The How and Why of Homemade Christmas Gifts
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The How and Why of Homemade Christmas Gifts

How do you choose the best homemade craft for your gift giving needs? What crafts are good to have kids help with? Find homemade kid-friendly gift ideas that will make great gifts for many of the people on your list.

One very good reason that many people make homemade gifts at Christmas time and for other holiday and gift giving occasions is the cost.  Many times you can stretch a tight budget by carefully choosing homemade gifts.  If this is the main reason for choosing homemade gifts, be sure you carefully choose as sometimes they end up just as costly in supplies. 

Another reason families often choose homemade or handcrafted gifts if for the joy of the gift giving children.  When left to their own devices, children will often choose to make gifts on their own for people that they know "they" will be buying gifts for during the Christmas season.  Anything can become a gift.  Egg cartons become trains for infant brothers.  Formula containers become an integral part of travel games made for friends. 

Here are a few gift ideas that are easy to do on a budget and easy to include children in the making.  Remember, if you choose to actually allow your children to help with this, you need to be prepared that the final product will look like your kids helped.  If you are making gifts for loved ones, that is half the joy of the recipient, knowing it was truly crafted by their grandchild, niece or nephew.

Tea Cup Candles

This is a cute craft.  It is a twist on the old favorite candle making craft.  Go to a second hand store and buy a cute tea cup, with a saucer if you find one.  You can either buy paraffin wax or search your second hand store or "dollar stores" for white candles.  Allow the children to use butter knives or cheese graters to chop/cut and grate the wax.  This will be messy.  Have them save the wicks, you will need them for the candles.  In a double boiler, melt the white wax.  Choose a couple of pieces of broken crayon of the desired color.  Drop in the cup.  Pour hot wax over, this is a grown up job.  Mix quickly.  Before the wax hardens, put the wick in and hold it in place until the wax has hardened a few seconds and can support the wick.  You will have to go back and clean up your edges.  You can melt the crayon in the wax in the pan if you are planning to use only one color or are planning to use more than one pan.

Meltaway Cookies

This is a really simple cookie recipe that kids can help with and looks very festive while requiring minimal ingredients so as to still keep the budget in mind.

You can also "mix it up" a bit by separating the dough into 3 batches. Color the first batch red and add a smidge of peppermint extract. The next batch color yellow and add lemon extract. The third batch color green and leave unflavored for a control group.

Ingredients:

1 c. soft butter

1/2 c. sifted confectioners' (plus extra to roll in afterward)

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/4 c. sifted flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla. Sift flour, salt; stir in. Drop teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet (cookies do not spread).  Bake about 8 minutes until set, but not brown. While still warm sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. You can also plop them in the confectioners' sugar and rolled them around in it. Makes 5 dozen cookies the size of a quarter.

Ornaments

Pipe cleaners and beads and kids imaginations make great ornament crafts.  They will create ornaments adults will never imagine. 

Salt dough ornaments can be hand shaped into characters or can be made into ornaments using cookie cutters. 

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 cup warm water

Directions

Mix together flour and salt.  Then mix in the warm water.

Take the dough and place it on a floured surface.  Roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.

Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes or hand form people or animals.

Put the shapes on a cookie sheet.

Then take a sharp object, or use a drinking straw, to put a small hole in each shape where you will insert the ribbon. Make sure the hole goes all the way through the dough, because it will close up slightly while baking.

Bake the salt dough ornaments for 4 to 6 hours at 200 degrees or until hardened.

There are many, many homemade gift ideas online.  When choosing it is important to know your goal.  Are you trying to save money?  Do you want your kids to help?  Do you want it to look perfect and "store bought" or do you want it to look kid created?  Not all gift/craft ideas will help you achieve these goals.  Select carefully to allow yourself to achieve your goals and have a pleasant gift making experience.

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