Cincinnati Family Magazine

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April 23, 2024

Handmade Holiday Gifts

There’s no need to spend a fortune this gift-giving season. Quality presents – that recipients will love – can be simple and fun to make!

Full722.jpgWe’ve all received a handmade gift that quickly became an utterly useless, dust-gathering source of guilt. We want to throw it away, but we just can’t. If you want the handmade or personalized gifts your family gives this holiday season to be welcomed with joy and used with love throughout the year, make sure they are either useful or consumable. Focusing on those two principles practically guarantees a warm reception for handmade gifts.

Need some practical ideas? Each of the following gifts fits the consumable or useful criteria and can be made in whole or part by your child, making them infinitely more special than something you purchase and slap a gift tag on.

Quick, Easy, Beautiful: Beeswax Candles

One of the most beautiful, useful and consumable handmade gifts you can make, beeswax candles are also one of the simplest. Purchase a kit or sheets of beeswax and wicking, and then children (2- to 3-year-olds may need help) roll the wax around the wick into varied sizes, colors and even shapes. Beeswax candles are almost impossible to mess up, turn out gorgeous, and provide a loving glow for the recipient. Kits are available at many crafting stores, as well as from Magic Cabin Dolls at 888-623-6557 or

No Artistic Talent Required: Votive Holders

Another candle craft that is appropriate for every age group is votive holders. Thoroughly wash a baby food jar and lid, and glue the lid upside down (rim edge up, flat side down) to the top of the jar. This makes a secure seat for the candle. Then use a clear drying decoupage medium and pieces of torn tissue paper to completely cover the jar and lid. Overlap the paper to create cool color effects. When your creation is complete, apply several coats of decoupage medium for a smooth finish. Package votive holders with handmade candles for an extra-special gift.

Perfect for the Men on Your List: Garden Stones

Garden Stones are a great handmade gift for anyone, but especially for the men in your life. (Why is it so difficult to find homemade gifts to give to men?) The garden stone is simply concrete poured in a mold and decorated with colored pebbles and glass. Kids of almost any age can add decorations to the concrete in the mold, but older kids will love doing the whole project themselves. You can buy mix and molds separately or find kits at crafting stores.

For a Kid from a Kid: Books on Tape

Older kids can make a book on tape as a wonderfully personal gift to younger siblings, cousins or friends. Have your child read an age appropriate-book carefully onto a cassette, or even into your computer if you have a CD burner. Listening to some examples from the library first may help the reader get a grasp of pacing and clear speaking. Mistakes don’t need to be recorded over; just help the child recover and read on. A younger child can assist by chiming a bell when the page should be turned. To increase the heirloom value, be sure the tape or CD includes a personal message from the gift-giver, such as why he chose this book. Color or draw a tape or CD cover, and wrap a copy of the book with the recorded version to complete the present.

Help! I Don’t Do Crafts: Photo Calendars

For families wanting a personal gift without the hassle of hand work, a photo calendar might be the answer. It’s a great way to keep far-flung families in touch and a wonderful teaching tool for young cousins learning the names of extended family members. It’s like giving a very useful scrapbook. Children can help choose pictures, searching for those appropriate to the seasons or holidays. Be sure that you check the calendar format before you buy. For example, my mother uses hers as a daily diary so we had to find one with large squares to fit her notes. Many companies make calendars, but prices and materials vary widely – so check a sample for paper and printing quality before you order.

Made by the Whole Gang: Checkers Set

A great gift for grandfathers, cousins or anyone who enjoys settling in for a checkers tournament during a holiday afternoon, this project is a little more work but is a great group gift because people of varying skill levels can contribute to it. First design your checkers. These can be anything such as coins, painted stones or bottle caps. One fun idea is to photocopy a picture of the gift giver and the recipient to create the checkers “teams.” Laminate the pictures or cover them with contact paper and glue them to a stiff backing to make them easier to use. Remember, checkers don’t need to be circular – if squares are easier, go for it! You’ll need 24 checkers, 12 for each player. To make the board, use cardboard, fabric, foam core or wood. Paint, draw, stamp, stencil or computer print the squares. You need 64 squares, eight rows down and eight across, alternating dark and light. Be sure the squares accommodate the size of the checkers you’ve chosen. (You can also buy a cheap checkers set and use the board along with personalized checkers you create. Standard cardboard sets are usually under $10.)

What? Only Two Shopping Days Left? Original Artwork Notecards

If your child wants to give handmade gifts but you are low on time, notecards made from their original art might be just the answer. Have your child draw a picture (or locate a favorite they’ve already done), and take it to your local copy shop. Photocopy the artwork onto the front of folded notecards, purchase envelopes to match, tie the whole stack with a pretty bow and you have a lovely, personal gift ready to give. If you want to get fancy, include a short message on the back of the cards with the artist’s name, the title of the picture or even a thumb print! (You may want to let the professionals do the copying unless you have a home design program and can print on card stock. Even Microsoft Word lets you import pictures, and you can add your own text.)

Ellen Hartman is a freelance writer.

Crafting Books for Kids

Gifts to Make and Eat
By Elizabeth Macleod (Kids Can Press)

Easy to follow and fun, families can make traditional food such as candy, cookies and fudge, as well as hot chocolate mix, seasoned oils and trail mix.

Gifts Kids Can Make
By Sheila McGraw (Firefly Books)

Kids – with adult help – can make professional-looking gifts such as ornaments, stuffed animals, jewelry, frames and more.

Kids Create! Art and Craft Experience for 3- to 9-year-olds
By Laurie Carlson (Williamson Publishing)

More than 150 art and craft ideas working with paper and paste, clay and dough, printmaking, sculpture and more, along with degree of difficulty levels.

I Can Make Gifts
By Mary Wallace (Owl Books)

Kids can make kitty napkin rings, friendship bracelets, creative gift baskets and more with everyday household items.

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