Each year, I'm surprised by the hoards of people who get in their cars and hurry off to the big sales at midnight on Black Friday. I'm shocked by the stories of store scuffles I hear about on the news. To make it worse, I saw a Target television ad that stated, "Don't let anyone get in your way," when talking about taking advantage of their tremendous sales. I couldn't believe a store would condone this obsessive attitude...but then again, that's how they make their profit.
I'm burdened by what we're teaching our children. Is obsessive consumerism a habit we should be passing down? Ask yourself this: would your child be happy with a homemade gift rather than the latest gadget at Circuit City? If not, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. Gifts should be from the heart--a reflection of how well we know a person, a way to show them we've been paying attention to them, like spending time with them, and love them. Any kid would love a new iPod, so how is that gift personal? Special? Meant only for them? Is spending hours in a long shopping line and plunking down a credit card an expression of love and gratitude? Or would a hand-crafted photo album of all your favorite moments together mean more?
If you'd like to teach your kids what gift-giving is really all about, and you'd like to spend a lovely afternoon or two with them, why not make some homemade gifts this year? Here are some ideas to get you started.
No matter who you are, everyone loves baked goods. Homemade scones, biscotti, cookies, brownies, chocolate covered strawberries or pretzels, or candy are sure to brighten up someone's face this holiday season. Just line a festive, holiday tin (found at most stores like Target or Wal-Mart) with wax paper, fill with your baked goods, then tie the tin closed with a bow. Great at making bread? Wrap a loaf in colored plastic wrap and tie with a bow. Yum!
Why not make your own special, homemade hot chocolate mix? Pour the mix into a jar or canister and attach a tablespoon with ribbon to the lid. For another idea, most coffee houses give away free samples of whole coffee beans in a variety of flavors and roasts for you to try at home. Three or four of those samples stashed into a festive coffee mug would make a delicious gift. Add some of your homemade biscotti and you're sure to please any coffee lover in your family.
If your daughter has a jewelry making kit and hoards of beads, have her make some beaded or woven jewelry for the women in the family. Expand your imagination and make earrings, eyeglass strings, brooches, or rings. I received a festive pin one year with a Christmas bell, holly berries, and glitter and I look forward to wearing it every year!
Making your own Christmas cards is a snap when you've got scrap-booking supplies on hand. Tailor make each card to the interest of each family member with card stock, ribbon, eyelets, brads, stickers, you name it!
Desserts In A Jar:
Ever see those beautiful mason jars filled to the brim with baking ingredients? Why not make your own? There are tons of recipes for these jars online--just pick one and go from there. Add some festive material to the top of the lid and a fancy ribbon and you've got an excellent holiday gift.
Don't stop at baked goods alone. Why not try your hand at your own salsa recipe? With a small bag of tortilla chips, salsa is sure to be a hit. You can also make jams or jellies to go with a loaf of homemade bread.
If you know how to knit or crochet, why not make scarves, hats, mittens, or sweaters? A homemade quilt is always a lovely gift. Or how about a special pillow case? Handmade purses or backpacks are especially fun this year. Fleece blankets and ponchos are a snap to make and kids love them. Just pick out the yarn or material and get cracking!
Bath & Body:
Did you know that you can find kits at most hobby stores to make your own soap, lip balm, candles, and even bath salts at home? Just pick out your favorite scented oils and when you're done, arrange all your own, handcrafted bath products in a gift basket.
Got a lot of great recipes that someone in your family keeps asking for? Why not make them a cookbook? Just type all your recipes into a computer and print them out, make a personalized front and back cover, then bind the book with ribbon or binder rings. Or how about a scrapbook photo album I mentioned earlier of all your favorite moments with a loved one?
Homemade gifts don't have to stop there. You could also make a personalized photo frame, a bird house or feeder, decorate a jewelry box, or paint or stain a piece of furniture you found at a garage sale. Or if you're an artist, paint a portrait or sculpt a wall-hanging. Holiday ornaments are so much fun to make and they become keepsakes for years to come. You can even buy some magnetic strips at a hobby store and make refrigerator magnets.
If you aren't that handy, but love to help out around the house or fix things, why not make up your own gift certificate, detailing one free gutter cleaning, offer to help paint the kitchen, or give a free back rub. Or for the child who needs to liquidate some of their old toys or clothes, have them give a younger sibling a gift certificate to pick out any item they want from the gift-giver's toy box or closet. The possibilities are endless.
Whatever homemade gift you decide to make, remember to teach your children along the way that there's more to gift giving than just receiving. Taking a little time out of our busy schedules to hand craft a gift says that we cherish our family and friends, and we're happy to make time for them.
Happy holidays from Plugged In Parents!