Not everyone may love your child's misshapen pottery or smeary finger painting, but there's one audience that's always appreciative: grandparents. They simply can't resist anything made by their grandkids' adorable little hands.
These five gift ideas do double-duty: While sweet and homemade, they're functional too. All of these projects can be made in a matter of hours, and even the youngest children can tackle them.
By Rebecca Ffrench
Glass Hurricane Candleholder
Instead of just passing along your child's artwork, select masterpieces to exhibit on glass candleholders. These make delightful centerpieces – and will certainly spark conversation. Alternating photos with artwork also looks great. The candle's light gives a magical glow to the art.
You will need:
- Glass hurricane candleholders
- Permanent adhesive full-sheet clear labels
- Color printer/scanner
Measure the height and circumference of your candleholder. Scan your child's artwork and then size to fit. If your candleholder is 6 inches high, for instance, size the artwork to be 5 inches tall, allowing for a half-inch glass border on the top and bottom. Cover the entire circumference, leaving no space between the images. You may need to print several images to cover the glass. You could repeat the same image or alternate artwork with photos.
After you've printed the images onto the full-sheet clear labels and trimmed the label paper to fit the hurricane, peel the backing and carefully adhere the label to the clean glass, moving from one side to the other, smoothing out air bubbles as you go. Note: Make sure the glass is free of dust and fingerprints before you place the label.
This gift requires little effort, gives bang for the buck, and will be used for years to come. When you consider that monogrammed napkins can cost more than $10 each, these personalized ones – at less than a third the cost – are a bargain.
Have your child pick out a special ink color and stamp from a local craft store or an online source such as RubberStamps.net, which has stamps for every theme imaginable, plus stamps that you design yourself.
You will need:
- 100 percent cotton napkins (as many as you like)
- Rubber stamp
- VersaCraft fabric ink pad
- Test fabric
Wash, dry, and iron the napkins, then lay each on a hard surface. Put a piece of cardboard under the napkin to absorb any ink that passes through the fabric.
Have your child lightly tap the stamp on the ink pad and gently press on a piece of fabric to test the impression. Once you're both satisfied with the results, have your child press the inked stamp on the napkin. You may want to have him create a border – or let him go hog wild. Be sure your child re-inks the stamp between every impression.
When all the napkins are stamped, place a piece of fabric between the stamped side of the napkin and the iron, and press both sides of the napkin with a hot iron. Do not use steam or water. The heat will set the ink and prevent fading. When cool, fold the napkins and place in a decorative box for giving.
Paperwhite Bulbs in a Mosaic Jar
When the ground is covered with snow, the gift of flowers is a reminder that spring isn't too far away. Paperwhite (also called narcissus) bulbs will produce fragrant blossoms in a matter of weeks. Using recycled glass jars keeps the cost down, and collecting pebbles gives your kids an outdoor mission. Covering the jars in colorful tissue makes the gift even cheerier. Consider giving several glass jars grouped together on a tray for especially bountiful blooms.
You will need:
- Glass jars
- White glue
- Small paintbrush
- 1-inch tissue-paper squares of various colors
- Paperwhite bulbs
- Small stones or pebbles
Put a small amount of glue in a plastic bowl and thin with water. Brush a small section of a jar with the thinned glue. Smooth on a piece of tissue. Continue to add tissue in an overlapping fashion until the entire jar is covered. Lightly brush the entire tissue-covered jar with glue, being careful not to rip the tissue. Allow to dry.
Fill jar about 3/4 full with pebbles or stones. Nestle the bulb, root side down, in the pebbles. Add a few more stones to stabilize the bulb so it stands upright.
Tie on a card with these directions: To force bulbs indoors, cover rocks with water. Place jar in a sunny spot. Keep jar filled with water. You'll have beautiful, fragrant blooms in 4 to 6 weeks.
Dot Art Tote Bag
Create a reusable bag for Grandma and Grandpa to show off at the farmers market or library. This bright and happy polka-dot design is easy enough for even the youngest toddler to pull off.
You will need:
- Canvas tote bag
- Bingo paint bottles
- Fabric paint
Wash, dry, and iron the tote bag. Fill paint bottles with fabric paint. Have your child dot on the paint. When paint is completely dry, place the bag in the dryer on high heat for 20 minutes to set the paint.
Marbleized Note Cards
Here's a chance to teach your child about the centuries-old technique of marbling. While the method used here is more free form than that used by traditional artists, the effect is stunning. Squares of the finished paper cut to fit the front of folded cards and paired with matching envelopes make a beautiful stationery set. This is a great project for all ages – just make sure little ones keep their gloved hands away from their face and skin so they don't rub oil paint or thinner into their eyes.
You will need:
- Oil paint
- Paint thinner
- Disposable foil tray
- Paint stick or plastic spoon
- Disposable gloves
- White cardstock
Mix one part oil paint to one part paint thinner and have children pour a small amount of the mixture into a disposable foil tray filled halfway with water. Using a stick, swirl the paint in the water (do not mix). You can add two or three colors to the tray for more colorful designs. Wearing disposable gloves, your kids will place a piece of paper quickly in the water. Lift straight out, let drip a few seconds, and lay flat to dry.
Once dry, cut pieces of the marbled paper to fit onto note cards or to use for a journal or photo-album cover.
Need more gift ideas?
Take a peek at our top picks for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids. Plus, 5 gifts dads will love, like this personalized key chain.