As adults, most of us believe that it feels better to give than to receive. We get that warm fuzzy feeling when we find the perfect gift for someone. Kids are often left out of the joys of gift giving. Instead of having our kids pick out presents for their friends’ birthdays, we grab something from Target while they are at school, and they sometimes have no input on what we pick. At this time of year, especially, when they are bombarded by television ads and catalogs, it is easy for them to only be part of the receiving end of gifts. Helping them to feel the joy of giving is something that we all must encourage.
Last year, I wrote two blogs about helping kids to give back through volunteering, and monetary and time donations. (See Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.) In this blog, I’m focusing more on physical gifts for family, neighbors, and people who deserve a thank you, such as teachers, crossing guards, and bus drivers.
When the kids were younger, I would have them buy gifts for each other. First, we’d talk together about their interests–sports, music, drawing, etc.–and a budget. (I’d usually give them $10 each to buy a gift for their sibling.) We’d then head off to the local consignment store or dollar store. We’d walk the aisles together and each kid would point out things that interested them. Then I’d allow them to go separately down the aisle (I’d stand at the end and divert the other’s eyes) to select and buy a gift. Then we’d head home and they’d wrap them. One of the nights of Hanukkah was designated as “sibling” night, when they would exchange gifts. It always warmed my heart to see how excited they got watching their sibling open the gift that they chose.
Kids can buy other family members and friends gifts from the dollar store, too, but homemade gifts are often more treasured and kids feel more connected to them. There are tons of gifts kids of any age can make. Here are just a few:
- Make ornaments There are countless numbers of ornaments kids can make.
- Candy canes The candy cane I made in kindergarten from pipe cleaners and pony beads still hangs on my parents’ tree each year!
- Foam ornaments If you have multiple ornaments to make, head to a craft supplier (Michaels stores, Oriental Trading catalog, etc.) and pick up a class party-sized kit, which usually makes 12-24 of the same (or slightly varied) ornaments. Be sure kids sign the back of each one.
- Filled balls I saw these plastic fillable ornament balls at the Dollar Tree in East Hanover earlier this week. Kids can fill them with all sorts of things–sand and tiny shells, bits of colorful ribbon, tiny silk flowers, cotton balls and silver glitter (to look like snow), etc. They can also write tiny notes on colorful paper, so the receiver can shake it to read a new note each time.
- Perler beads I know I have a TON of Perler beads (those annoying little beads you need to fuse together with an iron). What a great way to run down your stock! Ornaments for everyone!
- Make cards Pop-up cards, hand-painted cards, cards with poems, etc. are always a hit!
- Decorate picture frames Whether they are store-bought frames decorated with glitter and stickers, or popsicle stick frames held together with glue, who can resist a decorated frame with a kid’s photo, drawing, or thoughtful poem inside?
- Make coupon booklet Kids can brainstorm 8-10 chores or things they will do (I will make your bed for you, I will go to bed without complaining, etc.) then create a coupon book for parents or siblings.
- Make jar recipes When the kids were young, we made an assembly line to make about 8 jars of dried ingredients for soup (spices, beans, rice, etc.). They loved using my measuring cups and funnels to fill each jar with the ingredients. We then glued patterned fabric (you can also use paper) to the lid, and attached the recipe with the included ingredients highlighted so they know what they still need to add. There are tons of recipes online (search “jar recipes”) for soups, cookies, cakes, and hot chocolate mixes.
- Make no-sew hats, scarves, and blankets Kids can make simple, yet beautiful no-sew hats, scarves, and blankets from fleece with a few quick snips and knots. Last November, my Brownie troop made these hats (click here for instructions) and donated them to an organization that distributed them to homeless people. One of our Brownies decided that her whole family needed them, so she made about 8 more for family members! You can also do an Internet search for “no-sew fleece scarf” and “no-sew fleece blanket.” Fleece can be quite expensive, but it is also on sale a lot this time of year. There are a ton of different themes, so kids can pick a design for each family member.
- Make soaps, bath bombs, or sugar scrubs Bath and body care products are fun to make and are great gifts! Look up recipes online.
- Make pottery and glass projects For more long-lasting and useful gifts, you can head on over to local pottery making, pottery painting, and glass-fusing studios, such as Madison Mud, Ready to Paint in Chatham, and Glassworks in Morristown. Be sure to call up before you go to find out how long it takes to complete a project so you will have it in time for the holidays. It usually takes at least a week to fire or fuse pieces.
No matter what your kids decide to give friends and family this year, they will feel pride in knowing that they made or picked it out especially for that person. They will feel that fuzzy feeling that comes when you give, and that feeling will continue to grow inside them.