5 Grand Gifts Dad Can Make For His Toddler During The Christmas Holiday

It is my pleasure to introduce an amazing Orange Brain Hands-on Dad, as a Holiday Blogger. Pete Densmore is the author of a new book titled DADspirations: The 1st 100 Days of Fatherhood. Pete is the father of two, but he doesn’t consider himself an expert in parenthood by any means. He makes the same number of mistakes as every other parent and doesn’t have any fancy combination of letters after his name. Pete believes that anyone can be an inspired dad as long as he wants to put the time, effort and heart into becoming one.

Below is Pete’s Holiday Gust Post, which is colorfully and meticulously filed with 5 projects and grand ideas for Dads……

DADspirations: the 1st 100 Days of Fatherhood is a book that offers a strategy for the expecting/new father focusing on 35 weekly ideas that Dad can do for himself, his wife and his newborn. A few of these ideas, which Densmore refers to as DADspirations, include:

  • Send your loving wife to the spa, which secures for you an afternoon of introducing Bob Ross and Kung Fu to your baby.
  • Develop a baby birth time capsule, which captures all of the precious moments from a day you’re likely to forget.
  • Build a toy box, which gives you the perfect excuse to spend an entire day alone in the garage with power tools and beer.
  • Make up a holiday, which affords time for infant and grandma to bond, and gives you and your wife time for nookie.

ATTENTION DADS: the holidays are here, and if you’re like me, there is a shortage of money, time and access to get your child the “perfect” gift for the holidays. And by definition, to a toddler, perfect is defined as practically anything. After all, he or she is 2, their expectations will never be lower. However, instead of going broke, crazy or pissed off at what you can’t get for little junior(ette), why don’t you plan on getting your hands dirty this winter and make something?

It’s a crazy concept, right? A gift that requires little financial investment, can be tailored to your schedule and is actually feasible to make. What it lacks in “show-and-tell bragging rights” to his buddies at daycare, it makes up for in something that we all probably don’t give our little ones enough of: heart & soul. Groundbreaking stuff right here, dads.

A little hokey, sure—but then again, it’s the sentimental gifts from my parents (spaghetti ornament with a small picture frame of my Dad) that I have kept over the years while the Star Wars action figures were all sold in a garage sale after high school. Of course, in hindsight, it was a horrible idea to sell what are now collector’s items and could likely be worth the equivalent of a down payment on a modest home. But, I digress.

So, if you have a son or daughter between the ages of 1—4, or know someone who does, below are
5 Gifts Dad Can Make for His Toddler for Christmas:

Gingerbread Fort, Drums, Reindeer Dust, Rock and Roll Alphabet Puzzle, and Star Wars Character Flashcard!

1. Gingerbread Fort
While the neighbor kids get to spend the afternoon with their grandma making gingerbread houses, you can be creating a candy-coated fort of awesomeness. Fortunately, toddlers are small, so you need something just big enough for your little Yoda to crawl in and out of. Ideally, you want two cardboard boxes. If you’re the romantic type who’s buying your wife a refrigerator for the holidays, then you are golden. If you’re like the rest of the 95% of dads, it’s time to either hijack the packaging boxes of old keepsakes from your basement or conduct a dumpster hunt. Once you have your boxes, you’ll want to start cutting boxes accordingly:

After you’ve constructed the foundation, it’s time to start decorating.  Remember, we’re looking to preserve cash, and hopefully you haven’t spent anything up to this point, so my advice is to conduct an in-house analysis before heading to your local Family Dollar (save Target for when your kids grow up asking you to make them something in public, like a tree house). Below are decorations every Gingerbread Fort needs and things you can use in your house:

  • Snow: things that are white (paint, tissue, toilet paper, paper towel, cotton balls, socks, etc.)
  • Candy: you need lots of color, preferably greens, browns, pinks (use leftover cardboard to make “gumdrop circles, wrapped candy, lollipops” and use paint, markers, holiday ribbon or wrapping paper to give your fort some bling)

2. Drums
We’re going to keep this nice and easy, so for this gift, you only need 3 things: packing tape, scissors and a drum shell, which could be anything from coffee can, baby formula can, paint can, PVC container, etc… Whichever container you choose, make sure of 2 things: 1) it’s rigid because, as us dads can imagine, junior is going to be wailing away as soon as he or she gets their hands on it and 2) the container needs to allow for air flow, meaning if it has a base, the base needs to be cut off or at least a golf ball sized hole needs to be cut on the container’s side, just above the base (having a base will trap the air and stop it from vibrating). If you’re feeling Keith Moon-ish (or Dave Grohl-ish, if you were born after 1980) make a couple of different sizes for sound variety. The first step is to make a cross using the packing tape across the container opening, ensuring that each strip is stretched tight from one end to the other. Once you’ve established the cross, use several additional strips to cover the entire opening covering the whole area and not leaving any holes. To be on the safe side, its better to have two layers of tape throughout.  This will leave you with the center of the drum being thick with tape, which is a good thing. Your drum is now playable; either by drum sticks, chopsticks, yardsticks, or simply your hands. If you’re the decorating type, this is the optimal time to introduce your son and daughter to some future tattoo considerations:

  • For your son: skull and crossbones, flames of fire and “I Heart Mom”
  • For your daughter: butterflies, ivy with thorns and “Nobody Understands Me”

3. Reindeer Dust
My 2 yr. old son and I went to Home Depot a couple of weeks ago. Santa was there. Instead of a “hello” or “I want ‘stuff’ for Christmas”, my little guy asked, “Where’s your reindeer?” What can I say? The kid loves them, and why shouldn’t he? As one of the most adored animals of all-time, reindeer can fly, contribute to nearly ever kid’s favorite day of the year and they have antlers. And by default, anything with antlers is automatically awesome. Fact. As luck would have it, this gift actually achieves two things: 1) a cost-effective, unique gift for junior and 2) a way to guilt your child into behaving like a good little boy—if you play your cards right. To make the dust, you need the following common household items: glitter, sugar, oats, Ziploc bag and ribbon (bells are optional). If you don’t have any of these items, $5 and a quick trip to your local pharmacy should get you what you need. Mix the glitter, sugar and oats into the Ziploc bag, shake a few times and tie the ribbon around the top. Give this gift a week before Christmas with the following story: each night, have your little one dump a little bit on your front lawn, saving a bulk of it for Christmas Eve. The sugar and glitter in the bag combine with the grass (or snow, if your lucky to have it) to help guide the reindeer to your home, while the oats help feed the reindeer while Santa is dropping off the toys. While some families only dump the dust on Christmas Eve, I feel there are missing out on a prime opportunity for shaming your child into behaving extra special nice for an additional 7 days. We know that Santa is making sure the kid’s have been nice and not naughty, but an extra little kick with this reindeer stuff can’t hurt, right? Extending the dust dumping by a week prior with the notion that this magical powder can only be used by good little boys and girls will further help deter the rants and raves that are almost inevitable at this stage in our kid’s lives.

4. Rock and Roll Alphabet Puzzle
Every Dad can teach his child the ABC’s, but not every Dad can do it using Aerosmith, Guns ‘n Roses and The Killers.  Here’s your chance to make sure your kid knows the music you want him or her to know, while also teaching one of the fundamentals of learning—and all for the very, very low price of less a few bucks, if that. Again, hopefully you have most of this stuff lying around the house, but at the simplest level, you will need the following: cardboard (do you see a pattern here?), a few sheets of white paper, glue and a pen or pencil. Before you begin drawing on the paper, know that you should use less than 20 puzzle pieces, and they should be large. While we all think we are raising the next boy or girl genius, chances are, between the ages of 1—4, your little one is closer to Bam Bam than Rain Man. So, stick with 10-15, large puzzle pieces for now and when he or she is older and ready for the next advancement in “puzzletry,” step up your game with double the pieces and smaller the sizes. The first step in making your puzzle is to draw it out on paper, using at least 4 sheets of paper (note: you can also grab album covers off the Internet and print them out if you’re feeling uber creative). Once you are happy with the bands that associate with each letter, glue your sheets of paper to your cardboard—make sure you’ve got solid coverage so you don’t end up with unraveling corners. Make sure you have a nice smooth adherence and avoid any wrinkles or bubbles (then again, your toddler is 4 years or younger, so again, the pretty colors alone will blow him or her away). After letting the glue dry (at least a few hours), flip the cardboard over. Using a pen, draw the puzzle pattern on the backside of the cardboard. Like any good puzzle, make sure they are all different while still being able to lock into each other.  Finally, grab a pair of scissors and start cutting along the puzzle pattern. You should be left with 20 puzzle pieces and an ABC methodology that will make the Gods of Guitar smile upon you forever. PS: at your next holiday party, be sure to mention this to all of the parents that your 3 yr. old boy can rattle off Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Petty, U2 and Van Halen—you will send the Dads in state of panic that they have epically failed in their child rearing.

5. Star Wars Character Flashcards
Please don’t let the word “flashcards” fool you. This is not a fun, creative yet also a subtle “educational” gift. This is not intended to teach math. Or the alphabet. Or memory skills. This is to introduce your son or daughter to the characters from Star Wars. Period. We’re not interested in where Chewbacca comes from, his height, his weight or that he speaks Shyriiwook, the main Wookie language. All we need to be concerned with is whether our child can point to the large, hairy brown thing and associate him with “Chewy.” For those of you who can’t comprehend why a Dad would ever consider a gift like this, it’s better that you don’t ask or try to figure it out. Does an 18-month old need to know how to pronounce Yoda? Absolutely. Should a 2 yr. old be able to breath like Darth Vader—on command? Uh, yes. And does a 4 year old really need to go to bed every night, dreaming of saving the Republic? Luke Skywalker did and look how that turned out, he saved an entire galaxy. Just sayin’. For the Dads who want to start telling the greatest story ever told at an age when a child’s brain is spongiest, then start by visiting the website, http://www.rocketfettscollection.com/swchpics.htm, which has a fantastic picture collection of over 100 character pictures from Episodes 1-6. What you need to do is real easy. Drag the pictures you want onto your desktop. Drop them into Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and re-size each picture so they are at least 2” x 3”. If you want to type their names over them, go for it! If you want to give them a colored background or border to signify Republic vs. Empire, have at it! Once you decide, I’d recommend using FedEx Kinko’s to print AND laminate. Remember, these little terrors—wait, did I say terrors—sorry, I mean angels, can sometimes have a tendency to ripe things, drool on things or spill things on things. The lamination will help prevent all of it. You will need a few bucks per page as you can only laminate one page at a time, and you’ll get about 9 images per sheet—just be sure to give enough space so there is enough room to cut them with scissors and still have each image contain enough of a laminated border. Your sheet should look similar to the below.

May your son or daughter enjoy the best Christmas present ever and may the force be with you. P.S. it should come as no surprise that my 2 yr. old son and 1 yr. old daughter were Luke and Leia Skywalker for Halloween this year.

For more information about Pete Densmore and/or DADspirations:
the 1st 100 Days of Fatherhood
, please visit the following websites:


Pete, Thank you for your Yellow Brain Project Directions, Blue Brain Creativity, Green Brain Precise Methods  and all the Fun Orange Hands-on Activities! You offered information for every Brain Color Dad (Mom or Grandparent) to enjoy with their children. These are great Holidays projects that can be modified to make any time they  want to spend time having fun and teach the children they love new skills. 

Best wishes from Pete and me for a Merry Christmas Holiday and Joyful New Year with your “Little” and “Big” loved ones!

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