Many of us lament the fact that our kids look at Christmas or Hanukkah as a prime time for receiving that doll, computer game or plastic castle that they’ve “always” wanted. How can we teach our children to enjoy giving as much as receiving?

One way is to have them make gifts for others in their family, their neighborhood or their school. Kids love to make things; they just need supplies and guidance from a patient adult. Here are some creative ideas for gifts that will bring treasured memories simply because they came directly from little hands.

  1. Write an essay describing why you love a parent, grandparent, sibling, special neighbor, teacher, etc., on pretty stationery or white paper rolled up and tied with a ribbon. Or create a book from that essay with hand-colored or painted pictures to illustrate different sentences. You can punch three holes in the side of each page and tie the book together with yarn or ribbon.
  2. Design a photo frame out of construction paper, card stock or pieces of wood. Decorate the frame with glitter, stickers, ribbons, buttons, shells, etc., and put a favorite photograph inside (either of the child or the person the child wants to give the frame to).
  3. Create a collage about your family, using photographs, drawings, short descriptions and decorative items, such as shells, leaves, ribbon, etc. These items can all be glued onto a large piece of posterboard. Or make a small photo collage of a child with grandparents or cousins, etc.
  4. Paint or decoupage a light-switch plate. Use thick paints that will adhere to shiny plastic surfaces or glue decorative pieces of fabric, wallpaper or magazine pictures onto the switch plate.
  5. Paint pictures or designs onto a plain clay flower pot. Give just the pot or fill it with a plant or some holiday treats.
  6. Make a terrarium or seaside scene inside a small glass vase. Use pebbles, green moss, fall foliage, small pieces of wood or stone for the earth terrarium. Or use beach sand, shells, small pieces of driftwood, the small discarded shell of a crab, etc., for the sea scene.
  7. Make ornaments from Styrofoam balls. Get a supply of beads, sequins and tiny straight pins. Cut a piece of ribbon, fold it in half and use a pin to stick it into the bottom of the ball. Then thread a small bead and a sequin onto a pin and stick this into the ball. Continue until the ball is completely covered with sequins and beads.
  8. Create ornaments using a photograph of the child. Glue the photograph onto a shape the child cuts out of construction paper or poster board (such as a Christmas tree, a Hanukkah menorah or dreidel, etc.). Decorate the ornament with glued-on sequins, beads or ribbon. Cut a small hole in the top and thread a ribbon through to hang the ornament.
  9. Make jewelry out of puzzle pieces. Take a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, or several pieces glued together, paint it and decorate it with beads, glitter, sequins, etc., Glue a jewelry pin on the back.
  10. Make handprint wreathes. Trace a child’s splayed-finger hand and cut multiple copies of it out of green construction paper (or green posterboard). Arrange the hands in a circle to make a Christmas wreath. Decorate the wreath with red ribbon and a few small ornaments.
  11. Decorate a pair of long candles using tiny straight pins (less than one-half inch long). Pin sequins to the candles, making spirals from the tip to the candle bottom, choosing a repeating pattern of color. The sequins will gleam in the candlelight.
  12. Decorate several sheets of paper and envelopes to give as stationery. Use glue and glitter, crayons, markers or paint for borders; or cut out pieces of sponge, dip them into paint and make stamps on the paper.
  13. You can also create marbleized stationary by purchasing fine-quality resume paper and blank note cards. Pour droplets of tempura paint into a metal pan containing a mixture of water and a cup of laundry starch. Use a plastic fork to “comb” the color of the paint lightly across the water’s surface. Place a sheet of paper on top of the water’s surface for a few seconds, lift the paper up and place it on newspaper to dry. Then cut a panel of the marbleized paper and rubber cement it to one of the note cards. On the back of the card, you can copyright the child’s name and the year.