Make Homemade Holiday Gifts

Child making homemade christmas gift

The assault has begun. Last night I saw an advertisement for a major toy store—let’s call it The Major Toy Store—trying to wash parents in the message that the only toy that will make their kids happy for the holidays is a big, plastic toy.

The advertisement plot line was this: a bus full of kids on a school trip are bored stiff by a teacher telling them how to recognize different trees by the shape of their leaves. But, it turns out the teacher was only joking. He is actually a clerk from a toy store, and he’s taking them to play at the store.

As my husband watched this, he said to me, “I’m surprised parents haven’t pressured the store to withdraw this ad yet. You should find out if people know about this.” So, I’m finding out if YOU know about it. Have you noticed this anti-nature messages in pre-holiday advertising for parents and kids?

If you intend to have a nature-centered holiday season, it’s time to make your plans now to be sure it is your natural message your children get—not the message that nature is boring and plastic toys are fun.

Making Homemade Gifts

One way to show your children the value of homemade and natural gifts is to make homemade and natural gifts.

If you are already a little crafty, 30 minutes on Pinterest should give you several months of crafting fun for you and your kids.

If you need directions, check out our DIY Envy series from last year. Most of these are appropriate crafts for adults or older children, though any child who knows how to knit can make cotton washcloths.

Make soap. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Make Soap!” The directions for melt-and-pour soap are very easy, and the results are beautiful. This isn’t really an activity to do WITH kids because of the hot soap, but they could watch from a short distance away. Requirements: reusable kitchen equipment and soap to melt.

Homemade DIY soap

Make cotton washcloths. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Knit!” You only need to know one stitch, knit (not even purl) to knit these simple, cotton washcloths. These could be a great holiday gift for friends and family. This project works for parent or child. Requirements: knitting needles and cotton yarn.

Knit cotton washcloth

Make a soft doll. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Sew!” This project is the most complex of the three, but all of the stitches are quite simple. You could even sew the whole doll by hand, but it would probably be a week-long project rather than an afternoon project. I included a lot of photos and step-by-step instructions to get you through the project. Once you tackle this, you are ready for a bigger handmade doll project. Requirements: sewing machine, needle and thread for hand sewing, fabric, wool for stuffing, rice or glass beads for weight.

Easy Sew Doll

Make kitchen towels. “DIY Reusable Kitchen Towels.” If you have a serger, it’s super quick and simple to make (not paper) kitchen towels. I added snaps to these, but you don’t necessarily need snaps. Requirements: serger, fabric (terry toweling and decorative outer fabric).

Reusable Kitchen Towels

Gift Crafts for Kids

Every parent and grandparent probably has a shelf ful of kid-crafted gifts. We love seeing what our children make. These wool craft posts give basic directions for a few potential holiday gifts.

Make coasters or mats. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Weaving.” With a very simple loom and a long needle, your child can transform loose yarn into a heavy fabric. That feels like a big accomplishment to a child. Use these mats as coasters or decorative hangings. Required: loom, needle, and yarn.

Child weaving on a wooden loom

Make cord. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Spool Knitting.” Another craft to transform yarn uses a simple spool for knitting cord. Then, you get to think about what to do with all of that cord: knitting, weaving, decorating. Requirements: spool and yarn.

Child using a wooden knitting spool

Make wool balls. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Felted Wool Balls.” Wool balls have become a very popular, natural way to soften clothing in the dryer. The agitation from the bouncing balls flexs the fibers and makes towels, T-shirts, and diapers feel soft. This would be a fun craft that could be given as a great, educational gift to family members. This post includes several methods for felting the wool, from easy to very easy. Requirements: wool and water.

DIY Felted Wool Balls

We also have kids craft kits in the store for older kids to make lip balm, chocolates, friendship bracelets, bath bombs, and more.

You Decide Your Holiday Gift Message

Don’t just give in to the dominant marketing messages. YOU decide how you want to shape your child’s experience and expectations of the holidays.

If you need to start talking about the holdiays this early in order to have yours be the first message your child hears, take advantage of that time to make gifts. As you plan and make gifts, talk about the people you are giving to. Encourage your child to focus on the person who will receive the gift (if they have reached that developmental stage where they CAN think of the other person).

Make your holidays intentional and natural.

Image © Monkey Business Images Ltd |

DIY Reusable Kitchen Towels

Reusable Kitchen Towels

Reusable kitchen towels are nothing new at all, but I only recently saw on Pinterest towels that snap together to make them as convenient as paper towels. So, I made some.

A lot of my friends create Pinterest boards with titles like “Must Make” or “DIY for My House.” I don’t know a lot of people with time on their hands, though, and I’m one of them. You probably are, too. A DIY project has to really catch my interest to inspire me to get up and do it. This is so clever that I just had to sew my own kitchen towels. I thought you might find this one of those eco baby steps that is easy to take as well.

Make Your Own Kitchen Towels

As always, I recommend you use what you have on hand. I happened to have some Harmony Art organic cotton fabrics that I had yet to find a use for. My fabrics were a range of weights from heavy twill (like jeans) to thin plain weave (like sheets). I decided that it might be useful to have wipes available in different thicknesses, so I used all of the fabrics, giving each a different color of snaps and trim to make it easier to tell the difference between weights as I was reaching to clean up a spill. For the absorbent side, I used brushed French terry that was too flawed to use for clothes but was fine for towels.

What I did takes no special skill at all. If you can use a serger, you can make towels.

  • 1/3 yard each of 4 decorative, cotton fabrics at least 36″ wide (or use the same fabric for all)
  • 1 yard of absorbent, loopy fabric to do the dirty work – cotton terry or birdseye are perfect
  • Decorative thread (optional)
  • 24 4-part sets of snaps

Wash your fabric before you start. You don’t want to make beautiful towels only to have them shrink and distort after washing. Pre-shrink to avoid this. I also ironed my fabric to make sure I was cutting evenly.

Cut 12 11″ x 11″ squares of the decorative fabric and 12 more of the absorbent fabric. I also rounded the corners to make sewing really fast.

Match up the cut squares with the absorbent, loopy side out and the decorative side out if you are going to have decorative serging that shows. You can also put the absorbent and decorative sides in, if you plan to turn and top-stitch your towels. If you want to keep it simple, just serge.

Sew each towel together.

Place snaps—two male and two female on each. I had writing on mine, so I carefully paid attention to which side had which snaps so the writing would always go the same way.

Total time for 12 wipes: 40 minutes

But What If I’m Not Crafty?

If you don’t have time or you don’t sew, how about just buying cotton towels to ditch the paper towels? My mother-in-law still uses 40-year old diapers as kitchen towels. In my house, we have a stack of old prefolds that we use as dog cloths, since I can’t quite bring myself to put the used diapers in the kitchen. New cotton prefolds make great kitchen towels because they are very soft and absorbent.

That’s what you need for spills. Nothing fancy. Just a little cleverness and a lot of absorbency, and you have washable, reusable towels, and you won’t miss paper towels.

Following up on a couple of weeks of cloth diaper focus, I’m covering other reusable products you can easily introduce into your family’s routine. Last week, it was reusable sandwich bags and wraps then DIY reusable baby wipes last Tuesday. Do you have favorite reusable products that you use? Drop by the Parenting by Nature Facebook page and tell us about it.