Kids gifts: DIY painting

DIY kids art

Images and text by Sarita Rajiv

I’m a big fan of personalised gifts and whenever I have the time (and get struck by a particularly good idea!) I prefer to make a gift as opposed to buying one. And it turns out that when it comes to kids gifts, there are lots of fun ideas to try out.

Last week, we were invited to the birthday celebrations of my daughter’s friends – a four-year old boy. Since I knew a few things about this little fella, I decided to make a special painting featuring his current favourite soft toy — a crow he calls Kaka:-) I had a lot of fun making this. Here’s the tutorial if you’d like to try your hand at a DIY painting for kids. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A pencil and eraser
  • Canvas board
  • Acrylic colours and paint brushes
  • Acrylic pens (optional)
  • Spray varnish (you should get this at any arts/craft store)

DIY kids art

Before you start painting on the canvas, draw a rough sketch of what you have in mind on a piece of paper. I always do this as it gives me a perspective of the dimensions and what works or what doesn’t. At this stage, it’s easy to alter the sketch till you get what you have in mind.

3 DIY kid's art

Next, take the canvas and coat it with one layer of white paint. As the canvas was big, I used a sponge — the kind you use in kitchens, just use a new one — instead of using a brush. Since this is just the base layer and you’re not doing any shading here, using the sponge covers more area and gets the job done faster.

DIY kids gift ideas

Then take blue paint and using gentle brush strokes, cover the entire canvas. I used a darker shade of blue at the top, making it lighter as I went down. I also allowed some parts of the white paint underneath to show through. This gives the effect of a beautiful sky in shades of blue.

DIY kids art

When the paint is dry (important!), draw a faint pencil outline of the image you want to paint. You can always erase any mistakes and start afresh. You can skip this step if you’re confident of painting directly. Here’s what my painting looked at this stage.

DIY kids art

Now here’s the fun part. Start filling in colours into the drawing. I always do at least two layers of paint to get the shades right.  You can play around with the colours creating two or more shades of the same colour for depth. For instance, I used a basic brown as the first shade for the tree. For the next layer, I added a bit of black paint to the brown paint giving some areas a darker shade. This technique will give your painting more depth.

I then wrote out a quote to go with the image. “Spread your wings and fly!” I love this quote, it’s so inspirational.  I used an acrylic paint pen to write this. You can always write it using a thin paint brush as well. Here’s what the painting looked like after the first layer of paint.

DIY kids gifts

And here’s the final product after a second layer of paint, some shading and highlighting the outlines. Can you see the difference? See the leaves for instance or even the crow.

DIY kids art

Once the paint dries off completely, spray a paint varnish (spraying it from a can is easier and less messier than doing it with a brush ). The coat of varnish keeps the colours strong and gives your painting a longer life. That’s it, we’re done. Not too complicated right?

You can customise your painting to include any animals, birds or even creatures of the sea. The possibilities are endless. Kids love having art work of their favourite animals, toys or cartoon characters. All you need to know is what the kid receiving the gift likes and you’ll have one wonderful gift to give.


A piece of a place: British gift ideas

British Gift ideas - Classic British telephone booth

Hello everyone and wish you a happy new year! 2013 ended with a much awaited family trip to the United Kingdom and I’m excited to share with you ideas for goodies and gifts that are typically English or British.

Whenever I travel to a new city or country, I try to get back something that is representative of that place. I call it a piece of a place. Sometimes these are simple souvenirs that become a part of my family’s travel memories and many a time they work out as wonderful gifts. My trip to London was a whirlwind of catching up with friends and relatives, sight-seeing and of course gift and souvenir hunting! So here  my favourite British-themed gift ideas.

English Breakfast Set

British gifts from London

What could be more British than an English breakfast with tea and marmalade. As a thank you gift for our friends who hosted us in London, we got them a Crabtree & Evelyn breakfast set of Oat and Fruit Crumbles, thick cut Breakfast Marmalade and bags of smooth English Breakfast Tea.

Queen coffee mug

English and British gift ideas

So what’s the most obvious thing you get back home from the United Kingdom? Well, you can get the Queen. There’s a huge variety of  royalty and Queen-themed gifts you can get. Like these coffee mugs for instance; makes for a nice little gift for the women in your life. If you buy the Queen Elizabeth mug in cream and blue you’ll also be doing your bit for cancer research as these are sold by Cancer Research UK. The white mug with the red crown is available in the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain.

English and British gift ideas

Scottish shortbread 

Double-decker shortbread tin from London

When you’re in London, it’s hard to miss the  double-decker buses. The trip on the upper level of a double-decker bus is a fun adventure especially for kids. And if you’re tempted to take back this little piece of London, you’re in luck. Several stores like Marks&Spencers Food and Churchill’s Confectionery store, among others, stock Scottish shortbread packaged in a red double-decker bus tin.

English toffee telephone box

London souvenir gifts for kids

Combine the old style telephone booths or kiosks with English toffee and you’ve got another British classic that would make a welcome gift for kids. Once the toffee is in the tummy, the telephone box can be used as a piggy bank. It is beautifully designed and can make a welcome addition to your collection of travel mementos as well. You can find these at several stores including Churchill’s Confectionery and Selfridges.

Cricket collectibles

Gift for cricket lovers

If you’re despairing over what British gift you can get for the men in your life, may Lord help you! For a cricket lover, a visit to London would be incomplete without a tour of Lord’s Cricket Ground, the mecca of cricket. And a quick stop at the Lord’s shop should arm you with some cricket collectibles like this antique bronze effect fridge magnet. Non cricket lovers can just put this cricket bat to practical use as bottle opener.

There you go. Five gifts from London that are typically British. Do you have any British favourites of your own?

What’s the story behind your gift?

The fingers work away busily; moving to a happy beat, working swiftly at times, or at a languid pace at others. They cut and clip, they stich and stick. Holding needles and brushes, rulers and scissors, the hands work to create a thing of beauty, a delightful gift.  

Do you wonder sometimes where a particular gift came from? Who was it made by, how long did it take to make it? What is the story behind the gift? Etsy Gifts, the people behind all things handmade, captures this thought in this lovely video as it encourages us to share the story behind the gifts we create or give – Every Gift Has a Story

So what’s the story behind your gift?

Christmas gifts for teens

Teens tend to be pretty vocal about what kind of Christmas gifts they want, don’t they? They have strong likes and dislikes at this stage and almost everything is judged by how cool or groovy it is. The flip side about gifting for teens is that they also change their minds with alarming frequency and you may be left wondering what gift to get them.

Here’s my pick of Christmas gift ideas for teens. These would be apt for both teenage girls and boys.

Hunger Games Trilogy: Is your teen a voracious reader? Or perhaps you want your teen to spend less time on the computer and more time reading? The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a popular read among teens thanks to its teen protagonist and exciting plot with an element of reality television.

Personalised phone cases: While a new smart phone may be an expensive buy you’d rather avoid, there’s a whole range of mobile phone accessories you can gift your teen this Christmas. Funky and individualistic phone covers and cases are the flavour of the season. I love this personalised wood phone where you can add images of your own.

Christmas gifts for teens

Headphones: Teens and music are inseparable. Gift a set of trendy headphones and you’ve got yourself a happy teen. There’s a wide variety of head phones in the market, so you can always pick and choose based on your budget.

Lego VW Camper Van: What I love about Lego is that you can enjoy it at any age; you’re never too old for Lego. Lego has developed this VW Camper Van specially for teens who are 16 and above.  This VW Camper Van from Lego comes complete with wonderful interiors.

Christmas gift ideas for teens

Gift ideas for teens

Christmas gifts for teens

Images used by permission,© 2012 The LEGO Group

What do you think? I’d love to hear  if you have any favourites for the teens on your Christmas list this year.

Housewarming Gifts: Salt & Pepper Shakers

Housewarming gifts - salt & pepper shakers

When it comes to housewarming gifts, I think one-of-a-kind salt & pepper shakers are just perfect. They’re small; you know they won’t take up too much space. They’re useful and practical. And they can be gorgeous centre pieces for a dining table or kitchen platform.

I love this Yin &Yang Shaker by Yanko Design. It feels like there is a warm hug or embrace along with the housewarming gift.

Housewarming gifts - Salt & pepper shakers


This Bird Salt & Pepper Shaker duo by Keladeco can bring a pop of colour to any home.

Housewarming gifts - Salt & Pepper Shakers


Inspired by drinking straws, this Straw Salt & Pepper Shaker set by DesignK looks like it’s walked out from an animation movie.

Housewarming gifts - Straw Salt and pepper shakers


We all could do with a lit bit of seasoning to spice up our homes. With these salt & pepper shakers as housewarming gifts, you’ll be helping someone do just that. 


5 tips to return-proof your gifts

5  tips to return-proof your gifts

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people in the United States receive unwanted gifts and almost half of them (a whopping 46 percent) resell or regift what they get? I was surprised to read about it in this e-Bay study. And nearly 40 per cent return their Christmas gifts. What a waste of time and effort.

Why do people return gifts to stores or regift them? It could be because the gift isn’t exciting and didn’t tap into any emotion  — it’s not something they want, it’s not something they’re saving up and pining for.  It’s a probably a duplicate of something they have or it’s just not in line with their hobbies, preferences or lifestyle.  Whatever the reason, you certainly don’t want to be the culprit who gave that sorry gift!

So, is gifting a lost cause? Not really; I wouldn’t let the statistics worry me. My experience says there are a few things you can do to choose gifts that are welcomed and liked, gifts your friends and family are happy to get. When the gift is right,  you know it’s not going to be returned, regifted or worse…resold.

5 tips to return-proof your gift

Image via

5 tips to choose gifts that are return-proof

1. Make a list: The first step to choosing a gift that won’t be returned or regifted is simple — make a list. I find that having a gift list always helps. I have a mental list of events and occasions that require gifting. If you can’t always remember, write them down and pin-up your list in a spot that’s visible on a daily basis.

Make a list of birthdays and anniversaries; special occasions like weddings, housewarmings and baby showers; milestone events like the big zero birthdays of your friends and family. That way, you won’t be caught by surprise and will have enough time to drum up a great gift.

2. Tune in: I’m often asked how I can be so certain about choosing a gift the recipient will like. The answer to that is: I’m not. Not all the time and not a hundred per cent.  But, I tune in; I listen carefully to what the people who matter to me are saying. I get clues from regular, day-to-day conversations about the things they like, things they are saving up for or things they need. A person’s hobbies or profession can also be a source of  gifting inspiration. For instance,  if you have a photographer friend who gets nostalgic about the days of film roll, gift them something that’s related to photography — like this film roll salt & pepper shaker. Based on what you learn, write down your gift ideas against the name of the person in your gift list.

Another question I’m asked is if I spend a lot of money on gifts. Not really. I do save up for special occasions. But even so, a good gift doesn’t have to involve an insane amount of money. People need or want different things at different times. I’m all for emotion, so I tend to rate a gift not by how much it costs, but by how it makes the recipient feel.

3. Scout around: Now that you have a few gift ideas in mind, scout around in stores and shops that could stock the gift you want. Also, figure out when they have their annual blowout sales or off-season sales. You end up buying the gift in advance, but you can save money by taking advantage of the sales. This is especially helpful when the gift is more expensive than you bargained for and is over budget.

Alternatively, if you are a DIYer and plan to make the gift yourself, scour the web for ideas and tips. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for the creatively inclined. I got the inspiration for this personalised gift from something similar I saw on the web. Make sure you plan well as creating something from scratch takes time and skill.

4. Build a stash:  Sometimes, even when I’m not looking for gifts, I stumble on things that are good gifts. At that time, I don’t who I’m going to give it to, so it goes into my gift stash. My gift stash typically contains unisex items like gorgeous stationery and small home decor items.  That way, they can be gifted to both men and women.  I always manage to find the right recipient for the gifts in my stash.

Build a small gift stash of your own , one you can dip into anytime. A word of caution — don’t include expensive gifts in your stash as it is money that can be used elsewhere.

5. Wrap it up: If the gift is great, why bother with gift wrapping, right? Wrong. Gift wrapping isn’t just about covering the gift in decorative paper. It’s about going one step further; it’s like the icing on the cake or a beautifully decorated dish at a restaurant. I liken it to a splendidly done window display. It adds another dimension and is the final flourish that completes a good gift. And for the recipient, it’s about the anticipation, the excitement of discovering what’s inside.

There you go. 5 tips to choose gifts that are return-proof.

There have been few rare occasions when, despite my best intentions and efforts, I’ve got it wrong. I choose something that didn’t quite turn out the way I expected or didn’t get the recipient very excited. In one instance, I even made a gifting faux pas. But, don’t let these missteps derail you because, it also helps to know what not to gift. It’s a bit like the reality TV show ‘What not to wear’ that transforms women with questionable dressing sense into women who look like they know exactly what clothes look good on them.  Sometimes, you have to get it wrong before you get it right. 

Try these tips and you’ll have gifts that won’t be returned, regifted or resold; your gifts will be welcomed and treasured!


Independence Day special: Indian gift wrapping

Indian gift wrapping ideas

Living in a country away from my own has meant that I’m hit by a wave of nostalgia and longing triggered by the smallest of things. Sometimes it’s triggered by the obvious – like seeing old pictures of family and friends back home. Sometimes it’s watching a fun Bollywood movie with its song and dance routine. On some occasions, it could be something I read or heard. Today, it happened thanks to it being India’s Independence Day.

I find that the best way to tackle nostalgia is to get active doing something with what caused it. So for today’s post, I’ve drummed up some Indian gift wrapping ideas and Indian gifts for you.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

I made these with a set of my Indian block prints and some acrylic colour paints. Using contrasting colours for the paint and the paper can give you a vibrant Indian pattern.

I combined a blue peacock print with a simple cream paper.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

For this vibrant pink paper, I made a band of marching elephants.

Indian gift wrapping ideas

I also found these Indian gift wrapping ideas on the web.

This one looks so fresh and colourful. I’m not sure I’d want to open this gift; I would be happy just looking at it.

Indian gift wrapping ideas


Adding a bit of bling and shine to standard brown paper wrapping.

Indian gift wrapping ideas


Indian gifts

Looking for some Indian gift ideas? Here’s a post I did earlier on gifts that have the distinct Indian touch. Here, you’ll find fun, unique Indian gifts in bright, vivacious colours.

Happy Independence Day to all Indians!