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I heard a surprising statistic the other day. Apparently, 44 percent of people polled felt it was OK to put up Christmas decorations right after Halloween. I didn’t catch the details of this poll but it gave me the idea that it certainly isn’t too early to think about holiday gifts. I have two colorful suggestions that are suitable for people aged 8 to 80, and even younger and older. Why don’t I give a few hints and see if you can guess what they are.

These gifts have a lot of benefits. They improve hand-eye coordination, stimulate imagination, develop creativity, and provide positive structure. There are no right or wrong outcomes although some will be more satisfying than others. Each outcome will impart a sense of accomplishment and there’s always an opportunity to improve.

These gifts can be relaxing, therapeutic and exciting all at the same time. They can be used by an individual or in the company of others. They are affordable and the results are tangible with the option of being functional.

While they affect all areas of the brain, they especially develop the frontal and occipital lobes that control creativity and imagination. Without searching for scientific reports to back me up, I’m going to say that these gifts can be especially beneficial to children and teenagers. I say this given their addiction to computers, cellphones and video games. There’s no doubt that their digital skills are amazing, commendable, and will be useful when they enter the work force. They will be able to follow instructions and implement ideas – but where will these ideas come from? I could compare this scenario to interior design. Homeowners can emulate beautiful photos they see online or in shelter magazines. But, someone has to conceive the designs in the first place.

My two gifts will help areas of the brain spark original ideas whether they be in the arts, sciences or humanities. Regardless of scientific research, wouldn’t you say that it’s a good idea to separate people from their phones and computers once in a while?

So, what are these gifts? Coloring books and paper decorating kits. Coloring books sound so simple but go back and read all the benefits they offer. For children, they teach how to stay within the lines yet free them to paint pink dinosaurs, stripped houses and polka dotted skies. How do they help adults? The answer lies within their titles like “Adult Coloring Book for Relaxation,” “Calming Patterns and Mandalas,” and “Anxiety Coloring Book.”

Paper decorating kits are a little more involved but still easier to use than you may think. I’m sure you’ve seen wrapping paper that has a marble, paisley or swirl design. Others have peacock feathers or elaborate vines. I used to think that this craft originated during the Italian Renaissance, but have since learned that it dates to 10th century China. It was later known in Japan as “suminagashi” or “ink floating” and as “ebru” or “cloud art” in Persia. By way of the Silk Road, it traveled west, most notably to Venice and Florence. Throughout its history, this paper has been treasured.

With the help of simple, water-based kits, we can design and create our own decorative paper. There are a variety of kits with different designs that call for different skill levels. Jar Melo’s “Marbling Painting Kit” is targeted towards children while Heather R J Fletcher’s “Making Marbled Paper” is more advanced. Both can be found on Amazon for just under $20.

These simple gifts are not only enjoyable to use but are also packed with healthy benefits. And, my own poll of one says it’s not too early to pick up a few for your loved ones – and yourself.

My column about decorative paper can be found in the Register’s archives or plcinteriors.com/post/decorative-paper

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Patti L. Cowger is an award-winning, credentialed, Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net.

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