Christmas is getting closer than that creepy guy from the club, and you still have no clue what to get your parents. Your dad would totally love a new watch and your mom deserves those diamond earrings you saw on TV, but face it: you’re a super broke college student and you need realistic gift ideas. Cue the DIY gifts for parents you never knew you needed.
THINK BACK TO THE CREATIVITY THAT CRAFTED THAT MACARONI FRAME IN THE THIRD GRADE AND GET READY FOR SOME PARENT-APPROVED DIY GIFTS.
1. HOMEMADE SOAP
A bar of soap might not cross your mind when you think about cool DIY gifts for parents, but this great-smelling gift won’t be one that they forget. If you give your parents homemade soap, they’ll remember you every day when they wash their hands. Making the perfect soap might take a few tries, but the end results are worth your parents constantly asking “You made this yourself?” in disbelief. Soap is something they’ll actually use and enjoy, especially if you use their favorite scents. You could even make it a tradition. Did someone say, “money-saver”?
2. PINE CONE FIRE STARTERS
Wax-dipped pinecones are easy to make DIY gifts for parents that instantly put them in the winter spirit. Coloring the wax and adding fragrance adds a personal touch to something that could be otherwise boring. The wax, dye and fragrance oils can be found at craft stores like Jo-Ann Fabric Stores or Michael’s. Pick your parents’ favorite colors or something to match the living room. Either way, they’ll appreciate their pinecone fire starters whenever they want to get cozy.
3. PERSONALIZED KITCHEN UTENSILS
Whether your mom or your dad spends the most time around the kitchen, unwrapping some personalized wooden kitchen tools will make them even more eager to whip up a home-cooked meal when you visit for breaks. “I took plain spatulas and spoons and I put her initials on the backside,” University of Texas at Austin senior Richy Little said. “Then I painted ‘food’ on one side and ‘love’ on the other because she loves food.” All it takes to impress your parents with your artistic skills is a pack of wooden utensils and some paint. It’s okay if you’re not the most creative with the paint—just adding a bit of color does the trick. Want to go the extra mile? Paint a mason jar to put them in.
Craft up some cute keychains to replace those tacky ones your parents just had to have from that beach trip three years ago. You can make matching ones or personalize them for each parent. Either way they’ll appreciate the DIY gift everyday when they look at their keys. Peruse through your local craft stores for tiny trinkets to attach to key rings and you’re half way done.
5. DECORATED COFFEE MUGS
If your earliest memories involve your parents groggily making a pot of coffee before trying to dress you, then a personalized mug is a great DIY gift to make yourself part of their morning routine. “My mom likes coffee and tea, so a decorated mug would be a perfect gift for her,” University of Texas at Austin junior Hanna Stewart said. “You can also decorate a soup mug if your parents really love soup.” Even if you aren’t super artistic, there are plenty of designs you can easily copy from the internet, like holly leaves or snowflakes for the holidays. If you actually paid attention in your high school art class, go ahead and freestyle it. Grab a Sharpie, a plain mug and don’t be afraid to mix and match colors.
6. CUSTOMIZED WINE STOPPERS
Who are we kidding? Your parents know that this Christmas won’t be the first time you have a glass of wine. It’s okay to start giving more adult gifts now that you’re in college. If you know that your parents enjoy having a few too many glasses of wine with their friends after dinner on the weekends making some personalized stoppers might make your ‘rents more inclined to buy you a bottle of wine too. Everyone’s a winner! “You can decorate the wine bottle too to make it even better and more Christmas-y,” University of Texas at Austin junior Madelyn Guerra said. “Save an empty the bottle of wine and put some lights in it to go along with the wine stopper.” You can give them one each, or DIY several different ones that they’ll use forever.
7. DECORATED OVEN MITTS
Oven mitts are another way to low-key encourage your parents to make you more food before you go back to college. Picking the right fabrics to match the kitchen seems like a struggle, but the real challenge is sewing. Just make sure you don’t wait until the last minute. Allow time to stitch everything the way you want it so you aren’t up the night before panicked and bloody from the accidental needle stabs. “I might do a polka dot design for my mom with different colors for the dots,” University of Texas at Austin senior Celeste Guajardo said. “For my dad, he loves the Dallas Cowboys so I would find a way to incorporate that into the design.” If you’re fresh out of ideas or can’t remember the color scheme of your parents’ kitchen, fabric with your school’s colors or logo will do.
8. PICTURE FRAME (WITH A PICTURE)
Parents love pictures of their children; It’s a universal fact. Your inner creativity will really shine while you’re decorating the frame, and your parents will appreciate the heartfelt gift. The possibilities are endless for a picture frame: You can draw, paint or even cover with a frame with fabric. Just don’t forget to Mod Podge everything when you’re done and give it time to dry. “For pictures, I always get a cheap thin framed picture frame and then get a picture that the other person would like and put a bible verse or a quote on it,” University of Texas at Austin junior Laura Lindsey said. Print a family picture (or your most stunning solo portrait) for the frame before you give it to them so it can go on the wall or the table right away. Photos are easy to reprint, but homemade frames are one-of-a-kind.
9. PHOTO COASTERS
Photo coasters are a great DIY gift for parents who are obsessed with preserving the wood finish on the dining room table. If you want to take a step up from the traditional photo frame, photo coasters will impress your parents (and your parents’ fancy friends who notice things like coasters). Your parents will swear that you ordered the coasters online, and you’ll get a proud moment to announce that you made them yourself. If you’ve got enough family photos around the house, try using photos of other things like flowers, your dog or landscapes.
10. DECORATIVE ALTOID BOX
Channel your inner eight-year-old self and go for a classic gift: a decorated box. Whether it ends up holding your mom’s jewelry on her dresser or your dad uses it to keep up with drill bits in the garage, your parents have enough knickknacks to find a use for it. Get as creative as you want while decorating an Altoid box and your parents will appreciate the hell out of it. If your creative juices are flowing this season and you have too many ideas for one tiny box, make several. You could even put labels on the boxes to give your parents ideas of what to put in them.