Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Gifts for kids: Fuel creativity with do-it-yourself kits, costumes and time

The razzle-dazzle of the usual holiday gift guides, catalogs and commercials for the latest toys are filling airwaves and mailboxes with a vengeance. Wondering how to bypass the commercialism, while also engaging a child's creative side? Just ask Marjorie Cohee Manifold, associate professor of art education and curriculum studies in the Indiana University School of Education.

Create a do-it-yourself art kit


Fill a container with supplies, including a thick pad of heavy white paper for painting, regular paper for drawing and construction paper, as well as glitter markers, puffy paint gel markers, crayons, scissors, glue, pencils and erasers. Don't forget to add in a few "How to Draw" books tailored to your child's taste.

"Begin collecting items on sale throughout the year and keep them in the container until it is full," Manifold said. "Try to find things that don't require a lot of fuss to set up and aren't inherently messy."

Say "Cheese"

Purchase a durable, relatively inexpensive digital camera that will allow a child to take photographs and shoot video. Pair the camera with a box full of scrapbooking materials and encourage the child to create theme albums; or, include simple editing software so he or she can create a short film.

Build a personalized dress-up kit

Fill a chest or box with clean, costume-worthy items by sorting through materials that might otherwise be donated to charity, or by collecting items at garage sales. Some favorites include hats, jewelry, scarves, faux-fur items and shoes.

"You see commercial companies taking advantage of this interest by producing princess gowns and pirate costumes," Manifold said. "But it might be much more fun for you and your child if you collected materials and put together your own costume play kit."

Set aside time to be creative together

Collaborations might include cookie and/or cake decorating; making a model, kite or jewelry; doing needlework; or creating any kind of paper craft, such as origami or a collage.

"You don't have to be a good artist to make art with your child," Manifold said. "Any craft- or art-making that interests you could also interest your child. And the fact that you would share your interest or want to share his or her interest is, in itself, an enormous gift."

Learn about more arts news and events by following IU arts writer Bethany Nolan on Twitter at @Bethany_Nolan.