I realize that many people these days don't have much time for making things. Shopping at malls for imported objects has become a tradition quite unlike the more romantic ideal of secretly crafting beautiful and useful objects to give to family and friends. The following is from Kindergarten in a Nutshell (1899):
"WHAT SHALL WE MAKE?These things may sound foreign to you. ( I hope not!) If you must buy things let those things be tools and materials through which we can renew our interest in our own creative capacities.
"Do you remember, when you were a child, the pastimes you delighted in? Do you remember making sand-pies, pricking holes in paper, stringing seeds and flowers and nuts, plaiting book-marks and May baskets, folding pussy-cat stairs, playing cat's cradle, drawing pictures with slate and lead pencil, cutting out figures, sewing on stray bits of cloth with your thread tied into your needle? Do you remember all these things, and, as you read them over, do they not recall to you happy summer mornings out of doors, busy rainy days by mother's side, and bright, firelit evenings when you watched in delighted admiration father's skilful fingers as he fashioned stars and rosettes, and paper caps and fly traps, and boats that would sail?"
Here are a few off the top of my head ideas for creative gifts that give the child (or adult) creative capacity.
Delta Twine has netting needles and supplies for making your own nets. A child could be kept busy for months on this one. He or she would learn a few things, develop a huge level of confidence and never shy from simple things like tying shoes. The nets could be used to catch aquatic life and small game for study, and might lead your child into a passion for the outdoors. Froebel did this with his students.
Anything from the Lee Valley catalog (for children or adults) would lead to some form of deeper, more fertile engagement whether in the wood shop or garden.
Shop for tools of learning... craft kits, blocks, rope, and the like. Can you imagine what an 8 year old boy could do with a hundred foot hank of 1/2 in rope? He might learn how to tie knots, climb trees, and develop in all kinds of unexpected ways. Larger than normal ropes make it easier for the child to observe as various knots are learned and tied.
Knitting supplies, pocket knives, hammers, saws, chunks of wood (better than coal) are all things that a modern kid should find meaningful if left in a stocking. These things also invite parental participation and engagement.
Am I kidding? Parents are lined up at Walmart to buy xboxes. I must be dreaming of a better time.
Make, fix and create...