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Parenting

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids (that aren’t toys) 2016-2017

18 September, 2016

**This list of Gift Ideas for Kids has been Updated for 2016 – 2017**

We spent six months travelling around Europe in a campervan. We had a tiny stash of playthings and our three year old toddler Ramona thrived. She was a case study for how kids play in nature. She had a twig that would be a wand one minute, a baby the next, a spade in the morning and a guitar in the afternoon.

During that time I came to believe that too many toys can push a child’s imagination right under the bed and will eventually wreck the planet our children have got to enjoy for the rest of their lives. (Read my thoughts on that here.)

These days I think that rather than having such a negative view of toys we can just view them as one part of the big picture of childhood. As parents (or caring adults in a child’s life) we need to provide a nurturing environment that values fun, communal games, imagination play, art, creating, music, nature. Toys aren’t evil. They bring kids a whole heap of enjoyment, so let’s not be too harsh on them!

However, we all want to be that awesome adult that opens the doors a little more on a child’s imagination. We want to give a kid a gift that they will remember forever!BEST LIST EVER! Sixty Great gift Ideas for Kids- that aren't toys

Pin for later: Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

This list of gift ideas for kids is for you. Whether it is for Christmas or a special birthday this list has a unique and awesome non-toy gift for every child.

This is a crowd sourced list of gift ideas for kids. Using Twitter and Facebook I asked 6000 people: What is the best non-toy present you ever received as a kid?

Here are sixty ways to show you care, and for the most part they fire a child’s imagination and cause less havoc for the environment. Many of them are free, or cheap and plenty of them can be found in charity shops or secondhand stores. There is a common theme of taking children seriously- of trusting them and their abilities, of giving them tools to create.

(When a celebration is coming up and it’s a pressie-giving kind of time, I reckon a good, frank chat is the best starting point. The child/ parents have a better idea about what the child would enjoy/ needs like a hole in the head. But the second port of call should be this list, for sure. Bookmark it and share it with your family members!)

Here we go….

Gift Ideas for Kids – Tools & Equipment

I am reading “Escape from Childhood” by John Holt at the moment and the thing he is really convincing me of is how much kids NEED to be useful. Exactly like adults! They love to be taken seriously, to have serious implements and to be able to truly, genuinely help and build and be busy working. When considering gift ideas for kids we should think about great it must feel for them to open up proper tools and equipment.

1-A small fruit tree to grow and nurture.

2- Same goes with a proper hammer and nails. Throw in some wheels and planks and they’ll be set for days. or perhaps a toolbox filled with things were a massive hit; rope, screws, pulleys etc.

3- Sew them a baby sling for their dolls. Here is a tutorial for an easy sling for your toddler’s doll – it has never failed to please a tot in my experience!

4- Gardening equipment- a proper trowel, some organic slug killer and some seeds.

5- A greenhouse. A reader says “When I was 9 I got a greenhouse. To this day it is still my best Christmas present ever as I spent hours with my Grandad learning how to grow food.”

6- A pocket knife. Every kid age 4+ needs a good simple pocket knife, a lesson in using it safely (sitting down, striking away from you, with an adult in range) and a bit of wood to carve.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for kids - that aren't toys

7 – Cress seeds were specified for very young children- imagine helping to feed your family at only age 2?! Plus they pop up all year round and don’t take as much patience. You can also make them a head to grow them in so it looks like hair! Classic!

8- My sister put together a survival kit for her six year old son- a good rope, pegs and a tarpaulin for den making, camo paint, a good torch. Flipping heck, that was a hit.

9 – A wind up torch. Sustainable and fascinating for children. They especially love head torches.

10 – A good baking bowl, a whisk, some scales. Show them you have faith in their ability to make something yummy.

11- The ingredients to make something yummy! One reader explains about the special thing she did for Christmas “I once gave my daughter’s friend a bag filled with the ingredients, Christmas cutters and the recipe to make their own Christmas gingerbread. They loved it.”

12 – Kitchen implements- one tweeter is getting her 2.5 year old son a peeler with a big handle as he genuinely loves helping in the kitchen. One reader received a sieve when she was young and it was her favourite present ever. I think I might get my three year old a good grater- they are so fulfilled when they are doing something worthwhile. A garlic press was another great suggestion. And every kid needs an apron.

13- Their own cookery book. Several times a week Ramona picks something out of her cookery book and bakes it. She is five.

14 – Something to pull apart- give them a screw driver and an old type writer and the afternoon to take it to bits and explore its inners.

15- A rock tumbler. A reader explains “I loved collecting rocks when I was about 9- it was so cool being able to polish them!”

16 – A magnifying glass and a book of native Insects.

17 – A microscope “I spent months finding things to look at and getting family members to guess what it was- the best was tiny slivers of onion skin.”

18 – Binoculars – plus a guide to bird and wildlife. We just bought a pair for our eight year old neighbour and you have pretty much never seen a kid more excited!!!!

19 – A calligraphy pen, nibs and ink. “I was given these age ten, and shown how to use it. I still have it!”

20 – A DIY science kit. Or DIY anything kit really!

Gift Ideas for Kids – Art and creating

The emphasis here is on good quality stuff. Just like adults, children deserve to work with good quality materials. It is frustrating scrawling on crap paper with crayons that barely make a mark. Seeing the vivid colours of acrylic paint on canvas is much more likely to stoke a child’s passion for creating art, no? These gift ideas for kids might just stoke your own memories of receiving creative crafty pressies.

21- A ball of bright coloured, good wool and instructions for finger knitting will open up a whole new meditative world.

22- Ingredients for DIY porcelain clay- a little box with corn flour and bicarb and instructions. They’ll love the making and the shaping.

23- Proper non toxic acrylic paint, high quality watercolours, and proper paintbrushes.

24 – A good quality sketch book. These are unbeatable in terms of art – acrylic and watercolours just feel and look magical with beautiful thick absorbent paper.

25- A selection of blank canvases and an easel.

26- A candle making kit. (I have made candles since I was 11 when I got my first kit and loved it. And the only fire I caused was when I was 22 and being VERY experimental. Just a shame the fire happened on my future in laws dining table.)

27 – More kits: A perfume making kit – what a cool way to learn about chemicals and stuff.

28 – A sewing machine. I got my first when I was 12 and after a fairly quick lesson from my Aunty have seen ever since. Or even just a hand sewing kit with fabric, needles and threads.

29 – How about these wonderful chalkboard puppets? Handmake some chalkboard blocks and give them along with some chalk and then, the best bit, PLAY TOGETHER!

30 -A box of craft materials that is all their own- ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, fimo etc. Red Ted Art has a lot of gift ideas for kids in the form of arts and craft gift boxes.

31 – Jars of homemade playdough and a box of cutters and tools (found in secondhand shops.)

32 – A box. It was the third best gift, suggested by over thirty people! The best explanation comes from reader, Clare “The best ‘present’ I ever got was a great big cardboard box. I made it into a house and played in it for YEARS. The best thing about it was that my parents got really involved in it- my mum made curtains for it and they never complained about having a tatty old hoc in the living room and let me keep it as long as I wanted.”

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

Gift Ideas for Kids – Music and Culture

33- A mixtape – burn a cd with a selection of fun songs. Ramona has been given some of these and they are her favourite gift by a mile. I have gone on to make them for other children and my kids have helped select the tunes. So cool.

34 – Audiobooks- Roald Dahl stories are fantastic and tantalise imaginative minds.

35- A subscription to a magazine such as National Geographic. A reader explains how she felt about her subscription given to her by her neighbour age six, “At first, we just looked at the pictures but I read more each year as I grew. In our sleepy village,nit was a very welcome window into different cultures. And I always felt very grown up and acknowledged when I read them.”

36- Instruments! A good drum, maracas, a ukelele. A good xylophone. The brain patterns used in music are the same as those used in maths so giving kids the tools to create music is important. And fun. But make sure they are GOOD- in tune etc or children will lose interest.

37 – A song. Rope people in to help you, friends to strum chords on the guitar. Record it on YouTube and send it to them! We have done this a few times, it’s weird and fun. Write your own or just change a few lyrics to an existing one.

38 – Investment in a creative venture- for example Hadar Manor is crowd funding her new album and in return for contributing you can get anything from a shout out on the album to a personalised song, written sung and recorded for you.

39 – A poem. No, really, really! How special, for a kid to have their own poem. Written on beautiful paper. For them to treasure.

40 – A story. Ramona and Juno’s Grandad has written them both a story, printing it out into a book and gluing in photos.  It was about cats. They LOVE their personalised stories! How about writing a story about them? Or drawing a comic featuring them? It doesn’t need to be about them.

41- Lost My Name team sent Ramona and Juno personalised books featuring their name. The stories are totally unique, funny and the illustration is cracking without any rubbish gender stereotypes.

42- Books, books and more books. This was the most popular response by miles. The child especially enjoys receiving a book with meaning- one mum explains “her eyes light up when I say “this is something I loved when I was little, and I thought you’d like me to read it to you.”

43- Last Christmas we were living on the other side of the world to my husbands family. They sent over a book that they had recorded the story into- Ramona loves hearing the voices of her Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles reading to her.

44- A photo album or scrap book. Reader Sally explains that her three year old loves these.

Sixty Great Gift Ideas For Kids - that aren't toys!

Gift Ideas for Kids- Experiences

Days out were probably the second top answer after “box!” Kids love hanging out doing stuff with people who love them, and memories last WAY longer than toys. If giving an experience that doesn’t already come in the form of a card or voucher, draw them up a personalised one that they can open. It feels so much more exciting! These are gift ideas for kids that keep on giving WAY after they have been cashed in.

45 – A season pass or vouchers to something- an outdoor play area, a private woods such as Westonburt or a wildlife lark or donkey sanctuary.

46- A micro love bomb- let them have a whole evening hanging out with you, doing WHATEVER they want. Like, really, anything. (Based on Oliver James’ miraculous Love Bomb idea- a whole weekend to reset connection and attachment.)

47- A micro adventure- grab a tent, pack a little gas cooker and have a night in the local woods. Even London has accessible woods you can do this in.

48 – A visit to stables to ride on a horse- Ramona adored this for her third birthday. A reader adds that when she was seven she was given a Shetland pony-owning day “7 year old heaven!”

49 – Sew them something magnificent for their fancy dress box –  a mermaid outfit or a pair of wings- see a tutorial for easy toddler wings here, you could make them any size.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

50 – A tent and sleeping bags to camp out in the garden.

51 – A day out in a big city- the museums, a picnic, feeding the skanky pigeons, climbing the towers.

52- A voucher for a den building afternoon. Take wood, hammers and nails and build a fort together in the local woods.

53- A course. Six weeks of a children’s photography or pottery or dance classes.

54- Adopt a whale/ dog/ monkey. This is a delightful idea, the child has a sense of investment with an animal and they can make a real difference for a charity.

55- A box of second hand clothes and costume jewellery for a fancy dress department. One Tweeter said the stash she was given included a WEDDING DRESS. Brilliant.

56- An experience for a baby- a jar of threaded beads, jewels and shells for them to shake and look at.

57- And another idea for a baby- a box of tissues entirely theirs to pull out. (This is probably my favourite of them all- even at seven months old Juno has worked out how to undo the lid of the baby wipes and delights in pulling them out.)

58 – Organise a visit with a local craftsperson or skilled person.Imagine spending an hour with a beekeeper or on a tractor or hammering nails with a builder or watching an artist blowing glass or making cheese or something more specific the child loves! You could give a box of beers to the tradesperson in exchange! One reader had a day of work experience at a farm when she was a child and she cherishes that memory.

59- Car booting/ junk store shopping. Write a voucher and include ten smackeroonies and set a date and go and find the most obscure antiques you can! We bought tap shoes at a junk store for both our kids- unbelievable amounts of entertainment!!!

60- Fruit picking. One of my most treasured childhood memories is of going strawberry picking with my Nana and Grandad when I was small. I remember my Nana stuffing her face, the red juice dribbling down her chin. She was an upright, honest citizen but I think she thought eating them as you go was part of the deal! Traditional activities like this are magical – I could almost make a list of gift ideas for kids based entirely on old skool chores. Ha!

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

***

What an epic, epic list of gift ideas for kids. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas and stories. I am inspired and have my kid’s Christmas gifts sorted: a grater for Ramona and a box for Juno.

May your Christmas and birthday celebrations be ever imaginative and may you become a gift rockstar in the eyes of the children in your life!!!

PS We are blogging from a yurt in a forest in NZ these days – follow through Facebook or Instagram and keep up with our Youtube updates:


PPS If you are looking for creative gifts for mums and dad please check out my book 30 Days of Rewilding – designed to help families find their place amongst nature.
PPPS Check out the comments below for more gift ideas for kids – this is an organic, evolving list with people adding to it constantly via the comments!

Sixty Great Gift ideas for Kids - that aren't toys!

Parenting

Stuck in a Parenting Rut? 40 Unconventional Tips for Finding Your Mojo

25 November, 2014

Have you ever felt stuck in a parenting rut? Every so often in my role as stay at home mum, I need an injection of fun. I need to shake off my bad self. Find a bit of a groove again.

We woke up grumpy yesterday. Not just on the wrong side of the bed, but the wrong side of the stratosphere. Ramona was snapping at me, I couldn’t appease her. I was getting impatient, Juno was clinging to my knees like moss on a log.

I plonked on the sofa and looked at the clock. 8.05 A.M. EIGHT OH FIVE AM?!? Give me strength.

“Shiver my timbers, children o mine. We are grumpy. Can you think of anything we can do to shake these blues away?” Without even a moment’s pause Ramona said “Have a bath, put my pyjamas on and bake chocolate biscuits.”

So, that is what we did. (Well, we tried to make biscuits but we got all maverick, slopping in some milk, and then it turned into a cake which meant we then made butter icing and shook sprinkles all over and then we sat down and ate the whole thing ourselves. It was decadent and perfect.)

And that good mood has lasted us a solid 24 hours.

It was however, the first time Ramona has been able to identify and articulate her own fug remedy. And I’m definitely crap at soothing myself out of a mood. It made me want to make a list of all the potential mood lifters for families who encounter that stuck in a rut syndrome. (A list! Yes, a list will solve everything!)

It goes without saying, that the first steps for cranky kids and cross parents is validation. Everyone needs to know it is okay to be angry, grumpy, sad or to have rubbish days. Children need to hear that their big feelings are accepted and that there is room for their bad selves. That is unconditional parenting.

But when bad moods are due to disconnection, or getting in a cycle of bad communication, or simply feeling stuck in a rut as a parent, there are some things that we can do in order to get through it, to reconnect, to laugh our socks off and feel at peace again.

So, with the help of marvellous Lulastic readers on Facebook (come and say hello), here are FORTY ways to re-connect, shake the grumps, and start having fun. I can guarantee you won’t be stuck in a parenting rut after a handful of these.

Forty ways to find your parenting mojo again

Madness
We have always relied on a little bit of the ludicrous to break a bad mood.

1 Dance. We will stick on the loudest, bassiest, most fun music we can find (actually, we have a playlist for it- Grumps Begone) and then we just GET DOWN. Reader, Lorella says these mini discos always start with this favourite song.

2 Facepaint. A new face, a new mood. I have a whole bunch of face painted faces in an album on my iPad and we chose one of those and rock our animal selves for a while. It normally ends in Ramona painting my face in her signature style- red all over.

3 Fancy Dress. We all tumble into the dress ups and become flamboyant mermaid ninjas.

4 Pots and Pans. LOUD NOISES. We bang and crash them and and chant and shout a sing and let it all out in a rhythmic way.

5 Roar. A reader explains that they let it all out with a lion roar. I very much like that sense that our bodies can perfectly capture our feelings- if we are feeling fierce we can BE FIERCE.

6 Epic den. In your lounge, as big as you can make it. The perfect spot to sit out chicken pox. See Tinker Studio for diy teepee inspo or Mammasaurus for the best DIY yarn teepee in the garden EVER.

forty ways to reconnect with your children

7 Pulling faces. Bex and Missie Lizzie both rely on face pulling contests. It is silly and fun and will end in giggles, but perhaps more importantly it involves eye contact- one of the fundamentals for reconnecting.

The great outdoors
The outdoors, isn’t it great? It is the one stop shop for the irascible. Readers share about the almost immediate impact of soaking in Vitamin D on moods.

8 Find a spot of grass, your lawn or a patch of park, throw down a thick rug and lie on your backs and watch the clouds. Spot the dragons and alligators and candy floss. (That last one is WELL EASY.)

9 Pack a picnic and eat outside. On your balcony, at the beach. A picnic, for us, involves no caramelised onion tarte- but a can of sweet corn and a can of tuna, and crisps with which to shovel them in.

10 Find a place to run and race and leap about. After running races we can usually be found collapsed in a heap of giggles. Mary says “Sometimes you just the grumps! And kids need to understand that people have mood changes, bad days, sad days etc and that its ok to feel that way. Love support and time and then an epic round of puddle jumping and tree climbing followed by lots of hugs.”

11 Follow My Leader is also a temper shifter- and particularly ideal if a child’s anger comes as a result of feeling powerless.

12 Teddy Bear’s Picnic… All the cuddly toys shoved in an ikea basket, plus a packet of hobnobs. A tree to sit under= winner.

13 Barefoot babies. Whatever the season, shake off those shoes and socks and connect with the earth beneath your feet. Sarah says “We go outside and walk barefoot on the grass – grab some of that great earth energy!”

14 Go to your local beach, woodland or river, whatever the weather. Victoria says “We did it a couple of weekends ago in the rain and sat on a grey pebble beach having hot soup out of a thermos & eating cheese & tomato sandwiches…”

Water
A wise old sage once said “Cranky kids need to get in the water”. Find a way…

15 Bath. You have to turn the taps on, and then help your child in the water and stuff. (Hehe. It is so easy, but it is our absolute first resort.) Crank the connection up by getting in yourself and washing each other’s hair.

16 A colourful bath. Depending on the depth of the bad mood, you may need more help. We stick a few drops of food colouring in to make it extra awesome. (Um, in case you are wondering, and you don’t have food colouring on hand, sliced up beetroot also works a treat…)

17 Bath paints. They are crazily simple but combine the pleasures of being in water with being messy and creating something. Recipe here.

18 Pool. If you aren’t the irritable one than consider a swim at the pool. If you ARE the irritable one STAY AWAY. Those tangled cossies, sweaty legs, pubes stuck to your feet will be way, waaaay too much.

19 Water play. Perhaps you need five minutes to hide in a room and east your secret stash of maltesers. Get out the pots and pans again, several towels, and let your kids have a riot on the lino. Thalia says “Outside water play. ‘Go and get drenched. Sure you can take your soft toys…’

Eat

Speaking of secret stashes… Kids need to know that comfort can be found in eating. Ha, I jest. Sort of. Hey, no disorder is going to come of pulling out the pizzas at times of immovable grizzliness. (Don’t quote me on that.)

Anyway, anyway…. LOOK, PIZZA!!!

20 We have saved the day with DIY pizza. I don’t know what it is about it, but my children absolutely love the awesomeness of designing their own dinner. (Which we have sometimes eaten at 3pm.) Ramona’s speciality is with sprinkles of popcorn.

21 Get an ice cream. This is probably our second resort… It involves a famous chain that prey on the whole word with their scary clown man and addictive sugary substances with extra msg…. One I avoided for TWO DECADES. Then I had kids and realised that their ice creams cost 30p and if you go through the drive thru YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR. OR, THEREFORE, YOUR PYJAMAS. 60p buys both my children so much happiness- I actually feel like it is US exploiting THEM.

22 Chocolate cake! Or biscuits. (Whatever.) Eating something so rich, on the best china has an opulence that feels like a snatched magic moment. (*Maggggic moooooments….*)

23 A chocolate platter. Bring it all out man. Come on…Help the kids think that they have struck gold. You will love it too, and that is partly what the list is for. Finding things that will lift the mood of everyone. It’s legit, anyway. There is Valium in chocolate… I mean endorphins…. Or oxytocin…. Or something….

Make a plan

If you are lucky you might also have time to execute it….

24 We have planned lantern works for the evening…. We made lanterns and then went for the most basic little stroll carrying our lanterns as soon as dusk settled.

25 We have planned movie nights, with tickets and bags of popcorn.

26 We have planned, and done, treasure hunts. For preschoolers, they actually enjoy the planning as much as the hunt. Ruth says “Sometimes I’ll make up a treasure hunt and leave clues around the house.”

27 We have planned camping trips… Making lists (they fix everything) of what we will do and what we will need to take.

It is about dreaming… Of thinking of another day, a different day.

Get your needs met

If you, as the parent, are not coping, do something immediately that will give you hope.

28 Phone a friend. Share your sadness but move on to happiness. Discuss your real feelings, but take a moment to remember some things you have to be thankful for.

29 Dream of sea wind. Plan a trip for your own mental health. Perhaps you all need to get away for one night in order to feel the sea wind in your hair.

30 Book it an afternoon in. Email your other half and discuss an afternoon in the next week that you are going to book in in order to go solo to the cinema.

31 Swap your kids. Call your friend and organise a child swap for the very next day… You have two kids while the other rests and then swap.

32 Start a jar of awesome. My friend was telling me about her friend (it sounds like an urban legend, but I’m sure it’s true) who has a jar of awesome. Every single day she puts something in there, either a little note of something she is thankful for or a trinket to remind her of something special. And then whenever she feels blue she raids the jar, for something to give her the warm fuzzies.

Stop

33 Cancel. Can you cancel the appointment, quit any agenda? Swap the dentist for a trip to the beach. Sometimes these decisions feel irresponsible… But they can be the key to happiness.

34 Hands Free. Adele says “Recently what’s helped is me forcing myself not to look at the phone or computer for the whole day or at least most of it. I’ve realised that my being distracted makes us ALL grumpy.” THIS. SO MUCH!

35 Quit the now, for a few moments. I love this one from Becca “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)

36 Stop hanging out together. Ha. You know, as much as possible. Adrienne says “Making ‘cubbies’ out of overturned chairs, blankets, under beds or tables, wherever. Separate cubbies for each child (and even for mummy) if we’re all getting scratchy. I realised when my children were quite young that they are all introverted and time alone is really important for each of them. I tried to help them identify their feelings when they were overwhelmed by too much people – and I would ask them ‘do you need some time by yourself?’ NOT as a punishment but as an option for them to choose.”

Emergency Supplies

Sometimes, if we are on our way home and the girls and I are cranky pants I will pray that there is a package from my family awaiting us. Well… Better than God, or my family:

37 Secret Parcel. The next time you find something awesome in a charity shop, be it a box of fuzzy felts or a puzzle. Squirrel it away on top of the wardrobe for when you need a trick.

38 Unknown craft materials. A tiny packet of new modelling clay, a new stamp, some stickers. Something small and as yet destroyed turned into art will give you a breather and your children some fun.

39 Unseen fancy dress. Again, it is all about the stealth supply. The next time you see a flouncy dress in a charity shop, tuck it away and pull it out when you are down in the dumps.

40 ideas for reconnecting with your children

40 The parent’s stuff. Oh yes, I have been known to willingly hand down to my 18 month old an entire bits and bobs draw so that I can cook dinner. Some people call these “treasure baskets“… I call it “the things I don’t have a home for draw”- key rings, touristy fridge magnets (things usually sent in a parcel from my family), the camera case, a lighter… (Jokes.) You get the idea. Grown up stuff… They love it.

BONUS FEATURE!!!

The Four Healing Salves

I heard today of this ancient shamanic concept and feel it is a perfect one to remember, particularly for those of us for whom these bad days happen all too often. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation to share it with you.

There are four activities that, if we can incorporate them into our weekly rhythm will keep us whole. I see that nearly all of them are present in the above list in some way, so they have a beautiful restorative impact too.

Singing. Be it listening to music, or belting out anthems on our way to work, singing releases all sorts of goodness for our soul.

Movement. Busting the moves, jiggling at the lights, yoga or sports.

Story. Being enthralled in the magic of a story, phoning our friends simply to share stories, catching up with people.

Silence. Sitting on the beach with the whisper of the wind, twenty minutes of meditation, stilling our minds as we cuddle our children to sleep.

How are you doing with those? I see these salves as an invitation to self care, to meet the needs of my own soul so that the next day I can get covered in facepaint whilst dancing to the Monkey song and stuffing cake in my gob at a Teddy Bear’s picnic on the beach.

I really believe that we don’t have to get stuck in a rut – that we all have the power to change things. I reckon these ideas could help break the cycle of disconnect, get you all laughing and rocking your awesome parenting mojo again. Please also check out my guide to becoming a positive parenting wizz! This one word will make these bad days happen less and less.

Do any of these work a treat for your family? Do you have any other suggestions? As always,I looooove to hear from you…Save and print out! So many good ways t help you find your parenting mojo on a bad day

Craftiness

Quick and Simple Father’s Day Present Ideas

12 June, 2013

When it comes to giving gifts I am not so much “last minute” as “two months (er, yeah, okay, sometimes years) late”. So I like ideas for presents to be simple, fast and generally made from things round the house, able to be given or shoved in the post minutes after realising the date. (I realise this combination of cheapskate and forgetful isn’t endearing. Whhhhy are people even my friends?!  At least it makes me get creative. WHAT? You don’t like painted beans??! UNGRATEFUL.)

But, well, here I am… *preens*… 3 days early with my Father’s Day gifts all sorted, and a couple of ideas for all you other last minute/ missers out there.

Here look, PAINTED BEANS:

Painted beans messageThis is such an easy little way to give a message, but with the added beauty of then becoming a father- kiddo activity. Not only does daddy get a lovely old dose of love but the pair can then go and plant the seeds and watch them sprout together. (While mummy looks at Facebook.)  Ramona and Tim already do loads of gardening so this’ll go down a treat.

We used simple runner beans and non toxic paint with a tiny brush and popped them in a little envelope made out of baking paper . There are lots of wordplay possibilities but we just went for “Daddy, my love for you grows each day!” Waaah…

painted beans message presentThen, for Juno’s Father’s Day debut (I wouldn’t want daddy thinking our second daughter was any less crafty, you know) we busted out the old Message In A Bottle number.

Message in a bottle and other Fathers Day ideas
 (At six weeks old she is a well good writer.)

It is just another simple way of giving a loving message but once again with an activity to do afterwards- I included extra paper and the pen so they can write their own message in a bottle together and send it off to sea. I can’t wait to do this with the girls, how OFF THE HOOK would it be to get a response?! Amazing. Well worth a bit of ocean littering.

Message in a Bottle for Father's Day

For other inspiration do have a squizz at the lovely Liz’s pocket book of love, a few of the gorgeous  Davina from The Making Home’s styley hand made ideas, and the whole pile of possible Father’s Day crafts offered by the marvelous Maggie of Red Ted Art.

Are you planning anything nice?

Thrifty

Sixty Thrifty Ideas for a Shoestring Spring

27 March, 2013

It is astonishingly hard to believe that Easter is upon us, when it feels so very like the depths of winter. Yesterday was so cold that we got the birth pool down from the loft (hugely prematurely!) filled it with hot water and spent the afternoon and evening pretending we were in a spa pool in some snowy mountainous location. Rather than the grimey backstreets of our beloved Peckham.

Still, the experience was lush until Ramona spat her omelette into it and we spent half an hour fishing for bits of egg with the siv. (What kind of parents eat dinner in the birth pool?!) (Very cold ones, that’s who, okay?! Pahaha.)

Ideas for a thrifty Spring

I have been flicking through Becky’s new E-Book “100 Easy Ways to be a Thrifty Family” over the last wee while. This is a woman who has turned over every rock in order to bring the most frugal of tips to humankind.

I love her suggestions for Thrifty Easter Gifts:

Easter eggs seem very good value till you realise quite how many you need to buy. Because they are cheap every Tom, Dick and Mavis will turn up with one for your kids. Their friend’s parents will pop one round and before you know it your back at the shops buying more. Too much chocolate and kids is a messy mix and £1 chocolate eggs can look a bit cheap for grandparents too so here are some other ‘cheep’ but classy gift ideas.

– A crocus in a pot painted by your child will be adored and can cost as little as 99p
– A few sunflower seeds in an envelope with instructions written on and a little pot with
a bag of soil popped inside will also costs very little. You may want to add some carrot
seeds too. Easter is a great time to get kids gardening. This will cost very little and is
great to give one each to a family.
– A small bunch of daffodils tied with red ribbon always touch the heart.
– A hand written spring cleaning note for an older relative saying Happy Easter, for
your gift I will come and spring clean your kitchen. This will cost you nothing but time
but is worth its weight in gold.
– With friends, why not speak up quickly and suggest a pressie amnesty. Maybe
instead the children could exchange a book they have loved with a friend or an egg
they have decorated!”

Awesome, Becky. (Go buy her book for a mere £2.99!)

Activities

We had a lot of frugal fun yesterday dyeing eggs. (In fact, that is the reason we had omelettes for tea.) Honestly, who would have thought blowing the insides of eggs out and then watching them turn into magnificent colours could bring such delight? I’ve never done it before but there is something so delicate and transformative about the process.

Here is some eggstra (total, massive collective groan) inspiration – 24 ways to decorate eggs. Yup, that is over 3 egg decorating activities for every day of the holidays.  And a LOT of omelettes.

dying eggs

If eggs aren’t up your street have a look at Cass’s ideas for free seasonal fun – 10 Family Activities for Spring.

Frugal Easter Fancy Dress
So, turns out, Spring Headwear is a Thing. I don’t really recall it being a big deal as a young ‘un, perhaps it is an American influence creeping in. But whatever, I am all about fancy dress. So much so that I am over on the Netmum’s Youtube Channel with THREE (slightly crazy) ideas for Easter Bonnets using odds and ends from around the house. Here is a vintage flapper style bonnet using a doily (obvs)…

Thrifty Decorations
Nothing says spring (and if we say it enough, it might actually happen, yeah) like a house full of daffs. And it needn’t be expensive as you can make them last for a loooong time if you treat them well. Firstly, help them bloom by filling the vase with fairly hot water and popping them by the radiator. In this cold weather you may find they are staying closed until they begin to look a bit manky. So help them bloom with warmth. Once they are bloomed keep them cool, changing the water every couple of days. This way your daffodils will keep over the entire holidays.

For 16 recycled Spring decoration ideas have a peep at my matchingly titled Pinterest Board!

Thrifty Tasks
It is dull, but why not use one hour of your bank holiday morning to do a bit of housekeeping? Check you phone bill – has your tot been buying apps? (Not speaking from experience AT ALL!) Take some time to compare bank accounts- are you happy with the costs and other factors? Tick some of those things off your To Do list that always slip to the bottom, it could save some extra dosh.

Have you got any ideas for a shoestring spring? Would love to hear them!PS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Craftiness

Three Free last-minute Valentines gifts

10 February, 2013

I saw a tweet this week from a magazine, something like “Our list of Valentines gifts for under £50″…

I almost spat out my tea and the just-dunked biscuit I was inevitably munching (this womb-baby is a total biscuit fiend.) UNDER FIFTY QUID?! I did chuckle. It was the kind of creative pride in the list; “Behold! We have unearthed some items you can buy to show your love, and they cost, like, less then the weekly shop!”

What a parallel universe I live in. I don’t think I’d spend half-a-hundy on ANYTHING that wasn’t a grocery bill, or an electricity bill, or another kind of necessity. One hundred million percent NEVER EVER on a pressie! Blimey, Tim is lucky if he gets a pair of socks (fresh from his clean laundry pile.) (Jokes.) (Sorta.)

I don’t think I’d ever spend that kind of money on a pressie because I am completely confident that the love felt from a gift has absolutely nothing to do with the amount it costs, but the amount of thought gone in to it.

There is an equation, I read about it in The Book of Very Serious and Scientific Calculations for Life, under the Gift chapter:

Thought x intention = love felt

Settled then.

Of course, it is all very well for the people who are glue-wizards and stitching-queens to say this, but what about people who don’t know their papier-mache from their decoupage? Well, I STILL think there are options. In fact, here are three.

As long as you have access to a bit of paper and a pen, these three gifts are free, can be created quickly in an emergency and will no DOUBT provoke love to bubble up, spring-like, in the recipient’s belly and come gushing forth all over you this Valentines Day.

The first comes from one of my favourite bloggers, Kat from Eco Empire. It is completely genius and involves folding a piece of paper into one of those fortune teller things that were all the rage in the playgrounds across the world in 1995. You fill it with date ideas and get it out once a month. It shows an absolute commitment to special time spent together, and a real care over thinking of the kinds of things you’d like to do together.origami valentines date craft

The second is from a blogger I have just recently found and whose creativity and writing I am really enjoying, Evie S.  On their eighth year anniversary she did a little illustration, summing up their time together in numbers. What a cool way to think about the things you have been through together, and see where your journey has bought you.valentines illustration

Lastly, this is one I did a few years ago for Tim – 52 reasons I love you. Back then I did it on a pack of cards I tied together with ribbon. This year I have scrawled them on 52 hearts I cut out. A reason for every week this year. Some are pretty silly “You make the BEST gosh darn porridge every morning” (He really does.) And others speak more about his nature, the Who that I see more every day even though we have been together for YONKS.

a jar filled with reasons i love you valentines

The very best bit about this simple gift is how much it makes you dwell on all the things you love about them. You think 52 is impossible after you have poured your heart into the first 7, but since finishing it I keep thinking of more. (Sorry, bit yuck, eh.) I put my 52 reasons in a jar, because, you know me, if it can’t go in an old jar? Not interested.

52 reasons valentines craft

So, magazine, take your unthrifty fifties. My Valentine is getting a piece of paper. Cos as Plato said, or was it Ghandi,  or Yoko Ono…  (Hmmm, I’ve got a feeling I’m getting closer…) Money can’t buy me love!

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Craftiness, Thrifty

25 handmade gifts for grown ups

30 December, 2012

At anyone time, if you were to peer into the window of my home, you would see me doing one of two things; reading a book or working on a little crafty something to go in my box of handmade gifts. Yes, my dishes (and my kids) are a bit dirty. But I am happy in my soul and so our home and children are too! (I jest… sort of.)

So addicted am I to crafting, that if I am away from my workstation for a few days I start to get a bit twitchy and end up doing things like trying to make origami out of leaves on a hiking holiday, or rummaging through host’s drawers for a sewing kit. I need to make myself a tiny mobile craft kit to soothe these craft cravings. (*DRAGON’S DEN ALERT*) But one of the massive bonuses of an insatiable crafting urge is that it saves us a stack of money. I have found that one happy way of hanging on to pennies but living generously is by crafting handmade gifts for every occasion. So there you will find me, burrowing a way on a pair of slippers or gluing glitter al over a kids toy.

Whilst I mostly tend to focus on handmade crafts for kids today I wanted to focus on handmade gifts for grown Ups. Here I present to you my top 25 handmade gifts- the things I have most enjoyed making, and giving.Handmade present ideasBottle Top Magnets are always going to be a winner – who doesn’t need as many magnets going to hold up those lists and kids drawings?! These can be personalised so easily. If you haven’t played with resin yet, I REALLY recommend you give it a shot it is SO much fun! Bottle top magnetsNatural homemade body scrub with 2 ingredients – this post includes a How To for the beautiful upcycled jar.natural body scrubFollowing right along the beauty path- I made a few bottles of South London Rosehip Oil, rosehips foraged from the fair streets of Peckham. It is dead easy but creates a most luxurious gift.Foraged Rosehip OilThis lace bowl was wicked to make and with it’s useful but vintage feel is appreciated by EVERYONE!handmade lace bowlI made these decoupage bird decorations for our Christmas tree, but I was so pleased with them I might do a batch as presents. Who doesn’t love a little bird hanging on the corner of their mirror? DIY Decoupage birdsOpening a gift and finding a pair of slippers is like being given a cuddle, I reckon. They are the most cosy, pleasant gift to receive and these ones are made out of the armpit of an old jump, and take SIX minutes.
how to quick felt slippersYou know how impossible it is to resist buying vintage tourist spoons from charity shops? Here is a little gift that gives them a new purpose- a spoon peg rack!Vintage spoon peg rackYou may have picked up by now that I love playing with resin.I use ice cube trays a lot and had a lot of fun making these stars with paper which I made in to jewelry.handmade resin starsMy Go-To hand made present though has to be a little framed crossstich. I choose unexpected quotes or song lyrics and frame them in a little charity shop frame. They can be stiched so quickly and whilst doing other things but really show a lot of loving thought. 20 handmade gift ideas

As Christmas looms- what dear friend WOULDN’T want a little collection of blingtastical dino figures? These are fun to make and would adorn any festive table or even beauty cabinet. (Imagine a dino holding out your stick of mascara every morning? Bloody brill.)diy glitter figures

Here are a few of my favourite gift ideas from the beauty section of my other blog, Wonderthrift…

I whipped up an amazing homemade calendula balm that can be given in a beautifully tagged jar. It can be used for almost every skin ailment but is the perfect gift for the gardener in your life….
soothing marigold balmthis lip soother an absolute breeze. Just two ingredients but it will restore lips to luscious Betty Boop style loveliness. coconut oil bees wax lip balm

This body scrub is quick to make, costs very little and is the perfect emergency (AH, CRAP IT IS MUM”S BIRTHDAY TODAY) gift. Make a bit extra to keep on your own shelf as it is beeeeeyootiful.beautiful home made body scrub gift

And finally, in a cheeky gesture my 10th idea is not just one but, well, TEN. You see, I went to choose one of these teacups ideas and couldn’t choose. They would all be a delightful gift. So go right ahead and give one of these crafty ways to upcycle teacups a crack… Teacup gifts

What have you enjoyed making this year? What was your favourite handmade gift to receive? And are you vowing to be thrifty in 2013?

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