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?