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Instead of spending loads of money on presents, spend time making affordable, special and unique gifts of joy.

Here are some fun and affordable presents you can make for the family, friends and teachers. Presents that are personal, have been carefully considered and/or handcrafted are truly the gifts of joy.

moms and teachers

  • Candle jars: melt candle wax in an old pot and add some candle dye or wax crayons for a bit of colour. Tie some string around a toothpick and suspend over a glass jar so that the string reaches the bottom. Pour in the wax and leave to set.
  • Herb pots and markers: plant some herbs in pots, or give empty pots and packets of seeds. Make herb markers by painting the names of herbs on some river stones.
  • Personalised recipe book: get family to send their favourite recipes to you and write or print them out. Put them in a pretty file, and include a few empty pages for additional recipes.

Looking for ideas for spoiling that special teacher … look no further. And here are some other ideas for teacher’s gifts.


  • Braai pack: put together braai spices, barbeque sauces and maybe some peri peri. Wrap it all up in a braai apron.
  • Memory card: take a credit card sized piece of cardboard, glue on photos of your children, and ask them to write a message to dad. Laminate or cover with contact and trim. Dad can keep this in his wallet.
  • Photo bookmark: this is made the same way as the memory card, but use a bookmark-shaped piece of cardboard. Finish it off by punching a hole in the top and adding a piece of ribbon or raffia.

granny and grandpa

  • Art cookie tin: collect some of the children’s art and cut out a few pictures. Glue these onto a cookie tin using decoupage glue or wood glue. Gently push out wrinkles or excess glue and leave to dry. Coat with glue until the surface is smooth and leave to dry. Add some home-baked cookies you made together.
  • Family portrait scrapbook: gather pictures of the family and put them together in a scrapbook. Or use a photobook programme to create a book of photos (this option may cost a bit more). This makes a beautiful gift for family overseas.
  • Photo calendar: download a printable calendar or buy a plain one. Add some photos of the family and children.

boys and girls 

  • Activity packs: choose a theme (fairy or dinosaur hunter for example) and create a pack. Add fun activities to suit the theme, like a treasure hunt or wand-making kit. Include some pictures and crayons for colouring, and a dress up item. Place it all in a bag or box.
  • Chalkboard cut-outs: buy fun cut-outs or make your own from masonite. Make holes in the top for hanging. Paint with chalkboard paint and add string. Add a chalk message.
  • Homemade crayons: use up old crayons or chop new ones into small pieces. Add colour combinations to small baking tins or old tin cans. Bake at a low heat until the wax starts to melt. Allow to cool. The crayons will be big enough for toddlers to hold, and should produce fun colour results.

How about some Valentine’s gifts that children can make? and other unusual, meaningful gifts.

food for thought  for everyone

  • Chocolate spoons: Melt some chocolate and dip in plastic or wooden spoons. Make sure they get a generous coating of chocolate. Place on wax paper and allow to set.
  • Hand-shaped cookies: trace your child’s hand onto some paper and cut out. Roll out cookie dough and using the hand shape, cut out some cookies. Bake, cool and wrap.
  • Herb rubs: toast some spices or use herbs and salts to make a tasty rub. Put them into a glass jar and add a decorative label.

out of the box ideas

  • Time: for some, the gift of your time may be the perfect present. Promise to spend an afternoon with someone, doing whatever they like, even if this is nothing at all.
  • Memories: give someone a new memory. Go on a picnic or spend the night stargazing.
  • Vouchers: This gift doesn’t need to cost a thing. Write out a list of vouchers of ways you can help someone else. These can include anything from giving a back rub, doing the dishes or walking the dog.

Take a look at our suggestions for thoughtful gifts for children of all ages and interests.

Tamlyn Vincent