I have received so many responses from very creative mamas to my recent query about ideas for homemade or low budget gifts (mostly for children) for the holidays. With the economy being the way it is, this topic seems to be one that is on many people’s minds. I’ve divided the many ideas given to me into different categories. I hope there is something here you will find to make and give to your loved ones this holiday season.
Make your own peanut brittle, fudge, holiday cookies or another tasty treat and present it in a pretty tin or on a plate you’ve decorated that will also be part of the gift. If you are giving this gift to another from your child, have the child help make it as well as decorate the container – photo tins were suggested a few times, too.
The hot cocoa or brownie kit is another idea for either kids or adults. You can make “hot cocoa cones” by layering the separate dry ingredients in a cone shaped piece of cellophane or a clear frosting bag or in a mason jar and tie it with a pretty ribbon and add an instruction card on how to prepare the mix. Chocolate dipped spoons are another easy gift idea you can add with the hot cocoa cones. If it’s a cookie mix, you can include some cookie cutters. Caramel or kettle popcorn is another fun food gift to make.
If you are a gardener, giving away some homemade canned items from your garden is always appreciated. You can make different jams, salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, grape juice, etc. Whatever you have a lot of just remember to can more of it at the time to give out as gifts. You can even prepare a whole basket of assorted pint or quart sized jars of items that you have made. You can do the same with dehydrated items like fruit leather, apple or banana slices, dried herb mixes, herbal tea blends, spice rubs or jerky.
For Sewing/Knitting/Crocheted Gifts:
If you are a sewer/knitter/crocheter, you have a world of possibilities of things to make! Many suggestions given in this category included crocheting pot holders or dishcloths to go along with the food gifts, sewing fleece blankets or even fringing all of the edges on two pieces of fleece and tying them together for a 2 sided blanket – no sewing there, sewing aprons for kids to wear in their play kitchen – one mama said to use terrycloth material for the kid’s apron. If you are a good seamstress, sewing doll clothes, sun hats, dresses and all the other cute items that your child likes will save you tons of money if you do it yourself.
Knitted or crocheted hats, scarves, mittens, and knitted afgans are so appreciated in the cold weather. To be extra green and frugal, you can get some wool sweaters from the thrift store and unravel them and re-use the wool for your new knitted creations.
Felt items are also another inexpensive, crafty and fun gift to make. You can make play food by cutting out the desired shapes and sewing two pieces together and stuff with batting or wool and sew closed or you can leave it single-sided cut to the shape of what you want and since felt sticks to itself, it will stick to a felt storyboard or you can make a felt pizza with toppings, a birthday cake with candles or a felt Christmas tree with ornaments. You can also make easy finger or hand puppets, picture frames and little bags too. Crayon rolls are popular with kids as well. There really are so many fun ideas for things to make with felt and it’s easy to use and dirt cheap!
Make beaded jewelry – it’s fun and very creative. Go support your local bead shop, take a class or buy a how-to book, pick out beads that you like, a few basic tools, some wire and clasps and you can make inexpensive yet pretty jewelry, bookmarks, hair accessories, window shade pulls, light catchers, the list goes on and on. My step-mother-in-law is really into this and now works with more semi-precious stones and silver combos and she makes some really beautiful gifts. This photo is of some of her work that I received as a gift.
This also is a pretty popular gift. All of those photos we take of our kids, dogs, vacations can be made into photo books, calendars, mouse pads, mugs, pillows, etc. We can also take actual photos and decorate the outside of tin boxes with them and fill the box with yummy treats, too. Kids love to see pictures of themselves so this is popular with them as well as the grandparents. It seems grandparents can never have enough pictures of the grandkids and making the calendars or other photo gifts are pretty easy, inexpensive and much appreciated.
Other Craft Items:
Make your own homemade playdough which is safe and non-toxic and you can even color it with different food coloring. Store it in little containers, tins or even glass baby food jars that you’ve saved. Simple cookie cutters can go along with the playdough for a fun and inexpensive gift.
You can make homemade soy candles in empty jars – using baby food jars again or jam sized canning jars work well, too.
Don’t forget about cardboard boxes! There is just so much you can do with them. We have in just about a couple hours’ time made our son a playhouse and a train car that he can sit in. Now I hear there is talk of a space ship happening soon. You can make the large stacking blocks like the kind that are sold that look like bricks as well as a play kitchen, too. Cardboard boxes, a sturdy knife, duct tape and paint (optional) are all it takes. We have even made him impromptu costumes – wings, a helmet out of a cardboard bucket and a shield we painted as part of his Halloween costume, too. There are so many, many things you can do with cardboard. You can find lots of ideas and instructions on this site.
Since my husband has a small wood shop and makes unique furniture, last year he decided to make our son a play kitchen for Christmas and a play workbench for his birthday. Both required time but the cost of the materials was pretty inexpensive. He purchased a large sheet of plywood for each project that had a really nice facing on it, some small door hinges, some plexiglas for the oven and microwave door windows and a dowel rod for door handles. He used an older bath faucet he had and a steel bowl for the kitchen sink and faucet. Both the kitchen and workbench were finished with a non-toxic oil and both came out really beautifully and are heirloom quality pieces so we can pass these down to our grandkids. The actual cost of the play kitchen came out to less than $30 with everything – except labor! The workbench was even cheaper.
Easier projects to make with wood are wooden building blocks, a simple pull toy, different geometric shaped puzzle pieces called tanagrams, different wooden puzzles, doll cradles, and wooden memory game squares that you paint the matching pictures on. There are many websites with instructions on how to do all of this and I really like this site.
You can take many different little things that fit into a theme and put them all together in a box or basket for a person or family to enjoy. Several mamas said they were making movie baskets for a whole family – a dvd, different kinds of popcorn and chocolate all packaged in a pretty basket with cellophane or shrink wrap. Pick a theme and go with it.
If you don’t want to make much (or anything) but still want to save money on gifts, shopping the thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, Dollar stores and the dollar bins at Target for all inexpensive new or used items in good condition is a great way to get toys and things at a fraction of the price or free (Freecycle). And most children don’t know the difference and wouldn’t care anyway if they did. If it works, they are happy!
New items at greatly reduced prices are sold at many closeout stores such as Marshalls, Big Lots, Ross, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning among others. You may have to sweep through these types of stores periodically and keep your eyes peeled for the quality items you want. I’ve found some amazing deals this way including new German wooden toys (which are normally very expensive), nice puzzles and books for my son. It’s fun, too once you get the hang of it.
It’s fun to unwrap presents but we don’t have to use the commercial wrapping paper which is hard to recycle in many locations. What to do? – make your own!! There are so many options for this. If you get a Sunday paper, save the comic section each week and use that, buy a roll of butcher paper or brown craft paper or visit your town’s local newspaper and ask for their left over end of the rolls (it’s free) and have your kids draw or stamp all over it. Or buy some inexpensive play silks – a gift in themselves which can be dyed any color – and wrap the toy in that, too.
All of these “wrapping” papers listed can be easily recycled and can be a fun craft activity for you and the kids to do together. If you don’t want to do any of the above, try to purchase the wrapping paper that was made with recycled paper instead.
I hope this list has helped you find some new, creative and inexpensive gift ideas for this holiday season. There definitely are many resourceful and creative people out there and I thank each and every one of you for contributing your amazing, thrifty gift ideas! If you have other creative ideas not mentioned here, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I love hearing about other fun gifts to make.