bookmarks

photos by Le Petit Poulailler

It's never too early to get organized for the holidays. Don't be a last-minute shopper. Get a jump-start on your gift list now. What homemade gifts have you made?
Here are a few low-cost ideas for kids that can be standalone or add-on gifts.

BOOKMARKS: Buy various bolts of thin- and wide-width ribbon. Cut them into 12-inch strips. Attach a button to the top with tacky glue or slide beads, knot the ends, and you have pretty bookmarks. Bookmarks can be made from laminating photo-booth photos, craft foam, felt or cereal boxes, crocheted, playing cards, seed packets, beads, paper clips (http://www.splitcoaststampers.com/resources/paperclipbookmarks.php or http://www.likecool.com/Make_Heart-shaped_Paper_Clip--Other--Home.html) to name a few.
bookmarks


BEANBAGS: Cut various textured fabric into 6-inch-by-6-inch squares. Sew three sides, fill with poly pellets, and sew the remaining side closed. Recycle old jeans by cutting out the pockets, fill them, and sew them closed, too. Visit www.chicaandjo.com/2009/06/25/make-a-bean-bag-toss-game for a cute beanbag-game idea. I don't recommend stuffing beanbags with food such as beans or rice. Beanbags tend to get moldy or attract bugs if you do.

RECYCLED CRAYONS: You can melt broken crayons and make new fun crayons. Peel the paper off the crayons before melting.
1. Line a baking pan with foil, and place various cookie cutters on top of the foil. Place broken crayons inside the cookie cutters. Bake at 150 F for about 15 minutes.
2. Place broken crayons into a muffin pan (you can use a mini muffin pan, too) or silicone mold such as ice-cube trays. Place pan into oven, bake at same temperature and time as above or in a large oval slow cooker, and cook on high for 1-1/2 hours. Once cooled, pop out new, round crayons.
3. Microwave broken crayons in a paper cup for 4 minutes in the oven or use cans placed into a saucepan of boiling water and pour into candy molds, or pour and layer different colors in an old film canister.

DRESS-UP BOXES: Buy clearance Halloween costumes or visit thrift stores and garage sales to buy various dress-up materials. Kids love capes, dresses, costume jewelry, etc., for dramatic play.

LIGHT-SWITCH COVERS: Make customized switch-plate covers by using glue, Mod Podge and fabric or paper, and plastic switch plates. Directions are here: www.pinkchalkstudio.com/blog/2008/03/19/switchplates. The same materials can be used on a picture frame or a box to make a treasure box.

HOODED TOWELS: This is easy even for beginners. Only need a large bath towel and a hand towel, scissors, pins, ric-rac and a sewing machine. Visit makeandtakes.com/easy-hooded-bath-towel for an easy-to-follow tutorial. Or make washcloth puppets. A free pattern is available at www.sewing.org/html/washpuppet.html.

STORY BAGS: Fill a reusable canvas bag (or homemade bag) with a storybook and activities, such as printable worksheets or coloring sheets or crafts, stuffed animals, stickers, music, flashcards, etc., that go well with the story.

BAKING KITS: Using a plastic tote or large glass jar, place supplies such as measuring spoons and cups, an apron, decorating sprinkles and cookie cutters and a recipe to make cupcakes or cookies.

PAJAMA KEEPER: Get a large stuffed animal. Cut an opening, remove some stuffing from the body, and keep the head, arms and legs stuffed. Insert a pillowcase that has been cut to fit inside the body. Sew the pillowcase to the opening you cut, or remove the stuffing and sew in a zipper.