Our solution is to figure out a project each year that they can pour their creativity into and make gifts with their own two hands. In the past we've made jewelry or large paintings. This year, everyone got a five-piece note card and envelope set with a mix of art on the front. They were fairly easy to make and turned out pretty cute. Here's a little sample of some of the art and how we made it:
For this one, you need some brown watercolor paint, various sheets of colored paper, glue, a bird punch and a cat punch. Punch bird shapes out of the colored paper and glue them on to your painted tree. Then punch a little cat at the bottom gazing longingly at the flock. The punch-outs were only $1 each at Michael's - can't beat that.
This worked best with my little one's tiny fingers. He dipped directly into the paint and blobbed on a rainbow of colors with a cheerful result. Entirely his idea; no two are alike!
Straight watercolor here; no special technique.
For this one, we used a doily as a stencil, carefully painting one color in the holes and another color out from the edge. Pretty and easy, too! Someone with nice penmanship can make it into a "thank you" note if desired.
Paper, glue and ink: taking advantage of my son's passion for drawing chibi manga figures. He drew a bunch of different characters, then we cut around each one and glued it onto the card over a paper oval (cut out from a stencil for evenness). I helped him outline the shadow and he colored it in with black ink. Totally cute!
We tied each set in a bundle with a little ribbon and they made the perfect gift for aunties, grandmas and big sisters ~ although most said they intended to keep them for themselves and never actually use them. :)
As for me... besides the portrait that I shared with you earlier, I was also able to help someone give a special gift to his parents. They needed a new mailbox, but instead of just giving one straight out of the box, this one was sanded, primed, and then handed to me to paint something personal on it. The numbers were obvious, but since the mom and dad are of Irish and Italian descent, the son asked for these flags to be painted as well. After that, it got a spray of clear-coat for protection.
He must be a really good son and know what his parents like, because I'm told that his mom nearly cried when she saw it. She must be very fond of her country and her mail. :)
Or, maybe it's just proof that everyone appreciates a personal touch.