Making homemade gifts for friends and relatives during the holidays was one of those things I fantasized about before I had kids.
An activity that epitomized family bonding and the kind of values I wanted to share with my imagined children. I pictured all of us sitting happily around the table crafting. In my imagination, the scene was serene and satisfying…
… and then I had kids of my own.
Now, it’s not that making homemade gifts with my kids doesn’t leave me content or that I don’t enjoy our crafting sessions… Serene, however, is not a word I would use to describe it. Not even after 12 years of practice!
It often looks more like some kind of crafting natural disaster – the kids smeared with paint, glitter dusting their cheeks (and the table, and the chairs, and the floor, and the counters).
When my kids were younger I rarely sat, I was too busy handing supplies to the child who couldn’t reach, cleaning up spills and making sure the baby didn’t eat things. While this type of chaos isn’t always something I enjoy, these moments have become cherished memories.
My Tips for Making Homemade Gifts
These homemade gift making sessions are still very much an exercise in controlled chaos, but along the way I have found a few strategies to make them more successful and enjoyable.
Be prepared for the mess
Whether you lay down newspaper or a tablecloth, work outside or in the garage, knowing you are prepared for the mess will make the mess making a bit less stressful.
Some of my favorite ways to cope with messy art such as glitter, paint and glue are:
- use a vinyl table cloth that is only for art
- keep a damp dish towel at the table for each participant
- use glitter on a tray or box lid to help contain it
More messy tips here:
Give yourself the gift of time
Over the years, I have come to find that I frequently under-estimate how much time we really need for these sessions. I find it helpful ask:
- Should the craft I am attempting be broken up into different sessions? Does it need time to dry, bake, etc.? What will the kids do in between? Would it be better to spread this out across a couple of days?
- How much time can I expect my kids to want to sit at the table doing this activity?
- What will the kids do while I clean up when the clean up really just needs an adult to get down to business?
- Have the kids eaten and when will they want to eat again? This might seem unrelated but we almost always work on our kitchen table and ensuring that someone doesn’t get ravenously hungry in the midst of clean up really helps reign in the chaos.
- Do I have anywhere to be later in the day? Will it bother me if the kids hands are dyed green or there is still glitter on their nose?
Keep your child’s age in mind
Particularly for toddlers and preschoolers, choose crafts that focus on the process rather than the end product. Find ways to incorporate their art into your gift idea, for instance:
- Have a toddler fingerpaint on a piece of stretched canvas with colors that will blend well and compliment each other for a stylish work of art.
- Frame your preschoolers paintings or drawings.
- Have your child’s art printed on t-shirts, mugs, or towels.
- Let your kids create art directly on a t-shirt or tea towel using fabric crayons, markers or paint. If you are looking for inspiration check out these amazing shirts!
- Cut shapes from salt dough with cookie cutters and let you child paint and glitter them after they’re baked, sign their name and date to the back, and seal with clear coat for a sweet keepsake or ornament.
Be sure to get a few pictures during the crafting session of your child creating their art- if your child is having trouble with the idea of giving away what they made they may be willing to keep a photo or you can always put together a sequence of the photos in a frame to give as a gift instead.
How about a homemade ornament?
While it may still look and feel a bit chaotic when we sit down around our kitchen table to make homemade gifts, I know what I am getting into and a little bit of planning goes a long way.
Now that you’re set on how to make homemade gifts for family and friends, what will you make? Here’s some ideas: