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Sharing Of Yourself – Homemade Gifts

With the holiday season upon us, it is difficult to NOT get caught up in the crazy frenzy of holiday shopping.  However, I came across a great idea for teaching children about the act of giving of themselves.  This is perfect for children because not only do they give something to someone they love, but they find the joy of creating that gift.

Have everyone in your family draw names from a bag.  In our family, we’re doing just the four of us, but it would be wonderful to get the grandparents and other extended family involved in this, too!  The name you draw is the person for which you will create a gift.  Here are some simple ideas that kids can do for gift-giving:

  • dressed-up coat hangers: have children wrap colorful ribbon around coat hangers to create a beautiful and unique gift.
  • beaded bookmarks: string beads onto yarn and knot at the ends for a lovely way to mark your reading place.
  • magnets for mom: print off different letters and/or words in a variety of colors and fonts from your computer.  Cover both sides of the paper with contact paper, cut out, and attach a self-sticking magnet to the back.  Or, find extra photos and create photo-magnets!
  • for the gardener: choose a packet of favorite seeds and present them in a hand-painted pot.
  • Old standbys: using clean, recycled material, kids can create virtually anything: a pencil holder out of a tin can, a new mail basket out of a plastic milk jug, a colorful paperweight by painting a pretty rock, and even a set of pretty holiday coasters by covering old greeting cards with contact paper.

Why The Age-Old Joke Of A Box For A Gift Isn’t Such A Bad Idea…

I just finished an article from the November 2008 Parenting magazine about children and boxes (page 144).  The scenario they gave is so very true.  I used to sell specialty toys for a home-party company, but my son’s favorite part of the whole experience were the large boxes of packing peanuts I would discard as I inventoried products.  He could have cared less about the brightly-colored toys and balls, the noises and lights, the glitz and glitter.  He was happy sitting in a box, kicking packing peanuts into the air and burying himself in the sea of white foam.

For my son, it was a matter of space.  In a box, he was secure and comfortable.  It was a small space, just like him, and he seemed to feel protected.  I have witnessed this same phenomena in our church nursery.  We will have small children come in and be totally overwhelmed by the room, the toys the stimuli, but if you place that same child in a high chair with one or two small toys, they are happy and will stay there until they are more familiar with the environment.

Boxes are also great for creating and imagination.  We used to place several large boxes in a row to make a train, a rocket, and, at one point, a school bus.  Children are not confined to the way a box looks; a box is generic.  It can become a castle, a cave, a restaurant, and even Grandma’s house.  Older kids can use paints or paper to visually create what their imagination “sees”.

Small boxes are awesome tools for storing toys and objects.  Small children love to fill boxes and other containers with cars, balls, animals – whatever toys are at their disposal.  The act of putting a toy in a box and pulling it out is a wonderful lesson in object permanence with younger children.  Even though the object isn’t visible, the child realizes it is still there, just inside the box.

So, as the holiday season approaches, keep those boxes handy for all sorts of creative and imaginative play.  And, when your child is more interested in the packaging rather than the product, realize that it is okay.  Boxes are actually a good thing!

Sightless Drawing – a New Perspective

I recently came across an activity that is quite simple, but for my boys and me, provided oodles of fun and playing time.  While this is really geared toward older children, it can be just as fun with younger ones as well.

Each person needs paper and a pencil (or crayon, but my boys found pencils easier to manage).  The key is to draw a picture without looking at it.  This process forces your brain to think perspectively and to be intentional with each mark.  Start with something simple, such as a tree or a house.  Either blindfold the person doing the drawing, ask him or her to look away, or sit in a darkened room.  Use your non-drawing hand to orient your pencil with the paper, feeling for the edges.  Then, draw!

With practice, my boys got better and better.  Once they were able to “see” the picture in their mind while they drew, they found that it was easier to produce the desired drawing.  We moved on to more complicated ideas, such as landscapes, people, animals and even a space scene.

Another idea is to place the paper on your head (with a book underneath to give a solid writing surface) and draw a picture on top of your head.  When I was younger, this was a great activity that my friends and I would try at Girl Scouts, in the lunchroom, and in any free time we had.  Our favorite was to attempt to draw a pig, but we did venture into other simple objects such as cars and flowers.  This activity is more difficult than the other; not only are you having to draw without seeing what you are doing, you are having to do it in a different angle and perspective.

Challenge your kids (and yourself) to attempt some different art together today.

Homemade Fingerpaint!

I’m one of those messy moms.  I buy playdough every couple of weeks (that is, when I’m not making it myself).  I let my kids draw with markers that aren’t washable from time to time, and we even create art with pudding and other foods.  Making a mess is part of exploring the creative side of yourself.  So, fingerpainting is definitely a “must do” at our house!  However, I don’t always have fingerpaints on hand, so I came across this great recipe for making some at home.  The best part is, it is completely washable.  So, make up a batch, set the kids out on the porch with some paper and fingerpaints, then hose them down when they’re done!

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 T sugar
1 cup water (cold)
Food coloring of your choice – to make it truly stain-free and washable, use liquid watercolors to tint the paint, or try different flavors of Jell-o.


Put the cornstarch, salt, sugar, and water into a pot. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir constantly. The mixture will start thin, but it will eventually become thicker. When it is finally thick, take the pot off of the stove and let the mixture cool off. Once it is cool, divide it into small containers (small jars or leftover yogurt containers work well) and add a few drops of food coloring to each. Stir in the coloring and voila! It’s time to paint.

Indoor Drawing Fun!

In the wake of Hurricane Dolly here in Texas (and the storms/heat/all other yucky outside weather stuff going on), I thought I’d share a great activity to try indoors this summer.  This is a great project for pretty much any age; if a child can hold a marker and scribble or color on a paper, then they are ready for this one.  All you need are markers, a timer, and a sheet of blank paper for each participant.

Set the timer for one minute, and each person begins to draw a picture on his or her own paper.  It can be anything, from a scribble, to shapes, to letters, to lines, to something more complex.  When the timer goes off after one minute, pass the drawings around to different people (if it is just you and a child, simply trade.  In our family, we pass to the right when three or more are playing).

Set the timer again for one minute, but this time, each person is now adding to the other person’s artwork!  Continue in this manner until the art is completed.  It is amazing to see what everyone can create together by adding a little to each piece.

Find great supplies for this activity, such as drawing pads and crayons, and other art projects at

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