Let’s face it, even when the economic picture is rosy, Christmas with the kids is expensive. There’s that darn Toys R Us lookbook that always seems to make it into their hands. Most of us won’t scrimp on their gifts, so it’s the rest of the family that gets the shaft.
What if there was a compromise? No need to beat around the bush here – I’m talking good old-fashioned child labor here. Yeah, it’s a little cheesy in that holiday commercial where a kid hands mom a big handmade card kind of way, but what the heck. At least you can afford it.
Tempted to throw caution to the wind and make presents with the kids? Here are my five favorites:
- Cookies – seriously a no-brainer here. Most people who celebrate Christmas are making them anyway (or buying them and plunking a doily on a paper plate to make it look like they are anyway). So throw together an extra batch and take them with you – anywhere. The thing about cookies is that people who say, “Oh no, I couldn’t,” inevitably end up digging in. And they’ll appreciate not having another tchotchke that ends up taking up space on their bookshelves. Speaking of which . . .
- Whatsit jars – Forget the muffin mix in a jar. Have you ever actually seen someone bake one of these things? I usually end up pouring mine in the compost pile just in time to get another shelf full. Save the jars, the gingham squares and the raffia ties, and let your kids loose in the junk drawers or their toy room. Short of the knowledge that everything MUST fit inside the drawer, all they need to know is this is a gift for so-and-so. In other words, they can’t get this stuff back, but they can make somebody’s day and clean up your house. See what they come up with; you might be surprised – and your best friend will have a kitshy found art piece to show off instead of the same old macaroni necklace. Speaking of which . .
- There aren’t many people who really like to wear kid-made jewelry (their mothers accepted, of course – and maybe some grandmothers). But a button that can be stuck in a corkboard? Not too shabby. Flattened bottle caps, with pictures glued to the front and plenty of glitter are a bit more work, but the fact that they’re kid-made is a bonus for these, not a detraction. (Click here for directions).
- Who says the presents have to be people-specific? The same people who will stop in awe to watch a bluebird alight on their windowsill don’t necessarily have the time (or the ambition) to go out and buy a feeder. You can do the old pine cone and peanut butter trick (or Crisco, if your kids are young and you’re still wary of allergies). Smear the pine cone in goo, swirl in a pile of cheap birdfeed, tie on a piece of twine and voila. Or . . .
- Popcorn strings will keep the animals who don’t hibernate busy this winter, and provided your kids are old enough to trust with a needle and long piece of thread, they’re something a trained monkey could make. And did I mention won’t require dusting or take up space for time eternal?
Call them cheesy, but they’re easy on the pocketbook – and your kids will remain out of your hair for a good thirty minutes.
Image: Family Fun