Trying to find the perfect present for a family member or friend can be expensive, time-consuming and, if we’re being honest, soul-destroying. How much pleasure will they really receive from that off-the-shelf-and-chosen-in-desperation scarf, socks or ‘funny’ book?
To escape the expensive tat trap and exhausting schlep, it’s so much fun for you and your child – and of course the gift recipient – to go homemade. You can bet these will be the gifts that are treasured for years, while other presents are swiftly consigned to the back of the cupboard or even the local charity shop.
As Emma Bradley, who blogs at mumssavvysavings.com, says: “Children have no idea of monetary value but they pour love into their creations – and that’s just priceless.”
Becky Goddard Hill, who blogs at babybudgeting.co.uk agrees: “When a child has spent their time, love and care in making the present, it’s unique and entirely personal. Homemade gifts also capture a sense of a child at a certain age and these can become precious keepsakes for the future.”
They’re so right. Writing this, I’m surrounded by drawings and loving (and often hilarious) cards my children have made over the years while my mug rests on a coaster with a painting from one child and my pens are stored in a very unique pottery vase. All these objects continue to give me so much pleasure.
Time to treasure
The pleasure of spending time crafting presents with your child is another huge plus point for parents. “You’re chatting, making memories together, doing an activity together when your child knows they’re your centre of attention,” says mum-of-three Emma. “It might be just be 10 minutes sticking and gluing, just the two of you, but these times are precious.”
Your child will also be thinking of the person for whom the present’s destined, and that can also be very moving. “As my daughter helps makes biscuits for her great grandma’s birthday she will chatter away about why she loves her and it is just such a special time,” says Becky.
Look! I made this
Made with love is so much better than bought in haste. Children love the process of creating something special, before and then proudly presenting it.
“Children absolutely burst with pride when they hand over something they have made,” says Becky. “I remember one Mother’s Day my two children working together to arrange some dandelions and poppies from our garden into a little bouquet with lots and lots of ribbons for me. They could not stop smiling. They took so much delight in creating my bunch of flowers.”
So what are the best presents for children to make?
Pinterest has lots of clever crafting ideas but the key rules are to make something that your child will enjoy doing and is not too complicated (and therefore frustrating) for their age and that can be done in a time scale that is not too ambitious (or can be divided into mini tasks over a few days, like making then decorating a papier mache bowl).
The possibilities are endless but here are some of our favourite suggestions:
Friendship bracelets and necklaces. Children love threading beads and choosing colours and shapes and it’s an excellent task for improving their hand to eye coordination.
Decorated mugs or plates. You can buy kits like this one from Fun for Learning for £5, which are dishwasher-proof.
Decorated T-shirts, aprons and cloth bags. Again, there are a multitude of kits like this T-shirt one from Graphix.
Bookmarks and key chains. Laminated drawings in any form make fabulous gifts. Simply use a hole punch and thread ribbons through to decorate.
Decorated boxes or jars of sweets or biscuits. Becky’s children enjoy making chocolate jazzies. “They’re really easy to make and little kids love sprinkling the hundreds and thousands. These look so cute in a little cellophane bag with a ribbon,
“To make jazzies, you melt a big bar of milk chocolate in the microwave. This will take about 30 seconds but keep checking and stirring till it’s smooth. Then you simply spoon small circles of it onto baking paper laid out over a tray. Next sprinkle hundred and thousands over the circles till they are covered (kids love this bit!). Leave them to set for three or four hours.”
Calendars. “Homemade calendars are a great idea,” says Emma. “My children’s grandparents use theirs every day, and they’re so simple to make – a stick-on calendar on a beautiful painting.”
Becky suggests children’s stories typed up for greater legibility and accompanied by their drawings. (I must admit to being a sucker for phonetic spelling and back-to-front letters.) “They’re perfect for sending through the post and and absolutely adorable if you make them into a little booklet with holes punched and a ribbon tied through to keep the pages together.”
As shop-bought cards cost upwards of £3, it’s definitely worth encouraging children to always make homemade cards too.