Handmade gifts: We all aspire to them, but who has the time? Turns out you and your kids do, if you can keep it simple, use items you already have on hand (including your kids’ art!) and make fun your goal. In this article, we’ve rounded up easy gifts to make that are perfect for grandparents, neighbors, teachers, friends and others in your circle. Keep it basic, or add complexity and creative touches, depending on your kids’ skills and interest.
Sharpie tie-dyed coasters
These painted coasters from The SITS Girls blog are an ideal project for toddlers and preschoolers — ridiculously easy to make but the finished products look (almost) like you bought them in a gift shop.
Skills needed/used: If your kid can hold a Sharpie, she can do it!
- Buy shiny ceramic tiles at a home improvement store and let the kids color the tiles with Sharpie pens, covering the entire surface. Use no more than two or three different colors.
- For adults (or older kids): Drip rubbing alcohol onto the colored tiles, two or three drops at a time, then wait and allow colors to run.
- Once you have the tie-dyed look you want, allow coasters to dry and then apply a clear sealer (such as those made by Mod Podge or Krylon).
Change it up: Older kids can write favorite quotations in Sharpie or draw more intricate patterns and designs, either on top of the tie-dye or in place of it.
Give with: Peppermint hot cocoa mix, decorated mugs
Recycled art magnets
Swimming in kids’ artwork? Here’s an ingenious way to give it a second life from the Handmade Kids Art blog.
Skills needed/used: Kids can help punch out artwork and paint on Mod Podge (and make the artwork, of course).
- Purchase clear, flat-bottomed glass marbles (the kind used as vase fillers for flower arrangements, available at dollar and craft stores) and circular magnets. The magnets should be smaller than the marbles.
- Using a circle punch (a tool for punching out shapes), punch circles from your kids’ artwork, sizing them to fit the glass-bottomed marbles. Brightly colored pictures work best.
- Adhere the artwork circle to the flat side of the marble — picture side to the marble — by brushing over the back of the picture with Mod Podge. When that has dried, glue the magnet to the flat side with a strong glue, such as E6000 (the adult does this part).
Change it up: Older kids can print out or write single words on colored paper such as “joy” or “hope” — to use in place of punched artwork. Or they can punch circles from decorative scrapbook paper or small clip-art images.
Give with: A piece or two of your children’s art, of course.
Peppermint hot chocolate mix
Another winning gift that kids can easily make for teachers and friends, this mix lends itself to assembly-style creation. See more at the Daily Leisure blog.
Skills needed/used: Measuring and pouring
- Layer ingredients from your favorite hot-chocolate recipe in a clean, dry, quart-size Mason jar — ingredients such as crushed candy canes are a fun addition (put your kids' energy to work by having them hammer the candy canes in a plastic bag). Press down firmly on each layer after adding.
- Decorate the jar and/or lid. One easy idea is to take a cupcake wrapper in a holiday color and place upside down on top of the inside piece of the lid. Add the screw top and you have a cute topper.
- Add a decorative tag with instructions. (You can print out multiple copies and string with ribbon.)
Change it up: Instead of using a jar, divvy up single servings of mix into plastic bags and place inside a mug. Or layer the mix in upcycled plastic ware and decorate by adding stickers or wrapping in construction paper or holiday wrap.
Give with: A decorated mug or homemade cookies.
Ring or coin bowl
This flexible gift from the NellieBellie blog can serve as a fun coin bowl for a dad (he can empty his pockets into it every evening), and can also be designed as a key bowl or a jewelry bowl.
Skills needed/used: Spray painting, gluing
- Purchase a small, decorative plastic bowl and a small figurine — it could anything from a plastic animal to a Lego minifigure. Ideally, the figurine should be taller than the rim of the bowl.
- Glue the figurine to the inside center of the bowl with a strong glue, such as E6000. (Adults will want to do this part for younger kids.)
- Spray paint the whole thing.
Change it up: Use a pretty ceramic plate instead of a plastic bowl and omit the painting step.
Give with: A piece of jewelry. Or fill with candy or shiny new coins
Pocket hand warmers or bed warmers
This simple sewing project from the Inhabitat blog is fun to pull off and keeps the recipient toasty throughout winter — it’s especially appreciated by grandparents.
Skills needed/used: Simple sewing on a machine or by hand, fabric cutting
- Cut fabric into squares of 3 x 5 inches (for little hands) or 4 x 5 inches (for adult hands), two per warmer. You can also cut the fabric into shapes, such as hearts.
- With the right sides of the fabric together, sew around the edges, leaving a half-inch gap open.
- Turn right side out and fill with dry rice, then sew the remaining gap closed. The recipient heats it in a microwave for a few minutes.
Change it up: Make these in a larger size to serve as bed warmers for toasty tootsies. Embellish by sewing around the edges with embroidery thread in a contrasting color, or by embroidering a monogram or small icon. Younger kids can draw on finished warmers with fabric markers.
Give with: A tag with instructions on heating, plus a scarf, hat or mittens
These headbands from the Snail Pace Transformations blog make unique gifts for girlfriends — personalize by choosing the recipients’ favorite colors or shapes.
Skills needed/used: Hand sewing (sewing on buttons)
- Purchase a package of “stay put” headbands (stretchy headbands made of fabric) in a basic color.
- Buy decorative buttons (at craft or thrift stores), the more colorful the better.
- Sew buttons onto the headbands, going through each button multiple times for a secure attachment.
Change it up: Use vintage buttons for a classic look or sew on a pretty artificial flower. Use holiday-themed buttons for a seasonal accessory. Buy plastic headbands and have kids paint designs onto the headbands with paint pens.
Give with: Other fun hair accoutrements such as scrunchies (fabric-covered elastic hair ties), barrettes, hair chalk or glittery hairspray
Washi notebooks and pencils
These small notebooks from the Lia Griffith Handcraft Your Life blog are another super student/teacher gift, handy for slipping into a pocket or purse.
Skills needed/used: Cutting, taping, painting
- Buy small notebooks and wooden pencils along with washi tape in coordinating colors.
- Cover the metal part and the eraser of each pencil with painter’s tape, and paint the body of the pencil in white paint.
- Adhere white paper to the notebook covers, then decorate both pencils and notebooks with the washi tape.
Change it up: Create a monogrammed notebook by using washi tape in a single design for the cover, then using a coordinating color to create the first initial of the recipient’s name. Add washi tape to paperclips and clip onto the notebook. You can also use decorative duct tape, available in motifs from camouflage to sports teams.
Give with: Decorated pens, a cute pencil case, stationery
For all the grandparents, aunts and parents who might appreciate a coffee mug decorated with a quote or drawing by a favorite little one (Isn’t that everyone?) like these from Fabulessly Frugal blog.
Skills needed/used: None. As with the coasters, if a kid can color or draw at all, she can make these (with a little adult help).
- Purchase clean, dry porcelain mugs — the cheaper, the better (check your local dollar store).
- Have the kids paint the mugs with enamel paints (available in craft stores; these will make the mug dishwasher safe) or draw on them with colored Sharpies (in that case, the mug must be hand-washed).
- Place the decorated mugs in a cool oven and set the temperature to 350 degrees. When the oven reaches 350 degrees, bake for 45 minutes, and then allow mugs to cool in oven.
Change it up: Kids can write a favorite quote onto the mug in fancy lettering, or cover the entire mug with a design/pattern in two or three different colors. Younger kids can draw a picture of the recipient onto the mug — always cute!
Give with: Hot chocolate or specialty coffee mix, hot chocolate stirring spoons, flavored coffee syrup, to name a few.
Hot chocolate stirring spoons
A sweetly inventive gift: For yummy goodness, the giftee simply places the spoon into a hot beverage and stirs until the chocolate melts. See details at from the Fabulessly Frugal blog.
Skills needed/used: Using the microwave, handling melted chocolate
1) Melt chocolate chips (white or milk chocolate) in a microwave-safe bowl.
2) Use a spoon to drip the melted chocolate into plastic spoons, filling to below the rim of the spoon.
3) Before the melted chocolate cools and hardens, sprinkle with crushed candy — candy canes are a good choice for holiday flair.
Change it up: Wrap the spoons in colored cellophane and tie with a ribbon. Use colored candy melts instead of chocolate. Add wrapped spoons to a homemade card. Find a quotation about hot chocolate and print it out or hand-letter the words onto a tag to add to the spoons.
Give with: Package a few spoons together in a personalized mug, along with peppermint hot chocolate mix or coffee.
Holiday cookie mix in a Mason jar
For the busy neighbor or teacher who doesn’t have time to make cookies from scratch, this tasty mix from the Newlywed Pilgrimage blog will be the perfect time-saver.
Skills needed/used: Measuring and pouring
1) Add sifted dry ingredients from your favorite cookie recipe (or the recipe at the link below) to a clean, dry Mason jar. Press each layer firmly.
2) Add a pop of color with holiday-themed candy sprinkles.
3) Print out the tag from the blog post or make your own and decorate the jar lid with felt and buttons.
Give with: A set of cookie cutters tied with a ribbon (check Amazon for unique cookie cutters such as Star Wars–themed cutters, ninjas or princesses), sprinkles or tubes of ready-made decorator frosting
Change it up: Paint the outside of the jar red and add a black felt belt and white collar to represent Santa, or paint the jar blue with silver accents for Hanukkah.
These pretty pens from the Sew Sara blog are a go-to gift for teachers and students, and a fun project for beginning sewers.
Skills needed/used: Measuring and cutting fabric, sewing, gluing. Best for older kids.
- Purchase the pens and the fabric for decorating the pens and making the pom-poms.
- For each pen, measure two strips of fabric (one measuring 3.5 x 13 inches, and one measuring .75 x 13 inches). Wrap the pen with the narrower strip of fabric and glue in place.
- Create and sew a pom-pom from the wider strip according to the directions on the blog post and glue to the pen.
Change it up: Wrap the pen in duct tape, and/or add a flower instead of the fabric pom-pom.
Give with: Washi notebooks and pencils, pretty stationery, notepad or a journal.
Peppermint sugar scrub
This scrub from the Jacolyn Murphy website makes an especially great gift for mothers, perfect for tired feet or as an all-over invigorating body scrub.
Skills needed/used: Measuring, mixing and pouring
- Mix together white sugar, olive oil, coconut oil and peppermint extract or oil in the amounts described in the blog post at the link below.
- Add food coloring and mix to desired color.
- Layer in pint jars and decorate the jars.
Change it up: Refer to Murphy’s post to change the colors and scents of the scrub. Or make one without scent or coloring, decorating the jar with a gold or silver ribbon for a classic look.
Give with: Lotion in a matching scent, moisturizing soaps, peppermint candy or cookies.
Crafty supply stores
New to DIY? Here are some of our favorite spots to pick up supplies.
- Michaels: Multiple locations from Kirkland to Tacoma.
- Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores: Multiple locations from Mount Vernon to Olympia.
- Mad Scrapper, Issaquah.
- Tinkertopia Creative Reuse Center, Tacoma.
DIY gift-making out of the house in the Seattle area
Check out these workshops and studios around the Sound where kids can get holiday-crafty.
- Arts Aloft, Seattle: Gifts and ornament-making workshops.
- Bellevue Arts Museum: Classes include drop-in “Get Crafty” workshops.
- Emerald City Fired Arts, South Seattle: Classes in clay, pottery and fired arts.
- Kids Knitwork, Mercer Island. Fiber arts from fingerknitting to weaving. kidsknitwork.com
- Made Sewing, Northwest Seattle: Sewing classes and simple projects.
- Museo Art Academy, Issaquah and Redmond: One-day pottery workshop and multi-week classes.
- Open Arts Studio, Tacoma: Beading, pottery and more crafts.
- Paint Away!, Redmond: Ceramics painting and glass fusing.
- Paint the Town, Northeast Seattle: Ceramics painting studio.
- Roaring Mouse Creative Arts Studio, Northeast Seattle: Holiday gift-making classes every December.
- Sew Maris, Bellevue: Private and semi-private sewing classes.
- Space to Create, Northwest Seattle: Drop-in studio time and gift-making workshops.
- Tinkertopia, Tacoma: Bulk recycled items for crafting, plus drop-in studio time. tinkertopia.com
- Top Ten Toys, Seattle: Regular Playday workshops where kids can create.
- Children’s museums: Local children’s museums, including Hands On Children’s Museum, Imagine Children’s Museum, KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Kids Discovery Museum and Seattle Children’s Museum, offer drop-in craft opportunities in their art spaces.
Host a gift-making party
- Keep it simple — both in the project and the numbers. Invite only as many people as you have table space for.
- Gather the supplies in advance. Either purchase all the necessary materials yourself or divvy up the list and have each person bring something.
- Think about what tools will be in high demand and borrow extra for the party. Examples: scissors, mixing spoons, funnels, markers
- Print out the project directions. It’s easy to get lost amid chatter, so a printed sheet of directions is helpful.
- For some projects, creating an “assembly line” is more efficient, especially for gifts in jars in which ingredients are added in layers.
- Organize your supplies and put them within easy reach.
- Serve non-messy snacks. You don’t want potato chip oil on your fabric!
Put on some holiday music and have fun.
More holiday crafts and ideas