Ask Design Mom: Holiday Neighbor Gifts

November 7, 2006

Love all the gift ideas happening on the post below. I’d been preparing an answer to an Ask-Design-Mom-Question that runs along the same theme. So I’ll post it today and we can have a gift idea fest.

Lynn writes: Dear Design Mom, Love your blog! I am looking for holiday gift ideas for neighbors. Something inexpensive, non-denominational and maybe handmade/assembled with a toddler. Any ideas? Thanks in advance for your brilliance! —Lynn

Gosh, Lynn. Love the question. This one is on my mind as well. I can’t guarantee brilliance, but I do have a few ideas:

1) Magnets
My sister, the mastermind at Oh Happy Day, first turned me on to these and they are out-of-control awesome as a make-it-yourself gift.

The best instructions I found are at NotMartha and that’s where I got these 4 wonderful pics above as well. Read the full instructions, because she included helpful source updates at the end. In this project, toddlers could get involved with the sorting of the magnets and stones. Toddler artwork could even be showcased in the magnets — scribbles can be very post-modern.

2) Pineapple with Burlap and Ribbon
As Jenni so kindly mentioned in the comments of the previous post, one Christmas we gave out fresh pineapples as a party favor/neighbor gift. (My mom had given out pineapples one year when I was young and I always remembered and loved the idea.) Ben and I bought crates and crates of pineapples at Costco — they were about $4 each. Then we took 3 inch strips of burlap and wrapped the centers of the pineapples, then wrapped the burlap with red twine a dozen or so times — which made a really good-looking, random, criss-crossing pattern. Pineapples tend to look a little mean, and the burlap was more inviting to touch.

I don’t know what it is about fresh pineapple, it’s not hard to find, but it stills makes an exotic gift.

Bonus: crates of fresh pineapple make the house smell really yummy.

3) Sculpey Pins/Paperclips
I’m thinking about these as a neighbor gift this year. I posted on them earlier here. You can find directions here. This seems like a good toddler project, but in reality, there aren’t too many steps where a toddler can get involved. Although, a toddler could sit next to you at the table and play with playdough while you worked and think they were absolutely involved.

4) Holiday Stories
Instead of Christmas Music Mix this year, record yourself/your spouse reading a children’s book/holiday story and burn cd’s of that instead. Try Gift of the Magi or The Grinch, or Olive, the Other Reindeer. Let your toddler pick the story or scan in your toddler’s artwork for the cd cover.

5) Purchase some good-quality but unmarked soap, like this. Stack a few bars and wrap with a pretty paper. If you’re so inclined, print out a custom sticker for the top and tie with some pretty ribbon or twine. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a sticker. You could just make a little card and twine could keep it in place on top.

You could use holiday paper and pick holiday scented soap — like pine or nutmeg. Or you could use a non-holiday paper paired with more traditional soap scents. Your goal is to have the package look something like the beautiful (but expensive) soap pictured above.

Toddlers could stack the soap, put on stickers. Don’t want to put it together yourself? Jordan gives a source on the pretty soap above here.

6) Painted Spoons
Last year, I bought sets of wooden kitchen spoons at Target. They were $1 for three assorted sizes. They came in clear plastic packaging. I took each set and hand-painted the handles. Each one was different. I might do two inches of solid brown and then add a grass green polka-dot pattern to the brown. On some, I painted bands of 5 or 6 colors covering about 3 inches of the handle. They were time-consuming, but I loved the way they turned out. One recipient of the spoons dipped the painted portion into some clear polyurethane to increase their life expectancy, and I would probably make that part of the plan if I were to give painted spoons in the future.

When they were dried, I put them in their original packaging that had been trimmed so the painted ends could stick out. Then I ribboned and tagged. Geez. I wish I’d thought to take some pictures. . .

And I’m certain the fabulous readers of this blog will have lots of ideas to add.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer November 7, 2006 at 3:48 pm

I am SO NOT crafty — but I adore these ideas. And I think I might even be able to manage them. Thank you!


2 michelle November 7, 2006 at 6:25 pm

I love these ideas! Here’s one I’ve been thinking about lately: color-your-own snow globes. They are $6.95 for six of them from Oriental Trading Company.

click here


3 liz s November 7, 2006 at 6:53 pm

last year for our christmas party we gave beautiful red pomegrantes wrapped in thick green ribbon and then another thin round gold ribbon. they were really pretty and looked like christmas ornaments.

ps gabby i still use those wooden spoons you gave us last year every day. they are a staple in my kitchen.


4 fancypantsmom November 7, 2006 at 7:28 pm

great ideas gabby. I’ve actually started a blog this week- but I should probably have you over for a tutoring session. I have no idea what I’m doing. You’re an inspiration! -Amanda


5 Rebecca November 7, 2006 at 9:33 pm

A couple of years ago, my sister gave us a snowman kit for Christmas. I know you can find these at places like Restoration Hardware, but costs way more than it would if you just made one. She made a simple fabric bag from scraps (and tied a great bow around the top) and included: lots of black rocks for eyes and mouth, a plastic carrot that seriously looks like the real thing(she got at Michaels), two twigs for arms, and a scarf (I think that she got on clearance at Old Navy). The kit is darling and it’s so convenient to pull it out of the closet whenever we make a snowman– no scurrying around to find accessories.


6 Bek November 7, 2006 at 9:59 pm

For the little magnets (we do those at our house too and they are GREAT w/ little kids….), you can “buy” and download a cute font or Wingdings like this and print those out and use them as the picture. This is easy because it can be challenging to find things that small….if you choose to do something beyond a pattern…

Here is an example of the ones we are making for teacher gifts this year…I usually do some for all seasons……..

Liz…My sister in law LOVES pomegranites. I think that is going to be her gift this year, all wrapped up like that…….


7 Ryan & Erin November 7, 2006 at 10:08 pm

OH MY MARTHA STEWART… But better. Much cooler and you’re not a felon. We love it. Keep the ideas coming (and shouldn’t we have to pay for this??). We LOVE you. R&E


8 Factotum November 7, 2006 at 10:11 pm

I love those magnets! I got some as a bridal shower party favor–everyone was raving.


9 Anonymous November 8, 2006 at 2:55 pm

i think i have to revamp friends and neighbor gifts now! the magnets are so great for grandparents with kids artwork. rebecca’s snow man bag is too much fun.

i love giving cd’s. i did this for afton’s bday party last year and will probably to it for some friends xmas.

homemade bread is also easy, kid friendly and loved by the receiver.


10 Stephanie December 9, 2008 at 6:03 pm

What kind of paint did you use on the spoons?


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