Here's a lowish-effort holiday craft you can do with your kids while, at the same time, personalizing the gifts you give this year. (The phrase "killing two birds with one stone" comes to mind but just doesn't seem either appropriate to the festive season or humanitarian!)
With simple potato stamps, my boys and I turned some plain kraft paper into cheap, eco-friendly holiday gift wrap.
We started this project during a weekend playdate. As we were about to begin, Cameron's friend asked if I could make a stamp of Indiana Jones on a motorcycle. After I explained that my potato-carving skills were limited to Christmas tree and star, we were underway.
You've may have done this before and it's pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you're wondering, here's how.
1. Cut a potato in half lengthwise. Using a small paring knife or similar, score your design into the potato's flesh.
2. About 5 mm into the surface, begin to cut away the area outside of your design. Your shape should now protrude from the rest of the potato.
(I didn't think ahead and actually take a picture of what this looks like as one carves the potato, but here is what our stamps looked like when we were done. A blue star for Hanukkah would also be great.)
3. Spread kraft paper out on wipe-able flooring, using board books or other weights to prevent it from curling, and keep a wet cloth nearby. Tempera paint is pretty washable, but obviously it helps if kids are not wearing their best threads.
4. It works better and wastes less paint if you use a small brush to cover the surface of your stamp with paint. To share the activity, one person (perhaps a parent, if you're keen on mess containment) can use the paint brush and pass it to the other to do the actual stamping. This is the glory job your kid really wants anyway. You can get 2 or 3 stamps out of one use of the paint brush, particularly if you instruct your kids to press down firmly and then use their fingers to compress different sides of the potato.
It should turn out imperfect but charming, something like this.
5. Let it dry for an hour or so (just to be sure) and you're ready to wrap!
With a little ribbon and some inexpensive gift tags (mine were $2.50 for 16 from Canadian Tire), this low-end, homemade wrapping paper looks pretty good.
(When Cameron was a baby, I painted his foot using green paint and used it as a stamp. It made grandmas and aunties swoon.)
Since I'm on the gift wrap beat today, it seems, here's a story I wrote for yourhome.ca on how to store gift wrap while trying to keep it nearby for the next few stolen moments.