Saturday, 21 February 2009

Handmade gifts for little children (for those of us who aren't naturally crafty).

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

If you have small children like me, the pressure to buy the latest and greatest "whatever" can be irritating to say the least when you are trying to live more simply. Adding birthdays for their little friends into the mix can present an even trickier situation - or at least it is for me. Having my obviously home made gift opened in amongst a plethora of expensive plastic whatnots was quite confronting for me to begin with - not because I was worried what the child thought, but what the other parents thought of it! I needn't have worried though because the response has been overwhelmingly positive, in part I suppose because handmade gifts are so rare these days and in part because they have reminded the other parents of similar (cherished) presents they received as a child.

I am not a gifted artist or crafter by any stretch of the imagination (I have already posted a number of homemade children's' gift ideas here which don't require sewing skills), but I have been surprised by how many projects are available for free on the internet that even a sewing dummy like me can make. The hardest part really, is finding out what the likes and dislikes of the birthday child are; anything tailored to his or her likes are pretty much always going to be a hit with the child, and I have found that the parents genuinely appreciate the time you've taken to make something specifically for their child.

A cookie jar, apron, spoon and recipe for a 6 year old boy (and Dr Who fan).

One of the biggest hits with littlies I've had is with sets made up of customised, simple aprons and a few accessories, depending on the child. I've made up several cooking kits: an apron appliqued with their favourite character or their name, a small wooden spoon, and a laminated print out of a simple cookie recipe, presented inside a cookie jar as the "wrapping". I've made gardening kits: an apron, a small set of gardening gloves, a small trowel and a packet of flower seeds presented inside a terracotta pot (with a note asking them to decorate the pot). I also made a tool set for one little boy: a utility apron with pockets for tools, a second-hand hammer and tape measure, a packet of nails and timber offcuts presented in an inexpensive tool tote. You can find a simple child's apron tutorial by clicking on the link.

I customised the recipe by including a picture of Dr Who as the background and called it "Doctor Who's favourite chocolate cookies". It was laminated for added longevity.

What about a simple embroidery or sewing kit? Soulemama suggests in her (fabulous!) book, The Creative Family, supplying children new to sewing or embroidery with an embroidery hoop, a square of hessian, a blunt embroidery needle and some floss in their favourite colours and letting them go for it! Hessian comes in a range of groovy colours too now, so these items make for a great gift set, and you can adapt the idea to cross-stitch and so forth for older children.

My daughter's current project - she tells me it's a mermaid and who am I to argue?

Another really simple sewing gift is a pencil roll or crayon roll, or a notebook and pencil holder (there's another one here). They are simple, straight line machine sewing and very quick and easy to make. I've been making them lately for older children, and filling them with a sketch pad and pencils. My 16 year old niece has also requested one, which I will fill with a watercolour pad and quality watercolour pencils for her upcoming birthday.

I've also made several useful water bottle totes, such as these ones I made my my daughters (I used this pattern, but made one long handle instead of two little ones, so they can sling it over their shoulder).

What about some simple felt play food? As I said, my sewing skills are limited and I am a beginner to embroidery, but I managed to make a set of felt donuts and cookies which my daughters adore playing "tea-parties" with. There are a plethora of patterns and tutorials on the 'net for felt play food. Here is a tutorial for the donut or make some assemble-your-own sandwiches or pizzas (ideas here). One Crafty Mumma has tutorials for eggs and orange slices, ravioli, lemon and tomato slices, and icecreams, or be inspired by the felt food Flickr group.

These are just a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing amongst the non-crafters amongst us, there are hundreds of other ideas to be found on the 'net, and I can assure you that the sense of satisfaction in handmaking gifts is well and truly worth the effort.

For those of you who have been making gifts for years, what are your favourite easy-peasy handmade children's gifts?


miss frugal in training said...

great post...thx for sharing

kelly said...

great ideas, thx

JessTrev said...

adorable ideas!

art bag from old pair of jeans (use pocket, put a little sketch pad and pencil inside, embellish with ribbon)

littleecofootprints said...

Wondeful inspiring post thanks. I amamazed at how many childrens gifts you need to give once you have kids. I have decided all mine will be made from recycled materials - but have been struggling for ideas. Plenty here! Thanks.

renee @ FIMBY said...

What about handmade knitting needles - made from reused chopsticks - with a ball of yarn (from local sheep would be even better).

See here for tutorial on making the needles - super easy and super delightful.

You could maybe buy the child a learn to knit book or provide a list of recommended books from the library.

We are enjoying Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick

Jen said...

Great ideas! We also like to give "art supplies"...we melt bits of crayon in foil-lined muffin tins to make multi-colored crayon cakes and give with a pad of paper. Or making playdough and packaging up with some cookie cutters is a good one. We also have some fabric crayons that we use to draw on plain t-shirts (personalized to the recipient), then ironing the picture to have it be permanent.

Mist said...

It's not necessarily handmade, but I've given away a couple of thrifted suitcases filled with thrifted "costumes." Any crazy hats, scarves, aprons, leotards, fancy dresses, etc. will do. Let the kids decorate the suitcase to liven things up and there you have it.

My niece is very into princesses and the like, so we did manage a couple of felt crowns for her dress-up case.

Wormlady said...

Not handmade, but hand-selected... we've had *great* success gifting kids in the 4-6 year old range with "office supply kits". Each one has been customized to the recipient ~ "ingredients" include things like a stapler, one-hole punch, correction tape, labels, scissors, ruler, and tape. Don't forget the tape. Tape is a must-have item!

Paula said...

This is a wonderful post, and your timing couldn't be better! Thank you for posting such great ideas!

mrs green said...

These are amazing ideas. i LOVE the food and I want some LOL! Such creative and inspiration stuff - thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post. I've been baking cookies with my son for presents for friend's children but definitely need some inspiration for something abit more when my son gets invited to preschool friend parties. Am about to try out the pencil holders as they look pretty easy.

thanks Anna

Ribbon said...


Well done :-)

best wishes

Bel said...

Lovely items! Don't discount your sewing skills, I think you've done wonderfully with the items you pictured.

I love to give handmade and thoughtful gifts, and I also love for my children to receive them.

Thanks for a great post.

Hana said...

You know what I love on this blog? Almost everytime I read the comments at a post, there's at least one saying something like "how timely" (e.g. Paula at this post). I think that's the best proof that this blog is really helpful. Please, let the other contributors know. ;-)

Mistress B said...

personalised library bags and paint smocks seem to go over well with kids soon to start school.

And cushions with a personalised, embroidered square on the front. One year my younger daughter did a sewing workshop where she made herself cusion, we had to give cushions to all her friends for the next 18 months and they loved them!

Lana said...

Thanks for the great ideas :) I've just made a drink carrier for my daughter who has just started preschool. I made it with straps for use like a backpack. The straps, while fixed, are long enough that I can sling them over one of my arms, or carry it like a bag. As my first 'major' sewing project (I have the equivalent of black thumbs when it comes to sewing), I would recommend reinforcing the backpack straps that attach in at the base, before you sew it all up!!! I also lined it with curtain blackout lining, and put in a thin wool wadding layer for extra insulation.

I'm looking forward to making aprons! :)

Thanks again!

Bovey Belle said...

Great post and the felt food is JUST what I am going to make fr my great nieces for Christmas this year!

Ophelia Darcy said...

What fantastic ideas! Thanks so much, Julie. I will be using some of these this year; homemade gifts are just the best. Also some great ideas from the comments that I can use thanks everyone!

Condo Blues said...

I cut down to kid size and decorated a dollar store apron (yeah, I know) for my niece and used the left over fabric to make her a chef's hat. I found a kid sized rolling bin at a cooking store and metal cookie cutters in fun shapes.

zofia-age8 said...

Another fun idea is to make a sports mobile. Create all of their favorite ball shapes out of shrinky-dinks or painted cardboard cutouts and hang!

Julsie1231 said...

ok, now I'm really hungry for cupcakes.

anglar said...

thx, do you have any ideas for um.. gifts for grandparents?