5 Simple Handmade Gifts to Make With Your Toddler

The holiday season is upon us and with it the need to remember our loved ones with gifts from the heart. However, purchasing unique gifts for each individual on your list can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive. Plus, now that you have small children, its a little difficult to drag them all over town while you shop. We at the Urban Child Institute have a suggestion. Maybe this year you could try giving hand-made gifts to the most special loved ones on your list. Maybe, too, you could employ the tiny hands of your little tots to help make these gifts even more special. Here are a few ideas from around the internet, employing elements of our “Touch, Talk, Read, Play” philosophy into your holiday gift-giving plan.

1. Handprint Snowmen Ornament

This craft might be the most challenging of all, but it is also the cutest. Start with a plain ball ornament. Paint your toddler’s fingers white with acrylic craft paint and have him hold the ornament in the palm of his hand, fingertips towards the top of the ball. (You’ll have to figure out a way to keep his fingers still so you’re left with 4 “snowmen” and not 4 smeared blobs- this is the challenge). When the paint dries, add snowman features to each print, and write his name and the date on the reverse side. Ta-da!, you have a precious snowman ornament, capturing forever his tiny handprint. One day you won’t believe his hand was ever that small.

2. Salt-Dough Ornaments

Toddlers love to “cook.” Here’s a gift idea that allows them to help you measure and mix ingredients for the dough in addition to using cookie cutters to make the ornaments. Here is the recipe:

Salt Dough
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered alum
  • 3/4 cup water
  1. Mix all ingredients completely with hands. (If the dough is too dry, work in 1+/- tsp water).
  2. Roll the dough out for cutting with cookie cutters. You can use a chopstick to make a hole near the top of each cut-out for hanging. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours. Let the ornaments cool completely before painting with acrylic paints.

Don’t forget to add her name and the date on the back of each ornament, either writing it with a toothpick before baking or with a permanent marker afterwards. If you are brave, let her paint them on her own. Sure, they won’t look professional, but the fact that she painted them herself will make them far more precious.

3. Colorful Glass Votives

This is a very inexpensive, simple craft that allows you to repurpose saved glass baby food jars. Cut tissue paper (or show your little guy how to rip it into shreds) into one inch squares. Dilute regular white glue with a little water and maybe add some glitter for a festive touch. Now, help him “paint” a thin layer of glue onto the outside of the clean glass jar and pat tissue paper onto the glue. After the jar is covered (no need to do the bottom) and the glue has dried a little, add one more coat of the thinned, glittery glue on top of the paper. When your jar has dried completely, add a small votive candle and you have a special gift handmade by a very special kid.

4. Scented Playdough

This makes an awesome gift to give other children and families. It's another fun way to allow your little one to measure and mix with you, great pre-math skills. Since this recipe does involve cooking the dough over heat, let her help you add and mix all the ingredients into the pot, but an adult should do the stirring over the stove. Here's the recipe:

Homemade Scented Playdough
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 4 Tablespoons veg oil
  • 2 cups water
  • *add ingredients for scenting the playdough*
    • Gingerbread Playdough 2 T cinnamon; 4 t ginger; 2 t nutmeg; 2 t ground cloves
    • Peppermint Playdough 4 T peppermint extract plus a few drops of red food coloring
    • Hot Cocoa Playdough 4 T cocoa powder
  1. In a medium pan, mix all dry ingredients.
  2. Add wet ingredients and stir.
  3. Cook over low/medium heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Once the mixture forms a ball, roll it out onto wax paper to cool. Knead until smooth.
  5. When the scented dough has cooled, package it in small plastic food containers.
  6. Tie up with a bright ribbon and include a cookie cutter for a festive and fun gift.

5. Monogrammed Picture Frames

Craft stores and even the dollar stores usually have plain, unfinished, wooden picture frames for painting. Help your toddler to apply a coat of paint to the entire surface of a frame. When that has dried, you can attach letter stickers to the frame where you want the name or monogram to be. Now help him paint another color on top of the first one, making sure to cover the letter stickers. After this second layer dries, carefully remove the stickers, revealing the name or monogram in the original paint color. Ta-da! To finish it all off sweetly, be sure to put his picture in the frame before wrapping it, and write his name and the date on the back.

These gifts are sure to be a win-win scenario for you and for your loved ones! However, the true beneficiaries will be your children. Creating, painting, crafting, learning, listening, measuring, mixing, exploring, touching, feeling, interacting positively with you; the benefits to your child from creating with you will encourage his own development and grow his baby brain. While crafting with tiny tots may try your patience, we hope you’ll benefit from the experience as well. From all of us at the Urban Child Institute, we wish you and your family a safe, healthy, happy holiday season.