Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Easy Handmade Gifts for Babies and Toddlers

Your children's earliest Christmases can be made even more special with the addition of handmade gifts. Anyone can go out and buy toys, learning games, and clothes, but how much more fun it is to give a gift that was self-created. Don't be discouraged by thinking you couldn't possibly make anything your child would enjoy; there are lots of ideas that are both innovative and exciting. It all depends on your personal expertise and the talents of other members of the family.

Perhaps your child will need new clothes as the Christmas season approaches. You might want to consider buying patterns and sewing up some of your own creations. Personally, my mother is always tickled to show me the photos in which I am wearing an outfit she made. If you are sewing for babies, keep in mind that they will grow very quickly, so you may want to make the outfit a little bigger for the coming year. Toddler outfits can be more elaborate; play-clothes, dresses, suits, holiday attire, smocks, stockings, and hats are just some suggestions. The older the child, the more choices there will be for clothing.

Consider taking up knitting or crocheting. Knitted socks are some of the warmest things in the world and should keep either a baby or a toddler's feet cozy all year round. Knitting doesn't have to be a boring sport; choose bright, vibrant yarn and go wild. Just make sure to allow for the child's rapidly-growing feet. If you like traditional sewing better, a baby quilt is a terrific idea. You can either buy material you like or have it be special squares (ie squares from outgrown outfits that have special significance for you and other family members). Make sure the stitches can't be easily ripped out by busy fingers. You can crochet a quilt as well.

If you have a toddler, his or her personality can play a part in determining what gifts you make. If your little one is constantly dragging toys around and doesn't seem to have enough room to store them, a homemade toybox is a great idea. All you will need are some tools, plans, paint, and wood. Find a book or pamphlet telling you how to put the basic box together; after that, it's your decision how to decorate. Does he or she like ducks? Dolls? Disney characters? This is where paint comes in handy. It doesn't have to be the best artwork; your child will appreciate it either way. When I was little, my father took great pride in building me a toybox and painting Disney figures that scampered across the front.

If your toddler is old enough to enjoy something along the lines of a simple dollhouse, there is a bit more work involved. Materials can get expensive, but you can choose how elaborate you make it. The house can be tiny or huge, have whatever number of rooms you want, and be decorated in any way you choose. I used to love making Victorian furniture for the dollhouse my dad created for me when I was a baby. You can go halfway, making the dollhouse but buying the furniture and people, if you wish. Just make sure the wooden pieces are well sanded and finished so your little one doesn't wind up with splinters.

I used to enjoy handmade rag dolls; this is probably an activity that would be better appreciated by a toddler. After stuffing them with a sufficient amount of cotton I sewed old towels together into the shape of a doll's body. I then sewed colored yarn on for hair and painted the eyes, mouth, and nose onto the face. You could also use buttons for the eyes, and anything else you think would work. You can even make outfits for your rag doll. For a baby, a different kind of toy like a small stuffed animal may be more appreciated.

Draw portraits or take special pictures of your baby or toddler, then choose special frames. You can hang them around the nursery for a festive accent. If you're an artist, consider doing a portrait of your child at each new month, or every few months. If you are handy with wood or know someone who is, you can even make the frames and paint or varnish them. Consider special snapshots to frame, like baby's hand, his foot, or a view from a different angle.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer