Ingredients: A cheap photo frame from a charity shop or a recycled box (in this case a pretty circular chocolate truffle box), watercolour or acrylic paints, brushes and thick cartridge paper, pretty wrapping paper, some quiet time with your child / apart from your child.

The Big Sell: I / we wanted to make something special for you.

Strategy: Working together with your child or being inspired by your child to make a piece of art is one of my favourite peaceful past-times. Above are two examples of custom-made gifts – one of which demonstrates how you can work with your child (in this case to create a painting for my husband for Valentines), the second shows how you can be inspired to create something for your child as I produced a painting for my son who has been going through a hard time lately, and was seeking some solace to help him work through his worries.

1) A Map of Your Heart – I drew out an outline of a heart on cartridge paper and boxed off irregular shapes. Eldest son then filled in all the boxes with our shared ideas for special items my husband holds in his heart … camping, chocolate, Star Wars, etc… I then painted in the boxes with watercolour paints and mounted it in a cheap frame from a charity shop.

2) The Watcher painting – all children go through their ups and downs, and so when my eldest recently went through a tricky phase, I was inspired to produce a small bespoke painting to hang in his bedroom within eye-line of the top bunk bed (and to limit the night-time visits!). I took an old round chocolate box, backed it with pretty wrapping paper and painted an eye with the text “I am the watcher. I am watching. I am watching over you”. He was so touched and said it helped it when he was struggling to drift off at night, filled with the day’s anxieties.

The Verdict:

This kind of creative upcycling costs next to nothing but produces something which tells the recipient that they are in your thoughts, they are unique and they are worthy of your time and effort. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t confident at drawing – you can cut (or paint over) images or text from magazines to make a collage. As someone who hates the commercialism of contrived festivities such as Valentines, and who objects to forking out lots of cash for something which ‘looks bespoke’ from sites such as, I much prefer this home-grown approach, which shows your child we can all make something of value from the resources we have around us.

Catchphrase: Don’t get buying, get making!

Left wanting more?

Make a DIY voucher book for your loved one (either partner or child) by stapling together long rectangular sheets of paper and filling each page with an I.O.U. to be cashed in for the future. I.O.U. one cuddle, one story, one bubble bath, one evening in which we switch off the telly and just talk, etc…