Written by contributor Megan Tietz of SortaCrunchy.

It’s true that summer has not quite officially come to a close yet in our part of the world (while our friends Down Under are welcoming spring!), and so it may seem a bit premature to be talking about gifts for the holiday season. However, if you have ever created handmade gifts for holiday giving before, then you know it’s really never too early to start!

In years past, I have procrastinated on my handmade gifts until the last minute. Unfortunately, this meant I had to hurry through them to be able to finish on time. When my children asked to be able to help with the gifts, I was too frazzled and pressed for time to let them help. That’s probably not the best way to make happy holiday memories!

This year, I am determined to get a head start on the gift-making process, and I really want to make sure that my children can join in the creative process, too. As I’ve been brainstorming ideas, I thought of a few that I could share with you to help jump start any handmade holiday plans you are making.


Whenever it is possible, we try to incorporate upcycled and/or repurposed materials in our gift-making. It’s an important principle in our family, and it has been rewarding to see how my six year old has begun to do this on her own. It’s tempting to think that when you are giving a gift, everything has to be brand new, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true! Why not share inspiration to imagine new life for these materials in the form of a gift?

Some materials you might start collecting include:

  • glass jars
  • tins
  • canvas bags
  • fun fabrics
  • embroidery hoops
  • hardcover books
  • magazines
  • dried herbs and/or essential oils


1. Food

Photo by <a href=”Nicola since 1972

Kids love to help in the kitchen! Whether you are mixing up a batch of granola or loaves of your favorite holiday bread, children can be part of the process. My children are always so thrilled when someone they love enjoys the food they have created.

Food gifts are great eco-friendly gifts because they are consumable. No clutter left behind for the recipient of these yummy treats!

2. Candles and Bath and Body Products

Earlier this year, I bought the Paper and Beeswax Action Pack from Whip Up, and my girls and I discovered that making candles, lip balm, and lotion from beeswax is surprisingly easy! It’s quite a treat to be able to give gifts that we know to be safe, healthy, and nourishing to the recipient. We are planning to make many lip balms for gifts this year.

Of course, working with hot beeswax necessitates grown-up help, but there is still plenty in these projects that can be done by little hands. My girls and I also had fun choosing a variety of containers for our beeswax creations – mint tins, tiny glass jars, and even mini tea cups all worked wonderfully.

3.  Reusable Shopping Bags

Wouldn’t it be sweet to send Grandma or Grandpa to the grocery store with shopping bags personalized by their grandchildren? Canvas bags are easily decorated with fabric paint, and this video provides great instructions.

Last weekend, my girls and I tried out Cindy Hopper’s sandpaper printed t-shirt idea and our t-shirts turned out fabulously. I don’t see any reason why  this same technique couldn’t be used on canvas bags, and it might be a lot less messy for younger artists in the family than fabric painting.

4. Hoop Art

Photo by ohmeagan

Fans of Pinterest and Etsy are familiar with hoop art – embroidery hoops that serve as stand-alone art. Kids will have fun choosing fabrics to go into the hoop, and children as young as preschool could sew on buttons or other embellishments. Toddlers could use fabric glue to add ribbons, beads, and sequins. Older children could practice emerging embroidery skills.

5. Altered Books

Have you ever altered a book? This is a fun experience in mixed media artwork for children from toddlerhood to teenage years.

Scout your local thrift stores for hardcover books that are cheap, worn, and thin. Older children and adults may need to take on the cover (this article has helpful instructions on how to do it), but even little hands can help with the inside pages. Fill the pages with pictures from the previous years along with words and phrases clipped from magazines and old calendars to create a fun twist on the family photo album.

Those are just a few of the projects my children and I are looking forward to tackling in the coming weeks. Maybe you can hold me accountable to starting earlier than December 20th this year?

Other resources to inspire your projects:

Editor’s note: Handmade gifts are definitely a way to go green, and also to save money! Don’t forget about the Go Green & Save Green series– I had a great time writing a post for it– and this weekend I’ll have a wrap-up with links to all the posts for you.

What are your family’s favorite handmade gift projects? Which have been the easiest for your children to help create?