Gifts in a Jar – Honoring Loved Ones Without Breaking the Bank

love this time of year and its promises of snowy adventures with my little ones. Family gatherings, warm fires, and delicious foods give me a sense that all is well. But this fall, a close look at my bank account balance had me wondering how in the world I would be able to pull off the coming holiday season! 

In talking with friends and other parents, it’s a relief to know that I’m not the only person in this financial predicament.

I’m fortunate to have a huge circle of love and support, and during this time of year I like to honor friends and family with gifts and special things to remind them how loved they are. But how to make my funds sufficient enough to give the gifts I’m so fond of giving, and include my children in this adventure? It seemed impossible at first, but ultimately the solution was easy.

My objective was to create gifts using materials we had on hand, with the projects being easy enough for my 2-year-old and 9-year-old to join the fun. After a little trial-and-error, we set to work on what became a time-consuming but rewarding gift-making project.

The solution to my conundrum was “gifts in a jar.”  I love jars of all shapes and sizes and keep them around for all kinds of repurposing. I was also housing an embarrassing amount of craft materials. So this year, by combing items we already had  with our collaborative creativity, we’ve created these unique gifts: a snow globe, a hot cocoa snowman and a doggy-treat jar with homemade, grain- and gluten-free treats.

Though we needed to mass-produce these gifts (we made 66 of them!), my kids contributed their uniquely creative ideas to make each gift special and different. When we finally completed the last one, we took a step back, and, with a collective sigh, admired our handiwork. Not one gift is alike – they are all beautiful and will surely honor those people we love, who include dog lovers, artists, outdoor enthusiasts, and kids.

We want to share our ideas with you so you can make your own:

art-1215-globe11: Snow globe.

This was hands-down the most creative and fun, with seemingly endless possibilities. Once we got into it, it became a wonderful challenge to out-do the one we made before. My daughter first created a Disney-themed “Frozen” snow-globe, using the plastic figures that came with a book her “Grammy” gave her, a small mason jar, and a TON of epoxy. It was incredible! 

For another, we found plastic trees that had been cake toppers on my son’s most recent birthday cake, glued them to a stone, and glued glitter to the boughs. We sat back thinking, “THIS is what it’s all about!” My son found an old plastic train and a piece of track and formulated a sweet Polar Express-ish scene. The more of these globes we created, the more detailed they became. What a fun project!  My favorite is a serene forest scene because it reminds me of a quintessential forest in the throes of winter.

Snow Globe Materials:

  • A jar with a close-fitting lid
  • Epoxy 
  • Plastic, ceramic or glass figures or embellishments
  • Glitter
  • Glycerin  (makes the glitter float)
  • Distilled Water


Glue your scene to the lid, and allow the epoxy a couple days to cure before exposing it to the water. Add 2 tablespoons of glycerin to the jar, top with the distilled water, add glitter, fit the lid on tightly, and shake it up!

art-1215-snowman2: Hot-cocoa snowman.

These are SO cute!  There wasn’t much variation in these other than the color of his hat, buttons, scarf and the placement of the nose … one of ours has his eyes behind his head and a nose on his tummy. I’m thinking that Granddad will find great pleasure in receiving that one. The snowmen were a natural choice because they’re fun for kids, cute, and helped me purge the crazy amount of baby food jars I had lying around!

SnowMan’s Hot Cocoa Materials:

  • 3 baby food jars (or jars of gradating sizes)
  • Glue
  • Permanent marker or paint (optional)
  • Buttons
  • Felt (for the hat)
  • Felt or other material (for the scarf)
  • Orange Felt (for carrot nose)
  • Powdered hot chocolate mix
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Peppermint candies


Glue jars together with epoxy or another strong glue. Paint or glue on buttons, eyes, mouth and nose. Add a felt top-hat to top lid. After glue has cured (1-2 days) unscrew each jar lid. Fill the top jar with mini marshmallows, the middle jar with cocoa, and the bottom jar with peppermint candies. Add the scarf. Voila!

art-1215-jar3: Doggy treat jar.

We found a homemade grain- and gluten-free dog treat recipe, and the kids had lots of fun cutting out the dog-bone shaped treats and helping me fill the giant jars we had bought for another project that I never got around to.

Now that we’ve boxed and tagged each gift, I am sitting back wondering what I was so stressed out about. This year, I challenge you with the same idea. Take the financial stress out of the holiday season, gather your children and enjoy them while creating your own masterpieces to share with your loved ones! 

Doggie Treat Jar Materials:

  • Large jar with lid
  • Your favorite dog treat recipe
  • Bone-shaped cookie cutter*
  • Permanent marker or paint
  • Dog figure for the jar top


We used the “Puppy Pumpkin Pie Treats” recipe by Jen Book found on, and instead of turning the treats into squares as suggested, used a bone-shaped cookie cutter to achieve a cuter look. 

Paint paws, bones or other designs onto your jar, then glue your dog figure onto the lid. Allow glue to cure (1-2 days), then fill with dog treats. This makes a great gift for the dog lovers in your life to share with their “best friends” … or enjoy the happy bark of your own pooch.

* Bone shaped cooking cutters can be found at these local stores: Little Red Hen Kids and Kitchen in Chico; Cook in Red Bluff; and That Kitchen Place in Redding.

Erin Tillery
About Erin Tillery

Erin Tillery is the mother of two beautiful children and an avid outdoor enthusiast. When she isn't tying shoe laces, bandaging knees and kissing tears, she's most often found creating, writing and bringing home the bacon.

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