It used to be that the parents were the hardest to drum up gift ideas for. Which is why ours have curio shelves and mantles stocked with miscellaneous vases and bowls and clocks and herb gardens that look great on the catalog page but, let's face it, offer very little use. Now that we've made grandparents out of the mums and pops, gift giving has gotten much easier. Step 1: get kid to draw a picture, pose for a photo, stamp his hand in paint or clay or pile of dryer lint. Step 2: frame it, if applicable. Step 3: mail it off. Do grandparents actually appreciate it? Who cares? It'd be terrible form for any grandparent to look unfavorably upon these presents.
Here's the #1 lesson I've learned from the 2+ years that The Boy has been in the daily care of others: Parents will continue to gladly bring home the same old "art class" nonsense and stick it on the fridge as long as (1) their child made it and (2) if there has been some cursory attempt made to change it up a bit (i.e., strategically adding some squigglies so that this handprint looks like a horse instead of a fish). So here it is, grandparent gift cop-out #833: The Brownie Light Box.
Battery-operated tea light (I've seen both flickering and non-flickering options -- choose wisely)
Cardboard brownie box (should be at least 1.5" deep, or enough to accommodate your particular light)
3.5" square template for the cutout (I made mine with cardboard from another box)
1/8" double sided tape
Colored artist tape (think colored masking tape, washi tape would be pretty sweet, if you can swing it)
Rotary cutter or scissors
Step 1: Assemble the art
We used a thick vellum paper, because that's what we have around. A piece of acetate backed with wax paper, or white parchment would work just as well. Something nice and translucent (sunprints would also be quite nice). Hand the kid watercolors/pastels/markers/crayons/glitter/pencils and take them away before too much craziness ensues. Cut two 4" squares.
Step 2: Prepare the box
Carefully open the box and scrape off any excess glue. Lay it out flat and measure the width of the box from side crease to side crease. My box was 5.25" wide, so I marked and cut the bottom of the box off 5.25" down from the top to make it square.
Step 3: Cut the openings
On the blank side of the box, trace your template for the cutout in the middle of both of the large panels. I'm a big fan of the eyeball method, but you could, you know, measure it out for greater centered-ness. Using a straight edge and X-acto, cut out the holes.
Step 4: Affix the art
Apply the double sided tape to the printed side of the box as close to the opening as possible. Make sure not to leave any gaps, so no light peeks through once the art is attached. Remove sticky backing and attach the art, artwork side facing the hole.
Step 5: Close the box
Pre-bend the box creases, so it folds nicely with the printed side on the inside. Lay a couple strips of double sided tape on the blank side of the box tab, and, being careful not to warp or twist the box, attach the tab to the inside of opposite side. Fold in the smaller top tabs and apply one last strip of double sided tape to one of the longer top tabs. Seal it up, again making sure not to twist the box.
Step 6: Tape it up
Apply the colored tape(s) of your choice to the sides of the box, tucking the tape ends inside the box.
That's it. Turn on the tea light, plop the box on top and call it a present. I suppose you could also turn it upside down, attach string and use it in a hanging capacity. Easy peasy. You've just (1) made some kid-generated art, (2) rescued a box from the recycling bin, and (3) created something for the curio cabinet that Grandma will never be able to take down. Because what heartless grandparent would do that?