PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock
December 18, 2015

Need some ideas for kids’ Christmas crafts that can easily be made from items you may already have lying around the home or farm? Here are seven quick tutorials, several of which can double as Christmas gifts.

Christmas Decorations

Every child can be taught to cut out paper snowflakes to hang in the windows. And who doesn’t love to hang whole candy canes from the boughs of the Christmas tree? However, the following are some kid activities that are a little more crafty and creative for the holidays.

Stained-Glass Luminaries

Kids Christmas Crafts: Stained-Glass Lanterns
Tessa Zundel

We actually make these canning jar luminaries at Martinmas, a holiday that takes place in November. We leave them around the house through December, using them to decorate for any activity that needs to look beautiful during the holidays. Every age child can make these, though the youngest will need a little assistance, especially with the handle.

You Will Need:

  • canning jars in different sizes and shapes
  • glue sticks
  • tissue paper in differ colors (scraps work well for this project)
  • jewelry wire
  • tea lights, either battery or flame operated

To make these luminaries, assemble an assortment of canning jars in all different sizes. Using glue sticks, affix bits of tissue paper scrap in an all colors and shapes to completely cover the outside of the jar. We’ve discovered that light-colored tissue paper is more luminescent once a votive candle (battery or flame operated) is place inside the jar, use only a limited amount of dark colors, like black, dark blue or brown.

Let your children do random patterns, or encourage them to create a picture from their tissue paper. Either way, the effect produced is as lovely as real stained glass. To make sure you can re-use the jars without too much trouble, be sure to only use glue sticks to tack down the tissue paper. The glue from these sticks is not very strong and will wash off with a good soak and scrub.

The hardest part of these jars is deciding what to use for a handle. If you know that you’ll only be using your luminaries at the holiday table or lining the path to your door, you really don’t need a handle. However, should you wish to hang them or use them in a lantern parade (what we use them for at Martinmas), you’re going to need a secure handle, so Little hands are less likely to lose their grip and drop them. We’ve tried sturdy twine secured underneath a twisted-tight canning ring, and we’ve rigged ribbon handles—both of which involved a goodly number of complicated knots. We finally settled on jewelry wire, which is thick enough to be sturdy but thin enough to be bendable.

Wrapped securely around the lip of the jar, and given a generous enough length, this jewelry wire provides a good loop to hold onto. If you’re using flame-powered tea-light candles, be sure to allow a lot of room between the top of the jar and the carrier’s hand to avoid overheating.

Christmas Bunting

Kids Christmas Crafts: Bunting
Tessa Zundel

I’m a sucker for a good melted-crayon craft, aren’t you?

You Will Need:

  • wax paper
  • crayons
  • cheese grater
  • iron and ironing board
  • newspaper
  • scissors
  • sewing machine, or string and tape

To create this holiday bunting, first have your child help you shave some favorite crayon colors by using a cheese grater. Any size grating will do, but the more fine a shaving, the easier the bits will melt. You only need a few tablespoons of shavings in each color to complete this craft.

Use a cheese grater to shave crayons for homemade bunting.
Tessa Zundel

Next, cut two equally sized pieces of wax paper. Place a few layers of newsprint on your ironing board and put one sheet of wax paper on top of them. Have your child sprinkle the crayon shavings around the wax paper in any pattern. You won’t need a lot of shavings to make a beautiful melted pattern—maybe a teaspoon or two, depending on the size of the wax paper.

Place the other wax paper piece on top, being careful to line up both sheets so they’re even. Place another layer of newsprint over the wax paper. Begin to melt the crayon by ironing the wax sheets with an iron set on medium-high heat. Double check that all the wax is melted, but be careful not to overheat the wax because it will all mix together, producing a brown color.

Once cooled, cut the colored wax paper into triangles, connecting them together to form traditional, pennant-shaped bunting.

We made these while on vacation at Grandma’s house, and no one had a sewing machine handy. So, we taped the bunting triangles to some sturdy string that Grandpa had, and it worked beautifully. They looked enchanting hanging in the window, especially with the light from a bright, snowy day shining through them.

Colorful Countdown Rings

Kids Christmas Crafts: Countdown Rings
Tessa Zundel

Using the wax melting method above, you can also create a holiday countdown chain.

You Will Need:

  • wax paper
  • crayons
  • cheese grater
  • newspaper
  • iron and ironing board
  • scissors
  • stapler
Sprinkle crayon shavings over waxed paper to create colorful countdown rings.
Tessa Zundel

To help cut straight lines, use a permanent marker to draw 1-inch-thick strips onto your wax paper. Use a cheese grater to shave your crayons, and sprinkle the shavings over the wax paper as before. Stack another piece of wax paper over the shavings, lining up the papers, and place newspaper overtop.

Melt the wax by running an iron on medium-high heat overtop. Allow the paper to cool, and cut it into strips, following your lines. You’ll need 25 rows, 8 inches in length—one for every day of December leading up to Christmas.

Simply tape or staple each strip together, threading them through each other to form a chain. Every day of December, your children can remove one ring, thereby counting down to Christmas. This craft is easy to adapt for the eight days of Hanukkah and the seven days of Kwanza, as well.

Homemade Crèche or Nativity Scene

Kids Christmas Crafts: Rustic Homemade Nativity Scene
Tessa Zundel

This kids Christmas craft can take several days to several hours, depending on how inspiration strikes your child. The needed items will vary depended on what kind of nativity you decide to make. We gathered natural items over several months to create ours.

However, this felted one only took a few hours to cut out and glue together.

Kids Christmas Crafts: Nativity Scene Made of Felt
Tessa Zundel

My daughter made this nativity scene out of an old shoe box and items she pilfered from the junk drawer and around the house.

Kids Christmas Crafts: Junk-Drawer Nativity Scene
Tessa Zundel

See the almond head of the donkey and the bandage headcloth that Mary is wearing? She could have just as easily visited the barn or garden shed and accomplished the same creativity. I think this crèche may be my favorite because she did it entirely on her own, in the moment inspiration struck and with items she had on hand. These kids’ activities are really more about connecting our children to the meaning of the holidays, than they are about being cutesy or crafty. Although, cutesy and crafty is a fun way to accomplish your higher purpose of teaching the reason for the season.

Hand-Crafted Gifts

We have the kids make their own gifts every year, and it can be a challenge to come up with original ideas. The youngest children require easy crafts and the older kids enjoy really interesting projects. It takes time to plan and create all of these items, so start as early as you can.

Here are a few kids Christmas crafts that can, for the most part, be made from items that you may already have or that aren’t too hard to acquire.

For Young Children: Magnets

Kids Christmas Crafts: Magnets
Tessa Zundel

These magnets are simple for the littlest children to make. All of these items can be found at your local craft store if you need to purchase them.

You Will Need:

  • all-in-one glue (like Modge Podge)
  • industrial strength glue (like Loctite)
  • glitter
  • magnets
  • flat glass beads

To make these magnets, have your child paint some all-in-one glue onto one side of a glass bead. Then, have him sprinkle on glitter so that the bead is covered but not piled high with glitter. We prefer to use loose glitter for this project, as glitter glue just won’t give you the interesting finished texture of actual glitter. Once the first glitter layer is completely dry, your child can paint on several more layers of all-in-one glue, letting each layer dry in between applications. This allows the children with shorter attention spans to go off and do something else every few hours, while still accomplishing this homemade gift.

Once the glittered side has dried completely, flip the bead over and affix a strong magnet with the industrial glue—be sure to use only strong magnets as these glass bead can be very heavy.

For Elementary-Aged Children: Painted Kitchen Tools

Kids Christmas Crafts: Painted Wooden Utensils
Tessa Zundel

These painted, wooden kitchen tools are perfect for a handmade look that takes only hours to complete—and most of that time is just to allow paint to dry!

You Will Need:

  • wooden kitchen tools
  • acrylic paints in various colors
  • spray-on varnish

If someone in your family is a wood turner, by all means, have them make the salad spoon and fork. If not, you can purchase inexpensive implements at any store with a kitchen section. Have your child pick their favorite acrylic colors from your craft-paint stash. With fingers or brush, the children can apply each coat of paint separately in unique designs and patterns. Be sure to allow each color of paint to completely dry before beginning the next.

Don’t allow the children to put paint on any surface that will come in contact with food. After the colors are completely dry, an adult can spray the designs with an acrylic fixative or paint on a protective coat of clear varnish to keep the patterns vibrant and safe from washing. These tools should not be placed in the dishwasher.

For Not-So-Crafty Children: Book Safe

Kids Christmas Crafts: Book Safe
Tessa Zundel

Easy crafts are great for young children and artistic kiddos, but what about the boys and girls who aren’t into glitter and paint. This handmade book safe makes a unique gift and is so fun to make. This Christmas craft can be done by an older child able to handle a box cutter on their own, or by an elementary aged child with adult supervision. Either way, cutting is a huge part of this craft, so be sure you’re around to keep an eye on things.

As with all children’s activities and crafts, your child’s results may or may not be professional looking. But is that really the point of a handmade Christmas with your children? Try to relax your expectations, if you’re a perfectionist yourself, and allow your children to do these crafts on their own, as much as possible. Don’t jump in and take over to ensure that the results will be “just so”.

You Will Need:

  • a thick, hardback book (at least 3 inches thick)
  • all-in-one glue
  • box cutter, or similarly sharp razor knife
  • card stock or fabric

Select the thickest hardback book you can find at the thrift store. Open it up and count at least 20 of the first pages. Using a paintbrush, apply the all-in-one glue to each page and affix them to each other and the back of the front cover. Lay each down and flatten it carefully. Paint glue onto the outside edge of the remaining pages, so you’re painting closed the rest of the book. Allow to dry.

When completely dry, add another layer of glue to the outside edges of the pages of the book, reinforcing what you did before. Also, paint on a layer of glue to the inside of the back cover so that your large collection of pages is stuck fast. Allow these layers of glue to dry. Take a standard ruler and, using its width, line up the edge of the ruler with the edge of the pages on the group you just glued shut—this is the bulk of the book.

Mark of a straight line on all four edges of the inside of the book’s pages. Using a box cutter, begin to cut away the layers of pages using the inside grid of the lines you just drew. As you cut, you can use your ruler as a guide for your box cutter, but the more you cut away, you probably won’t need to do this.

The hardest part of this process for children is that it takes a lot of time to cut away all those pages, while being careful enough to not pull too much on the outside rim of the book. The corners become the most difficult part to cut away, and children can get bored. They may not have the hand strength to finish on their own. It’s OK to step in and help with this part. All of you might want to take breaks from time to time. Be sure to recycle the scraps, and keep your area clear of paper lint because you’ll need to start gluing again soon.

Once the inside of the book is completely cut away, right down to the back cover, brush and blow off all the paper lint from your book and work space. Brush on a layer of all-in-one glue all over the inside of your book, including up and down the interior sides, gluing together the area you were just cutting away. Go ahead and put another layer of glue on the outside edge of what is now a box book, just for good measure. Once that’s dry, check for loose pages or pockets. Reaffix any you find, using as many layers of glue as necessary make it secure. Allow each layer to dry before applying another.

To finish off the interior of your book safe, use sturdy paper, or even fabric, cut to fit and attach it with your all-in-one glue. Should you need to apply pressure to the book for better adhesion, place a piece of white paper in between the top cover and the bottom section to avoid gluing them together. Then, close the book and place a heavy object on top to press pages together. Once that’s done, so is your book safe.



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