Personalized Gifts Kids Can Make and Give

That Won't Break Their Piggy Banks

As the holidays approach, are your kids scrounging to buy gifts they can't afford? If so, offer these fun ideas to make gifts from the heart.

Tell a story with photos. Create a memory page to add to a friend or relative's scrapbook. Buy a package of blank scrapbook pages, and choose a theme such as My Best Friend, Sports Car Shows or When I Was Little. Design each page using stickers, markers, colored pencils, construction paper, photos, magazine pictures and fun sayings or descriptions that fit your theme.

Service coupons. Offer a free evening of babysitting, a week of taking out the trash, making your sister's bed, pet sitting, lawn mowing, ironing, or another helpful task.

Shape decorative soaps. Grate bars of inexpensive white soap, and mix approximately ½ cup of warm water with a cup of shredded soap. Add food coloring to the water to create colored soap. Knead the mixture. Add additional warm water as necessary until it becomes like dough. Next, fill cookie cutters with the mixture. Or flatten it on a sheet of waxed paper, and trim into shapes. Let the soap dry slightly, and press with small leaves or other designs. Allow the decorative soaps to dry for 24 hours, flipping them occasionally.

Design your own pens and pencils. Purchase sheets of large white labels and cut them into 1-½ inch strips. Design the pieces with colored markers, and wrap the design around the length of the pens or pencils. Personalize them by adding a smaller label to the center of the pencil with "World's Greatest Grandma" or another catchy phrase. To protect your pencil design, wrap it with transparent scotch tape.

Make a placemat. Choose a subject, such as model cars or Barbie dolls,  that interests your gift recipient. Clip pictures from magazines and catalogs, and glue them to a large sheet of paper. Overlap the images to create a collage, or spread them apart and share details about each. When you're done, laminate the design with self-adhesive laminating sheets, or have it laminated at an office supply store.

Create bookmarks. Cut colored paper into 2" x 7" strips then design the pieces with colored pencils and markers. Or clip the fancy border from magazines. Find out your gift recipient's favorite author, artist, or historical figure, and look the person up in a book of quotations. Select a quote, type or write it out, and add it to the bookmark. Then laminate it for protection.

Give magnetic photos. Cut a piece of cardboard from a cereal box to match the size of your photo, glue it to the back of your photo for support and glue a small magnet to the cardboard. Now you have a photo magnet.

Fashion a holiday pin. Buy a package of large safety pins and a small bag of multi-colored beads. Open one safety pin and slide several safety pins onto it through the eye at the bottom. Close the open pin and thread colored beads onto the dangling safety pins. You can design a Christmas tree, heart, flag, or whatever your imagination desires.

Construct a puzzle photo frame. Cut a piece of firm cardboard to create a frame.Then ask an adult to trim out the center with a razor knife, leaving a 1" to 2" thick frame. Next, trace the outside edge of your frame onto another piece of thin cardboard, and cut it out. Place a sheet of colored paper between the two pieces of cardboard and glue the paper and two pieces of cardboard together. Glue jigsaw puzzle pieces around the frame, overlapping each other to cover the entire thickness of the frame. Let the frame dry and brush a layer of glue over the puzzle pieces to prevent them from falling off. Stick your favorite photo in the opening of the frame with double-sided tape.

Give a poster. Find out your friend's favorite rock star, actress, or sport. Then tear three or four full-page photographs or pictures from magazines, trim the tattered edge and laminate for a durable glossy poster.

Compose a memory book. Buy a composition book and cover it with construction paper. Then design and decorate the cover. Inside, write your memories of special times you've had with the person to whom you'll present it. Memories might include a trip to the zoo, a favorite holiday celebration, a special gift, something funny and other memorable experiences you've had together.

Produce glittery pens. Buy a package of pens and different colors of glitter. To get started, pour liquid glue onto a sheet of waxed paper and roll the pen lightly in the glue, leaving one inch from the tip without glue. Coat the pen with glitter, and then let it dry.

"Make gifts from the heart."

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at sagerarebooks.com

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