The BEST Gifts--Give the Gifts that Give Twice

It's important to keep in mind that no toy is a substitute for a grown-up's attention. Your time is one of the best gifts you can give your child during the holidays. It's a good ...

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It's important to keep in mind that no toy is a substitute for a grown-up's attention. Your time is one of the best gifts you can give your child during the holidays. It's a good season to plan enjoyable family activities. Set aside an afternoon or evening to bake gingerbread men or make homemade greeting cards. Spend a little extra time reading holiday stories at bedtime. The holidays are also a good time to reinforce the importance of sharing. Learning to share is a tough lesson for young children. It takes time and practice. One way parents can help children develop eagerness to share is by encouraging them to make gifts for others, instead of buying them. Creating something and giving it away helps children learn to let go of things. But that's only one of the many benefits children derive from creating handmade treasures. There's a pride a child feels in having made something that brings another person joy. Knowing that an adult cares enough to do this with them is very important to young children. Finally, there are few experiences that enhance children's good feelings about themselves more than the look of happiness on the face of that special person when she receives a one-of-a-kind, handmade gift. The presents don't have to be fancy, expensive or take a long time to make.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when creating your gift, to make the experience a little more rewarding. Keep your project simple and let your child be creative. Making a simple gift will offer your child the opportunity to be successful on their own. Avoid making a model to copy; concentrate instead on explaining the steps involved. Providing a model can lead to frustration for children when they can't do something exactly like an adult. Get the materials together and set them out where he or she has plenty of space to work. Even very young children , as young as two, can help make simple foods like peanut butter balls or soft pretzels. As they become older, the possibilities for present-making widen.

The following are just a few examples of presents young children enjoy making. More complex versions of the same gift can challenge older children:

*coffee or orange juice cans decorated with construction paper, contact paper, drawings, glitter, paint, raffia, ribbon, etc.
*bird feeders made from plastic soda bottles and thin dowels
*placemats made from paintings or drawings covered with clear contact paper and fringed with burlap or felt.
*paperweights made from rocks painted with tempera paints or latex paints
*necklaces made of paper clips covered with decorative contact paper strips or macaroni that has been spray painted gold or silver
*soap sculptures
*folders for adults "important papers' decorated with drawings then covered with clear contact paper.
*note holders made from spring clothes pins and blocks of wood
*kitchen magnets made from a variety of materials and magnetic strip tape
*sun catchers made from clear yogurt container tops decorated with tissue paper that has been applied and sealed with thin white glue.
*napkin rings made from slices of toilet paper or paper towel rolls decorated with scrapes of fabric rickrack and ribbon
*stained glass windows made from cutting a design out of black construction paper then gluing colored cellophane behind it.

None of these gifts need to be fancy or perfectly made. There is no way that's right or wrong. What counts is that home-made gifts say "I Love You." These easy, inexpensive projects let kids make gifts for friends or family members with a distinctive personal touch. They actually give twice: once to the recipient, and once to the child who gets to be creative and have fun making them. Your child will not only have fun making these great gifts, but the recipient will have a family treasure to last a lifetime.

In this "Season of Giving " please encourage your child to select a few toys he or doesn't play with anymore but that are still in good condition for giving to ''Toys for Tots", or other collections for the disadvantaged. Visit a nursing home with a holiday basket. These gestures will teach your child about the true meaning of the holidays.