Special Gifts by Special Kids

8:21 AM

It can be a challenge finding the perfect gift for students to take home to their parents, especially if your students have special needs. You want it to be something that they made themselves, but not something that looks babyish or age-inappropriate. When working with older students with severe disabilities, finding an appropriate craft can be especially difficult.
When I worked with middle school aged students with low functioning autism, I found myself faced with this dilemma every year.  Students with disabilities should be able to create something to take home to their parents, but what? Their gifts need to be on par with their needs, but also age appropriate.
Many teachers find themselves limited to preschool level crafts… adorable, but not really appropriate for older students. Or they’ll take on more complicated crafts more suitable to older kids… but then they end up doing most of it themselves. Sound familiar? If it’s the student’s name going at the top of the paper, then it should probably be the student doing most of the craft.
I’ve come up with a few ideas, some of which I’ve done with my classes and some I’ve come across on Pinterest and elsewhere. If you have more homemade gift ideas for students with special needs, please share them in the comments. I’m sure we can all benefit from each other’s ideas.

Seed Paper
Thank you Pinterest for this idea. The idea of it is that you recycle paper by breaking it down into a mush, add seeds, press it into the shape of your choice and end up with a new piece of paper that can be planted! 
I did this craft at home with my two sons, aged 4 and 6 so I can tell you first hand that it is totally doable.
Here’s how you make Plantable Seed Paper:

  1. Tear paper into tiny pieces. You can use a shredder if you have one.
  2. Soak your paper overnight.
  3. Scoop your paper out with a flour sifter or slotted spoon.
  4. Blend your paper into a pulp mixture.
  5. Add seeds and gently mix in (Don’t blend the seeds).
  6. Scoop pulp out and press into your desired shape, using cookie cutters if you have them.
  7. Blot, blot, blot. Have lots of towels ready to press and soak up all of the extra water from your paper shapes.
  8. 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.

And that’s it! You can thread a ribbon through the top of your paper shape to create an ornament if you like. You can write a nice message on your paper or give it as is. Your recipient can then plant the paper and grow flowers (or whatever type of seeds you mixed in)! This one is a Pinterest win!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Or chocolate covered anything. I used to bring an electric griddle to my classroom to heat up a bowl of chocolate melts off to the corner of the room. I invited students over one by one to pick up their pretzels using tongs and dip them into the melted chocolate. Then we’d lay them out on wax paper to cool. 
Later we'd pop them into cellophane bags and tie them off with pretty ribbon. The kids enjoyed making them and the parents seemed happy receiving them. This one was always popular!

Okay, this one probably isn’t that original. You’ve probably painted pots and plopped seeds or something into them many times before. But hear me out. 
What if instead of the usual bright colored paints and usual flowers we made it a little more sophisticated. How about adding some burlap and ribbon to the pot with some pretty succulents instead? 
Succulents can be expensive if you’re buying them one by one, but if you get a couple and let them grow, they will 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 now I have HUNDREDS of happy little succulents everywhere all over my yard. I don’t even have enough pots to contain them all! If succulents wouldn’t work well where you’re from, find a pretty plant that grows well in your area and go with that. For example, air plants would be perfect for this project if you’re from the Florida area.
I gave these succulents to my sons' teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day. Just switch out the ribbon to suit the occasion. Off white lacy ribbon always looks classy with burlap. On a side note, if shabby chic décor is your thing, you might be into my burlap and ribbon classroom labels.

Okay, so this one is a little younger than the others, but it’s a resource in my TPT shop, so we’re including it. And who doesn’t love a super cute calendar anyway? It’s a calendar resource that features fingerprint crafts along with a seasonally fitting poem. 
I love this because you end up creating something that parents will treasure and it even incorporates some language arts. Bonus: It’s super cost effective. You just buy it once and get yearly updates for life.

Napkin Rings
I’ve never done this one, but it looks simple. Basically you just string beads, tie it off, and you’re done. You could even make your own beads out of clay if you are so inclined. The only drawback to this one is that I’m not sure if parents of nonverbal children would know what they are unless you sent home a note. But it’s a cute idea and appropriate for any age.
When working with students with severe disabilities, we need to be sensitive to their needs without giving them activities geared towards babies. It can be tricky finding ideas, but they’re out there. I tend to search for crafts and DIY that are not necessarily designed with kids in mind. And from those, I look at the ones that look simple enough to do with children with limited cognitive or motor skills. Then I narrow it down more and choose the ones that look cost effective enough to do with a whole class. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below or on my Facebook or Instagram.
Oh, and if you’re in the gift giving mood, I also have these GoodyBag Toppers, perfect for class gifts! Fill a Ziploc bag with treats, fold the Goody Bag Topper over, staple, and done. Easy and it looks cute. Get them here.

 I hope this holiday season bring you stress- free fun with your loved ones!
Visit my blog at https://teachingexceptionalthinkers.com/ for more fun teaching ideas!

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by Christy from Exceptional Thinkers

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