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Sixty Great Gift Alternatives to Toys

12 December, 2013

We’ve been living a pretty toy-less existence for the last six months, travelling around in a Campervan. It’s been amazing to see just how happy the children are without their normal stash of playthings.

A few toys can be fantastic, but the fact is most of us have MORE than a few; many of us have homes filled to the brim to toys and we can’t take any more! 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.)

But friends, Aunties, grandparents and neighbours want to show loooove! It’s the kid’s BIRTHDAY! It’s CHRISTMAS!

Well. Thank goodness for this here list. There are so many alternatives. Millions (okay, here there are sixty but I’m sure we’ve still only scratched the surface!) of 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. 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, dudes.)

This is a crowd sourced list using Twitter and Facebook, responses to the question: What is the best non-toy present you ever received as a kid, or have given a kid?

Here we go….

Sixty amazing and creative gift alternatives to toys

WORKING

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.

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.

Same goes with a proper hammer and nails. Throw in some wheels and planks and they’ll be set for days.

Other tools. Toolboxes filled with things were a massive hit; rope, screws, pulleys etc.

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

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

A small fruit tree to grow and nurture.

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!

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.

A wind up torch. Sustainable and fascinating for children.

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

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.”

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.

Their own cookery book.

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

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

A magnifying glass and a book of British Insects.

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.”

Binoculars – plus a guide to bird and wildlife.

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

A DIY science kit.

MAKING

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?

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

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

Proper non toxic acrylic paint and proper paintbrushes.

A good quality sketch book.

A selection of blank canvases and an easel.

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.)

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

A sewing machine. I got my first when I was 12 and after a fairly quick lesson from my Aunty have seen ever since.

A hand sewing kit with fabric, needles and threads.

A box of craft materials that is all their own- ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, fimo etc.

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

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.”

CULTURISING (y’know, like, doing culture)

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.

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

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.””

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.

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.

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.

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

A story. We often tell Ramona a tale about when she is a brave knight. How about writing a story about them? Or drawing a comic featuring them? It doesn’t need to be about them. Ramona’s grandad typed out a story for her about his cats, complete with actual photos. She adores it!

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.

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.”

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.

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

20131212-190203.jpg

EXPERIENCING

Days out were probably the second top answer. Kids love hanging out doing stuff, and memories last WAY longer than toys.

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

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.)

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.

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!”

One reader had a day of work experience at a farm when she was a child and she cherishes that memory.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.)

PHEW!

What an epic, epic list. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas and stories. I am inspired and have my kid’s pressies SORTED: a grater for Ramona and a box for Juno.

Have a fantastic, present- moderate, thrifty, imaginative Christmas!

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Thrifty

301 Thrifty Activities for kids – squeeze every drop out of summer

13 August, 2013

Oh, Hello!!! Yep, here we are. Still in England. Waiting and waiting and waiting for a passport that is stuck at the Passport Office like a humongous fatball clogging up a London sewer. It has been there for 2 months and they are devoid of all sense of urgency. *flares nostrils in their general direction* (Or as my mum used to sing “I open my nose at you, you, you.” Anyone else used to sing that? Nah. Didn’t think so. Must be a Welsh thing.)

There are just a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays and, just in case you were running out of ideas, here are over 300 of the buggers. Some are are plucked from my own befuzzled brain, the rest from the fine minds of fellow internet friends.thrifty activities for kids

We have had quite a lot of fun while we’ve been hanging about. Ramona makes it pretty clear when she is enjoying herself by changing lyrics to songs according to what we are doing. The other night it was “If you’re happy and you know it go to the forest!” This age, where they are imaginatively playing with words and ideas, is so flipping brilliant. (It’s sad that they have been termed the Terrible Twos – I’m sure it doesn’t have to be this way.)

Aaaaaanyway. Number Uno:

1 – GO TO THE WOODS! The coolest place to be in the heat. Find a patch of trees and get your badger on. Dig, play, forage.

2- More specifically: Build a Den. These are so much fun and so easy to make proper, good ones. Check out this little video here.

3- Toast Marshmallows over a fire. We took a little BBQ and built our fire in that as it is so dry we wanted to be super cautious. We did it in the evening after a whole day of boring jobs. It recovered the entire day for us. I was inspired recently by reading about microadventures – I think toasting marshmallows in the woods counts as one of these. Toasting marshmallows and 300 other ways to have thrifty fun (Ramona’s marshies got toasted for about 1 second before they went straight in her mouth.)

4- Make a fairy/ dolls house. We did this in the woodland at Camp Bestival, primarily to entertain our sick little Ramona who was languishing in the trolley. But we got really quite into it. There is something magical about making these tiny little huts!

5-14- Here are ten more FREE forest activities from the wonderful Missie Lizzie.

15- DO STUFF WITH ICE! The most fun I’ve ever had with a bunch of kids involved freezing a 50 cm by 30 cm tray of ice and then using it to slide down grassy hills. BEYOND FUN!

16- One of Ramona’s favourite activities this year involved chipping little animals out of a big block of ice I had frozen. I gave her proper tools, knives and screwdrivers and mallets in order to do it. Some might say she is a little young for these implements but she soon learnt – there was BLOOD EVERYWHERE. Just kidding, there was no blood, not even a minor accident; I believe kids are much more capable than we think and they love feeling their power with proper tools. Chipping ice block and 300 other ways to have thrifty fun

17- A coloured ice bath. Use food colouring to create rainbow ice cubes and pop them in a cool bath with your kid. A lot of fun, and the right amount of mess.

18- We made our own slushy by pouring Ribena into our ice cream maker – such a delicious treat that Ramona got really hands on with making.

19- 23 – Here are 12 more ways to play with ice. Will definitely be trying them out.

24- HEAD TO THE CITY. Explore the city through your child’s eyes, hands and feet. Head there with no agenda and simply explore the nooks, crannies, walls and doorways she fancies. Genuinely, it is fun, really. And it helps your kid feel like a million bucks.

25- Find the fountains and splash parks. They are hidden all over. In London the best one, I reckon, is at Somerset House. But they are also tucked up at the V and A, outside the Royal Festival Hall and in London Zoo.

26- One of the things I will miss about not being in a city is the million free things happening at anyone time. Galleries and museums and centres put stuff on throughout the holidays. I tend to use Time Out to see what to go along to. Free fun in the city and 300 other ways to have thrifty fun We found a collective street chalking activity on the South Bank – Ramona chose her body as the canvas though.

27- Keep an eye out for voucher codes and two for one offers and then head one of the many kids attractions out there. This map has them all in one handy spot.Littlewoods Summer activities map

CHEAT ALERT! CHEAT ALERT!

28-93- Provided by the cool cats that are Style My Party. They are simple ideas but really original and I guarantee you’ll find something in there. Especially love the One Colour Only Day and the Hula Mocktail Party.

93- 301- Provided by the lovely Joy and chums in the Summer Carnival. There are craft ideas, and nature play, and recipes for kiddos. Blinking brilliant.

This sign was written by the next door neighbour’s kid and hung up on a tree yesterday; “Pleeease can somebody organise something fun” – I think they might be a family who have run out of ideas, hehehe. Hopefully some of these will cut it! 20130813-113824.jpg

Do you have anything on your bucket list still to do this summer? Would love to hear them!

Delivered in partnership with Littlewoodscheck out my disclosure for more info on that.

PS Don’t miss a thing! Follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


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!

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, Thrifty, Uncategorized

25 handmade gifts for grown ups

30 December, 2012

I love crafting, 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*) One of the massive bonuses of an insatiable crafting urge is that it saves us a stack of money.

With the start of 2013 many of us will have vowed to be a little thriftier. One happy way of hanging on to pennies but living generously is by crafting gifts for every occasion. Here I present to you my top twenty handmade gifts of 2012- 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 balm

Once you have the ingredients for that balm - particularly the beeswax- you will find this 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?

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post- pop over and like Lulastic on Facebook

 

Thrifty

Five thrifty kids crafts with a cardboard box

27 December, 2012

Morning! Hope you have recovered from the festive feasts and sofa-lolling, and didn’t drown whilst out on the compulsory Boxing Day constitutional.  I am in Gloucestercoustershire (one of those tough English spellings actually pronounced “Glaasterr”) with my wonderful sister and her family and still in a bit of a Christmas chocolate coma, making it imposssible for me to blog. Therefore I have a brilliant guest in the Hippyshake house, Maggy, who is going to bestow a few ideas for thrifty and crafty fun with the kids in these next house-bound days…

Hello, I am Maggy from Red Ted Art and Life At The Zoo (and you can also find me giving my twopence worth on Theatre, Books and Movies if you are interested..), and I am so pleased to be visiting the wonderful Lulastic again! We both have a passion for Things To Make and we both love to recycle and “make do” with what we have got. After the excess of Christmas, we thought recycling and DIY may just be the ticket. So I thought I would share some of our favourite “Cardboard Box” crafts with you (I do hope you kept some of those Christmas Boxes!!!) Many of my crafts are kids biased.. .so I hope you like some of these home made toys!

First up… my favourite and most treasured toy for my daughter:

diy-dolls-house cardboard box

I made the doll’s house for my daughter’s 2nd Birthday and every couple of months add a little dolls house craft extra. It is much loved and much played with! And all this from one old box!

Next, we would love to share our Marble Run made from a playmobil box (but I am sure a cereal box will do too!!).

diy marble run

A great toy, boredom buster AND Science project in one….

How about a pirate ship? Convert a box with a little homemade paper mache paste into a great pirate ship.

cardboard pirate ship

Another much played with toy in our house.

And then there is this very simple doll’s bed.

dolls-cardboard-box-bed

Cut down from a red box.. and once again, a much played with toy. The pillow and duvet were made from old pyjamas and stuffed with the remnants of a “knackered” pillow.

Or why not make a shadow puppet?

cereal box shadow puppet (4)

Again a great activity to keep bored kids busy.. and once you have made it, you can get their imagination fired up to put on a little show!

So… take one box. 5 ideas. Which will you make first?! And if you need yet MORE fabulous ideas, check out this round up of 40 Things to Make from a Box over on Red Ted Art, you are sure to find *something*!!

Parenting

Ethical Christmas Toys for Children

4 December, 2012

GAH! WHAT IS WRONG WITH TOYS THESE DAYS!

If they are not ridiculously gender specific (pink toy laptop with half the functions of the boys one, anyone?) then they are dictating how to play with their flashing lights and music, created using a scarce resource that sends a world to war, or made by blistered hands just a little bigger than our own children’s.

I am a massive advocate of non-toys, finding that often jars of things, or baskets of odds, can stir a child’s imagination so much more than dictator toys. The toys we do have have been ferreted out from car boot sales and charity shops, we aim for things that are simple and aesthetically pleasing. Yeah, yeah, that just means vintage in my mind! (A few of our favourites, and my second hand shopping strategy can be seen right here.)

We are not massively legalistic though, in fact right now Ramona is utterly obsessed with Ginger the Talking Cat app on our smartphones. I’d go so far as to say they have a kind of friendship. She tickles him, cleans his teeth, he repeats everything she says. This means they argue quite alot. Tim overheard one argument the other day that went:

Ramona: “My daddy”

Ginger: “My daddy”

Ramona: “No, MY daddy”

Ginger: “No, MY daddy”

Ramona: “NO, my daddy!”

Ginger: “NO, my daddy!”

Ramona: “NO!! MY DADDY!!!”

Ginger…. You can probably guess what Ginger retorted, and just how long this argument lasted for. Neither were prepared to concede.

For the most part, when it comes to toys I request secondhand (both sets of Ramona’s grandparents are awesome at this) and I tend to craft things up to give. However, sometimes family members want to know what they can give your children for Christmas, and while you could say “Just write them a poem”  with a virtuous lilt, it can be nice to suggest some stuff they might feel more comfortable with.

For the last 5 years I have run an ethical Christmas Fayre. It began when we were living up in Oxford Circus and  were exasperated at the lack of Fairtrade gifts available, and it is growing each year. This year we have two venues, woot! We had our first one for 2012 this Saturday just gone. It was exhausting but not stressful – in fact the most stressful part was when I turned around to find Ramona had stripped off and was cavorting amongst the stalls almost in the nude. EEEEP.

Anyway, one awesome benefit of running the Fayres is that I get to keep up with the world of fairtrade and handmade, and see how stylish and gorgeous the products are becoming. I wandered around the Fayre on Saturday completely confident that 90% of the stuff blew stereotypes of “ethical consumerism” out of the water.

Bearing in mind all my own criteria for toys – imagination stirring, ethically made, not draining on the world’s resources, gender-neutral – I picked out my top 4 ethical gifts for kids:

Baby – a hand knitted bunny

Kinderkraft are a mother and daughter business based just down the road from me. They have the most gorgeous selection of hand cotton-knitted dolls, with a real modern feel, that are perfectly soft to the touch. They also create bespoke stuffed letter bunting so you can spell out a child’s name and can chose fabric – avoiding any nasty pink/ blue limitations.  Their Etsy shop showcases a lot of their stuff. 

hand knitted bunny

 

 Toddler – a fairtrade bus

We couldn’t resist buying this beautiful Fairtrade bus for Ramona, a cool momento of our time in London, and sure to fire her imagination. It is sold by the AMAZING Fair Share, who are based in Soho and have an incredible range of Fairtrade kids toys that you can also buy online.

fairtrade bus

 

Any age – eco wooden vehicles

These hand crafted wooden toys from Top Wooden Toys are so classic in their design I think they would suit any age, and even parents would get a lot of pleasure from them. Ramona LOVED their stall on Saturday, they had a whole load of stuff not even for sale on their website that she just kept returning to. You can also buy their products on Tinternet.Handmade Wooden Digger

Older kids – Pucket

If you haven’t played Pucket yet, you really haven’t lived. It is the most basic game  involving flinging wooden disks around a board, yet provides HOURS of fun for really anyone who has a little hand-eye coordination. Kids from 6 would love this, and Tim takes it to his Youth Club for teenagers, and they love it too, AND we get it out at Christmas for all us older ones.  A total classic. Find out more, and buy, here. 

pucket

 

All of these, and many more toys and gifts for the WHOLE family, will be available to buy at the Horniman Museum ethical Christmas Market this Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th December. But if you can’t get there, help your family to avoid the tax evaders and plastic creators by giving them a list from the above traders!

Sometimes buying ethically does cost a bit more, but so often it is because you are paying for something that will last a lifetime, and you are paying the TRUE cost of an item. I really believe we can change the world by making good shopping choices, and our children and their generation will thank us!

Thrifty

Six steps to a thrifty Christmas

22 November, 2012

For the first time since we were students Tim and I are REALLY having to reign it in, money wise. We don’t have a lodger for the first time since having this GIANT mortgage, both of us only work part time and we just spent every last penny on a beautiful van called Betty. Of course, we aren’t poor, we just don’t have any dosh, if you know what I mean. We could get all entrepreneurial, and take extra hours and craft things up and sell and things, but Alan Sugar we’re not. Every spare moment is bound up in Enjoying Life and Committing to the Things We Value, of which money simply isn’t one.

So, this Christmas is becoming Seriously Frugal. Fortunately we have been practicing for a few years now, and here are six ways we are doing it:

Christmas Trees
Every year for the last few years we have picked up a discarded tree from a school or college. It does mean waiting a bit longer- at least mid-December but sometimes you don’t find one until the 20th. But these trees are ENORMOUS and WONDERFUL! Big fatties, we had to push it through our giant front window last year as it wouldn’t squeeze down our hall. The schools are normally thrilled to have it taken off their hands. We gloat as we sail past other massive trees going for £70.

Presents
For the last 3 years we have only do Secret Santa in our family. We agree a price and use an internet service so it is all proper hush, and someone else is in charge. (The one year I did it I managed to know exactly who was buying for who, I well messed it up.) This way someone gets something really thoughtful and there are not piles of pressies sitting around that provoke only pseudo-thanks.

For other people, dear friends and children, I don’t tend to do much, and if I do it nearly ALWAYS involves a jar. (These 18 ways to upcycle your jars should provide some ideas.)

Tim and I have never done proper Christmas presents, we stick to a £10 budget, and I suspect we will do the same with Ramona. I feel pretty passionate about helping Ramona to understand that Things don’t Equal Happiness, and that love can be shown in millions of ways even throughout a traditional period of gift-giving.

Decorations
I haven’t bought any Christmas decorations in my life, I am the opposite of my sister who is obsessed with them. But I have crafted some up over the last couple of years using pegs, old fabric and scrabble letters (sound gorgeous, don’t they?!) and have been rather pleased with myself! This search on Pinterest will hook you up with millions of possibilities.

Food
I have only hosted one family Christmas before and we simply shared the food gathering out. I think this is becoming increasingly normal, as people struggle to find the bulk of money to lay on an exceptional festive spread at their party.  I have a friend who every year does Christmas with  her old school chums and each year each one brings a different traditional contribution. Just this weekend someone wrote in to the Guardian Money supplement, questioning this practice and the overwhelming response by readers was that guests contributing food made for a special and wonderful celebration. Don’t be shy.

Wrapping
I am officially the world’s worst wrapper  (Wrapper that is, not Rapper- in terms of Rapping I am actually rather excellent, particularly with Do the Bartman and Ice Ice Baby). Often my gifts look like I have pulled them out of the bin (I usually have) (JOKES, honest, I only get things out the bin for myself.) (Cor, now I sound bin selfish) because wrapping requires a finesse I don’t have. I always use recycled paper and my pressies always look ugly.  However, I have a dear friend who wraps everything with newspaper and her gifts look AMAZING! Just check out the possibilities of using recycled wrapping.

Christmas Frocks
Christmas time is a time to look nice, no? To feel happy with your outfit, to feel fresh. For me, a new frock is synonymous with the festivities and has been since I was a tot. If this is the same for you I have to say: Get ye to a Swap Shop now! I already have a swap organised, at a local cafe down the road. A little google could show up one in your region, and if not just organise one for your street or even just your friends. It is THE thriftiest way to clear out your wardrobe and get some new things in, and have a whale of a time whilst doing it. I could not be more of a fan!

As you can see, I only have 6 areas that I have attacked with my Wand of Frugality. I am sure there are a million more. For those of you who have been doing a thrifty Christmas for yonks, how do you do it? Would love to collect some ideas on here.

Craftiness, Thrifty

18 ways to upcycle old jars

12 November, 2012

If you are like us and eat a lot of lemon curd and peanut butter you have a spare jar, or several hundred, in your home. I keep all mine in the little alley way alongside our kitchen, accessible only by our back garden, a place we try to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s covered with a tarpaulin and houses our Projects. I also, bizarrely, buy extra jars from car boot sales, but just if they are especially pretty or vintage – yep, my huthband doth dethpair.

You see, you can NEVER have enough jars. They provide endless opportunities for giving thrifty but appealing gifts, for beautiful, craftilicious decoration and of course, simple and lovely storage. And for Christmas jars come into their own. Un fact, Christmas was MADE for jars. (Love and family and hope, they get a little look in too.) Despite there being already one million ways to up cycle a jar, I am still not sure the human race has even reached the full realms of what is possible.

But to get us started, here are 18 of the best…

Gift ideas

Use chalk board paint and sweets inside With a bit of tile grout and some ordinary acrylic paint you can whip up small, colourful batches of chalkboard paint. It slicks straight onto any surface, including jars, meaning you can fill a jar with sweets and label it with a cool message.

Put a figure on top and homemade finger paints inside Once you have glued a figure on top of a jar, and painted it, there is no turning back. It looks so wicked. In this instance I filled the jars up with matching homemade finger paints, and gave it as a gift to a toddler.
Decorate the lid and put a home made body scrub inside
Just a bit of cool paper and a decoupage technique (homemade mod podge) can transform a rubbish old jar. I filled mine with the easiest homemade body scrub ever.

Layer cake ingredients inside and give with instructions to make No, you  cynics, this isn’t a lazy way of giving some baking, it’s CUTE, all right? I like it.

Put together a tiny sewing kit and make the lid a pin cushion. A lovely friend gave me a sewing kit in a jar once and I just loved it. Such a gorgeous gift to receive.

Photo credit and How To from must-read Momtastic

Fill with reshaped old crayons Melting and reshaping old crayons makes a gorgeous gift for children. Putting them in a handy jar so you can see the shapes and colours against the side make it that bit more special.

Decoration Ideas

Use paper on the outside to create a beautiful tea light Cutting shapes into pages from a book and popping it around a jar to create a candle holder has to be the most simple decoration ever… oh wait, but look:

Decoupage leaf candle holder  Maybe that honour goes to the sticking of leaves to the outside of a jar to make a candle holder. So lush, and can be seasonal, in whatever season. A bit of nature in your home.

Photo credit and beautiful How to found at From Panka With Love

Glow in the dark jars You can get glow-in-the-dark paint from most craft shops, and it is put to stunning use here. How perfect for a child’s room.

A beautiful jar chandelier This is an upcycle that needs a bit more dedication, and possibly an electrician. But, if you are looking for a light feature THIS IS IT!

Christmas Ideas

Christmas snow globes A jar, a bit of glitter, some objects and some glue. Amazing. I am definitely going to craft up some of these with Ramona, I am going to keep my eyes peeled at car boot sales for especially kitcsh Christmas decorations I could feature in them.

Photo credit and stunning How To from Elisa McLaughlin Designs

Christmas in a jar Love this, giving someone everything they need to fill their home with the Christmas pong, I mean, SPIRIT. You could really adapt this idea, with what you can find that smells awesomely Christmassy.

Edible Ideas

A jar of DIY peppermint hot chocolate I love the idea of giving someone a little treat they can give themselves when the time arises. A ready to go drink would be something my husband would love.

Rainbow Cake in a jar All the glories of a classic 1980’s rainbow cake with the added gimmick of eating it out of a jar. Immense.

Photo credit and How to at the brilliant Run with Glitter blog

Berry crumble in a jar If someone was to serve me a pie in a jar I think I’d be their BFF.

You kind of get the idea here, I guess… bake things, but in jars.

Storage Ideas

Glue lids to underside of shelf, screw jars on to itThis is an ace idea, possible with just a glue gun, a shelf an some jars. Really ideal if you don’t have much surface space.

Photo Credit and How To from Good Housekeeping

Use a hot glue to spell out the contents of the jar and paint over  Another simple idea, but SO effective. I need this so that when I finally reach my one life’s ambition of having a cleaner they’ll know where to pop my tiny trinkets…

Tadah! They are my faves. What are the best ways you have seen to reuse a jar?

PS See beautiful pictures of all the above ideas on my Upcycle your Jars Pinterest board. (Crumbs, you know you have made it when you have a Pinterest board about Jars…)