The older I get, the less exciting it is to put up the Christmas tree. It’s a lovely faux thing that comes up from the basement in a box. It’s even pre-lit. Nothin’ to it. And yet, with my sons now 19 and 17 years old, it seems a chore to put it up lately. Until, that is, I start unpacking the ornaments and see all of those memories come flooding back when I see tiny painted handprints, little picture frames with toothless smiling faces, odd creatures with feathers and sequins (reindeer?), and beaded wreaths on pipe cleaners that need a little reshaping each year.
After thinking about this, I’m kind of looking forward to putting up my tree! I wanted to share the value of making Christmas tree decorations with your children when they are little. I think the boys were around 8 or 9 when they didn’t want to make crafty things with me anymore. I had been replaced by more action-packed play. Some kids would make ornaments forever! Not my guys. It just makes me value the little nuggets of together-time we shared all the more. Remember to write their name and age on every creation!
Here at Rainbow Resource Center, there are kids, kids and more kids. They are the grandchildren of Bob and Linda (owners of Rainbow), and their parents work at RRC. The children spend some of their time here with two delightful sisters, Tanya and Courtney, making lots of art and some creative keepsakes too. I asked the ladies for some examples of their ideas and broke them down into three approximate age groups: toddlers (1-3 years), kinders (4-6 years) and big kids (7-10 years).
Toddlers will need some help with the finishing, but their tiny handprints can make the cutest ornaments! Courtney and Tanya are famous for their clever handprint art projects with the babies. Start with a background made of craft sticks (glued together like a miniature freight pallet), add a handprint in brown paint, top off some finishing touches and you have an upside-down handprint made into a reindeer! Simply glue your little craft stick pallet together and let it dry (ours was about a 4.5” square.) Brush your child’s hand with paint and press it onto the sticks. When the paint’s dry, add red glitter glue for a nose and draw in the hooves with a black Sharpie. Write their name and age (on the front or back). Alternatively, press those tiny hands into soft air-dry clay like Model Magic. Shape it into a flattened ball and put your hand over theirs to make an imprint. Poke a hole now for a hanging ribbon later. Once it dries, you can write on it (name and age!) Or look at this kit (from the makers of Sculpey) that includes everything you need to create an adorable air-dry handprint ornament!
The Kinder group can make a LOT with just craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks.) Our crafty nannies glued 3 sticks into a triangle and let it dry. (You could also use Glue Dots for less mess, but mess is ok when making memories!) Paint it brown, add a red chenille stem (aka pipe cleaner) rolled tightly into a spiral circle shape for a nose and glue it to the bottom point. Use two brown chenille stems to shape antlers and glue those to the top horizontal stick. Googly eyes go on the other 2 sticks and TA DA! You just made Rudolph! You could also paint your stick triangle green, add some glitter glue or sequins as lights, a star at the top and a brown trunk (piece of a craft stick) at the bottom for the tree trunk. Now you’ve made a sparkly green Christmas tree! Try gluing 3 sticks into a snowflake shape (like an asterisk,) painting and decorating them for a fun ornament. Don’t forget about twisting a red & white pipecleaner together and bending it into a candy cane shape!
Big kids can often use a craft kit without too much help, but you can still do them together! Our Rainbow kids especially liked the Mess Free Glitter ornaments which are pre-cut craft-foam shapes with peel-off sticky sections. You place the glitter sheet over the sticky area and rub, then peel off another section until you have decorated the entire ornament. It’s really fun and you get to choose how to arrange the glitter colors. The Beaded Snowflakes Ornaments kit turned out beautiful! You wouldn’t want to do these with little folks around because of the loose beads, but the older kids will love designing their own sparkly snowflakes. No tools are even needed; they are ready for your little elves! One last kit idea is the soft, stuffed ornaments from PlushCraft. The pillow part is already assembled and marked with dots where you insert the piece of colored fabric with a plastic tool. It reminds me of building a float with chicken wire and colored napkins – only smaller and softer. Be sure to sign and date everything the children make! You can write on a piece of ribbon and attach it to items that can’t be written on directly.
While I love that I have a collection of my children’s home-made ornaments at my house, we’ve shared many with friends and family over the years too. Be sure to sign and date everything the children make! Giving a gift of something they made themselves teaches kids that not all gifts have to come from the store; they can come from the heart and be just as special.
Our Favorite Ornament Kits & Ideas
- Beaded Snowflakes Ornaments (ages 7+) $17.50
- Plushcraft Ornament Kits (ages 5+) $ 5.75
- Paint Your Own Christmas Ornaments
- Sculpey Keepsake Kits (ages 8+) $9.25
- Make Your Own Felt Hang-Abouts (ages 8+) $5.95
- LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book (ages 8+) $14.95
- Make Your Own Holiday Snow Globes (ages 6+) $20.00
- Mess-Free Glitter Ornaments (ages 5+) $3.95
- Circuit Stickers Holiday Kit (ages 12+) $13.50
Even Kids Can Create Handmade Gifts!
- Make-a-Plate and More! (ages 4+) $14.95 – A longtime favorite in our family, we frequently gifted relatives and friends with these custom melamine plates! The newest kit allows you to choose between six different items to apply your artwork to, with processing included for one item (additional ones can be ordered for a reasonable charge).
- Kiss Naturals DIY Kits (ages 6+) $8.95 and up
- Traditional Potholder Kits (ages 6+)
- LoopdeLoom (ages 8+)
- Whittling Kits (ages 13+)
- Mosaic Stepping Stone Kits (ages 8+) $9.50-$15.95