I admit, I was a bit taken by surprise the first Mother’s Day after I became a mother myself. Standing in the card aisle at CVS, I realized my shopping duties had just increased exponentially. I not only had my own mother and grandmother and mother-in-law, but I’d created grandmothers and great-grandmothers as well. Yikes! Being the type of person who isn’t thrilled with knick-knacky things that require frequent dusting, I wanted to come up with gift ideas that were both meaningful and useful in some way, and my favorites are the kind that my children participate in making.
I first did this project for my boys’ grandmothers six years ago with my then-three-year-old’s handprints on one side and his one-year-old brother’s footprints on the other. This time, my two-year-old daughter ran the show. (She went so far as to inform me that this was her bag, but she’d share it with me.)
Plain tote bag: If you have the time, skills, and inclination, you can sew one, or you can buy one in any craft store (I went with that second option here).
Liquid acrylic paints: Look for these in craft stores; they come in little bottles and cost next to nothing.
Cardboard to fit inside the bag (so the paint doesn’t run through)
Plate or palette to squirt the paint onto
Baby wipes: Really, these belong on every art table.
Willing child: I just can’t stress how important this is!
1. If the bag is wrinkly, give it a quick iron. Place the cardboard inside. Squirt your paint onto the plate and, using the brush, brush it onto your child’s hand (or feet, if your “willing” child is a baby). BE AWARE that acrylics don’t wash out of clothing; that’s why they work for this project. Roll up sleeves and keep those wet wipes handy. Don’t skimp on the paint, either, if you’re using a canvas bag from the craft store. (If you made your own, do a test print first on a scrap.)
2. Press your child’s hand down. My daughter is a toddler, and she wiggled her fingers. Don’t expect perfection! But to help things along, press on each finger individually, right down its length, and on the back of the hand as well. Do this fairly quickly and then help your child lift her hand straight up. Immediately wipe any excess paint on her hand with a baby wipe.
3. It’s up to you—you could use the same hand over and over (easier) or switch hands (harder). You could use all one color (definitely easier) or many colors. If you’re going from light to dark, you may be able to get by with just wiping in between instead of washing with soap and water. My color-loving toddler made eight handprints in eight different colors.
4. If you’re printing on both sides, make sure the first side dries before you flip it over. It won’t take long. When you’re done, don’t forget to paint or write your child(ren)’s names and ages on the bag. You could use fabric markers, but I went for simple and used a Sharpie.
A perfect gift for Grandma or Mom! When I’m allowed to use this bag, I’m going to put a knitting project in it.
Other simple ideas for meaningful gifts:
Make a set of bottle cap magnets using all the grandchildren’s photos.
Have your child use fabric markers to draw a picture on a tote bag. Make sure to follow the directions on the package to set them.
Take a digital photo of your child’s artwork, making sure it fills the frame. Upload the photo to a site such as Shutterfly and create blank greeting cards that Grandma or Mom can send to her friends. If your child is old enough to take his or her own photos, make blank cards using the photographer’s own work instead. Make sure to include a caption that identifies the name and age of the wonderful grandchild who created the artwork, so all Grandma’s (or Mom’s) friends know.