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 | Dreamstime.com

Every Kid Needs Puzzles & Games

Mosaic wooden puzzle gift for child

Puzzles and games are essential for every kid as holiday gifts. Where to find a game that doesn’t encourage competition and bad feelings, though?

Growing up in my family, every person had to receive at least one puzzle for the holidays. As I grew older and more smart alecky, I gave my mother puzzles with thousands of pieces, or glowing pieces, or same on both sides, or some other nearly impossible puzzle. She still worked her way through every one. Now that my mother is gone, I still need to give my mother-in-law and my children puzzles. They drive me crazy, but everyone else loves them. I realize more over time that putting together a puzzle is a meditative activity, and it has always been one of those essential holiday activities in my family.

If you find that your children need that quiet time during a busy holiday season, consider encouraging down time with a puzzle. Also, if they see you doing a more difficult puzzle, they will get more and more curious until they take over. That’s my experience, anyway!

Another of those essentials for my family both growing up and now with my children is board games or card games. My children love playing my old games, and we still add several new games a year to our game closet. Over the holidays, we give small gifts over several days, and one day is always a game for the whole family. Since there are no other gifts to distract us, we have a family game day.

There are a lot of classic games available, but I find that my children become more competitive when they see the opportunity to win. That isn’t really the feel I’m going for with family game day, so we favor the cooperative games. At bynature.ca, we carry a lot of cooperative games and puzzles to fit your family’s interests.


Puzzles for Children


Port Side Pirates Puzzle

Port Side Pirate Puzzle for Children

Looking for an interlocking puzzle? Set sail with these two puzzles based on the Port Side Pirates sing-along book. The 12-piece puzzle shows the pirate crew discovering a treasure chest ashore the tropical island. The 24-piece puzzle shows the pirate crew sailing the high seas aboard their ship. The two puzzles allow for a range of difficulty included all in one box.
Age: 3+


Wooden Mosaic Puzzle

Rainbow mosaic wooden puzzle

If you are looking for a puzzle that will last longer than an interlocking puzzle that is used a few times, try our high quality wooden mosaics. Our large puzzle has 192 colorful triangle an trapezoid-shaped pieces. Arrange them in the bamboo tray or go rogue and put the rainbow of colors together any way that suits you. Includes a travel and storage bag.
Age: 3+


Cooperative Family Games


Elves and Ogres

Ogres and Elves cooperative game for kids

The Royal Elf Family is coming to visit their Mountain Kingdom. They want the Elves (players) to fill their treasure chests with the different gems they mine. Ogres, however, have heard about the visit and plan to grab all the valuables for themselves. Work together to get Royals & Ogres alike to share the goodies. The game requires lots of tricky teamwork, increasing in difficulty with rules for 3 games based on age (ages 5-7, ages 7-12 & ages 12+).
Ages: 5+


Snowstorm

Snowstorm cooperative game for kids

When a winter storm hits the city, the players help out residents by completing their tasks. The weather is constantly changing so players must keep on top of errands by paying attention to weather reports and moving through snow and ice with cars and service trucks. The game is different every time you play.
Ages: 5+

Stocking Stuffers: Eco Art Supplies

All natural eco finger paints

Are you looking for small gifts that you know your child will use? Try eco-art supplies made from botanical ingredients.

Every year I struggle to convince my in-laws not to give my children tiny, throwaway plastic toys in stockings or advent calendars. It’s a losing game. I can request that they not give the children toys that will be thrown away after the children are bored with them, which is immediately, but that hasn’t worked yet. Instead, I am very careful to keep my own small gifts useful, exciting, and fun. These art supplies are stocking stuffers or advent gifts you can feel good about.

We are constantly on the lookout for more natural toys that encourage open-ended, creative play. We’re really happy with our new art supplies from Glob and eco-kids.


Glob

Glob botanically crafted paint powders are made from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices with all natural ingredients and organic extracts. Just add water—more water for a thin paint like watercolours and less water for thicker paint like tempera or finger paints. These paints smell delicious. Set of 4 colors in jars or a sample packet of red (that’s pomegranate!). Made in California, USA.

Glob natural paint for children in 4 vibrant colours


eco-kids

eco-kids is a family business making art supplies with natural ingredients like earth clay, cornstarch, flour, spinach, red cabbage, purple sweet potato, carrots, blue gardenia, red grapeseed, and annatto seed. You know these supplies are safe for your child, and they are also such a pleasure to work with. The gentle aromas awaken the senses. Try bags of paint powder, jars of dough, or rock-shaped crayons, all in beautifully vibrant colors. Made in USA.

Eco finger paints for children

eco dough play clay for children

All natural crayons made in USA


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15 North American Made Gift Ideas

We choose products made in Canada and made in USA

We look for quality products ethically made. From the best of the best, we have chosen our favourites to recommend to you 15 North American made gift ideas for the whole family.

Since we have been focusing for the past several weeks on issues that can come up with imported products, as we turn our minds toward holiday gift ideas, we want to share with you our favourite made in Canada and made in USA products.

Nature Mom, who works with these products every day in our Orillia store, says, “I just love all of these products, and they are all amazing manufacturers to work with.”


For Baby

Babies have little awareness of holidays other than the fun and the sparkly lights, but giving holiday gifts is an opportunity to get something special and long-lasting for baby.

Ringley Teething Ring
Natural Teething Ring
Made in Canada from untreated Canadian Maple and certified organic cotton loopy terrycloth. The two different materials provide very different textures for a baby to feel with their gums. This straight teething ring is best for smaller babies because our Ringley teething ring with knots may be too big for small mouths. Note that the animal teething rings are not made in Canada. The simpler organic cotton teething rings are handmade in Toronto.

Wooden Rattle
Handmade Wooden Baby Rattle
Made in Canada. Because of the differences in the colour and grain of the wood, each wooden baby rattle is unique. No lacquer or paint to worry about, just 100% natural hemp or flax seed oil. Handcrafted with love by a family in their home workshop in Muskoka, southern Ontario.

Kleynimals Key Ring
Kleynimals Key Ring for Baby
Made in USA. Does your child want to play with your keys? The problem is lead contamination, sharp edges, and the nasty dirt that accumulates on keys. Give them Kleynimals instead, made from 18/8 food grade stainless steel. This is a new product that we loving. You’ll want to take a turn to jangle the keys yourself.

Wooden Building Blocks
Natural Wooden Blocks Set
Made in Canada. Every child needs a set of basic building blocks. These beautifully plain blocks can be anything. These blocks are made by a family business in Nova Scotia.

Wee Urban Sleep Sac
Wearable blanket sleep sack for baby
Made in Canada. Made from super soft organic cotton and bamboo viscose. When your baby is done with swaddling at about 10lbs, these sleep sacks are designed as a wearable blanket to replace loose bedding, which your baby will roll around and kick off anyway. Keep your baby warm in a sleep bag.


For Family

Giving a board game covers the whole family. You aren’t just giving them a thing; you are giving them the opportunity to spend time together and have fun. As my children grow, we continue to buy new games that we play together as a family.

Caves & Claws Cooperative Games
Cooperative Board Game Caves and Claws
Made in Canada. This game is a teamwork adventure in which a museum hires a team of Archaeologists to travel deep into a Jungle to find Ancient Artifacts. The players are that team, ready for action and adventure! There are dangers and obstacles to avoid, such as The Creeping Claw, The Nasty Hairy Thing and Big Boulders rolling over entrances. We carry 15 different cooperative games with a variety of themes and pieces. You may want to collect several.

Endangered Species Memory Game
Endangered Species Memory Game
Made in Canada. By the time your child can communicate clearly, you can start to play visual games. This board game can be adapted by age, using just 9 of the card pairs for younger children and all 36 pairs for older children and adults. Includes a full-colour book highlighting the animals in the game that their threatened habitats. Artwork is by Toronto artist Anouk Bickers. Constructed from 100% Forest Stewardship Council Paper (FSC) and printed using vegetable-based inks.


For Mother

I think it is important to give a new mother a gift that isn’t for her baby or her family but for her. She probably needs that care even if she doesn’t say so.

Anointment Skin Care Clay Cleanser
Anointment Skin Care clay cleanser
Made in Canada. Anointment Skin Care products come in a wide range of prices and products from lip balm at $4.98 to skin ointment at $19.98. I chose the Herbal Clay Cleanser from two reasons: I love clay skin products, and our customers have left nice reviews for this cleanser as well. A collection of these products would make a nice gift on its own, and a couple of bars of handmade soap would fit nicely in the toe of a Christmas stocking.

Diva Cup
Diva Cup menstrual solution
Made in Canada. OK, a reusable menstrual cup is kind of odd as a holiday gift. Maybe between girlfriends it would work. I just can’t help but mention Diva Cup because this is such a good product that will be helpful to every mother. Flexible silicone is great for women who are sensitive to other materials.


For Father

We don’t carry a lot of products for fathers, but he deserves a nice, North American-made gift, too.

Handcrafted Shaving Scuttle Set
Handmade Shaving Set
Made in Canada, and Made in USA. Switching from conventional shaving foams and gels will reduce irritation and razor burn and provide the perfect lather for a smooth, close shave. Shaving scuttle is made in Price Edward Island by a small family business to be used with Anointment Skin Care Shave Soap. The scuttle and shave soap are made in Canada, and the shaving brush is made in the USA.


Practical Choices

Hitting the right tone with gifts depends on each family. Some families will welcome more practical gifts. If you need to buy for that family, these are great products from great companies.

AMP hemp diaper inserts
AMP hemp diaper inserts
Made in Canada. Annie Marie Padorie (AMP) diapers can be used as flat diapers or as inserts for pocket or duo diapers. We chose the hemp flat inserts because our customers really like this, and they are such a cost effective cloth diapering solution.

Bummis Super Brite
Bummis Super Brite diaper covers
Made in Canada. We chose Super Brite covers among all of the Bummis products because they are a customer favorite, and because the colorful prints are a toddler favorite as well. Once your child is old enough to start to show a preference, you might find that they prefer the bright, fun prints. All Bummis cloth diaper covers are made in Canada.

Blueberry daytime trainers
Blueberry training pants
Made in USA. Getting a pair of big kid underwear can be exciting for a toddler. These trainers look at feel like underwear while hiding an absorbent layer of microterry and waterproof polyester to avoid accidents. We love how colorful they are.

Cuddly Wrap Organic Cotton Baby Carrier
Cuddly Wrap organic cotton baby carrier
Made in Canada. Sometimes the holidays are a time to give a family what they don’t or can’t give themselves. This is by far the most comfortable baby carrier wrap we have found for a newborn. It correctly supports the developing curves of a young spine. Manufactured under fair trade labour practices.

Image © Lev Dolgatshjov | Dreamstime.com

Reusable Gift Wrap

Reusable Cloth Gift Wrap

Would you like to avoid that embarrassing holiday garbage can? You know the one, full to the brim and beyond with boxes and paper from a few holiday gifts. Reusable gift wrap will save you the embarrassment, if that’s what motivates you. If you need more positive motivation, think of the good example and family tradition you create by reusing the same cloth gift wrap for your holiday gifts each year.

We my family started showing up at holidays and birthdays with gifts in cloth bags, it didn’t take long to convince our extended family that this was a great idea.


Cloth Gift Bags

Useful for: any size or weight of present since you can make them from any kind of fabric
Need for homemade: fabric, ribbon, sewing machine
How: sew up three sides & tie with a bow

I made heavy, velvet gift bags about ten years ago. We have sizes big enough for the biggest Playmobil boxes and small enough for earrings. I just sewed heavy cotton velvet in rich colors for the outside with brushed flannel prints on the inside. I sewed the top over ½” and added a satin cord for a drawstring. These were easy to make, and they do not wear out. You can make a gift bag even simpler than mine by using a ribbon around the opening rather than a sewn-in drawstring. Any kind of fabric works, so you can also use up scraps this way. Try wrapping new pajamas and a bedtime storybook in a bag of the same fabric.


Paper Gift Bags

Useful for: lighterweight gifts
Need for homemade: old shopping bags without logos and markers or stickers for decoration
How: save nice shopping bags and personalize with your children

Heavy paper shopping bags don’t always have logos, and logos can sometimes be covered up with stickers and drawings. Save what you get, and use what you have. You can let your children draw on the bags, cover with stickers, or create felt or fabric holly or snowflakes to glue on. To hide the gift inside, use a lightweight piece of chiffon fabric or a silk play cloth.


Decorated Boxes with Removable Lids

Useful for: jewelry, clothing, or other soft gifts
Need for homemade: markers, stickers, or drawings
How: save all lidded boxes and decorate with your children

Any lidded box can be beautifully decorated and redecorated. For jewelry, you can create a soft velvet pillow that stays in the box.


Cloth Gift Wrap

Useful for: most gifts, especially boxes, books, and odd shapes
Need for homemade: fabric
How: hem or not, closure or not, you have a lot of flexibility with cloth gift wrap

Cloth gift wrap can be as simple as a pile of play silks or as clever as a slightly stiff cloth envelope that can hold a card and close with a dot of hook & loop. If you have sandwich wraps, you can use these for presents (but wash them first). I like plain squares with hemmed edges so they last a longer time than unfinished edges that might unravel. A very lightweight wrap like silk play cloths allows you to tie fancy bows with the fabric. We always have a few Christmas crackers under our tree—cylinders with bows at each end. Heavier fabric can be tied into a simple bow. You can also have a collection of reusable ribbons, if you like that look, but I found ribbons had a way of disappearing into the dress-up box.

We have a limited number of reusable cloths and bags in my family. If we run out, each person runs to the hiding place where they keep gifts to wrap another. During the holidays, we generally open one small gift a day for 12 days, so we just take the day’s cloths each night and wrap new gifts for the morning.

Because it is easy to peek inside reusable wrapping, you might want to hold off until the last minute putting gifts under your tree to keep from tempting curious children.