Crafting for boys

SEP 4, 2008

It feels a bit premature with our thermometers here in NC still recording temperatures in the upper 80’s and 90’s, but I’ve begun thinking about Christmas gifts.  Stephen and I have resolved this year to end the spending free-for-all that seems to happen each winter despite our best intentions and to make all our gifts this time around.   That means whatever the mercury says, I need to get crackin’!

My will is strong, but the ideas? Not so much, at least when I consider a couple of the people on my list.  My girls are easy.  Some matching nightgowns would thrill the older two, and there are countless inspiring project ideas out there for stuffed critters, dolls, doll accessories, and other playthings that would make all three very happy.  My friends are easy, too, though I won’t disclose here what it is I have in mind for them.  (Something involving burnout silk velvet–yummy!)

The hard ones on my list are my two little brothers.  They’re 8-year old twin boys, waaaaay into the plastic junk from China, thanks very much.  So what in the world am I going to make these guys?  Maybe a guitar strap for the one who’s just started taking lessons?  Perhaps some handmade books for drawing?  (Thanks to Soulemama for that idea.)   If y’all have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way.  I always want to give gifts that please the recipient, but when I’m going to the trouble of making that special present–especially if the recipient is a young’un not known (ahem) for their diplomacy–I really want it to be something pleasing.  Anyone else out there done any successful handmaking for boys who prefer plastic?

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  • charlotte flory

    I agree with the idea of CAPES. i made one for a 7 year-old boy, and then bought a (plastic) sword at IKEA, and it was a huge hit! I used satin, and made his initial, so it looked like a knight or superhero. One could also add a wooden sword made by hand…
    Other idea is an origami kit. Not sure if that falls into “handmade”, but I suppose you could buy a few sheets of decorative paper, or print your own, and cut them into different size squares. Make sure there are 2 of each image so they don’t fight over it! And, include a book of how-to’s!

  • One of the most awesome gifts I made for my son was a dot-to-dot calendar. Take an image, either seasonally related or something they’ll like, and convert it into a dot-to-dot. Make the start point a star (or something else) and have the #1 be an actual dot to connect for the first day. The number of dots = the number of days in the month. Each day, he was able to use a marker to draw to the next dot and see the picture develop. It was really fun trying to keep the image a secret while having it develop into a real image.

  • I second the marshmallow shooter! Boys and girls(most adults) love them. Sling shots are also fun(simple wooden ones with a strong rubber band. Pajama bottoms always work, and I’ve also given pillow cases that were well received!

  • It doesn’t solve the plastic problem, but how about a Marshmallow Gun? They’re made out of PVC. Make a cute bag and include some spare parts so they can customize their guns. Don’t forget the marshmallows, though, or else it will just look like a pile of PVC.

  • I have a nine year old son and I always like to make something homemade for occasions.
    Two years ago, I made pillow cases for each holiday. I made one for Christmas, for Valentine’s Day, Easter and for Canada Day, I also used glow-in-the-dark fabric for a Halloween pillow case. He still loves them.
    He wants a wallet for his next gift-getting occasion. I have made him bags for his gym clothes (a simple drawstring backpack) and another out of pet screen fabric for swimming gear.
    I have bound books for him as well, including a sketchbook with lots of pockets for art supplies.
    He has several pieces of fabric wall art that I have created for him.
    Other things I have made and/or plan to make — pajamas, costumes, apron and chef’s hat, duvet cover, bandana shorts, tote bags, quilt, dice bag, lunch bag, advent calendar, puppet theater that hangs in a doorway (and puppets), fabric baskets for organizing his belongings, shoe organizer like wall hanging for toys, etc., car seat organizer (hangs over the front seat and holds car stuff for him), hammock for his stuffed animals, scarves, neckwarmers, mittens and hats, funky ties or belts, Christmas tree ornaments for his bedroom tree (and to keep for the future).
    If your boys have MP3 players or hand-help game consoles you could sew holders for those.
    Hope these ideas help.

  • I work with clay, and a few years ago I did an after school art class with K-2 and they made cermaic Dominos, checker sets and chess sets.
    This could be done with Fimo, also.
    The Dominos were really easy, and even now, my sone is 8 and made them when he was 5, we play with them.
    If one were to work with Fimo, I would use different colors, roll out 1/4 in thick rectangles, score the center, cook in oven, then paint the dots with acrylics.
    Oh! I may just do this myself and add to the set!

  • I’m planning to make some kind of “build it yourself kid” for my 6 year old. He likes the ball and cup catch toy from “Traditional Wooden toys”, by Cyril Hobbins.
    Steven Caney’s toy book and Steven Caney’s Ultimate Building Book havs also lots of ideas of what to make for boys (and girls).

  • it does seem harder to think of boys presents at first but they love a lot of the stuff girls do too……. a cool apron with skulls on it for cooking, include some sourced “gross” recipes for slime, play dough etc. i am in the middle of making my 3yo son a robot softie, you could make them a version of their fave character into a softie. another fun idea is to make up a craft kit, some shrinky paper, pens etc and get them to have fun making something with you, fimo etc.
    my sister always gives the kids in our family an experience ” so it could be an iou a picnic in the park, or a horse ride or a trip to the beach. that way you are giving of yourself too. good luck.

  • I have two boys ages 7 and 9 so I know all about plastic. My boys are also into stuffed critters. One thing that I have done that was really fun is I took a couple of their drawings of creatures, turned them into a pattern and made a dimensional creature from their drawings. You could also create a cool checker game with more interesting pieces than red/black checkers. What about cool pillow cases either made with fun fabric or hand painted along the wide trim. Or throw pillows for their beds with interesting creatures or something on them. If they like building, it’s fun to give them just weird things to create with. One of my boys loves tool stuff so I can give him a hammer, nails, screw driver, and a pile of scrap wood and this kid is a happy camper. If I knew the boys interests beyond plastic, I might have other ideas!

  • I have an 8yr old & a 6yr old. I made each of them an appliqued tshirt with something they love on it. One has a guitar & the other an octopus. Both the designs are my own which made them extra special. I found the T’s for $3.97 each at the Gap & I already had the fabric. Super cheap & easy! They loved them & wear them all the time.

  • I have twin seven year old boys 🙂 I agree with the art idea, my boys would love a pencil case or tote bag with sketchbook and good pens etc, or the fashion option – cool shorts or tshirt. I’m always surprised how fashion conscious those males are, even from a young age!

  • I don’t know any young boys..
    but i know a guy who’s 28 going on 13!
    what if you find one of their fave characters from a movie and make a screen print of them on a shirt or hoodie?
    I just made some stencils to make a Joker (from Dark Knight) screen print. My friend (and all the girls in my class) loved it.
    i think boys like to say “yah its one of a kind” too

  • I just did a sketch of a handmade guitar softie. It could be made out of fun fabrics, and could be simplified or really detailed using wool felt, buttons etc. I could see the boys jamming together then using them as a favorite pillow. I just uploaded my sketch and a tiny tutorial to flickr.
    Good luck with all your Christmas creations! I better get crackin’ too, I think I’ll make a guitar for my nephew!

  • What about Lucha Libre Masks (mexican wrestling), a detective kit with magnifying glass, fingerprinting powder (I think they use graphite powder, the stuff in pencil lead all ground up) with brush, latex gloves, specimen jars and labelling kits, stencilled t shirts, disguise kits (fake moustaches and beards, hats, caps, sunglasses, fake moles, liquid latex, etc etc.)
    Hope it helps!

  • If you think they would actually wear shirts you appliqued or stencilled, that would be a great gift. If you’re not sure if they would, messenger bags seem to be really big among all the elementary-age kids I know. There are lots of great patterns…and I bet you know where to find the perfect fabric, right? ^_^

  • I just got a Japanese crafting book that really had some inspiring gift ideas. While most of them were geared toward a younger group, I think you could make a few with older boys in mind. Two of my favorites: sewn cars that really move – they were quite large too. Another idea might be a fabric basketball set (so you can play hoops in the house without getting into too much trouble). You can even make the net yourself!

  • In my experience children raised on bought plastic are always fascinated by simple handmade stuff. It’s like they understand it’s special. Bunting is always popular. I make mini room bunting as a little extra in birthday packages and it appears in the bedrooms without fail! I add stars and names or messages.
    What about a case for a musical instrument if that’s their thing. Or a funky personalised sport / swim bag? Floor cushions have also been well received. There are so many amazing fabrics out there. I made a sugar skulls one for a very disdainful teenager and I think I got an even better response than the iPod! Good luck. It’s nerve-wracking when the recipient doesn’t do tact! t.xx

  • I just realised I went a bit overboard, that wasn’t just my ideas for boys’ xmas pressies – which I am sure you all figured out!!! LOL

  • I have a few ideas for things I want to make… Here’s what i have for now.
    Letter-writing kits: Buying nice envelopes and printing some of my own designs onto letter paper and cards (on the laser printer at work… shhhh..!) Then sewing a fabric envelope with button closure to put them into.
    Post-it Notebooks: What it says – making a reusable fabric covered cardboard cover for post-it pads
    Wall calendar – with some of my nicest photos from each month/season. Wire bound at the copyshop.
    Dishtowel aprons wrapped nicely with some cookie cutters or child sized wooden utensils.
    Softies & Ragdolls from the fabric scrap pile
    Crayon rolls
    Framed artwork courtesy of DS
    Wall calendar – again with either artwork by DS or photos of him, and wire bound by the copy shop.

  • I have nephews ages one, eight, and eighteen. The older two received crocheted stocking caps two years ago for Christmas and loved them. Or at least they acted like it to me 😉
    The eight year old loves blankets, so that hits a sweet spot for me with my quilting. But if he didn’t, I would be looking into making a bag with a stencil of his favorite plastic toy. Or at least an image suitable to match the toy.
    You could also make storage boxes or board games like checkers and backgammon. Games are always on the top of my list. You could make an over sized puzzle or dominoes set.
    My husband liked doing crafts when he was younger. We still have his lap loom. Maybe you could test the waters with some craft activities. Give them homemade kits to make sidewalk chalk or slime. Origami is also an excellent choice.
    I find that enthusiasm for plastic toys is initially the biggest, but it is the unique item that wins out later. I think this is because every little boy has the plastic toy, but only your nephews have the hand made item.

  • I have boys, 6 and 8. Handmade gifts are hard! I recommend making soft jammie pants in a really cool flannel print, stuffed pokemon character, pencil roll and notebook. Check out The Crafty Crow for ideas too!

  • Well if they’re into those plastic toys you should look into the Automoblox as an alternative. They’re wood cars that have interchangeable wheels and body parts. Yes, those parts are made of plastic but from what I’ve read about them … they’re a very strong, well designed slightly traditional toy. Check them out. My nephew is only 3 otherwise I’d buy some for him. Perhaps in another year or two it’ll be time to get some.