.

Recycle some used items

Soda Bottle Trees  

If you are short on space for a Christmas tree, take an empty plastic 2 liter soda bottle and remove the label.   Green would be nice but any color plastic would do. 

Glue green garland around the whole bottle, or if you only have a short piece of garland, just go around as you can, leaving space between each row.  

Add glittered garland, or small decorations, even lights can be glued on.  You may be able to fill the bottle with a strand of cool to the touch mini lights , letting the cord out a hole you make in the bottom side of the bottle.   If you fill the bottle with lights, make sure it is completely dry inside; that you don't leave them on for more than an hour at a time and monitor the temperature constantly, and don't cover the entire bottle with garland, so you'll be able to see the lights flickering inside.  

You can also make this with a new, soda filled bottle as a gift for a teen or child.  Glue just a bit of decorations and attach a card.   Special touches:  Add a helium filled balloon on top, or make it a money tree, by attaching paper money as decorations outside with the garland.  

Soda Bottle Fish/mobile  

Take a colored soda bottle, cut it across a bit more than half way down and use the top half where the neck is.   At the cut end, press the two sides of the bottle together and draw a fish tail fin.  Cut around that and glue or staple the two sides' "fins" together.   Cut out a V in each side of the spout where you pour from, to be the corners of the fish's mouth. 

Hang from fishing line and if you desire, hang other items on the fish.  Like colored discs of plastic, wind chimes, etc.  

Old hats, (caps or golf hats etc.)  Personalize and decorate with glitter, beads, sequins, fabric paint, etc. 

Saw blades, paint landscapes, or decoupage family photo.  Makes nice clock.  You can also use it as a stamp to transfer paint in that shape or image to cabinet fronts, etc. to paint a scene on there. 

Windows, old windows can be painted on, scenes or like stained glass, and hung as a painting or built into a frame to be used as a divider for parts of a room. 

Baby blankets or old clothing that doesn’t fit anymore, can be framed if they are attractive, had sentimental value or some other value. 

Collection of baby blankets, sew them together to make a quilt, add a sheet on the back for strength. 

Old Table or stools, resurface and paint.  Could use tile, mosaic tiles, paint, decoupage, etc. If you have damaged end tables from years ago that are solid wood, consider taking them apart and creating a new piece such as a child’s step stool.  Paint with a whimsical design, how about ladybugs?

Aprons, although very hard to purchase in a store, a good apron is still valuable and a great gift.  Made of an absorbent material such as terry cloth or cotton, it’s both beautiful and very useful.  Include pockets, loops or snaps to attach a towel or dust cloth, and be sure to make the tie ends at the top long enough to go around the recipient.

Tote bags, can you ever really have enough bags?  Consider making a large tote with many pockets on the outside, (snaps, Velcro or flaps over the openings).  For a child, you could create a tic tac toe grid on the outside and hang two colors of buttons from sturdy strings attached to the outside for playing pieces that won’t get lost.

 

Food 

Banana bread recipe

I made this and poured it into 6 Texas sized muffin cups, and it was perfect. 

3 bananas

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour (self rising)

½ cup oil 

Mix and bake in either muffin cups or whatever pan you want.  If the pan is bigger, you might want to double the recipe.   You could also try experimenting with pineapple or other fruits instead of bananas.  

Bake at 350 degrees.  The time is the tricky part.  My recipe was for bread in a loaf pan, but I baked it in large muffin cups.   I checked it at 20 minutes and took them out when the tops of the muffins were golden brown.  Insert a fork or toothpick to see if it comes out dry, but don't expect it to be completely dry because the bananas keep it very moist.    

You will need to experiment with cooking times for your size pan.

There are many recipes online that you can use.  Do a search for home made gifts, crafts and food gifts.

 

You may use this article to post on your site or send to a friend in an email, as long as the following bio remains with the article and nothing is removed.

Lisa Tyler is an artist and writer in SW Georgia in the USA.  Visit her websites for free information, great ideas and stories that will entertain you for hours.  www.chastityrose.com and www.blessingmeadowsministries.com   Email her at chastityrose(AT)yahoo(DOT)com.

  

 

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