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Activities For Children: Fun Summer Ideas On A Budget

Activities For Children: Fun Summer Ideas On A Budget

Summer holidays are a fantastic time for children to explore, learn, and have fun. However, finding activities that are both engaging and budget-friendly can be challenging. Here are some creative and low-cost ideas to keep your early years children entertained this summer, come rain or shine. 

Outdoor Adventures In Nature 

Nature offers endless opportunities for fun and learning, and it’s free! 

  • Nature Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of items for your children to find, such as different types of leaves, rocks, flowers, or insects. This activity can enhance their observational skills and love for nature. 
  • Picnics in the Park: Pack a simple lunch and head to a local park. Bring along a blanket, some toys, and enjoy a relaxed day outdoors. 
  • Bug and Bird Watching: Equip your little ones with a magnifying glass or a pair of binoculars and explore your garden or a nearby park. Teach them about the different insects and birds they spot. 

Arts And Crafts At Home 

Unleash your child’s creativity with some DIY arts and crafts projects. 

  • Recycled Art Projects: Use old magazines, cardboard boxes, and other recyclable materials to create art. From making collages to building mini forts, the possibilities are endless. 
  • Nature Crafts: Collect leaves, sticks, and stones during your outdoor adventures and use them to create art. Leaf rubbings, rock painting, and stick sculptures are great projects to try. 
  • Homemade Playdough: Make your own playdough with simple ingredients like flour, salt, water, and food colouring. Let your children mould and shape their creations. 

Water Fun Activities 

Keep cool and have a splash with these water-based activities. 

  • Garden Water Play: Set up a sprinkler, fill up a paddling pool, or create a DIY water table using a large container and some plastic toys. These activities provide hours of entertainment and help beat the heat. 
  • Water Balloon Games: Fill up some water balloons and play games like water balloon toss or dodgeball. These games are perfect for a hot summer day. 
  • DIY Slip ‘n Slide: Use a large plastic sheet and a garden hose to create your own slip ‘n slide. Add a little soap to make it extra slippery and fun. 

Imaginative Play Activities 

Encourage your children’s imagination with role-playing and storytelling activities. 

  • Homemade Obstacle Course: Create an obstacle course in your garden using household items like chairs, ropes, and cardboard boxes. This activity promotes physical fitness and problem-solving skills. 
  • Dress-Up and Role Play: Use old clothes, hats, and accessories to create a dress-up box. Let your children’s imaginations run wild as they pretend to be different characters. 
  • Storytime: Read books together or make up your own stories. Create a cosy reading nook with pillows and blankets to make storytime extra special. 

Educational Activities 

Combine fun with learning through these engaging educational activities. 

  • DIY Science Experiments: Simple experiments, like baking soda and vinegar volcanoes or making slime, can be both fun and educational. These activities excitingly teach basic scientific concepts. 
  • Counting and Sorting Games: Use everyday items like buttons, coins, or pasta to create counting and sorting games. These activities help develop early maths skills. 
  • Alphabet and Phonics Games: Create flashcards with letters and pictures and play matching or memory games. This is a great way to reinforce early literacy skills. 

Community Resources 

Take advantage of local community resources for budget-friendly activities. 

  • Library Visits: Many libraries offer free storytime sessions, craft activities, and book lending services. It’s a great way to encourage a love for reading. 
  • Community Events: Look out for free or low-cost community events, such as fairs, concerts, or outdoor film nights. These events can provide a fun day out without breaking the bank. 
  • Local Museums and Galleries: Some museums and galleries offer free admission days or special activities for children. Check out what’s available in your area. 

Conclusion 

Keeping your early years children entertained during the summer holidays doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity and planning, you can provide a variety of fun, educational, and budget-friendly activities that will create lasting memories. Enjoy the summer with your little ones! 

10 Activities To Commemorate Armed Forces Day

10 Activities To Commemorate Armed Forces Day

This month, the sun should be shining, the flowers blooming, and strawberries and cream are wonderful treats to share with friends in the sunshine, tennis or no tennis. But June also includes two very important days that are remembered for their significance in changing world history, and the important people they remember. These are: 

  • D-Day – celebrated on the 6th June 2024 marks the 80th anniversary of this pivotal day 
  • Armed Forces Day – celebrated the last Saturday of June which falls on 29th June this year 

Both days help us all to remember the brave men and women who served in the armed forces in the past (D-Day) as well as those who continue to serve their country today for the benefit of all (Armed Forces Day). They are a chance to show support for servicemen and women and their families and to extend gratitude and thanks for their sacrifice and service. However, the days can be celebrated in the spirit of joy and remembrance and everyone can get involved. It is never too early to teach children the value of helping other people, so why not use these days to introduce these values to the children in your care? 

Armed Forces Day 

The aim of the day is to celebrate our armed forces and Armed Forces Day is the culmination of a week of events and celebrations in honour of our servicemen and women. It also gives a well-deserved boost to armed forces’ morale as members of society show their appreciation of the important work that the armed forces do. In the UK, we have 3 main sections of the armed forces. These are: 

  • Army 
  • Navy  
  • Air force  

We also have reserve organisations and cadets across all three strands who should also be celebrated on Armed Forces Day. Reserves Day is on 26th June where the public can also show their support to the reservist men and women who give up their time voluntarily to support our professional services. We should also remember the volunteers and organisations who give up their time to train young cadets in some of the skills needed in the armed forces, many of which are useful as general life skills too.  

80th Anniversary Of D-Day 

This June, people will come together to remember the start of the end of the Second World War as 156,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy on the 6th June 1944. Four thousand personnel were killed and many others injured in the operation, codenamed Operation Overlord, which had been delayed 24 hours due to poor weather. Despite the losses, D-Day was the turning point in the war as by the end of the first week of advances, the Normandy beaches had been secured from the German fighters and within a few days, over 300,000 troops and more than 50,000 vehicles had landed. By August 1944, the whole of northern France had been liberated.  

How To Support Our Armed Forces In June 

There are many ways that you can support our armed forces this June. We’ve come up with a list of different ideas to help.  

 

  1. Teach the children to salute like the forces. Saluting is an age-old custom seen at many events and is used to acknowledge the presence of a superior officer. However, do you know how to salute? There are differences in the way that the US and the UK salute, and even slight differences in the way we salute in different forces. This year, the public is being encouraged to not only support the armed forces but to salute them. You can find some short videos about how to properly salute them on the official website at https://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/. 
  2. Send some thank you cards. You could make some thank you cards in your setting and then send them to a local veterans home or local forces centre such as an army base or a cadets group. You could do individual cards but it could also be fun to make a giant card using everyone’s handprint as a ‘high-5’ to the forces. 
  3. Invite members of the armed forces to your setting. Contact a local base or ask around to see if anyone has connections with a service family and invite them to give a short talk to your children.  
  4. Make a mobile with models of planes, tanks and boats. You can download templates from the web and either create 2D pictures or 3D models for the children to make. You can get them to paint them in the appropriate colours.
  5. Create a camouflaged den. If you have an outdoor space, you can create a den using recycled materials, boxes and pieces of wood, then make a camouflage cover to hide it.  To create the camouflage, you can cut up squares of old material in different colours of greens, cream and brown. You can use sticks and leaves too or even use white and grey to create a snow camouflage cover as well.  
  6. Organise a visit to a veteran’s centre or senior citizen’s home. This is a great way to brighten everyone’s day. Many older people have stories about their time in the services and it’s a great way to say ‘thank you’ as well.  
  7. Attend or promote an official event. Even if you do not go as a nursery, you could find out about any local events and promote them to your families as part of the armed forces celebrations. Many local centres will hold open days which usually have a lot of interactive attractions that children love.  
  8. Practice some drills. Drills are a fundamental part of service life, and marching, stopping, turning and saluting are fun to learn and do. You can make it fun by using some music to help learn a routine.  
  9. Read stories about service life. You may have children in your setting who have parents, carers or extended family in the military, and even if not, it is useful to explain to children how different people live. You can find a list of suitable books for early years at https://www.readbrightly.com/great-picture-books-for-military-families/ 
  10. Make some flags and decorate your setting with them. You can make flags and bunting easily by cutting out triangles of different colours of material (red, white and blue) and attaching them to some string or ribbon. Remember you can also make different flags for different countries such as England or Scotland depending on where you live.   
  11. Share the day on your social media channels. Use #SaluteOurForces to pay tribute and connect with others.
Painting – Discover The Surprising Reason Why Children Love It

Painting – Discover The Surprising Reason Why Children Love It

Sensory Experiences And Emotional Expression

Why is it that most children absolutely love to paint?  Brightly colored paint, wide paintbrushes, and large sheets of white paper are strong and undeniable magnets for young children - pulling them into the wonderful world of swishing, swirling, and moving the paint across the paper. Perhaps it’s the multisensory experiences that paint offers young children. They can feel the texture of the paint, see the vibrant colors, and observe how the paint spreads and changes on the canvas or paper. These sensory experiences can be intriguing and pleasurable for children as they enjoy engaging their senses on many levels. The magnetism of painting might be the pure freedom of standing at the easel with (hopefully) no adult telling them what color to use, how to hold the paintbrush, or where to put the paint on the paper. Through painting, children can visually represent their imaginations, experiences, and inner world, which gives them a sense of agency and empowerment. Another possibility of why children enjoy painting so much is because it is an emotional outlet. It allows them to freely express and process their feelings, whether it's joy, sadness, excitement, or frustration. Painting can provide a safe space for children to explore and navigate their emotions, which contributes to their overall emotional well-being. 

Attention Restoration Theory: Painting As A Chaotic-Relief Strategy

Young children may flock to painting easels because they enjoy experimenting. Painting offers children the opportunity to explore and experiment with various materials, colors, and techniques. They can mix colors, create different textures, and observe cause-and-effect relationships. This sense of discovery and experimentation can be highly captivating for children and fosters their sense of wonder and curiosity. They feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when they complete a painting because they can see the tangible result of their efforts, which undoubtedly boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem. Although all these reasons why young children adore painting may be true and right, there could be a completely different motive why some children naturally gravitate towards the painting easel. It’s called RELIEF.   

Times Square Classrooms. Have you ever been to Times Square?  It’s a busy, noisy, and chaotic environment. Lights are blinking, horns are honking, people are rushing, sidewalks are bustling, and smells are interesting. Life in early childhood classrooms is much the same: crowded, busy, loud, and sometimes overwhelming for young children. It’s no wonder that children intuitively look for RELIEF from the physical classroom environment and escaping to the easel is just the perfect place. Since painting demands focused attention, children direct their entire attention to the immediate tasks at hand such as selecting colors, applying brushstrokes, and creating their artwork. This focused attention can help restore their cognitive resources, allowing them to recover from mental fatigue and improve their ability to concentrate. Also, painting calms children because when they engage in artmaking, it helps the nervous system relax. Providing continuous opportunities for artmaking in chaotic-reduced environments, therefore, is an important responsibility of early childhood teachers.  

Chaotic-reduced Environments. One strategy for helping children get RELIEF from chaotic environments is to understand the Attention Restorative Theory (A.R.T.) founded by psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. This theory is grounded in the concept of directed attention and the role of attentional fatigue. Directed attention refers to the conscious effort and focus needed to attend to specific tasks or stimuli, while attentional fatigue occurs when this directed attention becomes depleted over time. In adults and older children, attentional fatigue can lead to reduced cognitive performance, increased negative behaviors, and decreased well-being. Young children who are developing executive function skills—are especially impacted by mental and physical or visual fatigue. Their bodies and young minds are not capable of filtering out heavily ladened classroom walls and floors, cluttered shelves, or dealing with physically confining spaces. This chaos can lead to emotionally-bankrupt as well as physically-spent children. To reduce these possibilities, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan’s Attention Restorative Theory suggests that exposure to nature and natural environments can have a restorative effect on attention. Consequently, incorporating nature-based experiences into children's routines, such as spending time in green spaces, engaging in outdoor play, or participating in nature-based activities, may contribute to their emotional development and well-being. But, how does painting at the classroom easel, nature-based experiences, and restoring children’s attention link together . . . and what can you do to help strengthen this link?  

Linking Art and A.R.T. Overall, painting offers children a creative outlet that engages their attention, promotes relaxation, and provides opportunities for self-expression. By immersing themselves in the painting process and engaging with aesthetically pleasing and nature-based stimuli, children can experience the benefits of attention restoration, leading to increased engagement, focus, cognitive functioning, and overall well-being.  

Painting at the easel, particularly in a natural or peaceful setting, can serve as a restorative activity for young children. Engaging in painting allows children to focus their attention on the creative process, promoting a state of flow where they become fully absorbed in the task at hand.  

The importance of children painting lies in its potential to serve as a restorative and enriching activity. It can help children replenish their attention and cognitive resources, enhance fine motor skills and cognitive abilities, promote emotional well-being, and foster social interaction and communication skills. By encouraging children to engage in painting, we can support their holistic development and provide them with a creative outlet for self-expression and growth. 

Linking Paintbrushes & Attention Restorative Theory 

Parenta - Painting – Discover The Surprising Reason Why Children Love It Image
Parenta - Sandra Duncan industry expert and guest author

About the author:

Sandra works to assure the miracle and magic of childhood through indoor and outdoor play space environments that are intentionally designed to connect young children to their early learning environments, communities, and neighbourhoods. Dr. Duncan is an international consultant, author of seven books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, designer of two furniture collections called Sense of Place and Sense of Place for Wee Ones, and Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Parenta - Sandra Duncan industry expert and guest author

About the author:

Sandra works to assure the miracle and magic of childhood through indoor and outdoor play space environments that are intentionally designed to connect young children to their early learning environments, communities, and neighbourhoods. Dr. Duncan is an international consultant, author of seven books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, designer of two furniture collections called Sense of Place and Sense of Place for Wee Ones, and Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Parenta - Sandra Duncan industry expert and guest author

About the author:

Sandra works to assure the miracle and magic of childhood through indoor and outdoor play space environments that are intentionally designed to connect young children to their early learning environments, communities, and neighbourhoods. Dr. Duncan is an international consultant, author of seven books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, designer of two furniture collections called Sense of Place and Sense of Place for Wee Ones, and Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University.

International Family Equality Day – Arts and Crafts Ideas

International Family Equality Day – Arts and Crafts Ideas

The words “We are family” may have you reaching for your Lycra and hitting the dance floor, but the famous Sister Sledge song title has also taken on a whole new meaning this month as it’s the motto of this year’s International Family Equality Day (IFED) which is celebrated on 5th May.  

Thirty-six countries will celebrate the day, from Australia to Venezuela, as an official LGBT awareness day, with more countries joining in each year. The aim of the day is to celebrate equality and the diversity of families around the globe, and anyone can join regardless of sexuality.  

IFED was first celebrated in 2012 and is set as the first Sunday in May. The Council of Europe has recognised the IFED as an important tool “to combat homophobia and transphobia and to promote a tolerant and cohesive society”. It also falls within three of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, mainly: 

  • Goal 3 – Good health and well-being 
  • Goal 5 – Gender equality 
  • Goal 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions 

In 2015 the Council of Europe Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights: a responsibility for Europe’s towns and regions”. The resolution invites local and regional authorities to commit to diversity policies inclusive of LGBT rights, and to work closely with LGBT advocacy organisations and human rights NGOs, to promote good practice through local networks such as the Rainbow Cities Network project.

The official IFED website is at: https://internationalfamilyequalityday.org/ and you can find more information there on how to celebrate the day and register any events that you organise. 

Early Years And International Family Equality Day 

In early years, talking about human sexuality needs to be done in an age-appropriate way, and LGBTQ+ rights may not be easily understood by pre-schoolers due to their age. However, acceptance and tolerance of all people as individuals is definitely something that can be easily promoted, and a celebration of the many different family structures that exist in our society and around the world, can be a great foundation for future learning on this subject as children get older.  

There are also a lot of age-appropriate books and videos that you can use which are suitable for children and toddlers to help you with this subject.  

How To Mark The Day In Your Setting 

IFED is a day to celebrate everything about families, be they big, small, two-parent, single-parent, grandparent, foster, adopted, LGBTQ or not! It’s about celebrating the people we call family regardless of sexuality, gender, socio-economic group and blood relation. The diversity of families in our world is now so wide and varied that it is difficult to put together a credible notion of an ‘average’ family anymore. Indeed, as the world turns towards a better understanding of our interconnectedness and interdependence, you could take the motto of “We are family” to mean a more global family altogether, emphasising the need to recognise humanity as one big family.  

However you interpret the day, here are some ideas for celebrating it.  

Organise A Family Celebration Event 

You can organise an event and invite your parents and carers in to celebrate with you. Make it as wide as possible so invite extended families, grandparents and friends too.  

Why not ask people to bring in something that is unique to them, such as a musical instrument, an item they use for work (spanner, stethoscope, hairbrush etc.,) and run a competition to see if people can match the items to different families?  

Include some arts and crafts stalls such as a handprint station, where all members of the family can leave a handprint and/or write their name. You could do the same with a computer and get people to create an avatar for free online and then download and print their pictures.  

People usually like a bake sale, so invite people to contribute an item that they love or that shows something unique about them or where their family are from. You can also make your own rainbow cupcakes and get the children to decorate them with rainbow-coloured sprinkles or smarties.  

Other Arts And Crafts Ideas Include: 

  • Create a rainbow wall mural and ask children/parents/carers to bring in a photo of themselves with their family to stick to the display 
  • Use rainbow coloured lolly sticks to create simple stick people and put them into a base of sand or soil. You can help the children to make different people in their family and group them together or arrange them into one big circle to represent the global human family 
  • Write the names of each family member on a piece of card and use different coloured ribbons to tie them onto different coloured coat-hangers to hang around the setting  
  • Use some branches collected from outside and tie them together to create a ‘family tree’. You can create small individual ones or one large ‘human family tree’ and tie names, photos or suitable items to the tree to represent different family members 

Use Storytime To Celebrate Diversity And Equality

Read the children stories that incorporate many different types of families. You can find an up-to-date list of books that celebrate LGBT+ families at https://www.booktrust.org.uk/booklists/l/lgbt-picture-books/ including “My Daddies”, “My Mums Love Me” and “Everywhere babies” for even the smallest eyes and ears! 

Review Your Policies And Practice 

IFED is also a time to reflect on your own diversity and inclusion policies and to ensure that you are doing all you can to promote tolerance, diversity and tackle prejudice in the workplace and in society at large. Look at your own marketing and promotional materials to see if they truly reflect the families and communities you serve and review your policies to ensure that they are indicative of your practice.   

Spread The Word Of International Family Equality Day

The IFED website are looking for pictures of families and ‘families in action’ to use throughout their website and their annual report. Information on how to upload any photos and videos is available on their website and they also encourage everyone to share events, ideas and photos on social media networks using the hashtag: #IFED2024. 

Whatever you do, remember that we at Parenta love to hear about what you’ve been doing too, so send us your stories and pictures to hello@parenta.com 

Snow Painting In Early Years

Snow Painting In Early Years

Snow Painting In The Early Years - This winter early years activity is the last of the current 6-part series of early years music articles featuring a new activity each month. It was taken from an article on arts activities trialled for 1- and 2-year-old early years children, with added musical suggestions (recordings on YouTube).  

A Finnish study, (Lehikoinen, 2023) considered 6 different ways to explore early years creative activity for 1 and 2-year-olds. The focus was on successful engagement as this age is known to be tricky, with limited ideas for under 3s in the arts. To achieve this, 6 early years activities were devised, specifically for this age group: 

  • Dance-painting – paint feet, move to song (part 1, July 2023) 
  • Magic dough – create playdough objects from songs (part 2, August 2023) 
  • Digital drawing – taking pictures or creating pictures using technology (part 3, September 2023) 
  • Musical drawing – drawing or painting while listening to music (part 4, October 2023) 
  • Balloon painting – painting using balloons, and paint-filled balloons (part 5, November 2023) 
  • Snow painting – painting using snow! (part 6, December 2023) 

This month, we are focusing on snow painting

Snow painting is literally that – painting on snow! It looks great and is easy to do – and if it’s too cold to stay outside for too long, bring it in on trays or tubs, and keep snow painting going! 

For this early years snow painting idea, it is useful to use: 

  • liquid watercolours in pots/tubs – diluted in cold water (so that the ice doesn’t melt) 
  • small containers/trays (bring snow inside if children get cold) 
  • different size paintbrushes 
  • pipettes/droppers 

Make sure the colours are bright enough, and be aware that colours will run into each other as the snow melts. Then drip colour or paint it onto the snow and watch a picture appear! Bonus tip: make snow creatures to add to your snow picture! It is this simple and needs no further explanation, so as a painting activity for children, it is perfect for this age group! 

Weather can be so magical, and the songs this month celebrate it. This is also a great creative way to develop awareness of how the weather changes through the seasons. 

4 Songs for Your Snow Painting Adventure

Frosty Weather 

Frosty weather 

Snowy weather 

When the wind blows we 

All stick together 

This song can be used as a circle dance or a free movement song, depending on the confidence of the children in the group. 1) As a circle song, children hold hands, walking around in a circle as they sing the first three lines, “Frosty weather, snowy weather when the wind blows, we ...” As they start the next line, children run to the middle of the circle to “stick together”. 2) As a free dance, use words to create the imagery of soft, gentle leaves, blowing where the wind takes them, as children move freely to the first three lines of the song. In both situations, the last line could become chaotic, so it will help to emphasise beforehand that leaves blow together gently, they don’t bump and bash each other, but gently touch and move away. 

Rain Rain 

Rain, rain go away 

Come again another day 

Rain, rain go away 

All the children want to play 

This is a lovely song for a few reasons. Songs that involve chanting to rhythm are wonderful ways to get new or unfamiliar groups working and singing together. This song only uses two notes, so it is a great way to get children to hear the difference between high and low notes – this is a lovely way to develop their ability to sing in tune. Finally, once children can hear and copy the high and low notes accurately, they will be able to play the tune on simple tuned percussion instruments – xylophones or glockenspiels, chime bars, and even ukuleles (the two middle strings). 

Twinkle Twinkle  

Twinkle twinkle 

Christmas Star 

How I wonder 

What you are 

Up above the 

World so high 

Like a diamond 

In the sky 

Twinkle twinkle 

Christmas Star 

How I wonder 

What you are 

Singing along to this Christmas variation of "Twinkle Twinkle" is a magical way to get children exploring the paint and ice/snow while keeping them focussed on different ways to think of stars: multiple pinpricks in the sky, bright guiding lights, ornate and fancy shapes, or a burning streak of light shooting across the sky! Creating a few different examples for children to imitate often leads to some children creating their fanciful ideas of stars, while it gives other children a starting point to copy and begin to develop their imagination. 

Snow is Falling 

Snow is falling 

All around me 

Children playing 

Having fun 

It’s the season 

Of love and understanding 

Merry Christmas 

Everyone! 

The first verse of this popular Christmas song is perfect for this time of year, celebrating snowfall! Dance around and sing if you are lucky enough to be together in snowfall or use indoor ways to explore playing in the snow. If you are “being” snowflakes, it is helpful to remind children that snowflakes never crash into each other, never knock each other, but gently blow up into each other and away. Play scarves are fantastic reusable items that can gently float if you're indoors. Alternatively, a box of white tissues or sheets of kitchen roll could be used, giving children the opportunity to develop their hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor control. This is as they practise keeping tissues uncreased and level so that they can gently float to the floor. Clean-up tip: once the floor is covered with white tissue, announce a “snowball fight”, gathering up tissue to throw, first gently at each other – and then in the bin! 

Snow is such a magical experience for children, turning the world into a completely different environment. Not only the appearance but the sounds and the smells, change everything, making the whole world different when it snows. Enjoy snow painting and musical exploration! 

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

Gift Ideas: Easy to Make and Buy

Gift Ideas: Easy to Make and Buy

Affordable and Thoughtful Gift Ideas - As the holiday season approaches, our focus naturally shifts towards sharing heartfelt gifts with our loved ones. Considering the persistent cost-of-living challenges, we've curated a selection of simple yet delightful affordable and thoughtful gift ideas for young children. Explore a handful of our favourite gift ideas from the wealth of inspiration available online. 

Gift Ideas

Christmas Wreaths

We all know the traditional Christmas wreath made of pine leaves, holly, and ivy, but how about extending your creativity this year and making your wreaths and decorations from less traditional materials? Here are some ideas for you: 

  • Cookie cutters 
  • Paper flowers 
  • Plaited ribbons 
  • Pom-poms 
  • Decorated paper plates  
  • Pieces of scrap material 
  • Twigs, sticks and other objects from nature 
  • Painted kitchen roll inserts 

Festive Mobiles 

When looking for gift ideas hanging decorations are fun and they also make great presents, especially if they are personalised and handmade. You can make the bases out of many different items such as: 

  • Garden sticks and twigs – you can make them into geometric shapes such as triangles, Christmas trees and stars, or embrace their natural shapes and make them more organic and rustic 
  • Coat hangers – paint them or wrap them in wool, ribbon or coloured paper, and hang them at different levels to create more interest 
  • Old cutlery and cooking implements – again, you can leave them natural or paint them in different colours and patterns 
  • Print some reindeer and sleigh shapes, stick them to card and cut them out to make your very own Santa sleigh 

When it comes to the items to hang on the mobile, personalise them and write people’s names, use photographs, or create some avatars on a computer and print them out. You can make a mobile from virtually anything, so think about who you are making it for and try to use items that have a special meaning to them, for example, golf tees, differently shaped cooking cutters or old CDs. 

Scented Sensations 

Everyone likes to smell nice, and homemade cosmetics and home scents make great affordable and thoughtful gift. You can use essential oils and create your own reed diffusers or allow them to soak into some material strips or thick card to make a scented hanging decoration.  

Candle kits are available to make some colourful candles and you can use old teacups and jars to create some useful homemade presents. Remember to add a warning to never leave a candle unattended.  

Make your own potpourri by collecting some twigs, leaves and pinecones. Dry them by putting them in a warm place for a few days then dip them in essential oils. Decorate containers such as jam jars or takeaway trays to put your potpourri in. You can buy Christmas stickers to give them a professional and festive look.  

Edible Treat Gift Ideas

Whether you could be a contestant on Bake Off or are an absolute beginner, there is always a recipe you can use to create an easy-to-make, tasty treat. Your little ones will also love helping in the kitchen so make sure you involve them in any baking you do.  

Simple things to start with include: 

  • Shortbread 
  • Chocolate chip cookies 
  • Cinnamon swirls 
  • Toffee apples 
  • Peppermint squares 
  • Fairy cakes – you can decorate them with festive characters or make them into Christmas trees, reindeer or Santas 

If you are more experienced, you can tackle more difficult items such as a Christmas log roll, layer cakes or even make a whole edible street scene complete with battery-operated fairy lights or tea lights.  

Other fun, on-trend things to create this year are soup or cake mixes in a jar in colourful layers. The trick here is to gently place each layer separately in the jar to create an attractive pattern. If you can’t get everything into the jar (eggs can be very tricky), write out the instructions telling the recipient that they need to add eggs.  

You can always group homemade gifts into a small basket or decorated box to create an attractive hamper.  

Decorate a Christmas Stocking or Tote Bag 

We all love to hang a Christmas stocking up on Christmas Eve so it will be a lovely treat to receive a homemade stocking or personalised tote bag which could be empty to receive gifts or filled already with some of the other presents we’ve listed.  

Making a Christmas stocking or tote bag is an easy project and requires only basic sewing skills. For younger children, you can use larger needles and wool with felt so that they can sew the seams together themselves. If you use coloured wool in a contrasting colour to the felt, the stitches become decorative too. You can stick or sew items onto the stocking/bag such as pom-poms, or other scraps of material to create a picture, or sew/stick a square on to create a pocket and put a picture of the recipient into the pocket. You can also use fabric paints to decorate the item and really get into the spirit of giving. There are also iron-on fabrics which you can use but obviously, get an adult to do the ironing part. Think about decorating cushions, aprons, and tea towels too.  

Homemade Toiletrie Gift Ideas

Making your own cosmetics and toiletries is not only fun but it can be one of them affordable and thoughtful gift ideas as well. There are a lot of sites on the internet which show you how to make a variety of items which are sure to be a hit. Things that are easy to make include: 

  • Shampoo 
  • Face masks 
  • Facial scrubs 
  • Bath salts 
  • Bath bombs 
  • Spot/blemish creams 
  • Moisturisers 
  • Toothpaste 

You can save small jars to use as containers. Remember that most homemade cosmetics will include natural ingredients but will need to be used quickly as they will not have preservatives in them like commercial alternatives.  

Whatever gift ideas you choose to make this year, we love hearing about your successes, so let us know by sending your stories.

Did you find this blog on gift ideas useful? Take a look at some of our other holiday blogs here:

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