Homemade Gifts for Boys
November 5, 2010 7:35 AM   Subscribe

What kind of gifts can we make that our nephews will enjoy?

My husband and I have decided to give only homemade Christmas gifts this year. We've got most of the family covered, but we are totally stumped on what to make for our nephews. The boys are ages 6, 7, 9 and 11 and are interested in typical boy stuff of those ages - Transformers, Star Wars, Lego, and lots and lots of video games. Pretty much if it is marketed to boys, they're into it. They are not all in the same household.

We're pretty sure they would be tremendously uninterested in the hand-knit animal hats or stuffed animals we're making for the younger kids. We can cook, sew, knit (although I'm running out of knitting time), do simple woodworking, and other general crafty-stuff. We can't spend a lot of money on this. We're open to giving them some kind of kit as seen in this question, not if it means just creating a collection of stuff we have to buy.

Please help us come up with some ideas that will be exciting for the boys to open and won't just be thrown into the back of their closets, never to be thought of again.
posted by Dojie to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Marshmallow shooters.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:46 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I guarantee each one will LOVE a Marshmallow Gun. They are crazy easy to make and dang inexpensive. TONS of fun.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:48 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Sassyfras at 7:48 AM on November 5, 2010

Maybe some mix cd's to introduce them to music they might like? I once made a mix cd for my ex-girlfriend's 6-year-old son that only had superhero-themed music. There's a Snoop Dogg song called "Batman and Robin" that he became obsessed with (the censored version, obvs). There were some tv theme songs in there but if you search in iTunes there's actually a lot of good stuff, like David Bowie's "Heroes" and Veruca Salt's "Spiderman '79".
posted by shornco at 7:49 AM on November 5, 2010

My 12 year old son loved it when he got a stack of lumber and a toolkit with a printout on how to make a hinged box (the wood was pre-measured);

he also loves getting fresh markers, crayons, art pencils and a new sketchpad.

Last year my sister knitted him a beanie hat. It did not go over well, althoguh he learned how to say thanks when horrified by the present.
posted by dzaz at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: Most boys that age (including mine) like to have stuff that shoots other stuff.

Marshmallow gun

Ping Pong Ball shooter



Twinkie Bazooka


All of these things, in one form or another, can be built with scraps or some PVC from Home Depot. Plans for all of them can be found on the 'net.
posted by bondcliff at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: P.S. Include bags of marshmallows as well as sheets of action-oriented stickers--like flames and thunderbolts--and let the boys customize their new toys.

Jinx, Sassyfras.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:52 AM on November 5, 2010

We give our nephews that age each a "special day". They love it - individual time with us, doing something fun. Sometimes we take the whole gang bowling, but when we don't want to spend money we do parks, etc. So, what about spending the day making something with them - cooking maybe? helping them make something out of wood? some other kind of craft? teaching them to knit or sew or woodwork, or just get a pile of metal wires and let them sculpt something while you bake and decorate cookies?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:52 AM on November 5, 2010

I loved this question about making homemade "kit" gifts from last year. The target kids in question are the same age-range, though all girls, but the idea is fantastic and adaptable.

Some ideas to start...
-an outdoor explorer kit (bug jars, bug book, magnifying glass)
-a soldier kit (any of the above-mentioned homemade guns, camo face paint, painted-on-a-block-of-wood walkie talkies)
-spy kit (magnifying glass, pencil lead dust for taking fingerprints, blank notebook for writing down clues)
posted by phunniemee at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2010

The younger two might like some Homemade Play Dough. I've made that recipe and it's great. Make lots of small batches of different colors.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:29 AM on November 5, 2010

Successful gifts I've made for my pre-teen and teen nephews:

- a book safe. This is especially good for a child with siblings, who might crave some privacy*. Inside I stashed small packets of exotic candies, dollar-bill origami, and small toys.

- a traveling pente set. I described it in detail here, but briefly, I marked out squares with fabric paint (fabric paint marker would work, too) on piece of canvas, bought glass drops at a garden supply store, and packed the set and printed rules in a drawstring bag.

- duct tape wallets. You can find lots of tutorials online, but none that I saw stress the importance of lining the inside seams so they aren't sticky, or of using real duct tape, not Duck Tape (the brand, which I find stickier and more prone to fraying and feathering at the edges). I put a $2 bill inside the wallet before wrapping, and they kids loved that.

- as mentioned above, sketching supplies. My key to success in giving art supplies to older kids: give them grown-up tools and supplies, not stuff aimed at kids. Give them a smallish supply of the kind of luxury materials you might covet. Some ideas (though these are based on what my nieces and nephews like and I covet): archival pens, good pastels, conté and smudging tools, good erasers, nice pads of paper or bristol board, maybe a pocket-sized field book. Last Christmas, I made a duct tape carrying case and packed a small field kit inside: small pad, colored pencils, conte, eraser, etc.

*Yeeeah, it wasn't until I was wrapping up the book safes that I suddenly realized I was providing them with future stash boxes for illicit goods. Still, their parents thought the gift was great.
posted by Elsa at 9:45 AM on November 5, 2010

Maybe some throwing toys? Like beanbags and a target (if you're really crafty, you can do a carnival-style game setup), or cloth mitts (optionally with a target printed on them) with velcroed balls for playing catch.
posted by Wossname at 9:53 AM on November 5, 2010

When I was a 12-year-old girl and had to come up with ideas and give Christmas presents all myself to my 12-year-old boy cousin, this was very traumatic. But then my girl scout troop did a day making gingerbread houses, and that became tradition: every year, a gingerbread house. It started with the graham-cracker and gumdrop thing we did at scouts, and progressed through a church made with melted-candy windows. By the time we were in college, my brother was drawing me sketches and pattern pieces for a hacienda, and the tradition wound to a close when the cousin joined the Navy and we all stopped coming home for holidays - last thing I made him was a gingerbread ship.

But he looked forward to that gingerbread house all christmas season, and then we would all demolish it the next afternoon. I bet your nephews would love to eat a house.
posted by aimedwander at 9:55 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Marshmallow shooters are perfect. Our sisters may not be too pleased with us, but I'm pretty sure the boys will love them. Complete with a big bag of marshmallows and the coolest stickers we can find.

The 'special day' idea is a good one - but not practical for us. Two of the boys are out of town and schedules are challenging with the local guys.

A book safe might be a good choice for the oldest, but I don't think the younger ones would be very interested.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions!
posted by Dojie at 2:50 PM on November 5, 2010

As the Mom of 9 and 7 year olds I've got to second the hollow book. Kids that age go nuts for secret stashes and treasure chests.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:23 PM on November 5, 2010

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