Home » The “Art” of Toddler Gift Giving. . .You CANNOT Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes

The “Art” of Toddler Gift Giving. . .You CANNOT Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes

My Mother-In-Law celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago.

When Mac was born and I decided in true control freak fashion that I was going to take primary responsibility for psychologically damaging him and ruining his childhood, we knew we needed to reevaluate our budget.

And along with that came a big shift in my own thinking about how we were going to live our lives.  My priorities shifted.  A pair of fancy shoes no longer mattered.  But spending time with my Husband and Kid?  That counted.  Over time, I started to realize just how few material things I needed to be happy.  In fact, having too many things felt like a burden.  They need dusted.  And laundered.  Maintained.

If someone gave me a gift it often wasn’t right, didn’t fit, needed returned or exchanged. . .but for what?  For MORE stuff I didn’t really need or want.

And of course, I felt like I needed to reciprocate. . .And that felt a little burdensome too.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy giving gifts. . .It’s just. . .

Fortunately, everyone in our extended family has all that they need. . .and then some. . .More than enough.  And I just don’t see the value in giving them more stuff.  I just don’t.

So Chris and I agreed that we weren’t going to give gifts to any of the adults in our family on a routine basis.  AND we didn’t want or expect anything from them for ourselves.

However, when it comes to the Grandparents, sometimes it’s nice to have a little something Mac can give them.  Because I certainly want Mac to know that giving can be a pleasurable experience.  And I also want him to understand that gifting doesn’t always mean you need to hit the local Target for some mass-produced merch.  (Although, I love me some Target – even if I’m just looking – mah word the RUSH that place gives me – especially now that I don’t spend nearly $300 a week there!)

Anyway, he’s still pretty young, but becoming more adept with his motor skills so I thought maybe he could really start participating in crafting little artsy things for special occasions.

EXCEPT, with thoughts focused on the new baby and a looming vacation, Grandma’s birthday kinda’ snuck up on me. . .So I wasn’t exactly prepared.

Then Chris gave me some um encouragement:

Chris:  “I thought you and Mac would make something for Grandma.”


Me:  “I’m making dinner?”

Chris:  “No, you know, something with his hand print or something?”

Me:  “I’m also going to do a sundae and ice cream spread with homemade cookies and brownies since I figured we didn’t want to make a whole cake just before going on vacation.”

Chris:  “No handprints?”

Me:  “STOP with the handprints already!  It’s a damned mess!!  I just painted everything in this house.  I don’t want handprints everywhere!!!”

Chris:  “You seem a little upset. What’s wrong?”

GAH!!!!  He has a lot of nerve that guy. . .

But he was kinda right too.  We should make Grandma SOMETHING for her birthday.

So I started brainstorming. . .which is, of course, disastrous.

Mac has been really into stars and a book about Van Gogh recently so I thought it might be kinda cool if he could help me do a little 3D canvas of the Starry Night painting. . .complete with dried pasta shapes.  (Trust me, it was glorious and very cool in my vision.)  But when I offered him the macaroni I anticipated using as the “stars” this happened:

Wondering what the kid does while I cook?  Wonder no more. . .

He had no interest in attaching the stuff to the canvas.  And the dog ate about half a pound of dried pasta.  Ugh.


Undeterred, the next morning, I awoke and made a shit-ton of homemade Play-Doh.  Yes.  Homemade because Mac EATS the stuff in mass quantity.

I thought perhaps he could help me craft a cute little set of figurines.  Maybe a little duck or chicken family. . .Or maybe a little vase we could paint when dry.  Just something small and not too hideous.

I placed him in his booster seat at the table and offered him up 4 assorted colors.  I showed him how to roll balls, tubes, flatten the dough and score it with a plastic palette knife.

Mac ate 25% of each color and then decided he really, really liked the balls and just kept screaming for me to “MAKE MORE BLUE BALLS!!”  (Yes, it was hilarious).

I tried crafting a little mother hen and a couple of chicks.  They were adorable.  But when I tried to move them from the table, he freaked out and ate 3 of the chicks.

MORE BLUE BALLS!!!!  Ahhahahahahaha!!!!

MORE BLUE BALLS!!!! Ahhahahahahaha!!!!


Later that afternoon as I scraped the Play Doh off the table with a butter knife, two Magic Erasers, and an industrial strength de-greaser, I realized I STILL didn’t have a gift for Grandma!  The clock was ticking.

Then I remembered that you could do all sorts of things with a safe-to-eat-paste made out of flour and water and paper.  Maybe Mac could do something with paper mache?

Soooooooo. . .I made a paste and got started crafting a few bowls from tissue paper.  I figured bowls are always handy to toss keys and coins in and so forth.  And the best thing about these would be Mac helped make them himself.

I hurriedly crafted a prototype figuring if it dried well overnight, Mac and I could make one or two more the following day.

The following morning, the prototype seemed to be in good shape so I whipped up another batch of “paste” and prepped our kitchen table for another toddler crafting assault.  I armed Mac with a paintbrush and some pre-torn tissue paper, and showed him how to do it.

“Play doh?” he asked.

“Not right now, honey.  Look!  Paste!  Let’s play with paste now!  We’re making something special for Grandma!” I said enthusiastically.

“Play doh!” he demanded pushing the mold for the bowl aside.

“We can play play doh in a few minutes but right now Mommy really needs your help with this.  Please?” I practically begged.

Go to hell glance from Mac.

“Look!” I exclaimed patting his hand on the damp tissue paper.  “We’re making our own bowls!  How cool is that?!”

“Cear-reeeee in bowl?”


I hurriedly moved the stuff to my side of the table and proceeded to paste together a few more bowls while watching him happily sandwich play doh between his Cheerios for breakfast.  “Yummy” he cooed.

Indeed.  Delicious. . .

At 4:30 AM the following day, I added MORE layers to the bowls.  What was I doing?    This was all my Husband’s stupid fault.  

Then in a moment of brilliance, I realized all was NOT lost!  Once the bowls dried, Mac could help me PAINT the outsides!  Mac could STILL help make something for Grandma!

Later that day, I supplied him with one of the bowls and some paint.

He licked the paint covered brush and said “Play doh?”

FAIL!!!!  FAIL!!!!!  FAIL!!!!!

So I proceeded to paint the bowls too.  Trying to make them look kid-crafted but not so hideous you wouldn’t want to maybe display one on your desk or something. . .know what I mean?  Or am I the only idiot that does this?  

I placed the bowls on the kitchen counter to dry.

Chris arrived home and silently surveyed my handiwork:

Chris:  “These bowls?  Um.  Are they for my Mom?”

Me:  “Yes.  Mac helped a little.  It was quite a process.”

Chris:  “Well, are you going to do something else to them?”

Me:  “Maybe give them a coat of modge podge to make them shiny.  I’m kinda’ running out of time.”

Chris:  “Oh.”

Me:  “What exactly did you want me to do to them?”

Chris: “Well, can’t you put his hand print on them or something?  So they’re from him, you know?”

Cue rage induced blackout.

Hard to believe I didn’t even think to take a picture of the finished bowls. . .







4 Responses to “The “Art” of Toddler Gift Giving. . .You CANNOT Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes”

  1. Dani Ryan says:

    You are a much better person than me!!! I hand my daughter a crayon, hold a card up to her, and move the card around so she can make some marks, and PRESTO! We have a personalized gift. HA!!!

    I need your edible play-doh recipe!!!!!
    Dani Ryan recently posted…Worst first day of school. Ever.My Profile

    • admin says:

      Ha! I do similar with cards. I tape the paper to the table, put a crayon in kid’s hand and help push it around the paper!

      I’ll post or email the play doh recipe. It’s simple and has few ingredients. BUT after the kid licks it, it gets pretty sticky. . .so be sure to keep it away from furniture and carpets.

  2. Rick says:

    Lord, I don’t know how you do it! My hair was falling out and permanent facial lines were forming just reading your post.