Don't Cheat the Children at Christmas
Christmas Gifts to Make with Your Child

by Ann Ball
reprinted with permission of the author


Related Resources: Advent Index
Christian Christmas Coloring Pictures

Don’t cheat the children out of the wonderful feeling of making gifts for others!  Here are some easy and practical crafts my own grandchildren made which you can  make with your own children.

Austin – age 13: Taco Mix

Austin made taco mix.  Those little packets of taco seasoning mix at the grocery store are sooo convenient, but they aren’t cheap.  So Austin’s mom suggested he make a batch as his Christmas gifts.  Boys tend to like to measure, stir and mix, so it was a perfect craft for him.  We bought large containers of spices.  We mixed them in a bowl and then packed them in small plastic containers.  Austin designed a sticker for the label.  Voila!  Quick, easy, relatively inexpensive, and useful. The bonus was that he got to use his math skills in figuring the percentages when enlarging the recipe!  What more could you ask in a gift for a child to present to favorite adults at Christmas?

Our family prefers the cumin flavor of Mexican “tinga” – spiced meat.  If you want your mix to be more “copycat” of the flavor of fast food tacos or the store mixes, increase the proportions of chili powder and paprika.  We also used a pre-mixed spice called Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.  If that isn’t available in your area, use ground red pepper and salt but remember that red pepper is very hot.  If you don’t have Tony’s, I’d use about 1/8th a tsp. of red pepper and 3/8ths tsp. of salt for the amount in our recipe.

The recipe below will fill about six of the small, 4 oz. Glad ware containers.  Avery Big Round Stickers fit the top of these containers perfectly.  Be sure to include directions to use: 1 to 2 tbsp. per pound of ground meat.  This mix can also be used with cottage cheese for vegetarian tacos or meatless taco salad or mixed with melted cheese and milk makes a great queso dip.  You can also put it with sour cream and picante sauce for taco dip!

1 ½ cup dried chopped onion
1 cup cumin powder
1 cup garlic powder
½ Tbsp. Tony’s
½ Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. chili powder
½ cup cornstarch

Max – age 13: Note Holders

Like many young teens, our Max isn’t really “into” the artsy craftsy stuff.  He does like “guy” things like tools, spray paint, and the like.  So this year he altered rat traps into note holders for his gifts.  Using a screwdriver and pliers, we took off all but the spring clamp from each trap.  With Grandma’s power drill we made a hole at the top of each trap to use to hang it.  Then, after a lesson on “how to spray paint,” we painted our traps gold.  You could use any color, but be certain to use quick dry paint – boys are not the most patient of creatures.  When I say a lesson in spray painting, I mean it.  Almost everyone thinks they can do it, and very few can do it well.  First time painters tend to hold the spray too close and want to make it cover immediately.  Not!  Hold the can at least 12 inches from your project and spray only a very light spray.  Spray the other projects and the go back to the first for a second, or third coat to finally cover.  This way you have a smooth finish with no drips.  When our traps were thoroughly dry, we used a hot clue fun and “found” items to decorate them.  For the ladies, Max used tiny silk flowers to decorate the top of the note holder; for the guys he used old dice, showing lucky 7 of course.  Old playing cards and poker chips are also a good choice for the guys.  We finished our project by clamping a small notepad under the clip. 

Brenden – age 9: Christmas Candles

Bree loves glitter, so we made glittery Christmas candles.  We bought fragrant candles in clear glass containers at the dollar store.  Bree cut out pictures of Mary and Jesus from a religious goods catalog.  Using nail scissors, he made tiny slashes around the edge of each picture and soaked it for a few moments in a bowl of warm water. This helps the picture lay flat against the round surface of the candle.  Then, using white glue, he pasted them on the candle.  Then we mixed white glue in a proportion of 2 parts glue to 1 part water and he brushed the glue over the entire outside of the candle.  He turned the candle upside down  over his left hand and held it with his outspread fingers as he painted, being careful not to put glue on the bottom surface of the candle.   Then he sprinkled on a coat of clear glitter  and set the candle carefully on waxed paper to dry.  Finally, he used tubes of colored glitter glue to make a frame around each picture for a sparkly and good smelling gift.

Victoria – age 12: Victorian bookmarks and wooden sachet balls

Victoria and I will make Victorian bookmarks and wooden sachet balls. 

The sachets are not a last minute gift; they must be prepared several weeks in advance.  We bought a package of small wooden balls at the craft store.  35 balls, each  ¾”came in a pack for $2.99.  We put the balls in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.  Then we mixed a half cup of almond oil with a small bottle of perfume oil.  You could also use essential oil but won’t need quite as much.  After stirring the oils together, we poured them in the jar and swirled the jar around to start covering the wooden balls.  Put the jar in a cabinet or closet and every few days swirl it around so the oil soaks evenly into the wood.  When all the oil has soaked in, they are ready.  Leave them in the tightly capped jar until time to wrap.  We’ll use cockle shells from the beach as holders, but use your imagination for a small holder if shells aren’t available in your area.  If nothing else comes to mind, scallop the edges of a foam plate and bake it on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees until it shrinks and hardens; check often so it doesn’t fold in on itself.  You will be amazed to see that it shrinks to a free form design about 4” by 3”.  Use glitter glue to decorate the edges.    Place three to five of your sachet balls in the container with a few tiny shells or sequins for decoration and tie the entire thing in a square of tulle or net using thin satin ribbon.  Add a tiny silk flower to the center of the bow with a hot glue gun if you like.   Zip your gift in a sandwich bag before wrapping to preserve the smell until time to open the presents.  Ladies love these to impart a delicate odor to their bureau drawers.

Our Victorian bookmarks are simple and inexpensive to make but sell for fancy prices at local bookstores!  All you need is some very thin satin cord, or crochet thread, some pretty glass beads with holes large enough for the cord to pass through, and little metal crosses, charms, or medals.  A short piece of very thin wire makes the stringing much easier; fold the wire across near the end of the cord and hold the two ends of the wire together to form a “needle.”  Tie a charm to one end of your cord with a hard double knot, and fray out the  edges of the little piece of cord at the end of the knot.  String on three beads and tie a knot close to the last bead you strung to keep the beads from slipping down further on the cord.  Leave enough cord to lay through the center of a book – 8” is a good length for paperbacks.  Tie another big knot and string on three to five more beads.  Make a final knot at the end.  The string marks your place with decorations at either end. 

Christian – age 5; Katharyn and Karolyn – age 4: Christmas Treats

Jojo and the Babies are still too young for much craft work but they love the process of making things. (Like, who cares about the finished product at their age, right?)  Last year, they decorated men’s wooden coat hangers with permanent markers.  This year, they decorated wooden rulers ( or you could use yardsticks) the same way.  On the center front of the ruler, Sam and I carefully printed the year, their names and “Merry Christmas,”  making certain our words didn’t obscure the ruler’s markings. The little ones used colored Sharpie permanent markers to make all kinds of pictures on the back.  Frankly, they looked more like scribbles to Sam and I, but they children talked about the dogs, cats, flowers and houses they were putting on each as they enthusiastically marked the ruler backs.  I think our Karolyn will be the artist in the crowd – she had to make a mark in each color on each ruler. 

The babies didn’t want to quit making things, so we also strung pony beads and small Christmas ornaments and jingle bells for Christmas necklaces for the ladies in the crowd.

There are lots of other projects for children to make on  Use the search function on these words to find them: toothpicks, chocolate spoons, mints, pillow cases, potpourri shells, flag banner, giving.

Have a wonderful holiday and remember to make it a season of giving!

Visit Ann Ball at and be sure to check out her wonderful book
Catholic Traditions In The Home And Classrooms: 365 Days To Celebrate A Catholic Year