My now grown, nieces still laugh about how I'd always convince them to draw pictures or make Perler bead ornaments to give as gifts to their parents and grandparents. For the last few years, I've helped my son make cards and ornaments, and allowed him to pick out trinket gifts for his favorite people from the dollar store. (This practice often results in some unusual gifts, but he's awfully proud at having done the shopping.) He also has some input into gifts we buy for charity.
I've been brainstorming some things we could make and do this year to make sure the focus wasn't only on getting, while still having some fun, and keeping things age appropriate This will also be the first year V will be participating in the making and doing.
As such, here's our first project of the year, which will likely be given to aunts and beloved nursery workers at church.
We decided to make bath salts. As projects with the kids go, this is a good one. It's inexpensive, not unbearably messy, and quick enough that mom won't get stuck finishing the project after the kids get bored. It also results in a truly nice, consumable item, not a another do-dad to be dusted.
You'll need jars, Epsom salt, essential oil, food coloring, and ziplock bags.
The easiest way I've come up with to do this is to pour the salt in the bag, pour in the desired amount of food coloring and essential oil, reseal the bag, and have the kids gently knead the bag until the color is mixed. (Gentle is the key word. If you're mixing a bag too vigorously, and pop a hole in the bag, it will make a pretty gnarly mess. Don't ask how I know.) The kids enjoyed choosing the colors, adding the ingredients, and especially the kneading process.
A little sidebar here, but I highly recommend using essential oil, instead of fragrance oil. It's a little more expensive on the front end, but a little goes a long way. A bottle will last for ages, and has multiple applications. It also really does smell better. We used peppermint oil for this project, and it smells intensely minty, like a peppermint candy or my favorite, Dr Bronner's peppermint soap.
After the color is evenly distributed, pour the salt into the jars, and seal them up. Our finished result is shown here, although I'll probably add a ribbon and have the kids make a tag for them.