30 Gifts Kids Can Make
Attention, merry makers: Get creative with these handmade gift ideas that are fun (and inexpensive!) for kids to craft and give.
Transform glass jars that would otherwise head to the recycling bin with bold pops of color.
What you’ll need: Multisurface acrylic craft paint, Paintbrush, Clean recycled glass jars, Masking tape (optional), Paper plate, Pencil with an unused eraser (optional, for small dots), Round foam brush (optional, for large dots)
What to do: Paint a solid base on each jar (for a neat painted edge, tape off an area on the jar first). Let dry, about 15 minutes. Layer another coat, if you’d like a deeper shade, and let dry. Paint on stripes or dots (for dots, brush a bit of paint onto a paper plate and use a pencil eraser or a foam brush as a stamp). To make item washable, cure paint with heat or air-drying per package instructions.
Cheery Cord Keepers
Helpful to pretty much anyone, these felt foldovers will adorably contain any wire jumble of earbuds or chargers (and make them easy to spot in a bag too).
What you’ll need: Template, Felt, Disappearing-ink marker or pencil, Scissors, Pinking shears (optional), Velcro dots, Hot glue, White clear-drying glue, Buttons (optional)
What to do: Trace one of our templates onto felt with a disappearing-ink marker or pencil. Cut out shapes (use pinking shears if you’d like zigzag edges). Fold as indicated on the template. Stick Velcro dots to the underside of the felt at the top and bottom, reinforcing the adhesive under the Velcro dots with a little bit of hot glue. Cut facial features (ears, eyes, nose, tongue) or stripes out of felt and use white glue to adhere them. Then hot-glue on decorative buttons, if using.
Truly illuminating: A dollar-store pillar candle goes from basic to brilliant with colorful tissue paper and a blast of hot air.
What you’ll need: Scissors, Colored tissue paper, Plain pillar candle, Wax paper, Hair dryer
What to do: Cut shapes out of tissue paper. Turn the candle on its side and place some of the shapes on one side of the candle. Lay a piece of wax paper over the candle and heat with a hair dryer on high to melt the tissue-paper shapes onto the candle (an adult should handle this job). Gently lift off the wax paper. Repeat on the other side of the candle.
Let kids make their mark (polka dots, hearts, the recipient’s monogram) on plain bags, then fill them with a little treat like colorful pencils or crystals.
What you’ll need: Scrap cardboard, Blank canvas bags or pencil cases, Scissors, Freezer paper, Craft punch (optional), Iron and ironing board, Acrylic craft paint, Paper plate, Stencil brush
What to do: Slide a piece of cardboard inside a bag. Cut freezer paper so that it is the same size as your bag. Create your stencil: Draw a shape on the matte side of the freezer paper and cut it out, or punch shapes into it using a craft punch (as we did to make the dots and the heart). Place freezer paper shiny side down on the bag where you want your stencil to go. Press the paper with a dry iron on high (an adult should handle this part) until it adheres to the fabric, about 5 seconds. Squeeze a little paint onto a paper plate and spread it into a thin layer with the stencil brush. Gently coat brush with paint, then dab it onto the fabric through the opening of the stencil. Immediately after you’ve finished painting, peel off the stencil and discard. Let dry.
What you’ll need: Craft paint, wooden egg cups, fine paintbrush, wooden skewer, fine-point paint pen, plants, soil
What to do: Paint the bottom half of the egg cup. Once dry, paint on buttons, collars, or polka dots with the fine paintbrush. Use the skewer to add dots and the pen to draw faces. Then add the plant!
What you’ll need: Dowel, books, newspaper, strong tape, strong twine or string, drinking glasses, disposable cups (large enough to fit juice glasses), DecoArt Glass Stain in Transparent
What to do: The glasses will need to hang freely after staining, so set up a dowel on top of two stacks of books, with newspaper underneath. Tape a length of twine to the lip of each glass. Tuck twine inside, then fill a disposable cup with about 2 inches of glass stain. Repeat with additional cups and colors. Dip each glass in the stain, gently shaking off the excess as you remove the glass from the cup. Tie the glasses to the dowel to hang and let dry overnight.
Mess-Free Tye-Dye Scarves
What you’ll need: Pushpins, plain silk or cotton scarf, piece of cardboard or foam board bigger than the scarf, Sharpies, paintbrush, rubbing alcohol
What to do: Pin the scarf to the cardboard so it’s stretched flat. (A parent may need to help iron the scarf first.) Draw lines and patterns on the scarf with the Sharpies, tracing over lines multiple times so there’s more dye to bleed. Use a paintbrush to lightly brush over the lines with rubbing alcohol. The colors will start to bleed and spread. Let dry, wrap, and give as a gift!
What you'll need: Small 5 ¼ x 3 ¾- inch gift-box lid, washi tape in assorted colors, craft knife or scissors, craft glue or hot glue, 1- to 2-inch wooden blocks or beads, organza gift bags (or small plastic jewelry bags), small seed beads or dried lentils
What to do: Cover the top and sides of the lid with tape. Trace and cut out a 1 ½ to 2-inch circle (a hot-sauce bottle is usually the right size) in the top half. Glue wooden blocks or beads to the corners underneath the circle opening. Cut a 1-inch square out of both layers of the organza bag. Glue three sides shut and let dry. Add seed beads and seal with glue. Let dry completely.
What you'll need: Calendar template, white or cream paper or cardstock, markers, crayons, or paints, metal binder clips
What to do: Print out calendar; have your child complete illustrations for each month. Secure pages together with two binder clips. Gift!
What you'll need: Clear and white soap base, mason jar, soap colorants, disposable cups, diamond-shaped soap mold
What to do: Cut soap bases into ½-inch chunks. Put a handful in a pint-size Mason jar and melt in 30-second intervals. Add drops of dye to the melted soap, swirling the container gently to mix, until you like the color. Pour into a disposable cup. Make additional colors if desired using clear and white soap base. Once the colored soaps have set, peel them out of the cups. Chop up.
Melt two or more colors of soap in separate containers. Pour into the diamond mold, alternating colors and letting each dry for about 30 seconds before adding the next so they swirl together. (You can also put solid chunks of soap in the mold before pouring in liquid soap.) Experiment with different colors! Let harden overnight and wrap with plastic before giving away, to keep the glycerin from beading on the surface.
What you'll need: 1-inch-wide (or wider) leather strips, bobby pins and/or hair clips, cardboard box, newspaper, craft paint, disposable bowl, disposable gloves, hot glue or craft glue
What to do: Cut leather strips 1 inch longer than the clips, or cut into small circles. Place leather right side up inside a cardboard box on top of newspaper. Mix 5 parts craft paint with 1 part water in a disposable bowl. Wearing disposable gloves, dip fingertips in the thinned paint and flick over the leather. Let dry. Glue the leather onto the barrette or clip.
Galactic Puzzle Magnets
What you'll deed: Strong tape, 5x7-inch wooden puzzle blank, template, 8 ½x11-inch full-sheet labels, plastic bin or bucket with at least a 10-inch opening, plastic grocery bag, Magic Marble in gold, dark blue, and violet, wooden skewer, disposable gloves, index cards, newspaper, ½-inch magnets, craft glue or hot glue
What to do: Tape the back of the puzzle so it holds together tightly. Print the rocketship template (or your favorite design) on label paper and cut out. Stick onto front of the puzzle, pressing firmly. Place a disposable plastic bag in a bin or bucket. (FYI: The bin or bucket may not stay completely clean.) Add room-temperature water to the container so it’s a few inches deep. Add 20 to 30 drops of the Magic Marble colors to the water. Swirl with a skewer.
Wearing gloves, dip index card into container—it should go in horizontally or flat to the surface. Slowly submerge it, then remove to make sure the marble pattern is working. If you don’t like the result, add more paint or try swirling in different ways. Between tests, clean water by dipping in a card, pulling the paint to one side, and lifting it out of the container. (The paint will stick to the card.)
Once you’re satisfied with the test, repeat the process with the wooden puzzle, adding more Magic Marble as needed. Lay the puzzle flat on newspaper and let dry completely. Peel off the stickers. Glue a magnet to the back of each puzzle piece so the recipient can do the puzzle on the side of the fridge!
What you'll need: 8 ½ by 10-inch suede sheet, 25 inches of 1-inch leather trim, hot glue, pencils, small bead, less than ½ inch diameter, craft knife, embroidery floss
What to do: With suede placed lengthwise, place the leather trim in the center, making sure to line up one end with the edge of the suede. Glue end in place. To create loops: Slide a pencil underneath the trim, and glue down both sides. The loop should hold the pencil snugly but allow it to slide in and out. Hold in place until it dries. Repeat for 12 loops. Cut a small slit about ½ inch in from the end of the trim overhang. It should be large enough to fit over the bead. Round the corners of the trim if desired.
Roll up the suede and mark bead placement through the slit. Make a small hole and tie on the bead with embroidery floss.
Lavender-Scented Eye Pillow
What you'll need: Fabric shears, knee-high socks, fabric glue, clothespins, uncooked rice, dried lavender, pinking shears, felt
What to do: Cut a 10-inch section from the leg of the sock. Glue one end of the sock closed, leaving a ½-inch outer edge. Hold in place with clothespins until dry. Fill the tube with 2 to 2 ½ cups of rice mixed with lavender. Close the other end, leaving a ½-inch outer edge. Glue, holding in place with clothespins. Trim ends with pinking shears. Cut out two closed eyelashes shapes from the felt and glue on the pillow. Let dry
Great for new spellers—or anyone who likes to make her mark!
What You’ll Need: Paper, craft foam, craft glue, 2-inch wooden block(s), stamp pad & notebooks (optional)
What to do: Write your recipient’s name in 1¼-inch-high block letters on a piece of paper (you can also use a stencil or print out the letters in a font you like at 100 points). Cut out each letter. You can get six characters onto a block, so if she has a short name, fill in any blank spaces with a fun design like a heart or a star; if she has a long name, use two blocks.
Trace two of each letter onto craft foam; cut out. Stack the letters and glue them together. Then glue each letter to a side of the block backwards. Repeat for all letters. If desired, package your blocks with a stamp pad and notebooks.
The perfect tool to peek out of secret hideouts—and infinitely customizable!
What you’ll need: 2 single-sleeve cracker boxes, two 2-inch-square mirrors (edges covered with tape), duct tape, glue, balsa wood (find it in the model department of the art supply store), construction paper.
What to do: Using these instructions, cut up the cracker boxes, glue in the mirrors, and assemble them into a periscope. Once you’re done, decorate your periscope: Trace each side of the periscope onto balsa wood and cut out corresponding pieces. Glue each piece onto the periscope; let dry.
Cover the seams with strips of duct tape and glue on construction-paper designs. Let dry.
Your kids can make a whole school of these quirky stuffies for their crew!
What you’ll need: Fish templates, fabric (about ¼ yard per fish), chalky colored pencil, kid-safe needle, embroidery thread, opaque white fabric-paint pen, beans or fiberfill.
What to do: Cut out the templates and trace onto your fabric with colored pencil (feel free to let kids draw their own fish bodies too!), then fold the fabric in half and pin. Cut through both layers about ½ inch outside the marking.
Starting at the bottom, stitch the fish together along the chalk line, leaving about 6 inches open along its belly. Add the fish’s features with the paint pen, letting each side dry in between. Help your child iron to set the paint per manufacturer instructions. Stuff the fish with beans or fiberfill, and then stitch it all the way closed.
Personalize this game in your buddy’s favorite colors.
What you’ll need: 2 colors of felt 19x13-inch fabric place mat, fabric glue, 4 colors of oven-dry clay, glue stick cap, 2 pairs of dice, drawstring bag, poster or mailing tube.
What to do: Draw a triangle that’s 5 inches tall with a 1⅓-inch base onto a piece of felt. Use it to cut 12 felt triangles in each color. Arrange your triangles onto the place mat as shown. Glue into place; let dry.
To make the game pieces: Twist together two colors of clay, then roll out to ¼ inch thick. Punch out 15 circles with the glue stick cap. Repeat with remaining clay. Bake according to package directions. Place the game pieces and dice in the bag; roll up the board to store it all in the tube.
Sock Monster Madness
All the materials needed for making quirky creatures are snugly tucked into this fuzzy-topped sewing set. Because the instructions are open-ended, the lucky recipient is free to make his monsters as whimsical as he likes.
What you’ll need: A 7 by 8 1/2 inch jar, batting, 2 long socks, embroidery floss, fabric glue, thread, needles, pins, buttons, felt, faux fur, child-size scissors, and instructions for making the monsters
What to do: Fill your jar then decorate! Use double-sided tape to attach a faux fur circle to the lid, and embellish the rim with colored tape. Around the neck of the jar, hang a chain with a card stock tag that says "Make-Your-Own-Monster Lab." Attach a large googly eye to the other side of the tag with glue.
D.I.Y. Painted Desert
Retro sand art gets a modern botanical twist in this make-your-own terrarium. Even better, the unusual air plant found inside requires very little care -- no green thumb required!
What you’ll need: 1-liter jar, bags of colored sand, small trinkets, sea glass or small rocks, toothpicks, an air plant (find them at your local florist or garden center) loosely wrapped in colored tissue, and an instruction card for putting the terrarium together and caring for the plant
Bring a little sunshine to someone special with a honey-and-lemon-themed pampering kit. A small tub of handmade body scrub adds a personal touch.
What you’ll need: 10 by 5 1/2 inch square jar, yellow, honey, or lemon personal care items and treats: washcloth or bath pouf; tissues; honey sticks; tea; lotion; nail polish; lip balm; and body scrub (For our recipe, mix 2 1/4 teaspoons each olive oil and honey, 1/2 cup sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. Pour the mixture into a small container.)
What to do: If you've made the scrub, adhere a small printed or handwritten label to the jar, as shown, and glue ribbon to the rim of the lid. Use double-sided tape to secure a ribbon to the neck of the gift jar or to the rim of its lid. On a lemon-shaped tag made out of card stock, write "Honey-Lemon Spa." Tie on the tag with twine.
A collection of sweet sentiments -- each wrapped around a chocolate candy -- makes a delectable present for that someone your child just can't say enough good things about!
What you’ll need: A quart-size canning jar (to hold about 52 mini chocolate bars), chocolates wrapped with heartfelt notes. On the back of strips of decorative paper (ours are 2 3/4 by 1 3/8 inches), write a special message for the recipient, such as "I love your smile!" or "You make learning fun." Wrap the strips around mini candy bars (we used Hershey's Miniatures) and secure them with tape.
What to do: Embellish the lid with washi tape and decorative paper secured with glue, as shown. Use ribbon to attach a card stock tag labeled "Complimentary Chocolates."
This Jar Runneth Over
Share good feelings and promote positive thinking with the help of a simple Smile Jar. Cut a piece of felt to fit the top of a canning jar and make a slit in the center as shown. Have each family member jot down a few happy thoughts, jokes, or silly notes on small slips of paper and place them in the jar. When someone's feeling down, she can pluck out a note for a quick pick-me-up. Refill with kindness as needed.
Hand-Painted Art Jars
A bit of glass paint transforms thrift-store and recycling-bin finds into one-of-a-kind treasures. First, collect glass jars, bottles, and vases. Draw designs on them with glass paint markers (we used Pebeo Vitrea 160 markers). Set the paint according to the package instructions. To add a knob, paint a wood cabinet knob with acrylic paint. When it's dry, glue it to the lid with an epoxy suitable for glass (an adult's job).
Here's a gift for a young cousin or friend who loves adventure. Fill it with everything needed to make a tent fort: a flat sheet, clothesline, clothespins, and a flashlight. Trim several inches from the open end of a pillowcase to form a pouch 19 inches tall. For the drawstring casing, turn the pouch inside out, fold down the cut edge 1/2 inch, iron it, then fold down the new edge 1 1/2 inches, and iron that. Using a wide-eye needle and embroidery floss, sew all around the fold to create a channel. Turn the pouch right side out.
Have your child paint a fort on the bag with fabric paint. To help prevent the fabric around the drawstring hole from fraying, paint a rectangle and snip an opening in the channel as described below.
Knot the ends of a 5-foot length of cotton cord. Attach a large safety pin to one end and use it to feed the cord through the channel. Fill the bag with fort-building supplies.
Cozy Card Holders
These easy-to-sew wallets are sized just right for business cards, but you can also use them to present a gift card, jewelry, or even a heartfelt note. Get the full instructions here.
These pretty baubles have the look of glass enamel but are easily created by painting a metal washer with nail polish. Start with a base coat of white or yellow. Add colors, letting each coat dry before painting on top of it. Top the finished design with a protective coat of clear polish.
Duct tape turns a ziplock bag into a game board that holds handmade playing pieces.
What to do: Cover a gallon-size ziplock freezer bag with overlapping strips of a single color of duct tape. Fold a strip of tape lengthwise over each edge (just don't tape over the opening!). Adhere strips of a second color of tape to parchment paper. Measure and cut out 32 1 1/4-inch squares. Starting below the zipper, place the squares on the bag in an 8-by-8 grid. For checkers, cover 1-inch wood disks with two colors of duct tape, 12 of each color. (Or cut out corrugated cardboard circles, using a quarter as a template, and cover with duct tape.) Trim the tape with scissors.
Paint patterns on store- bought spoons for a present that's both useful and sentimental.
Lightly sand the handles of a pair of wood or bamboo salad servers, then rinse and dry them. Place a ring of masking tape midway down each handle. Pour a few colors of acrylic paint onto a disposable plate. Have your child dip a finger into the paint, then make dots on the handles. Let the paint dry before adding overlapping dots. Remove the tape. After the paint is completely dry, coat the handles with a nontoxic sealant, such as shellac.
Turn a picture into an original work of art by having your child add her own colorful touch.
Start by using your computer to turn a digital photograph black-and-white. For the sharpest results, you may want to increase the contrast and brightness. Print the image on photo paper. Have your child color in selected elements of the image with wide-tipped markers.