whiptips – hand made gifts for boys

by kath_red on 22/10/2006

in News+Letters

Whiptips – a crafts advice column for readers to ask questions or offer advice by leaving comments. View the Whiptips archive here. You can submit questions, to whiptips@gmail.com. Please include photos with your questions!

Beth writes in asking for some advice on hand made gifts for boys.

I have a number of 6-10 year old boys in my life. With gift-giving season (birthdays and Christmas) quickly approaching, I would love to make something for them. Unfortunately, my options seem to be extremely limited. These boys are a bit past the stuffed animal stage, but beyond pillows in cool print fabric, what can you do?

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rooruu October 22, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Thrifted denim or corduroy jeans or woven woollen garments or cotton shirts can make great quick quilts – just cut squares or rectangles. They’re already worn-in and you can easily avoid ‘girly’ colours/patterns. They aren’t touch-me-not precious quilts, but ones that can become a happy part of daily life. Look at the Gee’s Bend quilts for ideas for loose, imaginative working with thrifted materials. Choose a batting that doesn’t need close quilting, and maybe invest in quilter’s flannel for the backing. And a quilt counts for Christmas and birthday, if you want it to….


2 rooruu October 22, 2006 at 3:29 pm

Oh, one other idea: see if there’s something they own/collect for which a bag (maybe even a simple drawstring design) would serve – Marbles? Lego? Robots? Boys that age usually hoard something…There are lots of funky fabrics around, and you can use the techniques of clothing fabric designers as well, such as screenprinting, raw edges etc.


3 amy October 22, 2006 at 5:15 pm

anything involving secrecy and hiding stuff is good, isn’t it?
as is anything that turns unexpectedly into something else?
so, maybe…
superhero costumes?
items of clothing with secret pockets for hiding important stuff?


4 Leah October 22, 2006 at 5:59 pm

pencil rolls?


5 Claire October 22, 2006 at 6:07 pm

If the boys seem the type to be interested in cooking, why not make an apron. I have made aprons for most of the 6 year old birthdays that my daughter has been invited to this year (boys and girls). I usually find an interesting novelty print, and 2 other co-ordinated prints as well as a plain colour. I make the pocket with a combination of the prints and put some more at the top and bottom. I usually buy a coloured spatula and a small novelty cake tin or cookie cutters to go with the apron.

You could also make a Lego play mat – a circular mat, with cording around the outside, that draws up into a bag to store all the logo, (or other similar toys).


6 Laura October 22, 2006 at 8:19 pm

My boys always liked dress up components. Hats, capes, and robes, as well as fantasy weaponry like swords and sheilds.
How about pillows in shapes that reflect their interests? Fish and dinosaur pillows were a big hit around here.
Drawing journals, funny fleece hats and neck gaiters, TV and car blankets, custom silkscreened T’s, lemonade stand signs, a table with a Lego base plate attached on top, kits to make things, and treasure boxes have all been recieved and appreciated.
Leave some of the work to be done by the recipient. Painting or embellishing things is a good activity after all the holiday commotion dies down.


7 geek+nerd October 22, 2006 at 10:32 pm

You could try silk screening or freezer stencil a shirt with something that they like on it, or take one of their drawings and make it into a stuffed toy, either by printing their work onto computer paper and transferring it, or by embellishing the details yourself. The website Kiddley has a ton of great ideas for kids as well :) Good luck!


8 Robin October 22, 2006 at 11:41 pm

I knit rolled brim wool hats for the children in my class every year and the boys wear them and wear them. It helps if you know their favorite color–or the colors of their fave football or school teams. Stripes always are appealing.

I also like the idea of handmade boxes to stow their many collections.

Boys are tough to create for!


9 mandy October 22, 2006 at 11:50 pm

maybe a handmade blank book for their drawings?


10 Andi October 23, 2006 at 12:41 am

Have you considered puppets? They’re interactive, educational, and they can be almost anything. I’ve been making hand puppets for my daughter using recycled wool sweaters. There are a lot of resources online for puppetmaking. You can combine their interests with puppet making, i.e. robot marionettes… They have some of the same appeal as stuffed animals, but because of the interactive element they will often continue to fascinate/engage long after the stuffed animals have lost their attraction. Puppets are especially nice gifts to give to boys with younger siblings because their siblings become a built-in audience for puppet performances.


11 Tisra October 23, 2006 at 1:07 am

Paper art:
handmade stationery with their initial or a favorite object,
a painting or collage of them doing a favorite thing (silly is usually good…so if they like bike riding, paint them doing it while balancing a rabbit on their head!),
a hand-drawn flip book of their likeness doing something funny (the kind that when you whiz through the pages it tricks the eye into seing movement),
a mini scrapbook

in a handmade basket/bag/box include all the essentials for doing a craft together and include a card letting the little man know you’ll spend some quality time teaching him how to bead, knit, tile mosaic, paint, scrapbook, sew etc.,
make/ decorate some container and gve the gift of tiny treasures that have potential (buttons, glitter, old stamps, string, scraps of leather, odd-shaped metal (check the hardware store), felt)

Bath/Body: hand embroidered towel and fun-shaped soap (or embed a silly toy in the soap before it hardens

Clothing/Accesories: iPod/ Gameboy cozy, cape (every boy needs one!), bean bags and chalk to make your own game on the sidewalk, felted slippers (check Knitty.com for a free knitting pattern), scarf, hat


12 ART YoWZa October 23, 2006 at 1:24 am

One of my boy campers, age 10, designed an awesome hat in my Passion for Fashion Camp. It’s a cross between a rooster, a mohawk and a dragon. If you are interested, I can send you the picture.


13 Corinne October 23, 2006 at 4:50 am

I’m always thinking of this too! Here are some ideas – aprons with cooking supplies and “manly” recipes, capes with a book on magic tricks, one of the tools you use for “corking” (I bought a flowered one for my 7yo son and painted it black then decoupaged it with Star Wars stickers and he LOVES “knitting” on road trips). My son isn’t 10, but he still loves anything I make for my daughter only boy-ized so I’m planning to make him either an altered book or tin about him for the holidays (have to do it while they like it). I also think anything that is personalized is still cool – a glow in the dark basketball for instance could be the gift, but you could collage all over it with permanent markers. Good luck!


14 kirstencan October 23, 2006 at 6:55 am

there is a flickr group by this exact name. really cute: handmade crafts for boys. look it up!


15 Kristen October 23, 2006 at 6:57 am

Food! Show me a boy who doesn’t love to eat. And as much as I enjoy crafting, I’d rather give an experience than a thing.

You could create a “make a cake” kit that includes a mix, instructions, and coffee can for baking the cake – or any variation on a “cook your own” theme -and include a date & time to cook with them. You’ll give them an experience that will be much more memorable than a pillow or a plush toy.

If these are kids you don’t see often, or who live far away, you might prepare treats and present them in a reusable container (a cigar box or a cannister) you’ve decorated to their taste.

Similarly, science projects can be lots of fun. Remember the classic baking soda volcano? There are plenty of kitchen science ideas online.


16 bitterbetty October 23, 2006 at 8:29 am

photo album with disposable camera..

beanies..with cool buttons.

Collage their heads onto animal bodies and animal bodies onto their heads on a journal/sketchbook/treasurebox.. or warp them up in Photoshop.. they love to look at themselves, looking wierd.

Handmade shirts with the name of their favorite band in Bleach pen stencil.. (yes even 6 year olds generally have a favorite band.)


17 Cindy Ericsson October 23, 2006 at 11:14 am

My friend Cam made wonderful drawstring pouches for all the boys in her life, and filled them with marbles. They were about 5 x 8″ with a heavy (but soft) cotton rope long enough to be looped over a belt. She gave a mix of new and vintage marbles, and everyone loved them.


18 june October 23, 2006 at 1:14 pm

I’d like to second the “activity” related gift ideas involving cooking and/or crafts.

Maskmaking is especially fun.

If you live nearby or will be visiting for a few days, you could make a cast of their faces using plaster bandages (with a coating of petroleum jelly or beeswax and veg oil salve on the skin first), and then they can help you make a “positive” of the faces by sealing the nostril holes and then filling the cast with plaster. Then the boys will have an accurate reproduction of their faces – and a starting point for all types of mask-making.

Other ideas:

Activity gifts:
make your own snow globes (babyfood jars, waterproof decorative item, glitter and a water-glycerin mix),
hemp-necklaces or bracelets – let them pick out the beads (or arrowheads, animal teeth) or use their favorite colors, animals, teams, etc.,
general gifts: crocheted hackey-sack-type, or juggling balls, bean bag games,
action figure props or scenery (my bro spent days and days arranging action figure worlds at that age),
decorated cigar boxes for treasures,
a journal or photo album (with additional supplies) that you have started for them,
art supplies of any kind – especially ones aimed more at “students” than “kids” – it is great to have your creative talents taken seriously at that age.


19 Jorun October 23, 2006 at 3:23 pm

I’m working on a skull illusion scarf (pattern at http://ysolda.me.uk/) for my eight year old son, and I’m sure he’ll love it even though I personally am quite fed up with skulls now.


20 emily October 24, 2006 at 6:59 am

Find a big industrial-style lunch box at a second hand or first hand store (funky is good here). Repaint, recover, decorate it in some way. It can be used as a storage box, tool box, lego box, art box, lunch box, etc., etc. Maybe give a new undecorated one full of small cans of spray paint for a do-it-himself project gift. Offer a day/afternoon/evening with you to supervise the painting or decopaging?

Wood is good too – bang together a simple box of some sort from a fruit crate or a wood pallet if you have those kinds of found materials and simple tools (hand saw, screw gun, a few screws for putting it together and adding some hinges and a hasp). Decorate as above for the metal box.


21 admin October 24, 2006 at 9:54 am

what a fantastic lot of ideas – thank you to everyone who commented.


22 Bettsi October 25, 2006 at 5:09 am

The fantasy scheme is always a popular one. I’m kind of late with my comment, but I can say that both of my boys have loved “dress up” stuff. I made LOTR capes that were really enjoyed. Also, doublets are great. If you do any woodwork, a cutlass of some kind is hugely popular. Good luck!


23 Sasha October 25, 2006 at 5:39 am

Some of my knitting faves for pirate lovers…

Moth Heaven–Argyle Socks with Skulls

Moth Heaven–Pirate Hat

Hello Yarn–We Call Them Pirates Knit Cap and Mittens


24 Abby September 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm

It really depends what they are in to as to what sort of gift you can make them. My youngest is into body boarding and i made hime a really unique and even if i say so my self, wuite cool boady board cover for his Birthday and he loved it!


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