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DIY the Perfect Gift for Aging Parents and Grandparents

By Haley Kotwicki

The holiday season is here again bringing peace, love, joy and utter befuddlement: What do I get Mom this year? Don’t panic. The best gift to give your parents and grandparents is showing you care.

For example, my grandma’s favorite Christmas tradition was baking sugar cookies with me and her daughters (some of my fondest memories are helping her decorate the gingerbread men and turning a blind eye when she would purposefully break them so she could eat them.) Then, we would package the treats in tins or festive containers, so she could have gifts to give to her friends and neighbors. Our homemade presents made her feel proud because it allowed her to be productive and purposeful. 

In essence, our gift was giving my grandma the ability to create meaningful memories and make others happy; the gift that keeps on giving.

You do the same for your older parent or grandparent. Here are some easy do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts you can make together:

Pipe cleaner candy canes

These make cute Christmas tree ornaments or embellishments on a goody bag.

Supplies

  • Red, white and green pipe cleaners (tinsel-laced or fluffy ― there’s lots of options)
  • Decorations: large plastic beads, ribbon, string, etc.

Steps

  1. Twist or braid one red, one white and one green pipe cleaner together

  2. Curve one end of your braid into a rounded hook

  3. Soften the ends of your cane by folding the ends inward ― that way the metal tip won’t scratch or poke anyone

Mason jar hot chocolate

These ready-to-go packages are perfect if you or your older loved one can’t cook or bake but like to gift food items.

Supplies

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Powdered or malted milk
  • Eight-ounce jelly jars or Mason jars (as many as you want to fill)
  • A kitchen funnel that fits in the mouth of the jar
  • Extras: mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, cinnamon, sprinkles, peppermint chips, etc.
  • Cardstock (business card size)
  • Hole punch
  • Decorations: fabric, ribbon, bows, etc.

Steps

  1. Wash and dry your jars

  2. Place the funnel in the jar

  3. Pour ¼ cup of your powdered or malted milk into the jar

  4. Pour ¼ cup of the cocoa powder

  5. Pour ¼ cup sugar

  6. Add a pinch of salt

  7. Layer your extras until you reach the top (try only 1/8 cup)

  8. Screw on the lid tightly

  9. Decorate the jar and lid

  10. Write or type (on the computer) instructions for serving; print your instructions if typed on the computer

To serve: Bring 1 cup of milk, to boil. Pour 3 tablespoons of the hot cocoa mix. Stir mix until completely dissolved. Sip and enjoy!

Popsicle stick snowflakes

An easy way to make beautiful window hangings or ornaments.

Supplies

  • Popsicle sticks (some craft stores sell pre-painted sticks)
  • String, ribbon or fishing line
  • Regular school glue or a hot glue gun
  • Paint and brushes, crayons or markers
  • Decorations: glitter glue, markers, acrylic paints, gems, etc.

Steps

  1. Cover your table with newspapers to protect it from messes

  2. Select four sticks

  3. Paint or color your popsicle sticks white or blue for a classic snowflake (but you can use whatever color you like)

  4. Let them dry

  5. Lay two popsicle sticks in a plus sign formation (+)

  6. Glue sticks together carefully and set them aside to dry

  7. Take the remaining two sticks and lay them in a plus sign formation (+)

  8. Insert a loop of string between them and glue it (this is how you can hang the snowflake, but you can adhere the loop to any of the tips of your snowflake also)

  9. Stack the two sets; rotating one stack into an X formation

  10. Decorate

Greeting cards

Handmade cards are always an endearing and special gift. You and your parents or grandparents can create your own designs or reproduce an image.

Supplies

  • Construction paper, scrapbook paper or card stock sized 8 ½ inches wide by 11 inches tall
  • Scissors (regular and/or decorative)
  • Markers, calligraphy pens, crayons and/or colored pencils
  • Decorations: glitter, pompoms, stickers, stamps, felt shapes, stencils, etc. (select items your older loved ones can pick up or hold)

Steps

  1. Cover your table with newspapers to protect it from messes

  2. Organize your supplies on the table

  3. Fold your paper in half so both short sides touch

  4. Get creative and decorate

Extra tips

Make sure you have lots of light and keep in mind that your parent or grandparent may need extra time to craft their DIY gifts due to physical or cognitive limitations. It’s best to remain patient and not focus on perfecting the craft. The goal is not the gift itself but the act of creating and sharing meaningful moments.

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