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Jill Hamilton

* Snowmen Footprint Doormats. Ask a local carpet store for their outdated carpet samples, they will gladly give them away. Paint the bottom of your children’s feet with white fabric paint and place the footprints on the carpet. Using the footprints, create snowmen. The heel will be the snowmen’s heads, toes are the bottom of the snowmen. Add hats, simple faces, scarves, and a snowy horizon line to complete the scene.

* Candy-mold Pins. Use plastic candy molds (purchased at craft stores) and plaster of paris to make lapel pins. Let the children pour the plaster, then set pin back in each one. Paint when thoroughly dried, sign family name and date the back. Spray with acrylic spray paint. Each year choose a new design to start a collection for all your family and friends.

Cute designs to make are gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and snowflakes, but with all the molds available, your imagination is the limit.

* Beauty Box. When my two older daughters were six and eight years old, the thing that showed up on both wish lists was a ‘beauty box’. My family has a tradition that family members make gifts for each other, so I secretly helped each girl assemble a kit for the other. We decorated cigar boxes and mounted an unbreakable locker mirror in each one. Each box was filled with dollar store hair barrettes, pony tail holders, little brushes, and nail polish. As a finishing touch, I put a small bottle of rose water in each box. Each child had a good time putting together the box and each commented she wished she could have a present as nice as this.

* Special Thoughts Jar for Teachers. We always try to make personal, sensible gifts for teachers and a favorite has been our thoughtful jars. In a jar (we use ridged jelly jars) we place 180 (days in a school year) sayings or thoughtful phrases. On the outside of the jar we write “Special Thoughts for a Special Teacher” with a permanent marker. The idea is that every day the teacher pulls a different special thought out of the jar. Many teachers have reused their jars year after year.

* Let’s Cook Together Aprons. Take a picture of children in the kitchen with chef hats on plus other props to make it look as if they are creating a masterpiece. Sprinkle flour on faces, have bowls with rolling pins out. Take the picture and print it out on iron-on-transferable paper. When dry, iron it on an apron and write in fabric paint ‘Let’s Cook Together’. Let your children add a few finishing touches such as hand prints or a few pictures drawn with fabric paint.Grandparents and aunts will think of them every time they cook.

* Pine cone Ornaments. For ornaments to give to party guests, collect pine cones from the neighborhood. On each cone tie a ribbon at the top. Squeeze glue all over the cone. Roll the cone in red glitter then hang to dry in the garage. Wrap each cone in a cellophane bag tied with a bow and use at each place setting.

* Hand Print Pot Holders. Take solid-colored potholders and put a hand print on each one with fabric paint. Write the child’s name and date on the potholder with a permanent marker.

* Candy Cane Cocoa Dippers. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Unwrap large candy canes. Hold onto the curved end and dip the straight part of the cane into the chocolate and hang to dry. When dry, bundle in groups of 2-3 and wrap in candy cello bags tied with curling ribbon or raffia.

* Hand Print Kitchen Towels. Use red checked towels and put green hand prints of each child along the bottom two edges. Paint on their names and the date.

* Hand Place Mats. Allow children to put red and green hand prints on plain white paper. Chose the best hand prints, cut them in circles and mount onto green or red paper glued to a base sheet approximately 11 x 14 in size. With a bit of paint, make the circles (with the hand prints inside) into ornaments. On the back side of the 11 x 14 sheet put a copy of one of their better artwork pieces. Laminate the whole thing.

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