Is it “Make-it-Yourself Friday?” I’m not against online shopping…as a matter of fact I’m an avid fan of e-books and watch-on-demand movies and Amazon Prime (where you get a dollar credit if you don’t need the free 2-day shipping). However, as a knitter, I really appreciate the kind of gifts where more is spent on thought than online. Now that I’ve said that, it’s actually pretty rare that I knit anything that costs less than $10 except my $2 washcloths. And I may, possibly, more than once, have knit a pair of socks from yarn that goes for upward of $25/skein. But that’s all beside the point.
I was thinking about the kind of gifts you can give that deliver the maximum fun per penny…and I came up with a few things you can make at home that I think kids would be delighted to receive. And these ideas are up for grabs…I won’t be making any of them this year. Sadly, all my nieces, nephews, and extended family, you are getting knitted items. Whatever I feel like knitting for you. I know, I know, but that’s the price you pay for being related to me. You’re welcome. No, I don’t take special orders.
Indoor Camp-Out in a Box:
- 1 sheet (an old one that you have). If you don’t have a sheet, our dollar store often has tablecloths. this can be draped over chairs. If you want to get “fancy” you can include a length of string and clothespins, but they really aren’t necessary.
- 1 flashlight (also available at your local dollar store)
- 1 good book, pre-owned is ideal. Think adventure, fairy or ghost stories.
- 1 bag of marshmallows
If you pack this in a shoebox or a sturdy box with a lid, the kids will be able to add their own bits and pieces to it and pack it back up when needed.
2. Cookie Baking
Making your own cookie mix isn’t a new idea, but there are two ways (off the top of my head) to make this a particularly child-friendly present.
- Find a few amazing cookie cutters
- attach them to your tub of cookie dough mix with the recipe
- Rolling pin from dollar store or a bottle of sparkling cider (to toast their achievement and to roll out the dough)
- Don’t forget sprinkles and sparkling sugar…and if you’re giving several of these kits you can mix the sprinkling and sugar and parcel it out in ziploc bags
C. Monster’s Surprise Cookies from the coolest book of all time: B.Bird’s Busy Book circa 1976.
You start with the base recipe. To gift this, you’ll put the dry ingredients in your container and attach the recipe:
3/4 c butter
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
The directions are to cream the butter and sugar and then add everything else and chill for at least an hour.
This makes a really great basic sugar cookie that’s the base for any number of variations throughout the book. To make the surprise cookies:
- assemble your “cookie mix” and attach basic recipe + addition instructions (roll out dough, use glass to cut out circles, put a little filling on one cookie, put another cookie on top, pinch edges together, preheat oven to 400, put cookies on ungreased cookie sheet, bake until lightly browned…about 8 minutes. All the cookies will look the same (unless you have overfilled one with cherry pie filling, just sayin’), but the fillings will be different.
- include some sort of rolling pin or bottle
- include little bags of different fillings like: nuts, raisins or any dried fruit, jellybeans or any candy, chocolate chips, etc. (I will say from past experience, that gummy bears melt away leaving a sad gummy bear hole, but that’s kinda exciting, too)
And with either of these, you can add in aprons and cookie sheets and any other sort of things, but they’d be plenty fun on their own, too
Journals and Pens
Does it make me a total geek to admit these are among my favorite gifts to receive? My buddy Barbara Ann Wright (amazing author, check her out here) embellished journals for our writing group one year…and it got me thinking.
- Get a pack of composition books
- Go crazy with fabric or fancy paper or comics strips or decoupage
- Don’t forget stickers and paint and glitter glue and “bling”
- Put a thoughtful note on the inside cover (or include a few notes/messages/pictures throughout as surprises)
- Include a colorful pen (which you could also embellish if you’re feeling crazy)
Jane loves arts-n-crafts and would be thrilled to make or receive one of these. And it isn’t gender specific. Ben fills up journals with comics, D&D plans, Minecraft fanfic, and complicated schematics.
Movie Night in a Box
- A DVD (used is fine, I think, although this is an opportunity for take advantage of Cyber Monday). The choice of movie will make or break this gift. It should be appropriate for the viewing audience and have a special meaning for you and the recipient. Include a note that explains why you chose it. ie “When I was your age, we watched Girls Just Wanna Have Fun at a slumber party and laughed and laughed. I wanted to share some of that fun and silliness with my niece. Remember our crazy “dance party” at the beach this summer?”
- Unpopped popcorn in a bag with a bow and attached baggie of seasoning. Think about: Mexican with chili powder, cumin, and garlic salt or Italian with basil, parsley, and garlic salt, or sweet with pumpkin pie spice and sugar or (the lazy girl’s favorite) your favorite powdered ranch seasoning
- A box of movie candy – I vote for Sugar Babies (unless the recipient has braces). Tim recommending mixing M&Ms into your popcorn.
Any of these ideas can be expanded or tweaked, but they all share something in common. They’re about the relationship between you and a loved one…and making more good memories in the future.