137 inexpensive, handmade holiday gift ideas. Part 6: for children
You thought I forgot about the kiddos, didn’t you? Well today’s inexpensive, handmade Christmas gift ideas are all about the young and the young-at-heart. The list includes everything from handmade play dough to cardboard games to an indoor fort-building kit. My personal favorite is the coloring/activity book using free printables. All you need is a printer, paper, and a 3-ring binder. (This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission. You can read my full disclosure here.)
Originally published September 6, 2010. Updated December 21, 2020.
Part 1: Home & garden
Part 2: Christmas-themed
Part 3: From the kitchen
Part 4: Jewelry & accessories
Part 5: Themed gift sets
Part 6: For children
Part 7: Media, service, cards & wrapping
Part 6: For children
95. Make bath time fun
Embed a small toy or your child’s favorite cartoon character in a bar of snow globe soap. Or make a bath bomb out of baking soda and citric acid.
Snow globe soap
Bath bombs with a toy surprise inside
96. Compile a coloring/activity book
Print free coloring-book pages, word searches, Mad Libs, mazes, I-spy games, dot-to-dots, and hidden pictures. Fill a colorful view binder with them and slip in a coloring-page cover. Give with a box of crayons, color pencils, or markers.
Free coloring pages from Crayola
More free coloring pages
Coloring page binder cover printable
Christmas word searches
97. Make playdough (Play-doh)
Make playdough in a rainbow of colors using common ingredients from your kitchen, and package them in mason jars.
Instructables playdough (Play-doh) recipe
Dinosaur play-dough kit
Easy homemade playdough recipe
Dinosaur jar lids for kids storage
DIY playdough mason jars
98. Sew a personalized quilt
Sew a cozy flannel rag quilt, which is easier to make than most traditional quilts. Or make a T-shirt quilt from your child’s old tees.
Flannel rag quilt tutorial
Video: How to make a T-shirt quilt
T-shirt quilt instructions from Joann
Easy superhero T-shirt quilt
T-shirt quilt hints and tips
99. Make shrink-plastic jewelry
Don’t we all love Shrinky Dinks? Make key fobs, pendants, or rings. Or compile all the needed supplies into a shrink-plastic kit for the child to make their own projects.
How to make your own Shrinky Dinks
Shrinky plastic key fobs
How to Make Shrinky Dink bracelet
100. Make a T-shirt pillow
Is a T-shirt quilt too much for you to take on? Don’t have enough T-shirts anyway? Then turn one beloved, but too-small, T-shirt into a pillow. Sew the neck and sleeves closed, leaving the bottom of the shirt open. Stuff the inside of the shirt with down or pillow stuffing, then sew the bottom shut. Or cut and sew the pillow in the shape of a square.
Recycled T-shirt square pillow
Road trippin’ T-shirt pillows
No-sew pillows from old kids T-shirts
101. Sew a cuddly shape or character
Sew felt or fleece pillows either in the shape of your child’s initials or in the shape of an animal or cartoon character.
Fleece alphabet pillows
102. Assemble a dress-up trunk
Fill an old trunk or suitcase with fun clothing, hats, ties, old costumes, and gaudy costume jewelry for your children to play dress-up. Include a book of skits or plays, and watch your children’s imaginations soar.
The Skit Book: 101 Skits from Kids
13 DIY dress-up costumes & props
103. Sew sock animals
Make the classic kid craft: a sock monkey. Make one from scratch or buy a sock monkey kit. But don’t limit yourself to a monkey. Try making a sock elephant, a unicorn whale, a koala, a sloth, a kangaroo, a snake, a raccoon, or a dinosaur.
Sock monkey tutorial
Classic sock monkey socks
Sock monkey kit
Sock monkey sewing pattern
104. Make 3D cardboard animals
Cut out a menagerie of animals, package them with craft paints and brushes, and let your kiddos decorate and assemble them. Try a reindeer, a dinosaur, a pig, a rhinoceros, a sheep, a zebra, a kangaroo, a donkey, a cow, an elephant, a giraffe, a horse, or a lion.
DIY recycled cardboard animals craft kit gift
Cardboard sea creatures
Cardboard woodland animals
Easy cardboard animal toys
105. Make a DIY fort kit
Include blankets or sheets, rope, clamps, clothespins, glow sticks, and a flashlight. Pack it all in a drawstring bag or tote.
Build a fort kit
DIY fort with a free printable gift tag
DIY PVC pipe fort for kids
Super hero fort kit
Printable: fort kit for kids
Make your own fort kit with printable tags
106. Make a game from cardboard
Recycle cardboard boxes into fun games—and challenge your kiddos’ coordination skills at the same time.
Ball maze game
Paper towel roll & pom-pom challenge
Marble labyrinth game
Kid-sized foosball table
107. Make a rope swing
You can make it with one rope or two, round or rectangle, a tire swing or a traditional wooden-seat swing. Just make sure it’s sturdy.
How to build a rope tree swing (Lowe’s)
How to make rope tree swing (The Home Depot)
How to make a round rope tree swing
Make your own tree swing
DIY one-rope tree swing
108. Make a set of blocks
Make a set of painted wooden building blocks. Paint letters, numbers, and shapes and decoupage photos other pictures onto their sides.
Bare hardwood blocks
Photo wood blocks
Decoupaged alphabet blocks
DIY modern playful wooden building blocks
Modern wooden baby blocks
DIY patterned wood blocks
109. Do a treasure hunt
Send your kiddos on a treasure hunt with a series of mysterious written clues for them to follow. Any gift becomes more satisfying when they have to hunt for it.
Treasure hunt ideas
How to plan a fun treasure hunt
Kids treasure hunt ideas
At-home treasure hunt with 10 clues
110. Make a mobile
Make a bird, butterfly, flower, model-airplane, insect, or solar-system mobile. Or try pinwheels, zoo animals, or fish. Possible supplies include embroidery hoops, tree branches, tissue paper, fabric, paint, ribbon, string, beads, styrofoam balls, and origami.
Martha Stewart bird mobile
111. Make a nameplate for your kiddo’s room
Make a door nameplate out of cardboard, wood, craft sticks, or a ceramic subway tile. Paint your design or decoupage scrapbook paper and alphabet tickers onto the tile.
Subway tile nameplates tutorial
Handmade nameplates for doors
Video: How to make a Popsicle nameplate
112. Make jewelry out of everyday things
You can either make the jewelry yourself or assemble a kit for your kids to make them.
How to turn an empty water bottle into a cuff bracelet
Popsicle stick bracelets
Ric-rac rose ring
More craft-stick bracelets
113. Build a seesaw/teeter totter
Believe it or not, you can easily make a full-size seesaw for less than $30—as long as you have the right power tools.
Wood seesaw or teeter totter plans (Ana White)
DIY Ana White seesaw/teeter tooter from scrap wood
Red Ana White kids seesaw for under $30
114. Make a memory game
Use family snapshots or free printables to make a memory game on cards or wood.
How to make a DIY photo memory match game
Free printable memory game
DIY snapshot memory game
Kiddo photo memory game
Family match game
Personalized memory game
115. Make button jewelry or hair accessories
Headbands, bracelets, necklaces, and hair clips — either make these fun and easy crafts yourself or package all the materials in a kit for your kiddos to make them.
Snazzy Jazzy button bracelets
Animal button necklaces
Cute button hair clips
116. Make a chess or checkers game
You can buy a cheap checkers/chess game at the dollar store, but why, when you can make a better one that lasts longer, includes storage for game pieces, and travels well?
Game board mug mat
Handmade kid chess set
Travel checkers with covered buttons
Carpet-sample craft: checkers game
Make a hardware-store chess set
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