Christmas is an incredibly expensive time of year for most families.  The pressure to find unique gifts can be overwhelming.  However, don’t overlook your greatest asset when looking to find something a little bit special.  Go handmade, and even more than that, go handmade by children.  Nothing melts a person’s heart like receiving a gift that has been lovingly crafted by little hands.  And what’s more, children love to get involved.  It keeps their active minds happy, their busy hands occupied, and gives them an enormous sense of pride.

As with all gifts, it is wise to set a budget before you start out, as it is just as easy to get carried away in a craft shop as it is in a department store.  Here are some ideas of how to put your little helpers to work and create some wonderful gifts.

Salt dough

The basic recipe for salt dough is: 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of warm water.  Mix these ingredients together to form pliable dough that can be modeled into any shape.  A firm favorite with children is using the dough to make decorations by cutting out shapes with cutters, or by pressing the flat of their hands into the dough.  Remember to make a small hole so that the decoration can be threaded with ribbon.  Bake the dough for 3 hours at 1000c.  Once cooled it can be painted then sealed.

If you don’t want to make tree decorations, then how about attaching a magnet to the back of the dough or stringing a number of them together to make a cute garland or wall hanging.

Paper crafts

The possibilities are endless when designing cards, wrapping paper and gift tags.  Once you have acquired the basic materials, you can really use just about anything to decorate with.  Festive collages can be created out of snippets of colored paper; ink stamps can be used to make pretty designs on packaging and old cards can be recycled by their images being cut out and pasted onto tags and cards.  Glitter and stickers go down well with children of all ages and can definitely bring a bit of bling to the whole proceedings!

Baking

Most children relish getting involved in the kitchen.  Even the youngest of helpers enjoy getting stuck into the mixing and sampling the ingredients.  Cookies, biscuits and mini muffins are all easy to make and can make lovely gifts, especially if you take the time with the package.  Cello bags tied with ribbon and a tag or even a decorated cardboard gift box can make even simple cookies look extra special.

The recent trend in hot chocolate spoons is one that children can jump on the wagon with.  Use any spoon, from wooden, to plastic to vintage, and dip the end into melted chocolate of your choice.  Shake gently to remove any excess, wait a few moments then sprinkle your decoration of choice over the top.  Rainbow sprinkles, crushed candy canes and marshmallows are particularly effective.  Set the spoons on a covered tray and cool in the fridge.  Once set, the spoons can be packaged in cello bags.  Flavored chocolate can be used too.  Simply stir the spoon into hot milk, or even coffee, for a wonderful treat.

Peg dollies

Peg dollies are a traditional craft that children of all ages can try out.  Using basic wooden pegs, turn the round end into the doll’s head by drawing a face on it, then use paper, fabric and glue to fashion clothes.  If you are feeling ambitious, you could even attempt a nativity scene!

Bath salts

Bath salts are a delightful gift to receive and fun to make.  Mix rock salt with the contents of one herbal teabag, a few drops of your favorite essential oil, and there you have it – natural bath salts!  Package in cello bags, jam jars or even mini pepper mills.

Crafting kits

A huge range of crafting kits are available to buy suitable for all age ranges: Soap-making, candle-making and jewelry designing to name but a few.  All of these things make wonderful gifts, especially when packaged in handmade wrapping.

Meghan Ivarsson is a writer for Scholar Advisor, educational portal for students by students. There you can find writing guides, essay samples and how to write an essay  guide.

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