Thursday, September 9, 2010

Some ideas for hand-made gifts

Birthday season is upon our family in full swing. We will celebrate the birthdays of all five of our children between the end of this month and the middle of February, as well as add another little baby to the mix during that time.

Add to that Christmas; and yes, we enjoy giving our children gifts for Christmas as much as we enjoyed getting them as children.

That is a whole lot of gift ideas to come up with, and a lot of gifts to give! Finances can quickly become an issue, which is exactly what giving a gift should NOT be about.

The other factor is that, being a "large" family, the last thing we need is more toys, or stuff in general for that matter. Because our younger children have lots of older siblings, and because the toys we have bought in the past are all very high-quality and timeless (i.e. wooden train set, Duplos/Legos, etc.), they can be used again and again for each child without needing to be replaced or becoming outdated. Especially because 90% of the toys are stored out of sight in the shed, they keep their appeal when we do pull them out for a while. But that doesn't mean I'd want to "re-gift" them to child after child, or get rid of them just for the purpose of being able to buy them again as gifts.

That's where hand-made gifts come in. While to some they may just seem like a cheap excuse to get out of buying a ready-made gift, they truly are so much more unique and heart-felt than anything at a store could ever be. I mean, anyone can go down to Toys'RUs and buy the newest video game system on a credit card that they are later going to bankrupt. But few parents would have the motivation or skills to make a gift themselves. The time spent making the gift will often be spent thinking about the person we are making it for, which is always a good reminder to pray for them. Truly, a very special way to gift anyone in your life, especially the loved ones in your family.

Below are some of the ideas I have planned for our children for the upcoming birthday/Christmas season:

Solomon (late September)

- book sling: I am going to use fabric that has the various planets in our solar system printed on it, as Solomon loves anything to do with astronomy and space

- curtains: I will use the same fabric to make him matching curtains for his bedroom. The ones he has now are plain beige.

- coupons for things he enjoys: some ideas are a cooking class with Mom, getting to stay up later than usual, etc. Just a few is plenty, or else this idea quickly becomes a drudgery for me.

Becky (mid-October):

- chocolate playdough: Can't wait to try this!

- felt foods: This website has a great roundup of ideas for making felt foods. Simplicity and McCall's also offer various patterns for making play food from felt. Many times throughout the year, Jo-Ann's offers patterns from these publishers at $1/pattern, which is a great time to stock up on them.

For those with limited sewing skills and/or time, it doesn't have to be as sophisticated. When we were at the Phoenix children's museum, all the food in their pretend-play restaurant was made from felt, though much simpler. For instance, the only thing that was sewed in the pizzeria was the pizza crust, while the toppings were simply small scraps of all sizes and shapes of various interesting fabrics in a plethora of colors. The kids, even the oldest ones, LOVED playing with these.

Other gift ideas I am thinking about for Christmas and birthdays later on:

- Build-a-cake play set

- Felt heart cookies: I am thinking about making these for Miriam's birthday, since she was born on Valentine's day.

- doll clothes: These can be more trouble to make than to simply pass down outgrown newborn clothes. A special appeal, however, could be to sew clothes for your daughter and her doll from matching fabric.

- matching outfits: Miriam and Becky love dressing in matching outfits. Skirts are very quick and easy to make.

- costumes: A perennial favorite with our children. Again, buying patterns for $1 each when they are on sale will make this even more inexpensive.

- art/craft kits: Finding projects on sites like Family Fun, little kits that contain all the necessary instructions and supplies can quickly be assembled. If you have multiple children, you could make similar but personalized kits by using their favorite colors and/or themes. Similar kits could be made for gardening or science projects.

- Lookie Loos: I could totally see our boys loving these. We saw one at a specialty toy store once (for a mere $30...) that they were fascinated with. I have already dyed a bunch of rice and been collecting little items to put into theirs. Except, I am going to use a bottle that is perfectly round and has no ridges in it whatsoever, such as a "Smartwater" bottle.

- hair bows/clips: I think our daughters would love to get matching "pretties", although I yet have to find a website with simple instructions.

Once you get thinking, it's hard to stop. My biggest constraint is time, and I will have to make a point to work on these projects a little bit each day.

Many thanks to Lily of the Valley for her great post on gift ideas. I greatly appreciate and welcome any suggestions or links to other gift ideas you may want to leave in the comments below!


  1. It would appear we get the same magazine!! Or check out the same website! I'm making the book sling for Luke's bday next week, and plan on making the felt cake for Katie for Christmas :)

    Here's some hairbow sites that you may not have found.

    Also, youtube has some good videos to get a visual.

    Have fun!

  2. You could make them little scrapbook kits with patterned papers and stickers and other cute little decorations and then have one on one time with them making the scrapbook together. If you google paper bag mini scrapbook you can find instructions to make a little album out of one of those bags you buy baked goods with. I did this with my daughter and we had a photo shoot where she dressed up like a princess, then we made her album into a princess story with her as the main character. She's 3 and loved it.

  3. Well i like your idea f giving gifts to your little kids. As you have mention in the blog while giving gifts finance have quickly become an issue.We must be careful for that.I like your handmade gift ideas. my younger brother's birthday is coming so i will be making book sling for him,and plan to make chocolate playdough this christmas.Thank you for sharing such a wonderful handmade gift ideas with us and looking forward to see more in coming days as well.

    Thank you
    Handmade gifts

  4. I wish I could have been your kid! :) What great ideas. I'm going to have to steal a few!

    It's so refreshing to see someone doing so much with and for her children and *gasp* actually like being with them! God bless you! Your children will one day realize, especially when they have their own families, how much time and effort you put into them and they will love you even more for it. And I'm sure they love you a ridiculous amount now! :)

  5. These are very cute! Do you have any suggestions for handmade gifts the kiddos could participate in to make a present for their grandparents/aunts?

  6. Heather,

    great minds think alike!

    Thanks everyone for the encouraging and kind comments. I got a good start tonight on the felt foods for Becky's birthday.

  7. Have you read thelegacyofhome's post- Danger in the kitchen(pyrex dishes)?

  8. Ah, this post makes my heart happy. I LOVE making gifts for people. I like the felt food idea. I saw that book sling in the FF mag. I was going to make those for all of the girls for Christmas. I saw the wooden dowels they recommend at Walmart for about $1.50. I can't wait to see your finished projects.

  9. Home made gifts like this are great. I think they CAN be you know when a parent makes all their kids exactly the same thing just because it's cheap, knowing that only one will truly like it. But when you individualize it for each child, that shows you have your child's interests at heart and it's likely to be a gift they'll love.

    I also want to apologize for my comments on your post about back to school. We don't agree on the issue, but when I read back it does appear I was trying to be nasty. I need to be careful how I write things, or just choose not to write things sometimes. It would be much better to have just left the subject alone and just try to build you up in the areas where I agree with you.

  10. This is so sweet. Thank you for sharing. I hope to make some too. My 8 year ld little seamstress will be excited to make the playfod for her sister. Thanks for the pizza tip. Hint: We often encuragethe granparents to give memberships to a zoo or museum instead of gifts on toys they really do not need. The whle family gets to use the membership all year.

  11. A really cute idea I've seen is to make little bags of "treasure". You can get a dowel and cut it into coin-thin discs, sand down the edges, then put them in velvet drawstring bags with some of those pressed marbles (I don't know what they are called. They're usually in the flower section of the craft store, and look like marbles that have been flattened on one side). :)

  12. For hair accessories I used to make things with bobby pins and beads. I'd make a figure like a flower or heart with beads and wire and then attach it to a bobby-pin.

    When they get a bit older and if they are allowed to wear "jewelry" you can also teach them or make them those thread bracelets. Half the fun is making them so it could be a birthday activity!

  13. Can you crochet? I found a very cute pattern for crocheted cupcakes and "Oreo" type cookies and made several of each for a tea set for one of my cousins' daughters recently. She loved playing with them.

  14. Katy-Ann,

    thank you for the apology, I appreciate it, although it was not necessary. I knew you weren't trying to come across harshly.

  15. Well, I made the book sling today, and thought I'd let you know that the 'no sew' was a 'no go' for me. Maybe I didn't have the best materials, but the HeatnBond I had just wasn't strong enough. So I got out my sewing machine, and had to make a few measurement adjustments. Just a heads up so you can figure that out before you start. Of course, I believe you're far more experienced than I am in the sewing dept!

  16. I love the book sling and plan to make some for my kids. I DO plan to sew it, however, and not glue it. I'm also going to make some hand puppets for my daughter, and my husband is going to construct a puppet theater for her birthday. Love the craft/gift ideas!


Your KINDLY WORDED, constructive comments are welcome, whether or not they express a differing opinion. All others will be deleted without second thought.