I love receiving presents made by children, there is just something unique and special when you sit back and think about the time and thought that has gone into the project isn't there?
When you work in early childhood it can unfortunately turn into a stressful minefield though as you must navigate through the judgement from others about whether the presents are being made by the children or the educator. I think, like most things in early learning, it comes down to common sense, a balanced approach and knowing your families and children in care well.
I try to stick to 5 simple guidelines when it comes to planning projects young children can participate in to make Christmas and special occasion gifts to take home from care for their friends and family.
- I ask myself "will the children enjoy making this or will it frustrate them?" "Is it age appropriate or am I expecting too much?"
- I ask myself "is this craft or project too involved or stressful if I am planning it for a large group of children who all attend different days...and have different family cultures?"
- I ask myself "will the child's special someone, carer or family member like to receive this gift? Will they be able to tell it is from their child and unique in some way to them?"
- I ask myself if I can incorporate the concepts of recycle, upcycle or reuse into this project somehow.
- I remain conscious of letting children take my present making idea in a different direction and encourage them to lead their own project if it seems important to them to do so. Seeing a child's creativity, problem solving and self expression shine in the finished product is worth the deviation so I try not to stress if we end up with a blob of red clay in a jar or 5 handprints on a card instead of one perfect one! I know it's hard sometimes but if my perfectionist self can do so can you!!
It can be hard to think up new ideas for presents made by children though so I've put together a bumper collection of inspiration for you from members of our Empowered Educator Facebook Community and all around the worldwide web.
I've included a variety of ideas for different age groups so you can choose a project that best suits the ages of the children you currently have in care. You can also easily modify many of the projects to suit a multi age group environment.
There are some very simple hands on activities for toddlers to try (that will require very little adult help), some with simple steps to follow (while also challenging emerging skills) for the 3-5 age group and some more involved projects for the school age children (many will also make excellent vacation care or camp activities for the holidays!)
There are some hand/feet/finger print craft ideas included and I know this can be a contentious issue in early childhood and educators often have strong opinions and perspectives in this area so just scroll past if this is not something you choose to do!
However, I think as long as we always remain respectful of a child's actions, responses and emotions while doing these types of crafts and never insist a child must do them, then I personally don't believe there is anything to be concerned about. I'd still encourage educators to only include them as 'occasional' activities rather than something included in a program consistently though as process will always be more important in the entire scheme of things rather than the end product - it's all about balance though!
Ok, let's scroll through some projects and get your brain buzzing with new ideas to try for Christmas presents the children can make this year! Just click on the links below the image collages to read more about how to do each project and what materials you will need.
Empowered Ed member and educator Danielle made these cute Christmas trees from pinecones with her children. You could make a pinecone hunt part of the fun, and the little pots are only a few dollars at Bunnings (or you could ask parents to donate some).
Emma, another educator from our Facebook group made these simple 'Mistletoes' pictures with her children using their footprints to go with their other Christmas crafts - I can imagine parents and grandparents treasuring these for years to come. They're a nice inexpensive gift idea too.
These Santa flower pots are a very cute Christmas gift idea and a great opportunity for a bit of gardening too. I created them with the children on a tight budget too!
If you still have CD's around (or your families have some) then recycling them, letting the children decorate and turn them into Christmas ornaments is a great idea from Empowered Ed member and educator Fiona.
Fiona also shared this simple fine motor idea of using craft sticks and buttons to create these cute Christmas trees. These would also look lovely hanging on the tree each year.
These Christmas bells made from old plastic bottles are a fun gift to make (and a great upcycled gift too). See how I made them HERE.
Educator Kim from our Facebook group made these snowmen using simple sewing techniques - this would be a great holiday program activity for the older children.
Salt dough is always an easy, budget friendly gift idea and one that the children have lots of fun making. You can find my simple salt dough recipe HERE.
How easy is this? - Fiona shows us how to turn plaster Christmas trees into a gift by adding magnet strips to the back. You could also do this with salt dough.
My nature clay ornaments are a beautiful gift idea and one that's simple to modify for different ages. I love using my white 'clay' recipe, it's so easy to make, no need to buy it!
What a special present idea! These reusable bags using children's paintings came from Fiona in our Empowered Ed group.
Did you find an idea or two to try for Christmas present making or another special occasion?
Revisit and reflect on the 5 simple guidelines I mentioned at the beginning of this article to help ensure it's a fun process (and not stressful!) for both you as educator and the children creating the gifts.
Looking for more ideas and inspiration? Why not join our Empowered Educator Facebook group and network with over 15,000 other early years educators. Click on the image below to join!