When our three children were younger, we often enjoyed crafting homemade holiday ornaments together. The kitchen table, covered with old newspapers or a tacky plastic tablecloth, was transformed into arts and crafts central — covered with yarn, pipe cleaners, glitter, fabric paints and other raw materials.
When you’re out and about running holiday errands, hit your local craft or creative papers store for some basic supplies so you’re ready when the mood for holiday ornament-making strikes. Think felt, craft paints, embroidery floss, popsicle sticks, molding clay, jumbo beads and such. Even clear ball-style ornaments you can partially fill with paint and swirl around to make one-of-a-kind decorations.
Sometimes we had a separate Christmas tree just for the ornaments crafted by our children — like the one at right covered with felt shapes traced with holiday cookie cutters and styrofoam balls decorated with glued-on buttons. Even the yarn and popsicle stick “God’s eyes” they learned to make while listening to lore about my childhood summer camp days.
If you’re entertaining during the holidays, consider filling a tree with edible ornaments. Rolls of storebought cookie dough thickly sliced and baked make a tasty decor/dessert combo assuming you remember to punch a hole in each cookie with a jumbo straw before baking. Once your cookies are baked and decorated, just thread a pretty ribbon through the hole and they’re ready for hanging. A few will crumble, but that’s half the fun. Those go to your tiny taste testers.
For folks needing a bit of inspiration on how to get started, here’s a list of simple ideas. Pick the ones that work best for your child’s age and your own family budget — then gather the supplies and go for it!
- Make holiday shapes with cookie cutters and either store-bought or homemade modeling dough (some doughs require baking before painting and decoration)
- Fold origami paper into cranes or other shapes — or use scissors to make kirigami (cut paper) designs like snowflakes
- Make heart shapes with wire or pipe cleaners, then add tied-on strips of colorful fabric around the borders
- Roll ball-shaped ornaments in glue, then roll again to cover with glitter, sequins or tiny seed beads (old cookie sheets are helpful here)
- Make frames for family (and pet) photos — using popsicle sticks, thin sheets of craft foam, braided pipe cleaners and such
- Dip pipe cleaners in glue, then cover with glitter — shaping them into hearts, stars and swirls once they’re nearly dry
- Cover bendable wire or pipe cleaners with colorful beads before shaping them into hearts, teardrops or other designs
- Cut felt after tracing designs with cookie cutters, then embellish with stitches of brightly-colored embroidery floss
Consider a theme tree if your family has a special interest like animals or reading together. Book lovers can create their own bookmarks, then hang them from the tree — and make miniature versions of their favorite books by folding plain white index cards in half and drawing or coloring the front and back “covers.”
Folks eager to reinforce the importance of giving while downplaying more material aspects of the holiday season can make their own “good works” or “good wishes” tree. Try filling a tree with hand-decorated messages family members write to each other then share on Christmas eve or Christmas day.
Or making a special tree now that’s covered in strips of paper (like Chinese cookie fortunes) noting different good deeds — like “Make cookies for a neighbor” or “Volunteer one hour helping hungry families” — then let family members take turns opening the notes each day, and doing the good deeds inside them. Like an advent calendar for random acts of kindness.
Those less daring in the do-it-yourself department have plenty of craft kit options, including Shrinky Dinks, that’ll bring fast and relatively easy results. Also fun places like pottery painting studios.
Don’t forget the tried-and-true favorites from your own childhood days, including multi-color paper chains crafted from strips of construction paper. They’re inexpensive to make and easy for family members of varying ages to create while enjoying a spot of hot chocolate or apple cider together.
Coming up: Smart kitty, Spring art classes for kids