Child labor is illegal. At least, publicly. But, in the privacy of your home, forced child labor helps paddle against the negative cash flow by creating homemade gifts.
There are three ways to abuse, I mean use, your laborer to help protect your pocketbook.
Every child is a natural-born artist. That’s a beautiful PC fable that’s not even remotely true. Yet, every child can pretend to be an artist. Or be forced to play one.
Your kid can’t yet draw. Not a problem. Their first masterpiece will be the classic handprint.
Limited pincer skills. Not an issue. Give the kid a few bottles of finger paint and a roll of paper.
As fine motor abilities develop, so does the quality of homemade love. Draw a picture for grandma. Print your name. Make it a moaning “Oh, that’s so cute!” by adding, “I love you.”
You can extend the utility of the construction paper gift by changing the artist’s tool of choice: color pencils, markers, and the classic box of 64 crayons.
Eventually, the grandparents run out of refrigerator space, and the painter becomes a sculptor. Enter Elmer’s, a shoebox, and the gluable classics: macaroni shells, stars, yarn, popsicle sticks, Styrofoam cups, and the adorable yet creepy googly eyes.
Kids are great photography props, only second in likability to canines, according to Instagram. Unlike dogs, who are perpetually loveable, kids’ cuteness is inversely related to age. That’s why parents and grandparents have infant and toddler photo shrines and only one high school prom or sports photo.
Photo services like Shutterfly can extend a kid’s modeling career. Embed the chosen one on a cup, magnet, or calendar. As middle school approaches, the utility of the kid photo as a cheap gift fades with the onset of puberty.
Primary school prepares kids to be ghostwriters. Get some notebook paper, shell out a few pencils, and treat your child like a prisoner of war. Dictate the propaganda, make sure it’s legible, and get them to sign the statement.
For some reason, adults find kids’ sucky penmanship and spelling to be adorable. “Oh, look, she reversed the letters.” Educators, not so much. “Get out the IEP.”
Sadly, there is an age-limit to homemade love. Part of it is homemade love gift fatigue. Mostly, it’s because prepubescent kills the cuteness trait. It’s another reason why middle school sucks.
I tried to extend the lifespan of homemade love by using Photoshop to create personalized greeting cards. I made a birthday card for my mother, featuring a photo of my son, and I assumed it would get brownie points for originality. When we called to wish grandma a happy birthday, I asked her about the card. After an extended pause, the universal maternal sign of pending disapproval, my mother said, “Oh, I guess you didn’t have the time or money to drive to the store to buy me a real card.” So much for homemade love.