DIY Holiday Gifts (That Don’t Suck!)

DIY Christmas Gifts

I have a few claims to fame in my circles. The first is, of course, I’m the birth and postpartum nerd. Not many things excite me more than seeing new guidelines come out from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The second is that I bake all the things. Pies, cakes, brownies, rolls, bread… you name it, I bake it. The third is being a DIY queen. I have lovingly handcrafted party decor and gifts since I can remember. I got my crafty gene from my mom.

Nothing makes me happier around the holidays than choosing what handmade gift I’ll make for family and I’ve learned a few rules over the years.
1. Keep it simple. Unless you’re a skilled woodworker, don’t try to carve an intricate wooden chair.
2. Keep it useful. As darling as they are, not everyone will appreciate a mason jar-turned pincushion.
3. Multiple small things are great. Last year I did personalized coffee mugs for each family member and added something along with it (like tea or coffee) inside of a decorated box that they each kept.

Here are a few of my absolute favorite DIY gifts that anyone could easily make!

DIY Bath Salts or Herbal Bath
I did these two years ago and customized each salt based on the person’s favorite scents. You don’t need to be a perfumier to figure out the scents, just think about that person’s favorite candle or favorite smell. My mom, for example, likes bright, citrusy smells with a hint of musk. For her I blended orange, vanilla and patchouli. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, likes sweeter, floral smells. For her I did Geranium, Grapefruit and Vanilla. It’s so fun to customize the scent of your bath salt for each person!

The doula in me requires me to disclaim that essential oils are powerful and should be handled with care. Some oils are contraindicated in pregnancy, breastfeeding, in children and with certain medications.Make sure you look up the safety of each one before using it and giving it as a gift.

Personalized Mugs
I’ve done these a few different ways. One year I did plastic tumblers with paint pen and rhinestones for the grandmas. Last year, I did a custom mug for each person with a little saying for them. My little sister in law’s, for instance, said “Golden Child,” which is a running joke. I made another that said, “There’s a possibility this is wine.” Peruse Etsy or Pinterest, and you’ll find some clever sayings.

Anything Edible
There’s nothing that’s more wonderful than opening a box full of freshly made goodies. Not Martha Stewart? That’s OK! My microwave fudge recipe is foolproof:

3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
4T Butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

Prep an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Combine the first three ingredients and microwave in 1 minute increments until smooth, stirring in between. Once smooth, add the last two ingredients, stir and pour into prepared pan. Chill for about 2 hours, cut and package!

I promise, anyone can make it. It would also a be a fun one to include the kids with!

A Gift Basket, Box or Bag
Not a single crafty bone in your body? Fear not! There’s a DIY gift you can do. A basket, box or bag full of themed items is always a great bet. Your dad like Jack and Coke? Give him a rocks glass, a small bottle of whiskey and a couple cans of Coke! Is your sister-in-law into all things girly? Pull together a large glass cookie jar filled with nail files, lip balms and mini pamper products (you can usually find little ones at Sephora or Ulta by the register. Target carries some too in the travel minis section!). Find a theme and run with it.

Handmade gifts are my favorite because they require you to really think hard about the recipient and be creative with your gift giving. Here’s hoping you’ve been inspired to pull off some DIY gifts of your own (that don’t suck!)

Mallory Shannon is a birth and postpartum doula in the Kansas City Metro area, wife and mother of two. She had every intent to leave until she and her husband moved their family downtown and fell in love with the city and the culture. Self-professed coffee addict and foodie, she enjoys all that the Kansas City food and coffee scene has to offer. When she isn't chasing down her one- and three-year-old, you'll find her hitting the Farmer's market, teaching and providing Kansas City's family centered birth and postpartum doula care. You can follow Northland Doula at, or on Instagram @northlanddoula.