I believe in the simplicity and thoughtfulness of homemade gifts, especially for young ones. In fact, I truly believe we need to pray for a return to a greater appreciation of simple times and simple toys. (See my food gift ideas too.) I’ve had a lot of fun creating homemade gift ideas for all the little ones in our lives. Here are three of my favorites:
Books on CD/Tape: A Keepsake to Travel the Distance
The voice of a loved one can really mean a lot, whether it’s talking to a spouse on the phone when they’re away from home, the voice of a mother soothing her child when they’re hurt, or a recording from the past that can’t help but bring back vivid memories of the person.
For the past few years, I’ve recorded my own voice reading a special book for both my goddaughters, who live far from me and only see me about once a year, if that. It’s been a special way to remain connected with them and has become a tradition I hope to keep up (almost) every year as they grow older. I almost cried when I got to read the first book my goddaughter Aly received from me in person. She called it “The baby book” but it was this one, an amazing gift for young Christian children. She had been listening to it every night for months, and there was literally a charge in the air as I read it “live” for the first time.
Last Christmas, we had all the members of our family (grandparents, aunts and uncles) read one of Buddy Boy’s favorite books (that he already owned) and make one CD for him. Not only is it a super-special gift for him that he LOVES, but it’s 45 minutes long to occupy him during long car rides!
Make it Happen
I wish I could explain to you the exact process of making a book on CD, but I’m thinking that if your computer has the capability to do it, you already know how, and if you don’t, I’m not the one to explain it! My wonderful husband sets me up with a headset mic and a program called Nero to record, then burns the CD for me. I make a label by hand (that’s how un-techy I really am!) and call it done.
The first year I did this, I just used my old cassette recorder. It works just as well and still has all the sentimentality of the high-tech version. Just make sure your gift receiver has access to a tape player before starting the project.
Make it Frugal
- Buying any book you can find and then making the recorded part yourself is usually more frugal than buying a book-on-tape set.
- Be on the lookout for good deals on multiple copies: last year I found these Dora books at my grocery store for $1 each:
I bought a ton! I read them all once on computer and made CDs separately for both the goddaughters, my son, and a cousin, saving lots of time over making each child’s completely unique. Six hardcover books on CD for under $7? That’s a great deal!
- For your own children, using books you already own and making the read-aloud version is next to free. Can’t get better than that!
Homemade Playdough Kits
The best gift for any little one that can be made as inexpensively as $2 is a homemade playdough kit. I’ve made them for every little one we know, from godchildren to cousins to my son’s little friends. I include:
- Homemade playdough (recipe below)
- dry pasta (for hair, eyes, small motor skills for toddlers) I cought a VAST assortment of shapes on sale for 2/$1, and of course they lasted for many, many playdough kits. Unique shapes are soooo much fun for wild hair!
- cookie cutters I bought a big tub at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $8 – it will last me forever! I give each child their first initial and a few others. This Wilton 101 Cookie Cutter Set is similar at Amazon, and this 50 Piece ABC & 123 set would be perfect as well.
- a garlic press found on clearance (for the best “hair” and “spaghetti” ever)
- ice cube tray (for organizing creations)
- homemade rolling pin (a dowel cut to about 5 inches with the child’s name painted on it) Dowel was a few dollars at Lowe’s, but I got 6-8 rolling pins out of it. If you have a broken broomstick, repurpose it instead for free!
- plastic spoons, whisks, spatulas, other random items found on super clearance or at dollar stores I’m always on the lookout for possible items to include when things are way, way marked down. Often kitchen gadgets that no one wants are a great 25-cent buy for the kits.
- For a bit larger gift, buy a fun container to put it all in at the dollar store and hard plastic storage for the playdough.
Homemade Playdough – My Favorite Version
Although there are playdough recipes that don’t use the stove, this playdough is so much nicer to play with as an end result, and it’s really very easy.
Mix in a medium pot:
1 cup white flour
¼ cup salt
2 Tbs. cream of tartar
(I purchase cream of tartar in bulk from a spice store.)
Combine and add:
1 cup water
~10 drops food coloring
Cook over medium heat and stir constantly (about 3-5 minutes). If you have a spoonula, use it. Just when you’re sure you’ve got a mess on your hands and it will never turn out, the mess will begin to form a ball in the center of the pot. Dump it out and knead with your utensil on a plate or waxed paper. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag after it cools. It lasts a really long time.
To be efficient, you can make multiple batches in a row in the same pot. Just use a spatula to get all you can of the first color out of the pot and begin again! Fun for all ages to help in the kitchen, too.
This one is great for baby showers or new babies near Christmastime. Look for super markdowns on various items that could go in the tub and put together a kit with some of the folowing:
- dollar store mesh laundry bag (for hanging the toys to dry)
- measuring cups (for pouring)
- turkey baster
- condiment bottles (best squirters out there!) I always grab a set of 2 for a dollar at my dollar store in the summer; they’re a seasonal item.
- foamy letters to stick to the walls
- plastic funnels
- caps from laundry detergent bottles, shaving cream – anything of the size for scooping and pouring
Think out of the box about what you put in the boxes this Christmas. Once you watch kids play with two folding chairs or a box of clothespins for an hour or so, you’ll start to rethink the high-dollar battery-powered toys that are flashing through the ads this time of year!
Win it! Your choice of FOUR Biokleen eco-friendly cleaners!
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