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I love it when I have a gift idea for kids that is delightful for the recipient, is practical and not too messy/big/annoying/noisy for the parent, has any educational or STEAM value going for it, and brings me joy to give. Bonus points if it is at a reasonable price point! I was able to check all of those boxes last week when we were invited to a casual joint birthday party for two sweet preschoolers. My daughter and I put together a festive little craft kit for each of the two birthday kids, and soon after we left the party, the moms both sent happy snapshots of their kids putting their new crafting materials to use! It was a hit with the moms and kids: HOORAY!!
Normally, I fall back to Amazon or Target for last-minute kid birthday presents. I figure someone out there gets paid a lot of money to curate lists of things I can buy for a 4-year old boy, and I should be able to filter down to the age and general interests and find something suitable. Well, maybe I was searching incorrectly, but I felt like I was coming across the same items that I saw last month, last year, and maybe even the year before. Really? Amazon didn’t have any fresh, original ideas for me?
I was in a bit of a time crunch, and I wasn’t up to date on their latest interests. I had to put on my thinking cap (the teacher in me is alive and well ;)). Was there a cool toy I could get them? Maybe I would get something educational. Clothes? Experiences? Room decor? Books? Arts and craft supplies? Oooh… yes! That could be fun. It wouldn’t take up too much space, could occupy the kids for some time (yay for Mom and Dad!) and would still provide some sort of fine motor skill or creativity development.
This entire idea resonated with me. A while back, I shared about how we turned our dining room into an art room for the kids. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a parent! The kids spend hours there each week independently crafting, creating, cutting, drawing, gluing, taping, and re-purposing random items taken out of the recycling bin.
Ok, I can’t say I was 100% thrilled when my daughter plopped a discarded milk gallon jug on my bed last week, filled with murky water and hundreds of colorful tissue paper squares. But, right alongside the part of me that mentally screamed, EW!! NOT ON MY CLEAN BED! and What a waste of tissue paper! there was also a part of me that was very pleased with her original and creative attempts to re-purpose items from the recycling bin into art. It was beautiful, in its own simple, childlike way.
There was also a large part of me that said, Oh well, you got to sleep in until 9am while the two of them made this thing. I guess that was worth it. Ah, I love summer break. That’s right. The kids woke up and crafted on their own until 9am, while Ben and I slept in.
On a weekday.
I know. What is this life?!
This was definitely a gift I wanted to share with my friends, even in a small way, so I decided to put together an art kit for each of their kids. The kids would have the chance to make and create with a variety of materials, and the parents could maybe catch a break? Or, at least enjoy watching their kids make things. I know not everyone has jars of googly eyes, sequins, and pom poms sitting around, so this would be a great way to share from our stash! All I needed to do was find a nice way to organize it all.
After lots of searching, I decided I wanted a box with compartments, similar to the ones used to organize beads for jewelry. I was about to check out with two of these when I saw this one for under $4!
It was perfect. It arrived two days later and I had so much fun filling up the compartments. Soon, my daughter came along and indignantly asked, “Why are you taking all of our art supplies?” Arms at her hips, face scrunched up. This was a teachable moment, and I ran with it. I explained to her that we were putting together a birthday present for our friends, and how lucky she was to have so much variety in her crafting supplies: “Wouldn’t it be nice to share some of what we have with other people who don’t usually get to stick pom poms or googly eyes on their crafts? That would be fun, right?”
Before long, she was excitedly opening jars, trying to convince me to add random knickknacks into the kits. I had to convince her that our friends probably already had q-tips and cotton balls, and that they might not find our colored rice to be as fun as the buttons or washi tape.
I felt like the sidewalk chalk didn’t really fit with the crafting theme, but she had just received a pack as a gift from her school teacher and she desperately wanted to share them. It was her own personal contribution to the project: “But Mama, we have more sidewalk chalk than we need,” she said, gesturing to our canister full of chalk, “so let’s share these!” Seriously, how could I say no to that?!
I cut out a piece of paper and had her label each craft kit in her own fun lettering, and then we used packaging tape to secure it on.
I don’t always feel like I hit the mark when getting gifts for others, but I was pretty excited to wrap these up and give them to the birthday kids! Their moms were sure to show me that they were happy to receive them, too.
I realize not everyone has tons of craft supplies hanging around the house, but if you have a lot of kids in your life, this could be a really fun gift to mass-create and give out, maybe for the holidays or made ahead of time for birthdays! Wouldn’t it be fun to do a cooperative craft exchange of some sort? You could get a handful of parents who each bring bulk packs of two items (i.e. pom poms and pipe cleaners / popsicle sticks and buttons / googly eyes and pony beads, etc.)) and you all meet together to divvy up and exchange items! (Hey! I LIKE THAT IDEA!! Maybe I’ll try it!!).
It could be a neat fundraiser idea for schools: Make ten kits and sell them for $25 each (or… more?!). Or, grandparents with lots of grandchildren might have fun buying items in bulk and divvying it out into craft kids for each child. I imagine most parents would be happy to have their kids receive this, as it takes quite a bit of commitment to pull the trigger on bulk quantities of all these little doodads (but isn’t cost-efficient to purchase art kits like these online… yikes!).
Here’s a final look at the completed kits that we made:
Other items that would work very well in a craft kit (but you might need a box with adjustable dividers to fit larger items):
Honestly, almost anything can be a craft supply if you try to be creative about it (just check out some of the incredible ideas at RAFT!). I shared these ideas as they are usually a hit with kids (and grown-ups!), and I think they would be happy to receive these as a gift! What’s one item you would want to include in a crafting kit? Share in the comments below!