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Meaningful Gifts
Another iTunes card... Zhu Zhu pet... Hello Kitty necklace. Another gift destined to pile on top of other gifts?

What if instead, you could inspire your friends and family to do something more meaningful for your youngsters' celebrations: to pitch in and grow their nest eggs, help them improve the world and spur them to explore the cooler sides of money.
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Craft Gifts That Will Shock and Awww
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Elizabeth Carey

Looking for a meaningful gift for a family member? Share your happy campers’ crafts or chose one of these five summer-boredom-busting projects to make with the kids at home.


If you have a child in camp this summer, you’re probably sitting on a sizable cache of crafts. A parade of sock puppets, paper-plate masks, popsicle-stick frames and clay sculptures have come through the door and taken over your fridge and bulletin boards. Now, we know you treasure this artwork as if it hung in the Guggenheim, but by sharing the wealth you could make an uncle’s day—and free up some room on the fridge. Imagine the surprised smiles on family faces when they get some of your little Picasso’s noodle art. Plus, showing your kids that gifts don’t have to be about money is a great family finance lesson. Here, we share some ideas on matching family members with crafts and offer five gifting projects to get the kids through rainy days and I’m-so-bored summer afternoons.


Aerie Meredith, the assistant education director of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft [] and the mom of a two-year-old, is on both the making and receiving sides of lots of child-made crafts. “Kids make tons and tons of art, so you can’t keep everything that they make,” she says. As she helps kindergarteners through sixth-graders create projects at the museum’s summer camp, she has this advice for the parents: Save things that have a special story to them or are personal such as a painting that illustrates a family story. So, why not pick two or three pieces to cherish, and give the rest away?


Kids are proud and excited to bring home their art, says Meredith. Let them in on the decision-making when you consider which crafts will make great presents. Which are their favorite works? Which family member would love this art as much as you do? Who really deserves a particular piece? For instance, should you put a camp photo of your child inside the popsicle frame for Aunt Sharon because she needs a new picture, and give the paper-bag tiger mask to grandpa because he loves animals? Brainstorm together about other people who don’t have such happy works to display. Could you donate some of your art to an elder care facility? Would it make someone’s day at a local children’s hospital?


Creating Keepsakes


Crafts that are created at camp and school are wonderful in their own way. But projects that are intended as gifts made with a family member in mind can truly be priceless. Encouraging kids to do a few DIY gift projects will earn you more than some special presents. It’ll also foster creativity, hone motor skills, inspire your kids to learn in an environment where there is no right or wrong answer and, perhaps best of all, it’ll keep kids occupied for hours.


1. A Novel Idea

Help your child write a fictional, fantastical story about a family member. Explore lots of questions, like if Grandpa Bill was a super hero, what would his special powers be? If Aunt Lilly was a detective, what kind of case would she solve? Create illustrations for the book, a cover and be sure to include a dedication page as well as an author’s page. Keep the story fun and cast other family members as characters in the novel—bad guys, best friends or side-kicks. To make the book in ‘zine style, follow these directions adapted from one of Meredith’s lesson plans.



8.5” x 11” paper
Drawing tools (pencils, markers, crayons)
Collage materials for the cover (glue stick, old magazines, multi-colored paper)
Access to a photocopier or a scanner to make copies to give away or to send electronically.


(See diagram 1 for steps 1-4)
1.Fold the paper in half lengthwise or “hotdog style”, matching one long edge with the other long edge. Take care to match the corners and fold carefully.
2.Unfold the paper and then fold the paper in half “hamburger style” matching the two short edges of the paper. Be sure to match your corners.

3.Unfold the paper and then fold one short edge to the center crease. Then fold the other short edge to the center crease. This is a “cabinet fold”.

4.Unfold. Your paper should be divided into 8 rectangles of the same size.

5.Fold the paper back in half with the short sides matching “hamburger style” and cut along the crease from the folded edge, stopping at the first crease.

6.Unfold the paper and then refold it along the cut edge, “hotdog” style. Hold the folded paper on the outside edges and move your hands toward one another so that the cut edge opens like a mouth. (See diagram 2.) Continue moving your hands towards one another until the mouth begins to close and the booklet begins to flatten. Then squish the booklet flat. (See diagrams 3 and 4.)

7.Fold the booklet in half along the crease. Your booklet should have a front and back cover. (See diagram 5 – 7)

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

Diagram 3

Diagram 4

Diagram 5

Diagram 6

Diagram 7

Diagram 8


2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Notebook

Arrange a Skype date with a cousin so your child can interview him or her about what life is like in that family. What do they do in the morning? Where do they eat their meals and what is for dessert? What do they do on the weekends, in the summer, or at bedtime? Do they have any silly family traditions? In a spiral-bound journal or sketchbook, let your child write the story of his cousin’s family and illustrate it using anything from pencils to magazine or newspaper clippings. Mail the notebook to another family member and ask that they too conduct an interview with an extended family member and write the story in the book—then pass it on. Try to include as many far-flung family members as possible. Once everyone’s story is in the family anthology, ask that it be mailed back to you. Make copies and you’ve got an amazing holiday gift for everyone in your clan.


3. Thanks for the Memories

During a family reunion, wedding, birthday, or another big event, save a grab-bag of mementos such as tickets, invitations, ribbon. At home, print out photos from the occasion. With your child, make a paper-bag scrapbook and send it as a “thank you” to the host or as a gift to guest of honor (say, Grandma if she was celebrating her 80th birthday). To make the scrapbook, follow these instructions from Christine Hicks, afifth grade teacher at Jamesville Elementary School in Jamesville, NY.



2 paper bags, any size (2 paper bags makes 8 pages with 4 pockets; you can use 3 bags make 12 pages with 6 pockets)
16 inches of ribbon
Hole punch
Glue, Sticky Tack


1.With each paper bag folded flat, lift the bottom flap and cut straight across the bag. Repeat for each bag.
2.Fold each bag in half; stack on top of each other.
3.With the hole punch, punch 3 holes evenly spaced on the left side of the book.
4.Cut the ribbon into three even pieces. Thread through holes and secure with a knot.


4. A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

Ask your child to think about the people he or she sees everyday in your neighborhood—the mail carrier, bus driver, lifeguard, etc. Provide construction paper or card stock, folded in half to make a card. On the front, your child can draw an image of that person. Inside, let them write a note (or you can transcribe it) thanking the person for his or her contribution to the community. Mail or deliver this “surprise ambush” thank you for a not-so-random act of kindness.


5. Cooked with Love

Encourage your child to do a Q & A with a relative about his or her favorite food. Ask why they like this dish the best, what ingredients are used and when they usually eat it. Maybe there’s nothing like Grandma’s meatloaf when he or she has had a bad day or chocolate cake when celebrating a job well done. Use one ingredient from the favorite dish as inspiration for a little gift. Decorate a flowerpot using sponge paint or a collage of torn tissue paper; fill it with a little gravel and potting soil and plant an herb that’s used in the recipe. Or send a bag of gourmet chocolate to be used for “special brownies” only. Be sure to include a note reflective of what your child learned from the family member. “To be used when invoking the healing powers of Grandma’s meatloaf.” Your little one’s present is sure to be appreciated the next time the relative makes his or her favorite dish.


Insider Tips for Kids and Crafting


Carrie Pericola, a former math teacher who created the Crafty Moms Share blog [ ], and her 3-year-old daughter Hazel are pros when it comes to crafting gifts. “She loves it,” Pericola says. “When we made Mother’s Day magnets that included a picture of her in a sunflower, we had to make them for Daddy and Pop as well. She wanted everyone to get one.” Here, Pericola shares her must-know info:


1. Your toddler’s sticky-tack glue job might not stick. If decorations or art installations aren’t secure, hot glue gun the objects when he is not around.
2. Test the recipient waters: “It’s helpful that the family members receive the gifts well,” Pericola says, “that they are not picky about everything being perfect.”
3. Hands-down, the best thing about summer crafting? “You don’t have to be afraid of the mess,” she says. “You can do the painting outside. You can let them get messy and then throw them under a hose.”
4. Use summer crafting to get a head-start on holiday gifts. But there’s no guarantee you’ll catch up with Pericola—she started Dec. 26th.


Bonus tip: Try “upcycling” — like recycling, but better. Ask kids to look around for old or unused things that can become pieces of art through crafting. Some examples: catalogs, sticks, chipped frames, scraps of fabric, old t-shirts.


What’s the best craft or homemade gift you’ve received? Join the discussion on Ballooning Nest Eggs Facebook page.