Creative Kids Make Gifts

by Leila Peltosaari

All Kids are Creative

Just observe their wonder in playing with sand or old boxes or pots and pans. Some latest toys, no matter how colorful and fancy, attempt to be too much and do too much. Yet, give kids just basic craft supplies and they discover, all by themselves, an endless joy of creating something new out of almost nothing. Creativity is such an important pleasure for children and for all of us.

When I was a little girl, I lived on a small farm in Finland with my parents, three sisters, a huge Samoyed dog, a cat without a tail, and a great selection of animals. We had lots of spare time - especially in the winter - when the hay was in the barn, the potatoes and beets in the cellar, and the wild berries had been made into jam. We had no TV in those days, so we skied and built snow castles, enjoyed reading and knitting, invented stories and plays, and made Christmas tree ornaments and gifts with our friends.

Craft supplies were limited so we improvised. Borrowing stiff shears that Mom used to trim the sheep, we cut paper, rough metal wire and delicate cellophane. We rescued the cardboard from sugar boxes, sneaked the prettiest bits of fabric from Mom’s sewing pile and begged for leftover yarn to wind into colorful cords. True luxury treasures were store-bought crepe paper, cellophane and foil papers.

When I moved to Canada and had children of my own, I rediscovered the childlike joy of creating crafts and gifts with them. They needed ideas for school all the time and then proudly brought back their masterpieces for all to admire. Those were special years and so short since children grow up much too fast. Teachers and children needed simple craft ideas. So I put easy and cute projects into a book, also using ideas my own children had invented.

Today's kids are as eager to work with craft supplies and to make gifts as we were back in the good old Fifties. Anybody can buy a mass-produced gift - with a bit of money - but a handmade gift is always special and unique. There is pleasure in the making and then more pleasure in the giving. Kids love to give, but they might not have much money. They might need a dozen gifts! Put some money into nice craft supplies instead and let your kids make lots of little keepsake treasures for pennies.

Get a Craft Box Ready

Watch the spark in your children's eyes when they dig in and start creating! It is one of the best gifts you will ever give them -- a gift of encouraging their creativity. Imagine all those memories for them and for you!

Creative work can get a bit messy at times so provide a space, perhaps a large tabletop to spread out the materials as needed, cover it with vinyl or old newspapers first, and find some old clothes for kids to wear so they can become fearless and excited artists. Teach them to clean their tools and workspace after they have finished. Show them how to keep their craft supplies organized in a box or drawer. Help them when a hot iron, sharp-tipped scissors or a sharp needle is needed. Keep toddlers, babies and pets safe. Tiny jingle bells, wooden beads, strings and yarn look tempting to play with but they can be a safety hazard so if you have toddlers or pets in your home, be absolutely sure to keep all your craft supplies out of their reach.

Ordinary household items, trash, and nature provide most of craft supplies. The rest you will find in stores and mail order catalogs.

First, household items are common in most homes or can be bought in local stores. They can be used as tools and supplies for an amazing selection of cute gifts.

  • Aluminum foil
  • brush (for glue and decoupage paste),
  • cardboard, construction paper and waxed paper
  • cords and strings, cotton balls
  • crayons, glue stick, white liquid glue markers, masking tape, ruler, scissors and self-adhesive tape
  • potato peeler or pencil sharpener for crayons
  • darning needle and dental floss, rubber bands, toothpicks, and yarn
  • dry beans, rice
  • lace and fabric scraps
  • mason jar lids (rims only for frames) and photos
  • plastic wrap
  • paper towels

Rescue these items from the trash:

  • Bleach bottles
  • comic pages from the weekend paper
  • bottle caps (from small cosmetic and food bottles)
  • corks (natural, straight corks from wine bottles to make little dolls, angels and gnomes)
  • dairy containers and lids (from yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream etc. to make amazing frames)
  • foil inner seals (from dairy and peanut butter containers for darling angels),
  • gift paper (used paper will do)
  • glass jars, jar lids
  • magazines and catalogs with pretty pictures
  • old pantyhose
  • plastic caps from large spray cans
  • plastic or cardboard containers (large and sturdy to make magazine bins),
  • ribbon scraps
  • Styrofoam trays
  • telephone directory pages, toilet paper tubes, travel brochures, and used stamps.

And look what wonderful treasures Mother Nature yields for craft supplies:

  • Blossoms and flower petals to make potpourri
  • cones (from pine, spruce, cedar, tamarack, alder)
  • flower petals (and leaves and blades of grass to dry)
  • flowers with stems to dry
  • pebbles, sand, and seashells.

Add some supplies from stores: Chenille stems, crepe paper, curling ribbons, decoupage paste, doilies, felt squares, glitter, jingle bells, lace, pompoms, potpourri, raffia, self-adhesive magnetic strips, self-adhesive metallic paper, self-adhesive transparent vinyl, stickers, Styrofoam or pressed paper balls, tacky glue, tracing paper, and wooden beads.

And there you have it, a bottomless craft box to spark child’s creativity to make amazing crafts and gifts! In addition, if you give them a simple craft book to get started, you will keep them and their friends happily busy for many, many hours. Your craft box becomes a treasure chest year round, yielding much happiness and many memories.

Leila Peltosaari, author of "Hey Kids - Let's Make Gifts," grew up in rural Finland with her three sisters. Their parents were farmers. Now, with two children of her own, Leila lives in historic Chambly, near Montreal, Canada. She has written several user-friendly books on sewing, crafts, Halloween, and cooking. She also is a publisher. Hey Kids, featuring 50 easy ideas to make keepsake treasures, is written for children 5-12 year old.

Copyright © Leila Peltosaari. Permission to republish granted to