I tend to have philosophies about things. I have a green crafting manifesto, a strict definition of appropriate children’s clothing, a teaching philosophy and a course philosophy both detailed on my freshman composition syllabus, and, of course, a gift-giving philosophy–one for adults and one for children, one for holidays and one for birthday parties.
It can sometimes be kind of tiring, mentally, to be me.
However, to focus–for holiday gifts given to adults by my children, I prefer 1) that they be primarily handmade by the children, and 2) that they function as workable gifts on their own. The adults should appreciate and like the gifts, and find a place for them, because of the gifts themselves, not just the fact that the gifts came from my own clever and adorable children.
Oh, and my kids are three and five years old; this can be a challenge. Within those criteria, here are five projects that work:
1. Vegetable glycerin melt-and-pour soap. It’s easy and quick, if you use a nice essential oil (lavendar, say, or rosemary) and a nice dried herb (lavendar flowers, perhaps? Or maybe sea salt?) it can look and smell quite sophisticated, and also? It’s soap! Who doesn’t need soap? The ingredients are natural, of course.
2. Abstract art. I suppose it depends on the sensibilities of the person for whom you are crafting, but I am firmly of the mindset that if you do it on stretched canvas, then it’s art. And especially if a kid creates it–think unique color combinations, native-esque forms, Picasso and Pollack and all that business. Give a kid a professional-quality surface and professional-quality materials, and you have something you can hang on the living room wall. We use acrylics, but you can easily make this an eco-friendly project by substituting soy crayons or homemade tempera or professional supplies made using natural pigments.
3. Salt scrub. Who knew that bath and beauty products could be so simple to make? This one mainly requires whisking. While keeping the recipe similar to the one listed here, I’d recommend using essential oils for the scent, and finding some creative combinations of those; skipping the colorants altogether and instead pouring in layers of dried herbs (calendula flowers? cloves?) to get the layered look; and putting the salt scrub in a nice, reusable glass Mason jar.
4. Date and Raisin Squares. It’s nice to get the kids into the kitchen, too, and not only do these date and raisin squares lack the preservatives of many store-bought foods, but they naturally call for less sugar and processed grains than most sweets. An adult will likely need to stew the date mixture, but all the other steps are very kid-friendly. Feel free to substitute in organic ingredients and local jams for an even more eco-friendly present.
5. Nature Wreath. With an adventurous kid or two, a walk around the woods or the neighborhood, and an adult to do the wiring with florist’s or jewelry wire, you can have a natural wreath made from the offerings of whatever season you happen to be in–natural, local, and compostable.
What great gifts do your kids make?