At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.
This year has pushed us to get creative with our time and resources: an afternoon becomes a fort-building mission, a Friday night becomes a movie night under last year’s holiday lights and the recycling bin becomes a treasure trove for arts and crafts. With Christmas around the corner and because stockings were a tradition I dearly enjoyed as a child, I decided to take that same creative spirit and create easy, memorable (and possibly free) stocking stuffers for my little ones, all from things I already had around the house — and without spending a dime! Here are four ideas.
Make Personalized Coupons
Think about what your child values and gets excited about that doesn’t cost any money. An extra 20 minutes of screen time, a movie night during the school week, one extra bedtime story, a bubble bath or an afternoon of baking cookies are all great ideas — and make great coupons! Once you decide on your coupons, write (or type) each of them out on separate pieces of paper and put them inside envelopes. You can use store-bought envelopes or make some yourself with wrapping paper with origami or using tape.
To make envelopes sans origami, lay your paper rectangle (no bigger than 6’’ x 9’’) vertically and fold the bottom third up, creating a crease. Tape the sides up to the top of the fold you just made, leaving the top of the folded piece without tape. This will make your envelope’s pocket. Fold the remaining top corners inward into a triangle to form your envelope’s pointed top flap. Fold that point down to meet the bottom of your envelope, and you’re done. After that, decorate away! I used a single pom pom on mine.
Wrap Holiday Treats
My mother would bake shortbread candy cane cookies every holiday, but she’d only make around 2 dozen in total. They were my favorite! An extra, unanticipated treat is a sure way to excite your kids. Do they like gingersnaps or iced sugar cookies? Grab one or two, wrap them up in a baggie and place them in the stocking. That’s it!
Create a Craft Activity
Think of this as a craft kit you might purchase, but this time, you’re the creator!
Take some time to sort through your craft supplies: markers, crayons, glue, glitter, string, pom poms, popsicle sticks, paper, etc. You can think of an original craft, place the materials needed in a baggie and explain the craft to your little ones when they open it. Another option is to simply place a variety of craft items in the baggie and leave them as an open-ended craft activity so kids can decide what they want to create with the materials. Here is an example of a little hanging ornament that requires popsicle sticks, pom poms, glue and string.
Make Swirled Crayons
Besides being fun, this satisfying activity is good to do when you have small or broken crayon pieces around the house (you’re likely to find some scattered across your play area, the car floor or under the kitchen table). Besides the crayons, you’ll need a silicone baking pan and a baking sheet. Don’t have one? Try borrowing one from a friend or neighbor. The more festive the pan, the better! To start, peel off all your crayon wrappers and break the crayons into small pieces. Place the crayon pieces into each mold, making sure to fill it up completely. Place in an oven preheated to 280℉ for 15 to 18 minutes. The colors will melt together and create a swirl effect. Once cool, gently push out each crayon and wrap in tissue paper, or place it in a baggie.
More from PBS SoCal
- Alternative Ways for Kids to Connect with Loved Ones Over the Holidays
- Ask the Expert: How Do I Manage My Kids’ Holiday Expectations this Year?
- Family Math Activity: Play with Patterns
- The Countdown’s On: 4 Ways to Use Playful Math on New Year’s Eve
- 5 Winter Activities to Warm up Kids’ Math Skills
Meg Raby is a speech language pathologist, children’s book author and reviewer of children’s books published by many well-known publishing houses including Chronicle Books, HarperCollins and Gibbs Smith. She runs two Instagram accounts, @bedtime.stories.forevermore, where she highlights only the best in children’s literature, and @mybrotherotto, where she advocates for autistic children and adults while championing the message that everyone should be included.