8 Free Apps for Creating Special Holiday Gifts

Part of the Cool Sites series

As a little girl, I made Christmas gifts for my father. He preferred them over bought gifts. Well, at least until I can afford box seats for the Dallas Cowboys games. Making gifts can be difficult for children who have to beg a parent to buy them the materials and disguise this so one parent does not find out. With their mobile devices and apps children, adolescents, and teens can create a very meaningful gift for a loved one. What I like about this idea are the apps are very easy to use, often free, and have various multimedia options. Many integrate images, audio, text and audio. The child can also easily send the message Christmas morning for the parent to wake up and see the gift. With so many families on the same phone plans the child will often have similar devices as their parents. If not, many of these apps have the ability for users to share their productions through online communities, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter!

Creative Apps

These are some of the great free apps!  I’ll try to post in order of preference in considering the features, time requirement, and user-friendliness. These are available on the iPod Touch and iPad as well but may not be free on those platforms. Some of these may have Android and Blackberry equivalents.

StoryRobe– I love this free digital storytelling app. It’s incredibly easy for children to adults to create audio/visual stories on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Use the built in microphone, or any 3rd party microphone to create audio recordings with photos and videos. You have the option to upload to Youtube or send it through e-mail. If it’s in their e-mail, then the parents can easily e-mail their child’s production to their friends! You don’t need an Internet connection to create the stories, but you do to send them!

Fotobabble– Quickly create and easily share talking photos in 3 steps (Snap or select or a photo, speak into the microphone to record audio, share with friends via email, Facebook or Twitter). Fotobabble is really easy to use and free! It’s very similar to StoryRobe but doesn’t allow video. However, you do get various holiday themed backgrounds.

  • Idea– Create a visual holiday card!
  • Example– Here’s Rosco, my pug’s holiday card to you!

Animoto– Upload up to 10 images, choose a soundtrack from the library (many nice holiday tunes to choose from, and click a button to make a 30-second video. Sync your videos with your Animoto.com account, download videos for offline viewing, and make longer ones with an All-Access Pass.

  • Idea– Create a nice looking holiday video for your family or friends! The app doesn’t let you add text like the site does but you can always take pictures of text or signs if you’re out and about.
  • Example-My Christmas card!

  • Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

StoryKit– Create an electronic storybook by drawing on the screen, uploading images, recording sound effects and voice, laying out the elements of the story (text boxes, images, paint, and sound clips) freely by dragging them or pinching to resize, reordering pages, and uploading to the StoryKit web server. Email a link to the story. The application includes four public domain children’s books to rewrite and rearrange into a new story.

  • Idea– Create the holiday story starring your friends and family with a special message!
  • Example– Here’s a quick Christmas story I made with Rosco! Click here to read it!

StoryCorps– Listen to the weekly story; share stories via email, Facebook, and Twitter; get tips for recording stories on mobile devices; create and email a list of questions for an interview with StoryCorps.

  • Idea– Interview several friends that have great things to remember about another friend. You can also interview all your family members and collect memories about a grandparent or parent.
  • Example– Listen to this Christmas memory from World War II.

Audio Boo– Free app that allows you to record and upload audio for your friends, family or the rest of the world to hear through Facebook, Twitter, and email.

  • Idea– Share a poem, song, or story inspired by your loved one!
  • Example– Here’s a story about my father called, 2 Feet Tall Trophies! My father used to be a championship bowler!

Santa Hat Sewing is a brand new arts and crafts app that will lead you all the way to design and sew that perfect Santa Hat for your kids. This art and craft app has been specially designed for the kids to take an active role in making a Santa hat.The Santa Hat Sewing app will teach you and show you how to make a great one.

  • Idea– Create a Santa hat for a favorite doll or loved one with a cute title like Mrs. Claus!

Comic Touch Lite– Create a comic by adding various bubble captions to photos. The free version has the company logo.

  • Idea– Create a comic of your loved one as the hero!
  • Example– Below is Rosco’s example!

Rosco the pug


Try these apps with your students and blog about any exciting ways you use them! Or leave a link to a Christmas gift you want to share in the comments section!

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What apps do you love using to send your friends holiday cheers?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. This is great, Shelly. First I focused on the apps, then on your stories. I love Two Feet Tall Trophies. The story brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of my father, then I watched your Animoto video and that brought more tears to my eyes. I am so happy to be a member of your digital family.
    By the way, Rosco is soo cute. I used to have a pug myself.

    • Thank you so much Natasha for your kind words. Rosco will be happy to hear he touched your heart! He loves bringing joy to people and will be very happy to know you are a pug mommy! My father inspires me in so many ways and I’ve read your posts so I know you write with your heart as well. That must come from your father, too! 🙂

  2. Great ideas! These are also great for the classroom as gifts from students to their parents for mother’s/father’s day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc.

  3. Thanks, Shelly! Some cool stuff to keep the sproglets occupied over the hols!

    Merry Christmas, lovely lady.

    Callie xxx

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