Kids are the creatures that get the most plastic, made in China, easily broken stuff in their Christmas stockings. Our boys always got a small package of lego brand building blocks — they market those for Christmas stockings. Then I’d do a dollar store binge and buy polyester stuffies, plastic slinkies, matchbox cars and action figures — maybe a puzzle book or mystery story, just to flesh things out. A stocking like that is full of endocrine disruptors, carbon polluters, and its not good for your budget either. Most of those things ended up on the floor, under the couch or mashed in the bottom of the toy box after Christmas. Insanity.
With a few hours of time you can fill the kid’s Christmas stocking with fun things that don’t cost as much as the gift under the tree, and take less time to make than a trip to the Mall and back. Just think: No circling the lot for hours to get a parking spot, No line-ups at the cash, No walking up and down the aisles of the big box store looking for the perfect thing or the last minute addition to fill out the stocking, and no trip on December 24th because you forgot to pick up a gift for cousin Lou’s toddler. Instead of going to the Mall, walk into your kitchen and lets get started. If you have a lot of nieces and nephews, consider making these in big batches and giving them enmass to all the kids on your list.
This is the second in a series of Sustainable Christmas Stocking Gift Ideas that you can make yourself, instead of going to the mall. For part 1 of this series go here.
Sustainable, handmade stocking stuffers for Children
1. Gingerbread Playdough – Gluten-Free version, GMO free
This smells wonderful, and its nontoxic. Its a great way to use up older spices, when you replace them with fresh for your Christmas baking. If the kids taste it, its very salty so they won’t eat it.
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch
3/4 cup salt
2 tbsp. coconut oil or other vegetable oil
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp each ginger, nutmeg & cloves
1 tbsp. powdered orange zest — dried orange peel, finely ground.
Combine all ingredients into a 1 litre (quart) sauce pan. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, whisking to remove lumps. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. Mixture will thicken and pull away from the sides of the pot. Turn out on parchment paper or a counter floured with rice flour. Allow to cool until you can handle it safely. Knead well until it is smooth and elastic. This is preserved by the salt and will keep indefinitely if its kept in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Makes 3 cups of play dough. To gift it as a stocking stuffer, package in 1/2 cup (125ml) jam jars or honey jars. Add a ribbon and a cookie cutter. Or make a gift of it by adding a board, a set of cookie cutters and a 1 1/2 inch dowel rolling pin, sanded and finished with nontoxic linseed oil.
2. Homemade paste – Gluten-Free, GMO-free
1/4 cup sticky rice flour
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. winter green essential oil
1 tbsp. salt
Whisk together rice flour, salt, and water in medium pot over medium heat. Cook until a very thick paste forms. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly. Stir in essential oil. Store in air tight jar. Can be refrigerated. Makes 1/2 cup (125 ml). Gift it in a 1/2 cup jam jar and attach a small paint brush with a ribbon. Add some magazine pictures, a pair of kids safety scissors, a ream of construction paper and a scap book for a gift of art.
While surfing the net I came across some other fun ideas:
This one takes new or broken crayons and puts them in a flat pan to make a single crayon that will colour a rainbow in one stroke. Ingenious. You’ll need regular crayons in the 7 rainbow colours, a bread pan, a piece of tinfoil, and an oven to melt the crayons. Very simple and easy to make.
These are similiar to the commercial bath crayons but you control the ingredients. Made from soap and food colouring, these bath crayons take a few days to harden, so plan ahead. Test the food colouring to make sure that it washes off. If you use a crayon candy mold it will look like the real thing, but you can use other molds, too — like stars, hearts, lego blocks. Amazon carries several interesting molds. Silicone molds last a long time and will peel away from the crayon.
Bees wax crayons are nontoxic and renewable, unlike wax crayons that are made from GM soy or paraffin, which is a petroleum by-product. By making your own crayons you control the ingredients. Many commercial crayons contain dyes that are carcinegenic — even those labeled as nontoxic — by making your own crayons you know every additive.
This recipe uses grated soap and melted bees wax plus paste-type food colourings. You can make these in a candy mold, or use a crayon mold. The comments suggested the white soap rather than glycerin soap works best. Try colouring with natural dyes like paprika, tumeric, pomegranate juice, blueberry juice, cinnamon powder. Mix the powdered spice with some coconut oil or glycerine into a smooth paste before adding to your melted wax and soap mixture. Make sure the mixture is thoroughly melted and stir while cooling before spooning into molds. If it seems to be separating add a few tsp. of boiling water and stir well to create an emulsion. Natural soaps like Joybilee Farm Goat’s Milk Soap, contain natural glycerine and naturally occurring stearic acid (from goat’s milk not tallow). Do not use detergent based soaps.
This is actually a science experiment that compares different formulas for making paraffin crayons. Adding artist’s pigments turns these into high quality artist materials. You can use these crayons for encaustic painting as well. They are made form a combination of beeswax, paraffin and stearic acid (beef or sheep tallow) for hardness.
Now more ideas from the Farm:
7. Dancing silks dyed with natural dyes
Grab a piece of undyed silk yardage or a silk scarf. Wash well in hot water to remove serecin and prepare it for dyeing.
2 tsp. alum
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Mix together in 3 cup quart container. Add silk scarf, simmer gently for one hour. Turn off heat. Allow to cool. Remove from heat and rinse well.
Meanwhile soak dried plant materials over night in warm water. Optional natural plant materials include pine needles, bark, onion skins, left over jam, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon or pomagranic seeds, flowers, leaves, carrot tops. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour to release the colour. Strain liquid and add silk. Simmer for an additional hour and remove from heat. Don’t allow the silk to boil or you will lose the lustre. Keep the simmering pot around 180F. Allow to cool slowly and naturally. Remove silk and rinse well. Dry and press. Hem if necessary. Its ready for gift giving. Include a CD for dancing, if desired, and its ready for the Christmas stocking.
8. The Gift of Nature for school age kids:
Collect rocks, shells, bark, or conifer cones. Package them in small paper 1/4 lb. bags. Label well. Add a magnifying glass and a field guide, maybe a butterfly net or a fish net, and give the gift of nature study. Package the whole thing in a glass quart jar with a two part lid. Add a circle of window screen to create an insect collection jar, if your field guide is a bug or butterfly field guide. You can find field guides at thrift stores, if you are lucky. Golden used to publish small field guides for kids of sea shells, rocks, birds and insects.
9. Cat’s Cradle Games:
Handspin a silky string of 4 ply cabled cord, or use linen or cotton seine twine. You can dye it with natural dyes to make it more personal or just give it plain. Attach a booklet of cat’s cradle or other string games.
Here’s some video instructions if you want to learn more string games:
10. Tic Tac Toe Game
Give a Grid board made out of wood, leather, or cloth, with the pattern of the usual cross-hatch game board. Add two different characters with 5 playing pieces each — model fimo clay into big shapes, cut cookie cutter shapes out of wood, sand and finish, or use huge buttons — make sure they are too big for a toddler to swallow. Package in a cloth, draw string bag.
11. Wooden Tops
Using a wooden dowel and a toy wheel you can make a small spinning top for a child’s stocking. Paint it with Christmas colours as simply or as elaborately as you wish, using acrylic paints. Here’s a tutorial at Kleas
12. Christmas Play Rice
My toddler daughter loved to play in the rice box. Rice play is easier to clean up than a sand box or a water table. Its fun, nontoxic, and is a great learning environment. To make a rice play box get a cheap box of GMO free long grain rice. Divide into 5 equal portions. Reserve one portion to leave white. Colour each of the other 4 portions blue, green, red, and yellow. Colour by dribbling liquid food colourings into a bowl that you’ve added the rice. Put on disposable gloves and stir the colour into the rice, adding more colour if necessary to intensify the shade. Spread the rice out on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 275 degrees to dry the rice completely. Repeat for each colour. When thoroughly dry, Layer the colours into a 1 quart mason jar. Add instructions for the Play Rice. Add a scoop, measuring cups, and measuring spoons and a small wooden bowls. Rice play improves hand eye coordination, and finger sensitivity. Clean up is an easy sweep. For a larger rice play box, use a 10 kg. bag of white rice, store in a big rubber tub, with a lid. Add trucks, cars, scoops, shovels, as well as measuring cups, yoghurt containers and other plastic or wooden scoops.
13. Wooden blocks
Using off cuts from the wood shop, sand and finish with nontoxic linseed oil. Package a bag of 25 blocks in a cloth, drawstring bag.
14. Juggling balls
Make 3 wool felt balls the size of a tennis ball. Weight the inside of the felt ball with a small rock for balance, when you make it. You can add details with a felting needles. Give “Learn How to Juggle” instructions and the 3 balls in a tubular draw string bag, knit a wool jester ski hat to complete the gift, if you need something more substantial than a stocking stuffer.
15. Origami paper and instructions
Fold a few origami figures and give a wad of origami paper. The paper usually comes with a sheet of instructions.
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