Kids DIY gifts for the non-creative child?
November 30, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas for gifts my son could make for Christmas that don't require any artistic skill at all. He's ten, and has issues with fine motor skills. When he's asked to do artwork, it's not much more than scribbles and stick figures. I need to do cheap gifts this year, so I'm going to have his younger sister make bookmarks for him, and some relatives. To balance that, I'd like him to make gifts for his two grandfathers. The grandfathers don't have any particular hobbies, one is nearly blind and housebound. I don't want to ask him to do artwork, because it will frustrate him to compare to his sister's better skills. Any thoughts?
posted by saffry to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Can he help to bake and decorate cookies?
posted by BrashTech at 10:04 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could he make cookies?
posted by essexjan at 10:04 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

He could also record something, like a video, for his grandfathers.
posted by xingcat at 10:10 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

We used to peel garlic and put it in olive oil in cute jars for our grandparents. Something like that, maybe?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:11 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can he read? You could record him reading a book that the grandfathers would enjoy. The Earthsea Trilogy comes to mind, or a kids joke book.
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 10:13 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Vanilla beans in cheap jars with cheap vodka. Let it sit for a few weeks, extract. Not the most personal of gifts but nice and he could decorate tags to tie on top.
posted by pearlybob at 10:14 AM on November 30, 2012

Until her death, my husband's grandmother greatly cherished a letter he wrote to her when he was little. My mother-in-law keeps it now. It's adorable!
posted by Neekee at 10:19 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

We've made bath salts (just epsom salt and a few drops of a nice smelling oil with maybe a sprig of lavendar or rosemary thrown in), and soaps from a kit that relative seemed to enjoy.
posted by goggie at 10:20 AM on November 30, 2012

Food gifts are always a good thing. If the grandpa's teeth are okay, a variety of different seasoned nuts would be a great idea, and couldn't be easier: you need a pound of some kind of nut, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and a couple tablespoons of some kind of spice mix. Preheat your oven to 350, then heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add the spice mix and stir it around a couple minutes to toast the spices. Dump the nuts into a bowl and dump the oil/spice blend over them, and stir it up good to combine them. Then dump the nuts onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 until toasted, stirring the nuts up good every 5 minutes or so. (It usually takes only 15 minutes for my oven.)

This may also be a great way for you to use up any spice/seasoning blends in your pantry you haven't used in a while. And a fun way to handle the packaging - hot-glue some nuts and bolts from the hardware store onto the lid of a glass jar and put the nuts in it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was going to say brownies or blondies but I see I've been beaten to the punch by the cookie commenters. Even easier: haystacks.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:22 AM on November 30, 2012

Maybe you can make it a family effort - what if his sister does artwork for a linoleum block print (simple, one color), you carve it, and your son prints it? (Which consists of rolling the ink out on a plate, rolling it onto the block, then pressing the block onto the paper. Repeat for as many gifts as you need to make.)

My family make Christmas cards this way once or twice when I was little and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
posted by usonian at 10:25 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Having him colour, draw on, or decorate some paper to use for wrapping might also help with the "did it myself" vibe. And maybe he won't be as frustrated with the quality of his decorating the wrapping paper as he would be if he was trying to make "artwork". There is maybe a perceptual difference in the "importance" of the two that he would appreciate?

Personally, I'd love to get stick figure drawings from someone.

What if he decorated the paper, and his younger sister did the bookmarks, and they could give that as a joint-gift effort?
posted by annekenstein at 10:27 AM on November 30, 2012

How about a jar of homemade cocoa mix, maybe with a plastic bag of (storebought) mini-marshmallows tied to the neck of the jar with a big bow? Mixing and (with your help) funneling the mix into the jar shouldn't be too challenging, but it makes a nice cozy gift for winter!
posted by Elsa at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2012

I've made cinnamon ornaments with Kindergarteners, it's so easy - and even the big kids love the smell and feel of the dough.

This year I had the thought to make them in the shape of Little Trees car air fresheners, so they're a natural car deodorizer too. You can use any cookie cutters, or even just drinking glasses, and they're nice in drawers and in the kitchen or bathroom for the grandfather that's housebound. You can add other spices, and even ground coffee, if other scents are preferred more than cinnamon.
posted by peagood at 10:41 AM on November 30, 2012

My six-year-old son takes good photographs now that he understands that what appears in the viewfinder ends up in the picture. If your son likes using the camera, maybe he could make a short photo series with a suitable family or holiday theme, or a stitched-together story book. Printing in black and white looks fine for this kind of thing, I think.
posted by Francolin at 10:44 AM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

When I was little, my mum bought a cheap soap making set and we made fancy soaps with lemon slices and stuff. That required no skill on my part whatsoever
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:46 AM on November 30, 2012

Last year we did pretzels dipped in chocolate bark. It didn't frustrate anybody to make or test them.
posted by dragonplayer at 10:51 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was seven I made a hug box for my grandma. I took a regular old small box (I think it was for a bracelet or something) and wrapped it like this (so that the lid and box are separate) with pretty paper. Inside I put a picture of the two of us and a little note that said something like, "whenever you miss me or need a hug, just open this box. I filled it with infinity hugs."

She still has it sitting next to her bed almost 20 years later and talks about it being the best present she's ever gotten all the time.

As long as your kid can wield a glue stick and fold paper, it shouldn't be too hard.
posted by phunniemee at 11:10 AM on November 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

If you do the photos, go online and compile them into a book with typed captions on each page. That adds cost to your gift-giving, but these books are really impressive.

If you are going to dip pretzels in chocolate, you could also dip Ritz Bitz peanut-butter sandwich crackers. I like the pre-fab mini crackers better than putting peanut butter between 2 big crackers. Sprinkle with red/green jimmies.

If you do wrapping paper, you might be able to get a newsprint remnant from your local paper, or find some other large chunks of paper. Then when he decorates it, don't try to "draw" specific things, but show him some samples of abstract art with big swirls and lines and dots of colors. Spread the paper on the floor and just let him go with a paintbrush. You'll probably find that large swoops of color are easier for him to draw than fiddly tiny drawings.

I really like the idea of a video. Could he do a stop-motion animated movie of his GI Joe dolls (I mean ACTION FIGURES!) trying to stop the dinosaurs from invading the living room? (We did Gumby and Pokey and the Temple of Doom). Or act out his favorite book and make a live movie of that with himself as the star. Or a fake gameshow - quiz style, or singing/dancing competition, or goofy stunts.
posted by CathyG at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2012

Another idea: are there pine cones around your neighborhood? He can make a bird feeder with peanut butter and birdseed, tie a ribbon to hang it from a tree. A lot of the housebound folks that I knew liked to look out the window at the birds.

Peanut butter might not be the best - look online for recipes.
posted by CathyG at 11:19 AM on November 30, 2012

If you are going to dip pretzels in chocolate, you could also dip Ritz Bitz peanut-butter sandwich crackers. I like the pre-fab mini crackers better than putting peanut butter between 2 big crackers. Sprinkle with red/green jimmies.

Along this line, those crispy noodle things that white people put on Chinese food are absolutely delicious when mixed with white chocolate and spooned into clusters. You wouldn't think so, but there you go.
posted by phunniemee at 11:25 AM on November 30, 2012

Paper Plate Clock
posted by Sassyfras at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2012

I like Usonian's idea of making prints. (You can do this with styrofoam and/or craft foam too.)

Maybe he could make something with pony beads. A key chain or a charm to go on a backpack.
posted by vespabelle at 1:01 PM on November 30, 2012

Beeswax candles? He could either roll the beeswax sheets into tapers, or cut them up with cookie cutters (4 or 6 per shape) and press them together with a wick between the middle layers.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:21 PM on November 30, 2012

We bought icing bags and put hot chocolate powder in them, with marshmallows on top. Then we stuck on googly eyes and a red nose. Tie with some brown pipecleaners. Voila,reindeer. You can make your own hot chocolate powder if you want - we used cocoa, icing sugar, etc, per a mix I found online. But you could also just buy a tub at Costco or wherever. I did this somewhat effectively with preschoolers, so I'm sure your son could manage it.

On the page above, there's also one shot of a cellphane bag with 8 chocolate covered almonds and one red chocolate. It says, "Reindeer noses". I may just steal that for this year.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:07 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

We used to make candles out of paraffin wax, broken crayons for color, and cotton twine for the wick. You can probably find Gulf Wax at your local grocery or hardware store. Chop up broken crayons into tiny bits using a large kitchen knife and melt them together with the paraffin in a clean, empty soup can set in a pan of water on the stovetop. (Don't melt the wax directly in one of your good cooking pans—it will be too hard to clean out. You want to be able to chuck the soup can when you're done.) Then you can either pour the wax into a clean, empty paper milk carton for a mold (use the single-serving sized milk cartons), or (more fun!) do dipped candles by dipping the wick into the wax repeatedly. With multiple colors melted in separate cans, you can create striped effects on the candles. At a craft store, you can probably get proper candle wicking and wax color chips which would be even better than the cotton twine and broken crayons but still pretty cheap.

With a few additional materials that you can probably scrounge up for free or for cheap, you can make firestarters which would be good gifts if the grandfathers have fireplaces or like to make campfires.
posted by Orinda at 4:37 PM on November 30, 2012

One more candle option: ice candles. Loosely fill your little milk cartons with crushed ice before pouring the wax in. When the ice melts, your candle will have a cool lacy pattern. Just remember to put smaller ice chunks on the bottom so your candle holds together better.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:00 AM on December 1, 2012

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