Involving kids in making gifts and volunteering

You people really like upchuck!

So I'm still apparently not done with holiday posts, but tomorrow will be about something different.

Jennifer is asking for suggestions of gifts that kids can help make, that aren't from a kit. She'd like things that aren't super-expensive (so no necklaces strung macaroni alternating with real emeralds), but also things that aren't too tchotchke-like.

My kids help with holiday baking gifts, but we haven't really done anything non-edible homemade yet with them. I'm thinking they might be soon old enough to do something like sewing stuffed animals out of felt for younger friends/relatives. And maybe we'll do some painting of wooden picture frames to frame pictures of them to give.

Here's something absolutely brilliant that my 10-year-old (at the time) second-cousin made for his 5-year-old cousin: He used duct tape to make a knight's helmet, sword, and shield. Can you get over that? (It was the hit of the family reunion, for sure.) I think it took him three days and a few rolls of duct tape, but I was stunned at what a kid with little cash and lots of imagination and love can do.

I know you guys can probably come up with some other great ideas.

Amy writes:

"I know it's easy to think about this at holiday time and then drop it, but I'd like to get this started and continue throughout the year. My 6 (almost 7) year old son is not involved in any extracurricular activities, and I'd like the two of us to get involved together as volunteers in our community. I'm going to ask around at his school for local suggestions, but I was wondering what ideas you and your readers have as good, on-going volunteer sites for early elementary-age kids?"

Great question! And I'm hoping people will come up with good ideas. I'm feeling like a hypocrite, because I've been thinking for months and months that I should be waking the kids up early one morning to go help at the weekly breakfast program for the homeless housed at our church. But somehow the task just seems too daunting. Maybe I will see if I can find something like this that isn't during the school week so we can realistically get there.

Does anyone else have any good ideas about volunteer activities for younger kids?