Arts and crafts in special education can be tricky. The challenge is in finding age appropriate gifts that students with disabilities can make.
Self contained special education teachers often have a hard time finding christmas gift ideas to make with their class. Here are some handmade gift for students with disabilities can make for someone special.
As I’m writing this, I have so many gift giving holidays in my near future: Teacher’s Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, plus the end of the school year. I needed some homemade gift ideas, so I got thinking.
Finding Gift Ideas that Students with Disabilities Can Make
I wanted homemade gifts that were inexpensive and easy to make. I tried to find some ideas gifts that students with disabilities could make. This was a tricky task when I taught in a life skills program. It was a challenge finding craft ideas for disabled students because I wanted something they could make themselves without it looking babyish or age inappropriate.
Teachers of students with severe disabilities often find themselves limited to preschool level craft activities. Adorable, but not exactly age appropriate for older students.
Or even worse, special education teachers may attempt more complicated crafts, but then they end up doing most of it themselves. I’ve always felt that if it’s the student’s name going at the top of the paper, then it should be the student’s work. Call me crazy.
1. Plantable Seed Paper
This is a pretty cool concept and it was a fun gift to make. You make your own paper with seeds mixed into it. Write a sweet note, and let your gift recipient plant it! Within a week, they’ll have a nice botanical surprise sprouting up.
It sounds tricky, but I’m telling you it’s really not. This would be really fun to do with your students with disabilities. I did it with my kids at home and I would highly recommend making this craft with a special education class.
Here’s how you do it:
- Tear pieces of paper into tiny bits. You can use a shredder if you have one.
- Soak your paper overnight.
- Scoop your paper out with a flour sifter or slotted spoon.
- Blend it into a pulp mixture.
- Add seeds and gently mix in (Don’t blend the seeds).
- Scoop pulp out and press into your desired shape, using cookie cutters if you have them.
- Blot, blot, blot. Have lots of towels ready to press and soak up all of the extra water from your paper shapes. Blot until you think you’re done… and then blot some more. Trust me.
- Dry your paper shapes as much as possible. Flip them over after a few hours to dry the bottom. We let ours dry for two days, flipping them over a few times to dry them evenly.
- Write something on your paper and give it to your special friend or family member.
- Instruct them to plant their paper gift in soil as they would with regular seeds.
2. Chocolate Covered Pretzels
This one is really fun to do in a special education classroom, believe it or not. It sounds hard but it’s not. This is totally something that you can do with a special education class. It’s high on my list of favorite gifts that students with disabilities can make. There are a few tricks to make it easier.
I brought an electric griddle to my classroom to heat up a bowl of chocolate melts. This was a little safer than using a stove, plus I could place it at a convenient height for my students.
I placed the griddle in the corner of the room and invited students over one by one. Students were guided to pick up their pretzels using tongs and dip them into the melted chocolate.
Then they lay the pretzels on wax paper to cool down. Students added sprinkles and colored sugar before they cooled off. When the pretzels are finished, students popped them into cellophane bags and tied them off with pretty ribbon.
This was a great multi-step prevocational activity. You can do it with cookies, fruits, and candy too, so don’t feel limited to just pretzels. The students enjoyed making them and the parents always seemed happy to receive their treats. This one was always a hit!
3. A Low Maintenance Plant
Make your plant gift more sophisticated with some burlap and ribbon as a pretty touch. It can work for male or female teachers. Assembling a plant pot is a fun and satisfying activity for special education students. Or anyone. It’s good to get in touch with nature when you can.
I recommend hen and chick succulents for plant gifts, but you can use any plant really. Succulents can get expensive if you’re buying them one by one, but if you get a couple and let them grow, they’ll multiply like crazy and you’ll have tons to give away.
I was gifted a pot of hen and chick succulents a few years ago and I can’t recommend them highly enough for black- thumbed gardeners such as myself. With little to no care (really! I don’t even water them), I now have HUNDREDS of happy little succulents all over my yard, spilling out of every pot I own.
Find out what plants grow well in your area and start there. Use this Native Plant Finder tool. I live in New Jersey and I can vouch for succulents doing well here. If you live in Florida, you might want to try air plants or something else. You get the idea.
Use my FREE GIFT TAGS to jazz up your plant gift! Just download, print, and stick ’em on your plant. After I created them for my own use, I uploaded them into my TPT store as a nice little freebie. Super cute gift! And it’s free, so how can you go wrong?
4. Fingerprint Calendar
This one is great for young children. I have received tons of positive feedback on it so I have to share it with you. It’s a calendar that features monthly poems and showcases the child’s fingerprints in a unique themed craft.
Parents are always thrilled to receive this fingerprint calendar. They often tell me that it’s something they will always treasure and that it is one of their favorite homemade gifts.
5. Napkin Rings
This one’s super easy and quick if you’re short on time. Get some jazzy beads and have students string them onto a pipe cleaner. Twist the ends together and tuck those pointy ends in.
You could even make your own beads out of clay if you are so inclined. Once the napkin holders are done, you can send them home on a napkin or wrapped around a nice note to your special recipient. Easy Peasy!
6. Goody Bag Toppers
If you’re looking for a gift for a class or group, goody bags could be the way to go. They’re fun for children to assemble too, so let the kids join in! Just fill a ziploc bag with treats, fold the Goody Bag Topper over, staple, and done.
Easy, cute, and they come in every occasion! Get your students involved in the creation process with these. They can totally be gifts that students with disabilities can make.
Get them here.
Teacher Mom Life
I used the Goody Bag Toppers for end of the year gifts for my son’s class. If you’re interested in more mom hacks, check out my Screen Time Policy. It’s a struggle tearing the kids away from their devices and this policy adds a little reading into their day. It was a game changer in our house.
I like keeping the kids busy (so they don’t destroy the house and strangle each other). Making lemon volcanoes is our new favorite rainy day activity. It’s a super easy science experiment that requires stuff you probably have in your kitchen right now. You need to try it.
Gifts You Can Buy
Okay, so not everyone wants to make their gifts. I wrote a series of posts listing suggestions for educational gifts for kids by age. You can’t make these with your students, but these ideas might save you some time. Here are my best gift ideas by age:
If you make any of my homemade gifts, lemme see! Tag me on Facebook or Instagram so I can see how they came out!
Here’s the Fingerprint Calendar Sample (It’s FREE). Enjoy!
Here are some related items you may be interested in:
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