Christmas is the best time of year for crafting. If you’re like me, your house is already smothered in decorations, and adding some personal touches from the kids — memories of their small hands and hearts that you can cherish forever — just makes the whole experience more magical. Plus, a little handmade touch to Grandma or Grandpa’s gifts will always bring out the smiles. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite Christmas Crafts – some you can do with your kids and some you can let them loose on while you tackle the rest of your holiday prep.
Hand and Thumbprint Ornaments
These adorable keepsakes are easy, even for the craftily challenged, make great gifts, and only a little messy. Two variations are the Thumbprint Rudolph and Handprint Snowmen. For both, you’ll need plain ball ornaments (preferably plastic) in any color or clear, washable paint (or careful hands and bravery), and permanent markers or paint pens. To create the Rudolph, simply dip your child’s thumb in brown paint and press onto the ornament ball in two or three places. Dot a red nose on with the tip of a paintbrush, draw on antlers with marker, and you’re done! For the snowmen, paint your child’s whole hand white, then set the ball in her palm and press all four fingers and thumb up and around. Decorate hats, scarves, buttons, eyes, and carrot noses with paint pens or markers.
Edible gifts are perfect for postmen and neighbors, and your kids will love that they get to help make them. Stick plain white lollipop sticks into chocolate sandwich cookies, or let your kids do this part while you melt a bowl of white chocolate chips or almond bark in the microwave. Have the kids dip and swirl the cookies in the chocolate to their hearts’ content, then set on waxed paper and decorate with mini M&Ms – orange for the nose, dark brown for the coal eyes and smile. Chill until firm.
Whether you’re looking for gifts for your child’s preschool class or just a fun craft that turns into an activity for later, making your own mosaic crayons is super fun, and it requires minimal parental supervision. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Let your kids peel the paper off a bunch of crayons and then break them into pieces. Instruct them to fill a mini silicone mold tray, like this one with Christmas tree shapes with the broken pieces, and bake on a cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes or until the crayons are completely melted. Let cool, pop them out, and wrap or get to coloring.
Making and decorating sugar cookies is also a fun activity that results in a giftable item, especially if you cut them into festive shapes. This simple sugar cookie recipe whips up quickly, and you can let the kids help break the eggs or add the flour to the mixer. Once they’re cooked and cooled, decorate with sprinkles, candy, or have the kids paint with icing using new, clean paint brushes. This icing recipe can be endlessly variable with food coloring.
Keep Them Busy
With a little advanced preparation, you’ll have a Christmas craft that will be fun for years – this is the craft that keeps on giving. Cut a simple Christmas tree shape out of a large swath of green felt, then cut out ornament shapes from a variety of colors. You can cut out garland strips as well. Hang the tree on a blank wall, and let your little one decorate and un-decorate their tree while you handle your real one.
Beaded Candy Canes
Note: for older children only due to choking hazards. For a craft that combines pattern making and fine motor skill practice, look no further than these beaded candy canes. Bend pipe cleaners to form a candy cane shape, making a small loop at one end to act as a bead stopper. Spread out red and white pony beads and have your kid string the beads to make a candy cane pattern. These look cute as ornaments too.
Yarn Wrapped Stars
Cut star shapes out of card stock. Tape one end of a ball of multicolored yarn to one side and tell your child to wrap the yarn around and around the star. No matter how crazily he wraps it, it’ll be fun and cute. If you punch a hole in one end you can use this for an ornament as well. Or make a really big one to use as a wall hanging.
Decorate white cups to look like snowmen or red cups with belts to look like Santa. Set them up in a pyramid formation (like bowling pins) and let your little one toss cotton balls or ping pong balls into the cups. For older preschoolers you can number the cups and make a game out of hitting the numbers in order or add points for each cup to see who wins.
Coffee Filter Snowflakes
This craft is more suitable for your older preschoolers as well, since it involves practicing motor skills through cutting. Fold a coffee filter in half, then in half again, and once more. Trace simple shapes on the outside edges for your preschooler to cut out. Grab some safety scissors, the ones with the rounded point, and let them go. These make fun decorations for windows or hanging from the ceiling by fishing line.
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Emily Brown is a preschool teacher, freelance writer, and mom to two energetic, funny little girls with a flair for drama and a shared love of cheese and pickles. She’s also written a book on the history and food of restaurants in Birmingham, AL called Birmingham Food: A Magic City Menu.