Everything’s cuter in miniature. Kids know it. Toy manufacturers know it. Parents begging their children to walk past the quarter-eating bodega vending machines stuffed with bouncy balls and adjustable rings and tiny dinosaurs know it.
At the perennial risk of sounding like a plastic-hating Scrooge, it makes me sad (and a little grumpy) that so many of the adorable tiny things offered to kids in advent calendars and Christmas stockings and in holiday gift bags are made out of plastic. Nevermind holding four year’s worth of trash, it’s easy for parents of young children to fill up a whole mason jar with tiny plastic tchotchkes after a single school holiday party.*
This year, as always, I’m hoping to make a little bit of miniature holiday magic without contributing a lot of waste to landfill. Toward that end, here are a few ideas for turning some of the regular-sized projects that Rose and I have made over the years into miniature-sized things for stuffing into advent calendars, or Christmas stockings, or offering on eight nights of Hanukkah.
These aren’t labor intensive gifts requiring advanced sculpture degrees or hours of time, but they do take more than zero time. As always, if the idea of sitting around crafting tiny versions of paper envelopes and rolling adorable matchbox scrolls fills you rage, this is not for you! Stick some chocolate in that calendar, scribble a love note on a piece of paper, forgo the whole rigmarole of gift giving altogether!
Here, a few tiny ideas. Please add more of your own in the comments!
Matchbox scrolls! (Scribble a message on a rectangle of scrap paper, roll up the paper using the end of a paintbrush to guide you, tie it up with string and slide into an empty matchbox. Irresistible.)
Tiny recycled matchbook notebooks! (Fill with paper, confetti, flower seeds, bath salts, chamomile tea etc!)
Mini shadow puppets! (Cut a simple shape in corrugated cardboard and stick a skewer right into the cardboard to secure. Add a festive scarf from a fabric scrap!)
Tiny pennants! (Cut triangles from paper or starched fabric and run ’em through a sewing machine (or sticking em through a needle! It’s a party!)
Clothespin puppets! (Moderately more time consuming than shadow puppets, but hilarious in a muppet kind of way. Carolers!!)
Monster puppets! Lollipop lips and mustaches! Abstract notch puzzles! Just about any of last year’s Cardboard Gift Ideas can be reimainged into tinier versions of themselves!
Block stamps! Use an old wooden block or a piece of thick piece (or two) of cardboard!
Glow-in-the-dark Stars! Take wooden craft stars or cut your own from cardboard and paint with glow-in-the-dark paint. Include a strip of sticky tack and hero status has been achieved.
Pom-pom hair elastics! Make a pompom from scrap yarn and instead of tying the center together with string, use elastic (this is a good spot to use scrap elastic salvaged from beyond-repair sweat pants cuffs etc.
Fold a miniature paper masu box! Matte-catalog pages are perfect for this. Fill it up with an assortment of beads or bracelet making supplies you might have lying around. Sometimes it’s the packaging that really matters.
+ Five years ago, I put together a post called 25 SIMPLE GIFTS UNDER $25, FOR KIDS. I stand by the list as being some of my very favorite, most easy-to-find, inexpensive, and likely to please gifts for little kids. I’ve updated broken or otherwise inferior links and added a few links to projects that Rose and I have developed over the years that make for an even cheaper (and lovelier) version of the same thing. I have not updated the photos of a very little Faye because who could bare it?
+ My STOCKING STUFFERS post from the same year still holds true. I’m still a sucker for going heavy on what’s comestible, for including a few things already in your possession, and for excusing myself when I just can’t find the good gummies in bulk.
+ Not for stuffing stockings only, here’s the whole list of CARDBOARD GIFTS FOR KIDS.
*If your family is fated to receive lots of plastic miniatures and you manage to fight the urge to hurl them directly into the garbage, a mason jar is a pretty good place to store them. I’ve had good luck saving these up and offering them to teachers and other folks on my neighborhood Buy Nothing Group looking to keep the same little treats in rotation.