That's a WRAP!

Karen Caffarini

Gatehouse news service

Last-minute holiday gifts can pose a problem for the conscientious gift-giver. Shelves are pretty bare in mid-December, and if you’re still giftless at that point, you won’t have time to give the gift your usual careful consideration.

But you can still go all out making the packaging special, meaningful or fun, usually at little cost. All it takes is some ingenuity, creativity and, in some cases, the mind of a prankster.

Making it special

For a special package, get the kids involved, suggests Evette Rios, a craft and design expert who is one of Rachael Ray’s Buddies on eHow and a correspondent for “The Chew,” an ABC daytime talk show that centers on food and lifestyle topics.

Have your kids create one-of-a-kind drawings on light-colored drawing paper, craft paper or even wrapping paper. Use their drawings to wrap gifts to friends and family, Rios says.

Another idea from Rios is to make the packaging part of the gift: Wrap a cookbook in a pretty kitchen towel adorned with a sprig of rosemary for the serious cook, or put kitchen essentials in oven mitts and hang them on the fireplace instead of the usual stockings. Give a movie buff a DVD and theater candy stashed in an old film container. Rios says she bought some of the containers on eBay for $1.50 each.

Making it meaningful

Cut out photographs of your friends and family and make a collage; photocopy the collage as many times as you need to and use the copies as wrapping paper, Rios suggests.

She says you can get photocopy paper up to 11 inches by 17 inches in size, enough to wrap a shirt or scarf box.

“Some people told me they framed the wrapping paper, they liked it so much,” Rios says.

You can also adorn your gift with packs of seeds. “Giving someone you love something new to grow in the new year is a green and a symbolic gift,” she says.

Making it fun

Christmas at the Carey house in Marcus, Iowa, is always a lot of fun, thanks to the craftiness of dad (and granddad) John Carey, who makes opening gifts interesting, according to his daughter Erin Guerra.

Gift cards are put between two pieces of cardboard with all four sides sealed with industrial-type glue and a note that the contents are fragile, so don't use scissors. Multiple boxes are placed inside each other, each with a tag for a different person. Bricks are added to boxes to throw off suspicions of what’s inside.

“Unwrapping presents takes so long that we need to break for lunch or sometimes the night,” Guerra says.  Rios says using a foreign newspaper to wrap your gifts can make them look fun.

Making it for kids

Most kids don’t notice the packaging as they rip through the wrappings, ribbons and bows to get to the gift inside. Rios says wrapping the gift in comics might get their attention.

Or use plain brown craft paper or brown paper bags and add rubber stamps to add fun while not spending a lot of money.