DIY Gift Ideas for 12 month old?
February 13, 2014 10:10 PM   Subscribe

A close friend's baby girl is turning one in a little over a week, and is throwing a party I am invited to. Due to unexpected circumstances, I can't afford a gift. I know she'd understand if I didn't get her daughter a gift, but I really want to. My husband suggested we make something. Looking for ideas. Here are the resources I have available:

Access to the local hack space with almost any tool imaginable. I'm only approved on a couple tools, but I can probably get a member to train me on something specific this weekend if it will help. I have some nice wood sheets (1/4" thick) for laser cutting, and I have clear, white and pink acrylic. I might be able to get other colors.

My husband originally suggested making a mobile out of laser cut wood, and make seahorses of different colors, or fish of different colors. But I thought she might be too old for a mobile. Sure enough, a google search suggests they're for children under 1. I've been wracking my brains for something that would be age appropriate that I could make, but honestly, I don't know much about children.

Obviously safety is paramount. Which is why I thought something out of acrylic might be a better choice; though it can break and have sharp edges. Laser cut wood has rough edges. Which could be sanded away, but that "ruins" the look to some extend. I could possibly make a bunch of shapes out of laser cut wood and then dip in acrylic melted with acetone for a small hand-held bunch of colorful toys, but I don't know that a week would be enough time to dry.

I also thought about making some kind of picture frame out of the wood, but that strikes me is rather boring, and I would rather it be a gift she would get direct use out of at her age.

It doesn't have to be a toy either, but a toy seems like the type of item I would be most capable of making right now. I should add that I'm not necessarily that crafty, which is why the laser cut idea seemed so doable - I can make digital artwork in the physical space.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Would you be able to make her a nice box with her name inlaid on top in the acrylic? She could end up personalizing it with stickers and markers and stuff and eventually use it to put her favorite things in. I got a tiny little suitcase for my birthday as a 1 or 2 year old and I don't think I put it down until I was 7. (I still have it, too. I have a thing for putting tiny things in tiny boxes.) For whatever reason having a nice thing to put my favorite stuff in was just... Satisfying.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:16 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

A single, chocolate-covered strawberry—it doesn't have to be big, it just has to be perfectly sweet/ripe. Seriously. I've done it, and it's a wonderful gift.
posted by heyho at 10:16 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

1 is exactly the right age for very large puzzles, and the setup you describe sounds perfect for making large puzzles. Do you have access to a large printer? A cool thing to do would be to print out large photos of her family, her house, her teddy bear (familiar objects, in other words), glue the photo firmly to the wooden backing, then laser cut the pieces -- about a dozen big pieces, each about the size of the palm of your hand.

Here is a pinterest search that might yield up some other ideas.
posted by anastasiav at 10:21 PM on February 13, 2014 [18 favorites]

The mobile could be lovely---something she could have hung on her ceiling and look at every night as she's settling into bed. Think Alexander Calder, not the little mobiles that people hang on a crib.

My kids got an awful lot of mileage of some---nicely sanded and finished with some sort of organic baby-safe finish---scrap pieces of wood in a wooden box. For longer term play, it would have been nicer if more than one piece of wood had been the same size. You would want to sand the rough sides from the cutting, probably.

A collection of squares and triangles and circles. Neat.

My mother got my daughter for her first birthday a cheap plastic pail, a package of ping-pong balls, and an egg separator. I think the goal cost was like $5 at the dollar store. (It would have been perfect, except for the fact that it turned out that the ping pong balls were just the right size to fit in the baby's mouth. So go for larger balls.)

But one-year-olds like lots of stuff. I made my one-year-old niece a bunch of crocheted balls and a bag to put them in. You could go for a bunch of blocks, and a box to put them in.

(The box isn't necessary, but it's nice for the parents to be able to clean them up into something.)

I don't know how thick the acrylic is, but acrylic shapes would be cool too, as long as the acrylic is safe to be put into a mouth.

Basically, assume anything you give the kid that's not going to hang on a wall somewhere is going to end up in the mouth, and plan accordingly.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:21 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about making a book? When my daughter was 1 I made her "Baby's First Facebook". It had pictures of her cousins, grandparents, friends, and our pets. It was great because we could look at it and practice names.

You could also make a simple counting book or alphabet book with things that would be special to your friend.

It's usually like 20 cents / picture to get a 4x6 inch printed at a drugstore, or you can choose to have a book printed for you.
posted by MadMadam at 10:22 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

A card/letter with your favorite memory of her mom, and a description of the person you hope the daughter will become.
posted by jaguar at 10:34 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I turned 1, my godmother gave me a large laminated poster with pictures cut from photos of our family, plus pictures from magazines, and words from magazines, all about things that she hoped for me in my life. It was really cute and awesome and lived on my wall of my childhood bedroom my whole childhood, and even as an adult I take it out now and again and it makes me smile.

It probably would have only taken her an afternoon of work, but the love that went into it was special. (And now, the seventies/early eighties looks in the magazine pictures, photos and general design aesthetic are really awesome to behold too.)
posted by lollusc at 10:46 PM on February 13, 2014

She is the perfect age for simple puzzles. You could make something like this.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:47 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

When my kids were that age, if you had given them two pieces of wood cut into shapes with drawer-pull knobs attached -- kind of like cymbals made of wood -- that they could bang together and make a horrible noise with, they would have been delighted beyond belief.

Do you have the capacity to make an open cube? My kids had a set of nesting/stacking wooden cubes similar to these that were beloved and adored. You could make those out of plain wood and they would be just as awesome. Put one thing in another thing! Take the thing out of the thing! Put the thing on top of the other thing! Knock the whole thing down! It doesn't have to be a set of ten; a set of four would be just as fun.

If you can laser-cut wood, you could make a shape puzzle like this. Laser cut the top sheet, more drawer pulls for the shapes, glue the outline to another sheet of plywood.

I have a thousand more ideas in this vein, if you need more. . .
posted by KathrynT at 10:51 PM on February 13, 2014

Came in to say puzzles. You could probably cut a basic "shapes" puzzle - not your standard jigsaw puzzle, but one that's like "fit the triangle into the triangle-shaped hole." Or, an acquaintance did a laser cut puzzle for his son that's a slightly abstracted picture of a panda face, where all the different parts (eyes, ears, nose, black and white splotches) are puzzle pieces. My kid loved puzzles like this for about a year and a half, starting a little after his first birthday.
posted by linettasky at 11:11 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are seriously over-thinking this!

At this age, the party is for the adults to socialize, the child won't remember it at all!

Anything you choose will be PERFECT. The parents just want you, their friend, to show up and have a good time with them.

My son is almost 3 years old. I swear to you this is the Truth!!
posted by jbenben at 11:52 PM on February 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

jaguar: "A card/letter with your favorite memory of her mom, and a description of the person you hope the daughter will become."

This! For my cousin's first birthday many, many years ago, I wrote him a letter to be opened the day of his Bar Mitzvah. He just turned 27 and still remembers it. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 11:53 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Two things my nephew and niece loved at that age or shortly thereafter: doing simple puzzles with big pieces, and putting Things in other Things. So if you cut out big puzzle pieces and made a box to put the pieces in...that one year old would be in heaven!

I also love jaguar and SisterHavana's idea of writing her the letter--or lollusc's wall poster. Really special, those ideas, and full of genuine affection.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:03 AM on February 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far! So many things I didn't consider! I have two fairly nice pieces of wood, one is a 1"x4"x4' piece of aspen, and the other is the same size poplar. I'm leaning towards a toy with wheels, a simple puzzle or a few wooden animals. Any thoughts on which would be better?

And I happen to have beeswax, so can make a beeswax finish.

I am also starting to worry about gender stereotypes and while I was initially thinking something cutesy and found myself passing over cars, tractors and dinosaurs. The parents are moderately progressive but both stick to fairly traditional gender roles. However the mother and I have spoken at length about things like gender equality and roles. Their daughter is dressed fairly cisgender, and has toys that range from neutral to feminine. But I don't think either parent would mind a toy that went outside of what would normally be given to a girl. Yet as I contemplate this, I can't actually imagine giving their daughter something traditionally for boys such as a car or helicopter.

Am I thinking too much about that? Should I just go with something neutral like an animal or set of animals, or would a giraffe-dinosaur-robot set of wheeled toys be more fun?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:05 AM on February 14, 2014

Honestly as a parent of a 1 month and two year old, who hangs out with lots of other new parents anything wooden let alone hand-made, gadzooks is such a wonderful thing compared to the avalanche of plastic shit (some of it very expensive) our house is drowning under. It's so nice, so durable. Much nicer than what 99% of other guests would bring.

we have something like this, with a little ball that slots on the top, and our daughter liked it a surprising amount!
posted by smoke at 1:03 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh she also liked wooden animals, just make sure they're not big enough to swallow.
posted by smoke at 1:04 AM on February 14, 2014

If your wooden thing plan doesn't pan out, alternatives that have worked well for my one-year-old friend are

- a massive scarf, which she can play peekaboo with and hide in and play under, perhaps you already have something that could be repurposed in this way
- a trip, just the two of us, to the local farm, which has rabbits and guinea pigs and so forth and was near some swings to play on.
posted by emilyw at 2:39 AM on February 14, 2014

How about a quiet book?
posted by plinth at 3:06 AM on February 14, 2014

My vote goes against anything cutesy-feminine. Girls shouldn't have to grow up in a stereotyped and pink world, basically being forced to like pink. This TV commercial came out just last year - it's so sad that kids are assigned roles to this extent. There should be just toys, not toys specifically for girls and toys specifically for boys. Very cool of you to make your own toys. Don't let any gender stereotypes stop you, go nuts!

Looking at the three choices you linked, OP, I vote for the dinosaur puzzles. Would love a pic of the finished product!
posted by travelwithcats at 3:12 AM on February 14, 2014

Don't be another person telling her girls can't like dinosaurs and helicopters. Enough people will tell her that for the rest of her life. My vote is for puzzles like this.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:16 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

They all sound like great ideas. My first thought, though, was the biggest cardboard box you can find, filled with colorful tissue paper. I can just about guarantee she'll be waving that tissue around all night long and crowing at her own cleverness.

Would a train feel less boyish to you? We got a lovely wooden train for my child's first birthday. It could be a wooden-animal carrying train!
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:24 AM on February 14, 2014

How about you make several seahorses as if for the mobile, but make them wall hangings instead? Just adjust your already wonderful idea.
posted by zizzle at 4:21 AM on February 14, 2014

All three of your ideas sound great. If it helps you decide which to make, think about what age you want her to play with the toy. The wheeled animal is great for now, and she'll probably keep playing with it for about a year (YMMV). The puzzles you linked to will be too complicated for now, but she'll be able to play with them by age 2.5-3 (again YMMV), but will get boring fast once she cracks them (on the other hand, of the three choices, they are the ones that as I parent I would be most impressed by as a gift, and are certainly something to be displayed after they're no longer played with). The wooden animals probably have the most play value, since they're wide open imaginatively - I would have kept playing with something like that well into 9-10 years old, but I was weird like that.

Definitely go with giraffe / robot / dinosaur if that's where your imagination is taking you. There are ways to make all three so they appeal even to girly-girls (give them a "cute" face and lots of curves like in the links you posted so they can be seen as female or male to the imagination).

I think this is an awesome present.
posted by Mchelly at 4:25 AM on February 14, 2014

My one year old loves wooden pegs. Blocks are good too.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:41 AM on February 14, 2014

I like the wooden toys idea but you need to make sure that the wood will not splinter or break when chewed and that the paint is non toxic. Cause at that age, everything goes in the mouth.
posted by amro at 5:16 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would make a little coupon book, with promises of future fun you'll have with the baby:

1. One ice skating trip

2. One trip to the zoo

3. Host one sleep over

4. One afternoon making and decorating cookies

5. One painting session

6. One fussy hair do

7. An afternoon of crafting

Whatever occurs to you.

If you want to give a gift to the parents, another coupon book with offers to watch the baby while they go out on a date would be MOST welcome.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:23 AM on February 14, 2014

DarlingBri: "She is the perfect age for simple puzzles. You could make something like this"

My daughter has something exactly like this, only instead of shapes, the pieces are the letters of her name.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:43 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the most popular toys after our toddler storytime is our latchboard puzzle. We have one that looks kind of like this, but its really the latches that are the star of the show, not the pictures. Its a toy that is really enjoyed by the 18 month to 3 years set, and it's really good for their fine motor skills to pratcile manipulating the smaller pieces.
posted by itsamermaid at 5:56 AM on February 14, 2014

I know the perfect answer to this question: a yellow plastic duck.

My younger sister got one for her first birthday many years ago. She was thrilled.
posted by ovvl at 5:57 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have an 18 month old (girl but at this age they're all the same really) and I'm going to throw my vote behind animal shapes. We love animal things because you can do the sounds and colors and where they live and all of that fun stuff. Right now TinyJungle's favorite thing is a stuffed dragon, so you don't have to limit it to farm animal if you don't want to.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:05 AM on February 14, 2014

CDs or a thumb drive filled with music. Bouncy music with a good beat, lullabies, stuff you loved when you were a kid, funny songs... you name it.
posted by Madamina at 6:06 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love all the wood options! The animals would be great wooden teethers (have you seen the wood iPhone teethers? so cute!)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:09 AM on February 14, 2014

To give you an idea of what kids that age are into, my child's favorite toys at age 1 were: an empty quart yogurt container, a large cardboard box, and some foam blocks. The bar is not that high here.

As the parent of a 3 year old and a 3 month old, I can tell you that pretty much anything you've suggested is going to be well received. Just pick something you like that you have the time to make.

I absolutely think that a car, dinosaur, or giraffe would be a great girl toy.

Whatever you do, laser-engrave the kid's name on it--even before they can read, kids LOVE to know that things are special/theirs.

Finally, anything that is going to be handled by the kid is going straight in the mouth, so please make sure you sand down any rough edges very very thoroughly.

Also, the guideline is that anything that can pass through a toilet paper tube is considered a potential choking hazard for kids under 3, so if your toy has wheels, make sure they're biggish and very firmly attached.
It would be so sad if the parents felt the baby couldn't play safely with the results of your hard work.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:26 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

A good, cheap, DIY gift for wee ones that I've done before doesn't even involve a metal shop:

1. Get some plain canvas baby sneakers.
2. Get some acryllic paint from a craft store (even just the kids' sampler pack things are fine).
3. Go nuts painting the sneakers all funky.

You don't even need to go all perfect and design-y picture-y with this either - you can just do "the tongues are green, the backs are blue, the sides are purple and the toes are yellow" colorblock style. It's easy, it's adorable, it's fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sock Puppet; Sock Monkey.
posted by gregoreo at 6:55 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, don't feel like you need to make a set of things. A single wooden giraffe sounds perfect.
posted by judith at 7:05 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like the puzzle idea best, but just as another suggestion could you laser cut the layers of her name and stick them on another piece of wood to make a sign for her room. Even just the first letter done really large.
posted by wwax at 7:17 AM on February 14, 2014

I love all of the wooden toy suggestions; you wouldn't have to make fancy shapes. Geometric shapes would work just as well.

Also, I heartily second the suggestion of the box with tissue paper. Seriously, when our LO turned one, dad and I sat on the couch a day or two after the party to do the gift opening - my kid spent hours climbing into and out of the big boxes and the over-sized gift bags. The toys were stored in his closet for 6 months or longer, until he was ready to engage with them.

(no offense to heyho, but I would freak the eff out if someone gave my 1yo strawberries or chocolate. Might be cute for a 2yo though).
posted by vignettist at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2014

Yet as I contemplate this, I can't actually imagine giving their daughter something traditionally for boys such as a car or helicopter.

Am I thinking too much about that? Should I just go with something neutral like an animal or set of animals, or would a giraffe-dinosaur-robot set of wheeled toys be more fun?

I crafted a reply but I'm trashing it. The idea that in 2014, a presumably reasonable person is asking whether gender stereotypes should be respected when selecting a toy for a 12-month old makes me totally depressed. Instead, I'll link to this:

What set the highest-scoring toys apart was that they prompted problem solving, social interaction, and creative expression in both boys and girls. Interestingly, toys that have traditionally been viewed as male oriented—construction toys and toy vehicles, for example—elicited the highest quality play among girls. So, try to set aside previous conceptions about what inspires male and female play and objectively observe toy effects to be sure boys and girls equally benefit from play materials.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:59 AM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

You've got a lot of great ideas here, any one of them would be wonderful. I'll add on: My kids had one of those wooden puzzles with the shapes. It had tiny little drawer-pulls on each piece to make it easier for the baby to pick up the pieces out of the frame. The best part was that I took out the pieces and glued family photos into the shape on the base so now the baby can pull the square and see Grandma, etc.
posted by CathyG at 9:14 AM on February 14, 2014

Response by poster: I love the ideas! So many wonderful ideas that I feel like I should make them all!

To clarify on my earlier car comment, I couldn't see giving her a car or similar toy traditionally thought of as a toy for boys, and that is what really bothered me. I mention it because I want to actively address that prejudice. I am not around a lot of children and don't know how common it is to go outside these boundaries with someone else's kid I assume it would be okay, but I just don't know.

I will certainly be posting pictures once they are done. And whatever it is, I will be putting in a big box with lots of tissue paper. :)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:06 AM on February 14, 2014

At some point in my childhood, my grandfather made me a wooden sign, like wwax describes above, with my name. I had it on the door of my room for many years, and it's still around somewhere. I always enjoyed having it and knowing that it had been made just for me.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:50 AM on February 14, 2014

An empty box should suffice. Really.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:31 PM on February 14, 2014

If the parents believe with all their hearts that helicopters are unsuitable for girls, then it is exactly a helicopter you should buy her. She's going to need extra help breaking through that "boundary," whose purpose is to keep girls in their place. I don't know many parents who think that way, but judging from the segregated aisles at Toys R Us, it seems that it is the norm to choose gendered toys. It's something to resist, not cater to, especially in a 12-month-old child.

As far as this whole endeavor goes: handcrafted gifts are wonderful. However, if your main purpose is to save money, you will find a perfectly fine array of gifts at your local dollar store. Decent parents will not think less of you for buying their kid a $5 bath toy, and who knows? It might be her favorite thing ever.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:47 PM on February 14, 2014

Response by poster: Wordwoman, I think the idea was initially to save money, but now that I've asked this question, there are so many beautiful ideas that I can't possibly think of doing anything that isn't hand crafted. If it fails miserably (which is entirely possible) then to the dollar store I go!

I don't think her parents would be against her having toys that are "for boys", I'm just not sure based on the toys I've seen she has that they've thought of it. So I have mixed feelings on if I should intentionally try to give her something that is outside what I see she already has, or if I should just go with something I know she likes - she has a toy giraffe, and is captivated by them at the zoo. So I just don't know. I am probably stressing out far to much about this aspect of the gift, but I also think of my childhood, and how boxed in I was to girl stuff until I was older. (and then again, she's not my kid.)

I think my big problem right now is that I am so inspired over all the gift ideas that I want to make them all! Which is more than a little unrealistic.

I think, having written out the above, I'm going to make her a giraffe toy with wheels and if that goes well, I will make a helicopter like this one
If that goes well, I'll make a robot - I was fascinated with robots at a young age, so who knows, maybe it will be inspirational to her. I love the idea of giving her a matching set of toys. If not thematically, then stylistically.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:14 PM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sounds like a plan, OP! FWIW, I consider dinosaurs perfectly gender neutral, they are part of our world's history. Helicopters are operated by pilots of different genders and transport all kinds of people. I am not sure why so many parents still associate vehicles primarily with boys as if it was 1914.
Her toy collection is not perfect, your handcrafted toy (giraffe or other) will be a great addition!
posted by travelwithcats at 3:29 PM on February 14, 2014

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