Kid-Friendly Gifts

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Gifts Made from the Heart Leave Lasting Memories

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but when selecting gifts for important women in her family’s life, Haeley Giambalvo and her 3-year-old daughter created more imaginative and economical jewelry.
In a few easy steps, they took plain wood bangles and fashioned bracelets displaying whimsical designs. First, they firmly pressed thin pieces of masking tape on the bangles. Then with a small paintbrush, they applied acrylic craft paint on the areas between the pieces of tape. After the bangles were recoated and dried, they peeled off the tape to reveal impressive patterns.
“These one-of-a-kind pieces allow kids to express their artistry, and the results are always so pretty,” says Giambalvo who shares DIY decor ideas on her Design Improvised blog. “My daughter painted with her favorite colors and made a couple of these bracelets as gifts.”
As the autumn and winter holidays approach, families can get an early start in creating presents that are literally out-of-the-box. These chic homemade gifts are budget-friendly and a snap for all ages to make.

Got it Covered
Part of the allure of made-by-hand gifts is taking ordinary items and transforming them into cherished masterpieces. Giambalvo describes how a simple glass vase can turn into a vibrant home accessory.
Acrylic glass paint is squeezed into the bottom of a vase. With a paintbrush, the paint is spread up the sides until the entire interior is covered. A second coat is applied after 24 hours.
“These vases are a great way to show children how to give new life to household items,” she says. “This is also a very forgiving craft since the outside of the vase will look nice even if the paint on the inside is a little uneven.”
The vases look charming on their own, or they can be adorned with yarn-wrapped branches that Giambalvo makes as holiday centerpieces. To begin the project, families go to their back yard or nearby park to search for branches that have interesting twists and turns. Little hands tautly wrap the yarn around a section of a branch, and adults cut the yarn’s end and secure it with a dab of hot glue.
“Repeat the process with different colors, on different parts of the branch, until you’ve achieved the look you want,” she says.

Incredible, Inexpensive Ink  
Creating gorgeous holiday presents doesn’t have to be complicated, says Autumn Bostic, a preschool art teacher. For a quick activity ideal for playgroups, school parties and family get-togethers, she recommends painting white ceramic tiles with drops of vivid alcohol ink.
“Making these tiles is practically a full-proof project,” she says. “It takes only five minutes, you don’t have to be an artist to make them look beautiful, and it’s doable for all ages.”
Before applying the ink, rubbing alcohol is spread on the tile with a cotton ball. Next, the inkbottle’s applicator is used to place tiny drops of ink that spread on the tile.
“Kids and adults enjoy experimenting on several tiles so they can see a different result every time,” Bostic says. “Some people drop the ink in overlapping colors to create abstract effects while others like the challenge of designing circular patterns.”
From harvest oranges and yellows to Christmas reds and greens and Hanukkah blues, the tiles can reflect the hues of the season.
The ink-painted tiles can function as trivets or coasters if accented with a felt square on the bottom. The tiles are typically available for a few cents each at home improvement stores, and the alcohol inks are sold at hobby and craft retailers.

Garden Generosity
Homemade cookies wrapped in pretty cellophane are holiday hits. Ever heard of giving seed bombs as presents?
“These balls grow into a beautiful surprise for your favorite garden lovers. Mix five parts of clay soil with one part each of compost and seeds. Bind them with water, mold them into balls, let them dry and package them in a decorative bag,” explains Blair Condon, spokesperson for the Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas. “The project is dirty, but lots of fun for families to make together.”
Christmas tree-shaped rosemary and flowering winter cacti are popular hostess presents. Kids can make garden stakes for plant gifts, Condon describes, by embellishing woodcraft sticks with paint, stickers, pasta or small trinkets.
To highlight the aromas of the season, she suggests making gifts that use ingredients from a home garden or that are bought from a local farmer’s market. Adding fresh mint leaves to hot cocoa mix kits and creating bath scrubs using salts, oils, lavender and rosemary demonstrate to children how herbs are used to make everyday items.
“Homemade gifts, especially those made from recycled or homegrown products, are a meaningful way to show the recipients that you care about them and the environment,” Condon says. “They conserve resources and are often less expensive than store-bought presents.”

Lisa Y. Taylor is a San Antonio freelance writer and the mother of three daughters.
PHOTO BY HAELEY GIAMBALVO

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