I had to think hard and do a little Google searching to find projects that were in the scope of a four-year-old's abilities and interest. I also wanted something that would be a real gift, not just a token. A project that showed creative work, was beautiful, and was useful. This is what I came up with.
For his dad, a picture frame made from leather. I did all the cutting, of course, but there's a lot for a kid to do in this project. Louis used the sponge to wet the leather so it could be stamped, and he chose the stamps himself from my collection. At first, I held the stamp (to keep the spacing even and straight) and he hit it with the mallet, but after he hit my hand a few times, we switched. I'd help him set the stamp and then he'd hold it while I used the mallet. Much less painful. I really should have thought that out better. Once the stamping was done, we let the leather rest for the day.
We continued the project the next afternoon. Louis used the swab to put a somewhat even coat of brown dye on the front and back of the leather. Once that had dried, we punched holes along the edges. Then he rubbed in the leather conditioner and put on the topcoat, doing a very nice job for a first-timer! With a little help, Louis laced the front and back pieces together with some twine. We congratulated ourselves on a job well done. A picture of him making the frame was the perfect final touch.
For his mom, I found an online tutorial that looked too easy to be real. Dying a silk scarf with just tissue paper and water? That can't possibly be a thing, right? And to be fair, a lot depends on your tissue paper. Most of the common stuff you find nowadays is colorfast -- even the cheap stuff. I thought about using pieces of paper party streamers, but those too are made to keep their colors now. I was beginning to despair, when we found a packet of cheap cocktail parasols in the pantry. A spritz with water showed they bled like crazy! Perfect! I removed the sticks and flattened them out. We laid out our silk (I've only read about this done with silk. Other natural fibers might work, but yield different results) and Louis sprayed it with water from a spray, getting it good and wet. Then he pressed down the colorful circles however he thought they looked best and gave everything another good spray.
We ate dinner while the colors ran, and then I hung the silk up to dry in the sunshine, which took about ten minutes. I pressed it with a warm iron to set the colors, and we were both very pleased with the results.
So was his mom, when she wore it to work and was mobbed with coworkers asking where she'd bought her beautiful scarf. I imagine she was very proud to say, "Oh, my four year old made this. Isn't it lovely?"
We had a great time making things together. Have you got any winning projects you've done with your kids? Share them in the comments, or give us a link so we can see! I need some ideas for when he visits again next summer!