I love making things and helping other people make things — which is good, since that’s my job! I firmly believe anyone can create things. You just have to want to do it, and it’s OK to ask for help if you need it.
Here are some accessible ideas for homemade gifts you can put together with your kids. These are pretty simple, and they’re for a variety of ages, requiring varying levels of parental “assistance.” If, by chance, you are looking for a more sophisticated, elaborate, or challenging idea, please ask!
Even toddlers can make
I love this tutorial from Small + Friendly! You use painter’s tape to make a relief pattern, and allow your toddler (or older child) to scribble over it. When you pick up the tape, you’ll find a cool design remains!
Some tips for a better outcome:
- Dark markers on a lighter shirt work best (think white, light blue, light gray, etc.).
- Make sure you use FABRIC MARKERS! I like these fabric markers by Sharpie (you can find them at most crafting and office supply stores). I’m not fan of Tulip brand.
- This goes better if you stabilize the fabric so it doesn’t stretch while your kid colors on it. I like using the sheets of the sticky lint rollers (the ones where you can tear off the adhesive sheet after each use) — tear a few off and place them under the spot where you’ll be coloring.
I made the above version with my son when he was 18 months. When he was 3, I felt like I needed to change it up to keep his interest, so I added toy trucks! It was a huge success! For this you will need a T-shirt, fabric paint, painter’s tape, something to stabilize the back of the shirt, a paper plate for a palate, and toy trucks with textured wheels.
- Tape off a rectangle/square where you want the paint to go.
- Squirt some fabric paint onto your paper plate. Tip: I like to use two primary colors (red, blue, yellow) with white and/or black. That way, if all the colors get mixed together, you’ll still have an aesthetically pleasing color swirl.
- Have your kiddo drive the toy car/truck in the paint then drive the painted tires over the shirt. Make sure they are pressing down hard enough that the wheels are turning, rather than just skidding over the fabric.
- Dry and finish according to the instructions on the paint.
Tip: Because the paint sits on top of the fabric, you can use a dark colored shirt with light colored paints.
Making bags is my thing. I loooove bags, and seriously, who doesn’t need more?!
For the younger set
Felt is a fabulous fabric to use if you don’t want to sew. It doesn’t fray, so you don’t have to finish the edges (though you can use a blanket stitch on the edges if you like), and glue works well, so you don’t necessarily have to sew it.
This is a super simple tutorial for a glued felt pouch. It’s designed for a library card, but it can be for a gift card, change purse, coupon holder, or just about anything!
If you want something simple to sew
Book/grocery totes are always a good gift. This tutorial says it’s for a “20-minute tote.” I’m an experienced crafter, and I can’t make this in 20 minutes. It is a very simple and quick pattern, though. One note: This site has gorgeous textiles, but they’re very expensive. If you’re looking for a more thrifty option, go to Joann or your local fabric shop and find fabric on sale or use a coupon.
Tips: Don’t wash your fabrics first. Use canvas fabric for the outside of the bag. It will give it better structure. Iron your fabric and press your seams! It will give you a more finished look.
Check out this solar dye project!
Not your average kids clay project
By adding some patterns and pops of color to a clay project, these look like gifts I’d be proud to give.
Patterned hand dishes
Although the “mid-century” name might be a tad pretentious, these dishes come out looking really cute.
Colorful hand dishes
This dish has fun colors, and with the fingers separated it can also act as a ring holder. It would be great to place next to the kitchen sink to hold rings while you wash dishes.
You can personalize scent and color, or leave these odorless and colorless if you prefer.
The melt-and-pour method is the easiest way to “make” soaps at home. The name says it all. You buy a block of soap, melt it in the microwave or on a double boiler, add color and fragrance (if you like), and pour into a mold to harden.
It’s also pretty easy to make your own lotion bars. I wrote a tutorial for these a few years ago.