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  • Whole Child Counseling

DIY Holiday Gift Giving for Educators and Counselors Plus Social-Emotional Learning Toys

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

During the past couple of years, educators have proven their resilience, flexibility, and that they are nothing but hardworking. Plans have changed at the drop of a hat within the educational sector, and professionals up and down the country have worked countless hours preparing for online or hybrid learning and reintegrating students back into school once they’ve re-opened. Everyone from the teachers, school counselor, administrations, to the custodians, and everyone in between have all pulled together to ensure students continue to be educated.

This holiday season, let's look after our mental health, take part in daily self-care routines and enjoy time with our nearest and dearest. Share some festive kindness with these quick tips and read below to learn to make some self-care crafts for gift-giving this holiday season!

Be thankful

Spread kindness and gratitude by thanking someone who has helped you this year. Acknowledging their support will make you feel proud of your accomplishments and make them feel good too.

Remember to say thank you to yourself as well and look back on your growth over the past year. See below for a sticky note thank you craft!

Take care of yourself

It is very easy to feel burned-out over the holiday season, with so many plans and things to organize. Remember that you are more important than your to-do list and it is okay to say no and to set boundaries. Make sure to treat yourself, relax and take time to unwind when you need to.

Get Creative with Your Gift-Giving

The last few months have been tough for everyone. If you feel stressed just thinking about the cost of buying gifts, why not take a more sentimental approach. People love a thoughtful handmade gift, or you can donate your time to a charity in honor of someone.

The art of creation is helpful for mental health and so handmade crafts as gifts are a great idea this Christmas season. Experiment with a few crafts to find one you enjoy and helps calm your body and mind. Engaging in crafting activities are said to reduce anxiety, stress, and improve quality of life.

But, What Crafts Should I Make?

Share the benefits of handmade crafts with your students and colleagues this year with these 5 affordable craft and gift ideas. These crafts can be made and gifted or, created together in a group to provide a social-emotional learning activity that has an end product.

Make Your Own Affirmation Stones

Bring a smile to student's and colleague's faces by making affirmation stones. The possibilities are endless with this craft!

You will need:

  • Large, smooth stones or rive rocks

  • Acrylic paint and paint brush and/or paint markers

  • Varnish or Mod-Podge with a foam brush


1. Brainstorm some short positive affirmations such as:

  • I am enough.

  • I am strong.

  • I am brave.

  • I am kind.

  • I love myself.

  • I care for me.

  • I am important.

  • I am courageous.

  • I am unstoppable.

  • Everything will be okay.

  • Today will be great.

  • I am awesome.

  • I trust myself.

  • I believe in myself.

  • I am bold.

  • I’ve got what it takes.

  • I am grateful.

  • I am proud of myself.

  • It’s okay to make mistakes.

2. Decide on your design.

3. Make sure your stones are clean and dry before you begin.

4. Get painting.

5. Varnish your finished design with mod-podge to make it last longer.

Make Your Own Stress Balls

Making your own stress ball can be just as relaxing as using it. These are a perfect gift to help relieve anxiety over the holiday season and can be made in a variety of ways.

DIY Orbeez Stress Ball You Will Need:


1. Add the Orbeez to water and let sit for a few hours to expand.

2. Put the Orbeez in an empty plastic bottle.

3. Put a balloon over the end of the bottle.

4. Squeeze the Orbeez into the balloon.

5. Tie a knot in the balloon.

For a more traditional stress ball try the next idea, you can even add a creative design to your finished product using a marker pen.

The Anti-Stress Ball you will need:

  • 1 balloon (be aware of latex allergies)

  • Baking Soda or play-doh

  • A piece of paper


1. Make a funnel by rolling up the piece of paper and inserting it into the end of the balloon.

2. Spoon small amounts at a time of baking soda into the balloon. (Alternately, you can coil up play-doh and place it in as well.)

3. Fill to your desired size and tie a knot.

Make Your Own Play Dough

Play dough has endless therapeutic qualities. There are multiple ways to create homemade playdough, with different scents, colors, and textures that can be added to create your perfect outcome. Molding, shaping, and playing with the soft dough is calming in itself and can be enjoyed at any age.

There are hundreds of recipes for homemade play dough, each with varying success. The recipe below included adaptations to create a non-cook version so that everyone can join in the fun of making this amazing craft.

You will need

  • 1 cup of flour (consider gluten free please!)

  • 1/2 cup of salt

  • 1 tbs of oil

  • Food coloring

  • 1 cup of boiling water or 1 cup of cold water

  • 2 tbsp of cream of tartar (this is not needed if only using cold water)

Both methods produce a lovely soft, squishy playdough but from experience using boiling water and cream of tartar helps the playdough last longer.


1. Mix all dry ingredients together.

2. In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients, including your chosen food coloring.

3. If using boiling water make sure an adult is able to help!

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture.

5. Mix together until well combined.

6. Tip: if using food coloring, place the dough in ziplock bags, knead on outside of the bag to avoid staining hands.

Create Papercraft Origami Stars

Once you get the hang of folding these popular origami stars the only problem you will have is being able to stop. Giving these stars as gifts in Japan is said to bring love and good luck to the recipient. Create them in an array of different colored papers and present them in a cute jar with a ribbon to finish the perfect gift. The act of creating these, with the repetitive folding movements is so soothing! Here is a video if you are more of a visual learner. You can also write something on each strip of paper, like a quality you admire about that person!

You will need

  • Strips of paper- copy paper or patterned scrapbook paper work well

  • Cut paper into 10 inches strips ½ inch thick


1. Start by taking one end of your paper and loop it around.

2. Push the short end through the loop to form a knot and pull gently.

3. Press flat to make a pentagon.

4. Tuck the short end of the paper strip into the knot. If the end is too long trim it with a pair of scissors

5. Wrap the long end around each side of your pentagon. It should naturally follow in the

right direction. Keep going until you have a small tailpiece left.

6. Tuck the tail end securely into the knot.

7. Pinch in the corner of the pentagon between your thumb and forefinger, to inflate your star and make the points.

8. Rotate and repeat for each point to make your star puff up. Now you should have an adorable little star!

Sticky Note Craft Gift

You can make these “sticky note” crafts to tell someone you are thankful for them. Just purchase some bulk post-it notes, or sticky notes with positive sayings, and download the free printable template in my free resource library! To gain access, subscribe at the top of this page.

Counselor, Social Worker, and Psychologist Holiday Activities and Gifts

You can get free posters and printable bookmarks to give out to the kids you work with, plus activities to have them write and draw a gift they'd like to give someone, as well as a thank you gift they can create for a teacher or family member!

These can all be downloaded for free printable in my free resource library! To gain access, just subscribe at the top of this page.

Now, Get Crafting!

Now we have looked at a few affordable, self-care craft projects it is now time to get organized, get to work, and spread kindness to all of your students and colleagues.

These craft activities can be made and gifted like any store-bought present but by adding personal finishing touches to your finished products you are creating something truly unique


Or why not bring your students together by planning and creating the crafts as a group for them to give to their loved ones at home?

The possibilities are truly endless with these DIY projects, there is something for everyone to enjoy making, gifting, or using to relax.

If you want to get more crafty or are looking for a gift to give a creative person, be sure to check out Skillshare. You can do a free trial. I LOVE having a subscription and have learned so much on there!

No time to craft? Here are some social-emotional learning toys that would make great gifts!

If you've got no time to Trust me, I totally get it! Here are some top social-emotional learning toys and my top 5 self-care gift ideas you can buy if you don't have the time to DIY.

When I saw the Big Feelings Pineapple by Learning Resources I couldn't wait to order it! As a school adjustment counselor, I have been using Mrs. Potato Head for my meet the counselor lessons with my incoming kindergarteners for years! It comes with 26 pieces from frowns to smiles and I love how this has two sides so you can build two feelings at once. Maybe anger on one side.. and what's underneath the anger on the other side? If you want to explore opposite feelings, a good companion for that would be Todd Parr's feelings cards!

Another way to extend the learning about opposite feelings is with these Tee Turtle reversible octopus plushies! One side shows happy, and then you flip it inside out and it shows mad. This is a great toy for even very young kids! It’s an adorable and fun way to learn about emotions. There are also stegosaurus and wolf versions and they come in different colors too.

I love Diane Alber's books and when I saw this Little Spot of Emotions book box set that comes with the plushies I was over the moon! I already have the book box set but these plushies are on my wish list! The eight plushies are a great complement to the book set, and it also comes with a poster.

Pop its are probably the trendiest fidget of 2021. Pop its are a great stocking stuffer gift for children with busy hands or who need a little relaxer. They can be played as a game for a puzzle-solving strategy but most kids like to just fidget with them. I like that they're portable and can be brought (almost) anywhere and come in an infinite number of possible shapes and colors. I especially like the smaller more discrete keychain pop its because they can be held quietly in the palm of a hand.

This adorable meddy teddy is a posable teddy bear that does yoga, perfect for children who need to slow down a little. Its soft body makes it great for hugging and letting out stress and can be used to help children in guided meditation. It would be the perfect companion to Buddy Breath from my book Skills for Big Feelings.

I think every kid I've ever worked with loves legos so I was thrilled to see these Lego Duplo Build ME “Emotions” set with all sorts of unique emotions that children can put on their creations. This toy inspires creativity while also helping to teach children about emotions. There is also this smaller 28-piece set available.

What would you add to this list? Connect with me on instagram and let me know!



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