8 Homemade Holiday Gifts Your Kids Can Work On This Summer

published Jun 27, 2022
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Credit: Amber Guetebier

A thoughtful, homemade gift from the heart makes a wonderful holiday present, but let’s be honest: December is a busy season filled with school, work, events, and extracurriculars. Trying to find time to make a gift for Grandma a few weeks before the holidays is stressful for parents and kids. Even my artistic child groans at the thought of creating a last-minute gift in December. 

But homemade gifts in the summer? That’s a different story. Between creative camps at our local art center and a lot of downtime, summertime is the perfect time to work on homemade holiday gifts. With no looming gift-giving deadline, there’s plenty of time to generate gift ideas. The crafts feel less pressured, mistakes aren’t a big deal, and there’s more pleasure in the process. Plus, you can messily create outside!

Whether it’s a clay class or an at-home collage art day, here are eight homemade craft ideas that’ll make great holiday gifts later this year.

First, a Few Tips for Summer Crafting

  • Consider pairing: If you love to shop, consider pairing a homemade gift with something store-bought. For example, if you make a set of coasters, purchase a mug and holiday tea to go along with it. Or, if you paint a pot, add a beautiful seasonal plant closer to the date (like a Christmas cactus). 
  • Make it a group activity: Know other parents who have crafty kids? Pick a few Saturdays in the summer and do craft swaps. Have each family take a turn hosting a few kids (keep the crowd small to make it manageable) for painting, polymer clay-making. collage art, or anything else you can think of. Provide the supplies and the kits, and then everyone leaves with a future gift.

Idea #1: Make a Stepping Stone

Summer treasures become a thing of beauty when you press sea glass, shells, coins, and other meaningful items into a stepping stone. Bonus points for using items gathered with or while visiting the special person you’re giving them to. Beach trip with Grandpa? Camping trip with Auntie? I love adding my son’s handprints each time and carving the year in. I usually buy a complete stepping stone kit, but if you save the molds, you can just get the quick-set concrete you need to make the stone each year. 

Idea #2: Make an Ornament

Ornaments might be the easiest and biggest category of potential handmade gifts. For summer crafts, I lean toward ornament-making projects that are either time-consuming or messy. Most craft stores have ornament-making kits (you might even score them at an off-season discount). But as long as there’s a way to hang it, and it’s not too heavy, it’s an ornament. 

Wooden ornaments are easy for kids of all ages because they are fun to paint and inexpensive. Look for a wooden ornament kit, or check the craft store or home improvement store for small pieces of wood that can become ornaments. Now the kids can stamp, paint, or wood burn to their heart’s content. 

Idea #3: Make a Candle

This requires more supervision than other crafts like finger painting because it involves heating up wax either on the stove or in the microwave and then pouring the hot wax into molds. It’s a good project for teens, especially those who are usually reluctant to craft a gift, and is easy for beginners to learn

You can purchase all of the elements individually from a candle-making supply company or a crafts store or buy a candle-making kit.  I like the combination of the two: I purchase a candle-making kit for convenience, but instead of using store-bought molds, I pour my candles into thrifted vintage tea cups, mason jars, or other pretty vessels that can take the heat. It adds an element of personalization to the gift you can customize for your recipient. 

Idea #4: Decorate a Picture Frame

One of the best gifts my son received from a friend was a painted wooden frame with a picture of the two of them. Craft stores like Michael’s sell unfinished wooden frames your child can paint or draw on, and you can either add an image yourself or just gift the frame. You can also purchase a frame with a white mat board inside and have them draw on the mat board. Use fine-tip sharpies and get as intricate as they wish with the art: they can take all summer and still have time to spare. 

Credit: Amber Guetebier
Handmade Coasters Craft

Idea #5: Make Coasters 

Coasters can be a practical and inexpensive gift if you buy pre-cut cork coasters or a sheet of cork, which you can then cut into either squares or a custom shape. Just make sure the shape is big enough to set an average-sized mug on. Use paint pens to decorate your cork.

If you’re up for something more advanced, consider painting designs onto plain ceramic tiles. You’ll need to finish them with a spray sealant to preserve them and make sure they don’t stick to a hot mug. We also recommend gluing cork to the underside to protect tabletops. Buy a complete ceramic coaster-making set, and you’ll have almost everything you need to make custom coasters.

Idea #6: Tie-Dye O-Rama 

Tie-dying is an activity best suited to being outside, so summertime is the perfect time to play around with this colorful craft. In addition to tie-dying shirts, you can tie-dye bolts of fabric to create an alternative to wrapping paper. Consider cutting up and dying old cotton sheets and pillowcases. Get a tie-dye kit with all the primary colors you need to get started. In a sea of glitter, green, and ruby reds, your multi-colored gift will stand out under the tree. 

You can scour the thrift store for some fabrics to use; just remember they should be cotton for vivid colors. If you can’t find 100 percent cotton, you can try 90 percent, but any lower than that, you risk the colors not setting. You can also purchase plain cotton dish towels and dye those as gifts (or use them as gift wrap). You’ll have plenty of time to rinse and dry before the holiday season. 

Idea #7: Clay Camp

One of the most classic homemade gift ideas is something created in clay class. Because clay takes time to cure, fire, and then be ready for pickup, you’ll need plenty of time before the holidays to create a clay gift, which is why a summer clay class is ideal. Talk with the kids about possible projects before they go into class. My son took a class that met once a week for two weeks, and there was enough time to make a gift for his grandma as well as several other creations. 

You can also seek out a clay class that has a specific result: a lantern, a small bowl, and a pinch pot are all great examples. 

If you want to get your hands grubby right at home, there are alternatives like polymer clay which hardens by baking in the oven. Children can create ornaments, pencil holders, and all kinds of creatures, miniatures, and more. They can be baked at a low temperature in a conventional oven or even a toaster oven. 

Credit: Amber Guetebier

Idea #8: Bookmarks

Handmade bookmarks seem like a small gift, but they are incredibly practical. They are also easy to make. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas we’ve tried. 

Make a sheet of collage art from magazines using a finish like Mod-Podge to hold everything down. Let it dry, then cut the collage into strips (4 inches by 2 inches seems to be a nice size). You can also press summer flowers or lucky clovers to add to a bookmark. 

Similarly, you can free-paint a piece of paper, laminate it, and then cut it into strips. I don’t have a laminating machine, but you can buy laminating sheets that don’t require heat or any kind of press. It’s a great one for finger-painting toddlers to try! 

Lately, we’ve gotten into diamond-art bookmarks thanks to a teacher at school. Diamond art is very precise and a bit tedious, so it’s not easy to rush it. You buy a diamond art kit and use smaller pieces to decorate card stock. You can even buy pre-cut paper bookmarks to simplify everything. Hand the kids some crayons, and you’re good to go. 

How to Store Your Homemade Crafts and Gifts

Designate a decent-sized bin with a lid and label it “holiday gifts.” Invest in some bubble wrap or tissue to make sure things aren’t damaged while they wait. If you’re really organized, you can make a list of the creations and who they are for and keep it in the box. The hardest part is getting kids to wait until the holiday season to give their homemade treasures!