What I laughingly call a “craft bin” at our house is in fact a tower of disaster: a bunch of stacking baskets (like these) that we got for free at the dump, filled to a teeter with the litter of a decade’s worth of “Just toss that in the craft bin.” Several half-used packages of card stock. Sheets of felt, partially cut into. Rubber stamps—where is the stamp pad? Stickers that came with charity pleas. A protractor that came in a kit of school supplies. Foam letters spilling out of a bag. Empty Play-Doh containers—what the heck? A package of beads, a package of jingle bells, a package of popsicle sticks. A bunch of craft books we always think someone will want to leaf through for ideas, but no one ever does. Clearly there needs to be a heavy cleaning-out, but this is the sort of area where as soon as I throw something away, a child wants it for a project.
Despite the oppressive nature of our own craft bins (and, as I know from babysitting and nannying, other people’s craft bins), craft supplies remains one of my favorite gifts for children’s parties. They’re the kind of gift that tends to pass parental inspection, even with all the things parents can object to (”girl” vs. “boy” toys, violent toys, toys that perpetuate beauty culture, toys from particular countries, princess toys, a certain brand of toys with an amusement-park tie-in, TV/movie-tie-in toys, “cheap plastic crap,” etc. etc. etc.), and in general they tend to be gifts that work no matter what the particular child is interested in: not every child likes crafts, of course, but statistically-speaking (and if you have to take a certain risk with the gift anyway), more of them like crafts than like, say, Bakugan.
Melissa and Doug Deluxe Stamp Set (photo from Amazon.com), about $11. I also like the animal set. We’ve brought these to several child parties already. There is always a moment of Raised Eyebrows of Panic, and then the “Washable ink” part puts the eyebrows at ease. If you want to spend a little more, the rainbow stamp pad goes as low as $5 and is really good: much larger than a standard stamp pad.
Crayola Pip Squeaks Telescoping Marker Tower (photo from Amazon.com). Pip Squeaks are smaller-size markers, and the tower is not only useful for access and storage, but also for Making It Look Like a Bigger Gift. I’ve linked to the Amazon listing for this because (1) I’m using their photo and (2) that’s where I bought the sets I bought—but compare prices before you buy them there. I got them at Amazon when they went down to $9 or $10 near Christmas, and I’m pretty sure Target carries the same set for much less than the $18.99 it’s listed at on Amazon right now as I’m typing.
Sticky Mosaics Jewelry Box (photo from Amazon.com), about $14. Have I mentioned Sticky Mosaics before? Yes. And will I do it again, until you feel like you never want to hear the words again? YES. Because pretty much any time I think of “good gifts for children,” I think of sticky mosaics. Part of it, for sure, is that we were so surprised at how much we liked them: I got a set on a good clearance, thinking, “Meh, it looks kind of cheap, but okay, maybe it’ll be kind of fun.” And then it was like “OMG THIS IS SO GREAT”—and way better quality than I’d expected.
The jewelry box makes a nice gift because it results in an item (rather than in pictures you may or may not want to hang on the wall), but if you are looking for something less girly there is a good dinosaur set (the stickers for this one are particularly amazing: textured like reptile skin, and several iridescent colors), and a dragon set we haven’t yet tried but might get for Henry’s birthday, and a sports set, and so on. And if you want a THING rather than WALL ART, but a jewelry box is not quite the thing you have in mind, there’s also a castle, note cards, tiaras (this would make such a fun birthday party activity, it makes me wish I didn’t hate birthday parties so much), bracelets (ditto, and also Elizabeth has this set and it was even better than I’d expected), crowns, etc. The one downside is that I think the boxes look a little, um. Tacky. I mean, just a little! Not AWFUL or anything! But I don’t feel quite the gift-giving pride that I feel when my child hands over, say, a Melissa & Doug item in its wooden box.
Melissa and Doug coloring book and sticker sheet set (photo from Amazon.com), about $13. Upside: REALLY GOOD coloring books and stickers, and it’s a nice-looking set. Downside: VERY GIRLY in a princessy way, and some parents are not keen on that. There’s also a boy set that’s VERY BOY in a trucks/sports way, and has just one coloring pad instead instead of two (but is also less expensive).
Model Magic Bucket (photo from Amazon.com). Model Magic is (1) awesome and (2) overpriced, so it makes a great present. We had a HUGE Model Magic kick awhile back at our house, and we had the children make SMALL THINGS so the supplies would last longer. It does eventually dry out, though, even if you store it carefully.
Pipe Cleaners Gone Crazy (photo from Amazon.com), about $13. William was super into pipe cleaners for awhile, and used to sit at the table for AGES bending them. What I like about this book is not just that it’s a good book but that it’s so easy to “refill” it with more pipe cleaners: it’s not like it’s a book that comes with a special or expensive supply you then have to replenish at great cost.
Do you have any craft gifts you like to give? I’m looking for new ideas, before we start arriving at parties where people ask, “Oh, is it the stamp set or the sticky mosaics this time?”