As Christmas gets closer, it gets harder to figure out what you’re getting for the rest of the people on your list. It can be harder yet to decide what your kids will give to grandparents and the few other people they give presents too. It’s a good time to start working on some handmade presents, things that show personal effort yet look really nice.
Kids love to make cookies. Pick some favorite recipes and get started. Use organic, fair trade or local ingredients where possible. You can buy organic or fair trade chocolate chips on Amazon, for example.
A little touch of candy making is always fun. I usually do something with chocolate. Chocolate covered pomegranate seeds are easy, for example. You simply melt the chocolate, stir in the pomegranate seeds, then scoop away a few seeds at a time to a cookie sheet to cool. Just a few seeds together are best, and you may want to warn recipients to eat these quickly, as the pomegranate seeds won’t stay good for long. They’re also very juicy and should be eaten carefully so they don’t squirt.
Truffles are also fun to make. There are all kinds of recipes online. My own favorite is a pomegranate truffle, and yes, you are sensing a theme here. My mother has a pomegranate tree, which should pretty much explain it. The truffles are made from pomegranate juice simmered down to about half, with dark chocolate mixed in, allowed to cool, made into small balls, allowed to cool again, then dipped in dark chocolate to coat. The insides melt very quickly, so I usually keep these cold.
3. Homemade Play Dough
This is a great gift for kids to give their friends. You can mix it up all the way or just give bags of powder and instructions on how to finish it off. The play dough recipe can be as simple as a mix of flour, salt, water and food coloring. A little vegetable oil can help make it a little smoother, but I often skip that part and I’ve never bothered with the cream of tartar many recipes recommend, nor do I cook mine. It comes out well and lasts for weeks anyhow.
4. Homemade Slime
This is another fun project, although the ingredients aren’t all as safe as the ones for play dough. Still not too bad, overall. Slime is basically water, Elmer’s glue, borax and food coloring.
5. Heat Packs
You can make heat packs in a variety of sizes. Buy an attractive, sturdy cotton cloth for the bag. Other fabrics may not fare well in the microwave and should not be used. Decide how large a bag you want. Smaller bags are good as hand warmers, which can be nice for cold weather. Larger ones are nice for heating sore muscles and can be draped on the neck or leaned on for a sore back.
Use your choice of filler. Rice, buckwheat hulls, feed corn, barley and beans are common choices. Only one is really necessary. Don’t fill the bag too full, as it should be fairly flexible.
Add in any scents desired. Dried herbs such as lavender, rose petals, mint or rosemary smell nice. You can also use essential oils. Mix these in before filling the bag. Be careful if you know the intended recipient is sensitive to certain smells.
Fill the bag and stitch it closed. I like to include a removable cover bag. It’s much easier to wash a cover than it is to wash a heat pack bag, and they do get dirty over time.
6. Bath Salts
Bath salts are easy to make. You just need a clean, empty jar, epsom salts and/or sea salts, food coloring and some essential oils. Glycerin is a nice addition, but not absolutely necessary. Mix your ingredients together in a bowl, remembering that it doesn’t take much essential oil at all to make a nice scent through the whole thing.
You can decorate the jars to make them more attractive if you like. I save jars from spaghetti sauce and other things all year, so jars for projects like this really aren’t hard to come by.
Not even handmade gifts always have to be from something you purchased. You can give the gift of time instead. You can offer to run errands, clean around the house, whatever the recipient would love for you to do.
This one can be great for grandparents, especially if they’re having trouble doing things themselves as they get older. Odds are they don’t need more stuff, but they certainly love having more time with the people they love.
Of course, you don’t have to limit this one to grandparents. Maybe you have a skill that someone else would love to have you share with them. I often have people asking me about how to set up a website, for example, and helping someone get started could be a great gift.