Christmas Present Alternatives for Family & Friends

Some of these are last minute gifts. Some are thought out in advance. Some are thought out in advance but never actually happen until the last minute - kind of like real life.

Several are for you to give to a loved one, or someone your kids love (or at least respect, like a teacher).

The tried-and-true coupon book. Think up things large and small that either need to be done or might be nice to be done. Break them out into do-able bites and turn each bite into a coupon. “Wash the kitchen/bathroom floors once a week for a month” or “Paint the trim I never got around to painting” or “bake your favorite brownies” – that kind of thing. The coupon book can be as large as you think it should be – or you can get away with.

Make a kid-sized version of the coupon book. “Keep my clothes picked up all year” (yeah, like that’s going to happen – but the sentiment is there.) “Clean the snow off your car before I clean mine” (that’s obviously for much bigger kids… even a grownup.) “Walk Rover when I get home from school” or “Keep the vegetable garden watered” – there’re all kinds of things that can go into a coupon book. For a favorite teacher the coupons could be for cleaning the whiteboard or keeping the room’s bookshelves neat or whatever might be age/grade-appropriate.

Kids’ handprints. These can actually take a variety of forms. You can do them in plaster – as coasters, if you want to. Think of Junior’s little hand holding a Coke Zero can. Or, they can go on the wall. You can even do them in color if you add colorant to the plaster before you mix it.

You can do them in paint. Just make sure you can remove it from their little paws before the recipient sees them. Finger paint might be good or tempera. Speaking of fingers, you can help those little artists learn about fingerprint cartoons. Instead of inking up a whole hand you just do a finger or two. Use the finger “prints” as the bases for heads and add eyes, noses and mouths. The heads can be human or animal and you can add bodies if you (and your budding Picasso) feel inspired.

Another kid-hand gift is bookends. Trace the child’s hands onto an easy-to-cut wood-like surface such as masonite. You can then cut the hands out with an electric jigsaw or have your helper do it with a hand-powered coping saw. Paint the hands – either hand-colored or something jazzy – and add painted rings or bracelets (if it’s a girl’s hands) and then glue them onto simple metal bookends that you can buy at any office supply store.

If you have a favorite craft-based Christmas gift – perhaps something from a family tradition – drop me an e-mail.

Written by Dianne Weller