Christmas gifts

make gifts from memories

Giving gifts of meaning is always appreciated, and it makes me feel good to do it, too.

A $5 notepad bought because I’d love the picture is a much nicer gift than a $20 impersonal gift voucher in my eyes.

And home-made gifts show love and care as well, so why not make a meaningful gift for someone this Christmas?

Creating memory gifts

I’ve thought of a few ways to collate some memories to share as gifts…

  • frame a collection of old kitchen or workshops gadgets – or a photo of them!  Use a deep frame or a shadow box (best for reducing dust collection!) or skip the glass front and attach items onto the backboard of a frame.  It’s a great use of old things not used much but too treasured to throw away.
  • put a collection of treasured items inside a glass topped table

    Trinkets on display in a coffee table

    Display table {image courtesy of HousingWorksThriftShops (Flick’r)}

  • make a picture out of special cards or tickets – put a few on an interesting background (try scrapbooking paper for inspiration) or overlap a lot of items.
  • put some special photos into ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree
  • laminate a special or funny photo and put it into a clear containers to fill with soap  as a personal addition to a bathroom or kitchen
  • stick photos/collage onto kitchen canisters – it’s a very personalised kitchen, reuses old canisters and displays special memories in a creative way
  • use old mirrors (especially those hand held ones that could be a reminder of a grandmother or childhood) as alternative photo frames
  • make a picture or a collage of old house and car keys – a great  trip down memory lane! Alternatively, make them into a mobile or windchime.

    Display of old keys

    Mount some old keys to remember their secrets! {Image courtesy of TakiSteve (Flick’r)}

  • use an old window frame from a family home to create a shadow box or picture frame so the frame and the contents bring warmth and happiness
  • turn old wooden items into Christmas decorations
  • make a wreath (of Christmas or perhaps to hang outdoors all year round) out of old tools, garden implements or kitchen gadgets
  • make a patchwork quilt or throw rug out of some favourite fabric items like
    • baby clothes and blankets when the youngest child grows out of them
    • old tablecloths, runners and doyleys from your grandparents
    • a few favourite dresses or t-shirts

      colourful patchwork couch

      Is this a colour statement or a collection of memories? {image courtesy of Maleva Apaixonada (flick’r)}

    • tea-towels from various places you’ve visited
  • make a hanging rack by sticking objects on a length of wood – you can use cutlery and kitchen tools bent to shape, handles from various tools, door knobs, Lego or wooden blocks, and all sorts of things
  • use some old lace and some glue to create a lamp cover or even a decorative bowl

    Two bowls made form lace doilys and glue

    Two bowls made from lace and undiluted glue {image courtesy of Christine Majul (Flick’r)}

  • make a snow dome using a laminated photo or some small items, like a toy car, animal or person

Of course, the hard part may be giving up your work when it’s time to hand it over!

Have you ever been given a gift based on memories and treasured items?

 

* All Flick’r images are used under the creative commons licence.

Swap old or unwanted presents?

So how many unwanted presents did you get for Christmas?

Most of us try hard to give gifts someone wants to get, but not everyone gets it right so we sometimes (often?) get gifts that are not useful or not suitable for us.

Christmas presents under a tree, caption 'dealing with unwanted presents'

What do you do with unwanted presents?

Seriously, what do you do with those presents? Let us know in the comments as we all come across this issue from time to time!

I can’t say I’ve tried all of these, but here are some ideas for those presents when you can’t openly improve the situation…

  1. take them to a shop and exchange them – particularly useful for swapping clothing sizes/colours or book titles.
  2. regift them if someone else would truly appreciate the gift
  3. swap the item with someone who wants it – maybe they got a present you would like!
  4. go to a swap shop session where the community can exchange unwanted gifts, such as run in Stevenage, UK, for Christmas 2015
  5. put them in a cupboard to collect dust – not my preferred option and not really a good use of resources…

Christmas hair ties

My children enjoy making a small gift to put with a Christmas card for their classmates.

In the last couple of years, they have each made something different. But this year they are both making one gift for the girls and one for the boys.

Christmas hair ties

The girls will be getting a Christmas hair tie made by my children.

Four Christmas hair ties

Four Christmas hair ties

We started with a packet of hair ties and some rolls of Christmas ribbon. Actually, what I used was like a hollow string rather than a ribbon, but any Christmas ribbon will look pretty 🙂

green hair ties and Christmas ribbon cut into strips

Hair ties and ribbon are all you need!

I cut the ribbon into lengths of approximately 20 cm.

Then we simply tied a piece of ribbon onto each hair tie, making the two lengths equal.

child tying string onto a hair tie

Attaching the ribbon to the hair tie

We then tied the ends into a bow.

child's hands with a finished Christmas ribbon bow

A finished bow…

I say simple, but it was more challenging for my six year old than her brother or me – good fine motor skill practice though!

child adding finished CHristmas hair tie to a pile of hair ties

The resultant pile of Christmas hair ties is very pretty and festive! And hopefully will make  a number of young girls happy when they open their envelopes.

array of CHristmas cards and envelopes with hair ties included

Cards and Christmas hair ties ready to hand out at school

Other children’s craft

If you are looking for other ideas of things children can make as token gifts to classmates and the like, have a look at previous things I’ve made with my kids:

Christmas stars – a fun craft activity

My daughter and I made some Christmas stars for her to give as gifts to her kinder friends last year – like for my son, I wanted something other than candy canes and it is so much nicer to make something.

Making Christmas stars

I was inspired for these stars by Crafty morning’s snowflake ornaments. I prefer to make stars rather than snowflakes don’t mean Christmas to Aussie kids – and I think mine look more like stars anyway!Materials for making bud stars

Materials

cotton buds
coloured cardboard
glue
glitter
ribbon or similar for hanging
scissors and hole punch

How to make the Christmas stars

cut cotton buds into two pieces – uneven sizes is the aim so don’t worry about making them equal or matching sizes!

Cotton buds cut into pieces

Add glue to a piece of cotton bud – I found the easiest way for my daughter was to have a blob of glue on a plate and put the pieces in the glue.

Child putting pieces of cotton buds into glue

Stick 5 or 6 pieces onto cardboard with the cut ends together and the other ends spreading out to for a star shape.

child sticking buds onto cardboard

Spread some glue roughly between the cotton bud pieces – close to the centre, reaching out to different lengths.

Glue between cotton bud peices stuck on cardboard in star shape

Sprinkle some glitter over the star.

Glittery cotton bud stars

This stage needs adult supervision or assistance for younger children. Cut out the cardboard around the stars – it is easier to cut roughly around each star and then neatening it up. Rounded edges look nicer, I think, but sharp corners could be effective, too.

pile of cut out cotton bud stars

Then simply put a hole in the cardboard of each star, thread through some ribbon or twine and you’re done! I made a little loop of the ribbon so it would be easy for the kid to hang the stars on a tree, and it also made it easy to hang a number of stars on a length of ribbon at home, too.

cotton bu stars hanging in a row

The stars are small and light enough that my daughter could pop them into an envelope with a Christmas card to hand out to her friends.

Child putting a cotton bud star and Crhsitmas card into an envelope

Scented sachets

kids filling fabric bags with scented leaves

It took concentration but the kids loved filling the bags for their Grandparents’ Christmas gifts.

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually get my kids to make presents for their grandparents each Christmas. It can be difficult finding things to make as I want it to be something the grandparents can keep and enjoy rather than just a scrap of paper with a scribble on it, and ideally it will be something at least a little bit useful!

So one year they made scented sachets as gifts.

Steps to scented sachets…

  1. I pulled out various bits of material I already had and let each child choose fabric to use.
  2. For the chosen fabrics, I cut a rectangle of about 18cm x 5cm# and used a sewing machine to create them into bags* – some with a lace trim
  3. we then walked around the garden together, collecting stuffing for the bags – we used home grown lavender, gum leaves, native mint leaves and miscellaneous leaves. Yes, you’d probably get better long term results from dried plant matter but I wanted the kids to be involved in the whole process and didn’t mind if these sachets didn’t last more than a few months.
  4. the children then had a lovely time filling their bags with the scented plant material
  5. I hand stitched the opening of the bags
  6. The kids lovingly wrapped their gifts and put them under the Christmas tree.

For older children, you could get them more involved in making the bags, too.

 

# Some I cut in 10cm x 9 cm pieces if that fitted my material better

* To make the bags, simply fold the fabric in half with the right sides touching and sew along most of the open edges, leaving a small opening to add the filling. To trim with lace, simply pin the lace between the two pieces of fabric (so the pretty part is hidden from view as you pin and sew) and sew as per the plain bags.

Time to recap on Christmas…

COlourful Christmas tree & gifts on a black background

What did you find under and around the Christmas Tree?

It’s Boxing Day and that’s a great time to look back at Christmas and remember how great it was and appreciate many things.

Your gifts…

As I asked a few years ago, what did you get for Christmas that …

  • showed the most thought and knowledge about you?
  • was the most fun?
  • was a complete surprise?
  • means the most to you?

And what present did you GIVE that gave the most joy?

Your day…

And I’d love to hear about your Christmas celebrations yesterday. Did you start any new traditions or try something different this year?

What made your day special?

Managing expectations

In business and in marketing discussions, ‘managing expectations’ is important and quite common.

The point is to let people know what to expect so they are content with things. For example, if people know it will take two weeks to have something delivered, they’ll be happy with to arriving in 12 days but 12 days would be irritating if you expected it in 3 days.

What about Christmas expectations?

Small Christmas gift sitting on a large present

The size of a gift can raise expectations…

Managing expectations is not a term I’ve really though about in relation to Christmas (or other gift times of year), but it makes sense to think about it.

Have you ever had expectations about Christmas that were not met or exceeded?

High expectations fail

I remember once that I was given some hints that I would get an iPad for Christmas, and I was quite pleased about the idea. And quite disappointed when I didn’t get one on Christmas Day. Had I not heard those hints, the lack of iPad wouldn’t have bothered me at all so it was false expectations that caused the disappointment.

It’s a bit like the child getting a huge gift, only to discover that there is a box inside a box inside a box… The child would be a mix of emotions – excitement over a large gift, disappointment over it not being so big, excitement over lots of layers to unwrap and the surprise of finding whatever was in the middle. My Dad did that to me once – the final gift was very small, but as it was a key to a car it was also a very big gift!

Low expectations succeed

Via jcc81’s comment in a recent post, I heard of a great way to set low expectations and thus provide excitement on Christmas Day. Imagine children watching you wrap some junk for them and seeing those gifts under the tree for days and weeks… Only to discover some other gifts were placed under the tree on Christmas morning!

 Managing Christmas gift expectations

So letting children know in advance that they may not get everything they want, not even everything they wrote to ask Santa for, is a good way to keep them happy with what they get on Christmas morning.

I think that is a good lesson for them anyway – there should be more to Christmas than the gifts and they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want.

Have you ever really thought about managing gift expectations?

Simple Christmas gift

small black magents with varius Christmas themed stickers

Plain magnets and stickers – an easy and cheap material list!

To solve the issue of what my son could give to his classmates for Christmas, we decided on a card and small gift for everyone rather than trying to choose who to give a personal present to.

 

Christmas magnets

I found some magnets and Christmas stickers so our gift idea was found!

Foam Christmas stickers and plain black magnets

Foam stickers give a better result than flat stickers, I think. They are bigger and will look better on the fridge!

If you manage to get stickers and magnets exactly the same size, then all you have to do is stick on the stickers! However, the odds are you won’t be quite so lucky.

Creating Christmas magnets

If the sticker is bigger tan the magnet, you can just take off the backing paper and attach the magnet. It will look great from the front and back but (and this is a big but!) the exposed glue surface will attract dirt and dust and soon will become messy.

CHristmas stickers with magnets attached, one with backing paper and one without backing paper

The red surface of the left Christmas magnet is sticky and will soon be messy – the Christmas tree will stay nicer.

The sticky surface will also make it difficult to put the Christmas magnet into an envelope or gift wrapping.

I traced around the magnet on the back of the sticker and then scored the outline. I actually prepared a pile of them before my son got involved, but older children could possibly score the paper themselves.

stickers with the backing paper scored around a magnet's outline

Trace around a magnet with the blade of a craft knife or pair of scissors

It was then easy for my son to peel off just that bit of backing paper and attach the magnet, leaving the rest of the backing paper in place.

Child's fingers peeling off backing paper then atatching a magnet to a sticker

Peeling off the relevant bit of backing paper and attaching the magnet was managed by four and six year olds.

That’s it – no drying time or finishing touches needed! And because they are small and light, it’s easy to just pop them into an envelope with a Christmas card and you’re done. In half a day, my son had a gift and card done for all his classmates (and writing the cards was definitely the most time consuming task!)

 

an array of Christmas magnets and a child's hand

My son proudly laid out his completed Christmas magnets

Safety for children

child sitting on a tree branch

Climbing a tree is an acceptable and healthy risk, but not everything children want is safe enough

Whether it is from advertising or simple interest, kids will ask for all sorts of things for Christmas (and birthday) gifts.

There may be many reasons to decide against a particular item for you child (price, values, practicality, appropriateness, and so on) but one I have been reminded of this week is safety.

Considering safety of a gift request

This week, a mother contacted us about not wanting mention of a mermaid tail in her daughters’ Love Santa letter as she had decided it was not appropriate for her daughters.

I know very little about mermaid tails so I am not saying they are or are not dangerous.

But the point is valid.

If you don’t think your child’s gift request is safe or appropriate, then that is your decision and the child should not get that gift.

Choosing what is safe

At one level, safety depends on the specific child. That is, the child’s age, personality and physical abilities will impact on what is suitable for that child, and that takes someone who knows the child to make that decision.

Certain things are clearly not safe and thus easy to decide against – like small Lego pieces for a baby or guns for any child, for example.

Whereas other things may be less clear. So to decide if something is safe enough to give to your child (or the child in your life), here are some suggestions:

  1.  do some research online – if you know little about the item, it is hard to judge it so find out what it is, what’s it made of and so on.
  2. look at the age group it is suggested for
  3. find out what other people think of the item and what experiences they have had with it – ask parents you know but also look for some online reviews. Even if you disagree with a review, it may give you some questions to ask or information about the item’s features.
  4. think about whether you would have used and enjoyed it when you were that age – this can help you view your child as a person rather than as your ‘baby’ who needs to be protected
  5. If you can, go and touch and try the item. Does it feel sturdy or likely to fall apart? Will it put the child high above the ground or travelling fast? Does the packaging and instructions promote dangerous activities?

Saying no to the child

If you decide a gift is not safe, what do you tell the child?

I think it helps if you don’t promise anything so you don’t have to back track 🙂

Beyond that, I tell my children that I don’t like a potential gift and give them a reason. I may simplify it to suit their knowledge, but I let them know to maintain their trust and get them thinking . It also means that I have already set the expectation that I won’t get it later nor allow them to buy it themselves a few months later.

How do you tell your children you have decided against them having something they would like?

Love Santa letters

Just to compete the above story about mermaid tails…

Santa understands safety and works hard to never give children toys or gifts that are not safe. And when Santa writes to children he never promises any particular gift will be given because he knows things may change between writing the letter and Christmas Eve.

As each Love Santa letter is individually adjusted, it was not difficult to remove any mention of the mermaid tails for the girls mentioned above, keeping everyone happy and safe.

Stepping stones

stepping stones- i remember when i was a little girl i made unique stepping stones for my grand parents. Dad poured the cemet in to a frame him and mum made and my older sis and i put pebbles and stuff on top. I still some times see it at my grandmums house on her wonky path!

Hand print artwork makes a beautiful Christmas gift

Four paintings made of children's hand printsLast Christmas, we made some beautiful artwork as gifts for Grandparents.

I thought of them as an extension of some handprint ideas I’ve seen before (a single handprint with a poem or a group of children’s prints randomly across a farewell card) and was really pleased with how they turned out. It’s just taken me a while to edit the photos and write about them!

Making the artwork

We bought some canvasses cheaply, along with some nice quality acrylic paints.

I painted each canvas in a colour suited to the gift recipient (eg yellow for the grandparents with a yellow feature wall in their lounge room and pink for the grandparents with a dusky pink lounge room.)

 Once the canvases were dry, the kids got involved.

Due to the paint and likelihood of mess, I controlled this artwork closely. I went from youngest to eldest as the older children were more patient and better at spreading the paint over their hands. I also held their wrists as we made the prints to minimise smudges and errors.

Again, I chose a paint colour to suit the home of the recipient plus the canvas colour (ie choosing enough contrast to be visually effective).

One by one, I painted a hand of each child and we created a row of handprints. We did a test first, without paint, to decide on a pattern that looked good and included all four prints – you will need to find a pattern to fit the number of people and canvas size.

And that was it!

We wrapped them and the paintings were well received on Christmas Day by three sets of grandparents – and a surprised Daddy who hadn’t realised we made four!

Christmas tree cakes

For a bit of fun, make some cakes (or muffins) that look like Christmas trees 🙂 Sorry to share it so long after Christmas – I just got too busy, lol!

This is an easy activity to give the kids, too, and can become a gift-making exercise while you’re at it.

Christmas tree shaped cakes with candy cane trunks

Christmas tree cakes

Make a rectangular cake or brownie

Cool the cake

Cut the cake/brownie into triangles

Insert a candy cane into the cake half way along the base – to form the tree trunk

Use coloured icing to add lines of tinsel on the tree

Use dobs of icing or broken lollies to add other decorations to your tree

Let everything set then enjoy!

Really handy to give as gifts for the kinder or school class.

Of course, you could use a tree shaped cutter instead of triangles if you have that option, but the triangles are so easy and don’t waste any cake.

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