kids

Creating shiny Christmas baubles for kids

This year, I decided on some decorated glass baubles for my daughter to give to her classmates – we usually make something rather than just giving the kids another candy cane!

shiny glass bauble hanging in a bush in the sunshine

Shiny bauble materials

I got the idea by seeing some pretty glass baubles on a clearance table at Westminster Christmas shop.

materials required for the shiny Christmas baubles

In looking for some ribbon or tinsel to use for decorating the baubles, I discovered some shiny red and green cheerleader pompoms in a discount store! This made things really easy as we only needed to pull off a length of ribbon instead of having to cut anything up (and given there are 31 children in the class, it would have involved a lot of cutting!)

Making the baubles

Very simply, we took two green and two red ribbons and tied them onto the bauble’s string, resulting in shiny decorations!

collage of child making shiny Christmas baubles and the baubles in a tree

My tip is to use baubles that have a fixed string – the ones we had just had string tied in a loop so it moved around as we worked, making it a bit more challenging.

As it turned out, this activity required quite a lot of fine motor skills so I ended up helping the kids and then making many of them myself. So it was a simple idea but not so easy to implement, unfortunately.

Finished decorations

I think they look very pretty, though, especially when sparkling in the sunshine.

What do you think – pretty? shiny? Christmassy? Will you try making some?

Finished glass baubles, haning on a bush or placed in Christmas card envelopes

Making a Christmas Gingerbread house

Yes, it is July but why should that stop us making a gingerbread house?

Our completed Gingerbread House!

I actually have had this kit for a while as we just didn’t get time to try it before Christmas and it seemed like a good way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon with my children. I have to say that the icing was a little stiff and difficult to manipulate but I am assuming it is because the kit was sitting around for so long.

Although there has been some debate about whether the house can be eaten now or if it must wait until Christmas Day… Do you have a tradition about when to eat gingerbread houses?

Gingerbread house kit

I know you can make a house from scratch, and there are dough cutter sets in appropriate shapes, but we used a kit this time to keep it fun and simple – and to learn some techniques!

This kit had everything we needed except for a tray to work on and scissors to cut the bags open, so it is definitely quick and easy to get going on the house.

Inside and outside of the gingerbread house kit

The gingerbread house kit we used.

Decorating the house

Most of the decorating happens before putting the actual house together. This is much easier as the pieces can lie flat on a tray or board as you work – and are much easier for little fingers to access.

In some instances, the kids tried to mimic the instructions exactly, and then other bits they were more creative over (like adding a back door on a side panel).

COllage of images where children's hands are putting icing onto the gingerbread pieces

The kids loved decorating the house…

Constructing the gingerbread house

I did most of the work constructing the house as it takes a little coordination and patience to hold the pieces in place as the icing dries enough to hold them together. Having said that, only adding the roof was particularly tricky and it didn’t take very long to constructs our Christmas Gingerbread House 🙂

Collage os photos showing stages of the gingerbread house being put together

Constructing the house didn’t take long…

Once the house was standing, some additional lollies and candy canes were arranged as well.

The results…

We ended up with a cute Christmas house which the kids were very proud of. They also enjoyed the consumption of the house over time, too!

In the packet, the amount of icing and lollies provided looked pretty good. But I think there were too many lollies for the size of the house in the end. Once the candy canes and other large lollies were added, it seemed a bit overdone to my eye.

back wall of the decorated gingerbread house

The back wall was decorated simply.

Other gingerbread house ideas

If you like the look of a gingerbread house or want to make one without feeling you have to eat them all, here are some other gingerbread house ideas to try:

images of the completed Christmas gingerbread house

Make Santa and his sleigh!

Last Christmas, my daughter’s grade 1 class made some Santa sleighs and reindeer in their art classes. I think they are very cute, and a clever idea on the part of their teacher.

COllage of kids craft work - Santa in his sleigh with a cotton reel reindeer

I love the Santa face and beard some of the children created! The reindeer are very cute but don’t really stand up very well unfortunately – you need something stronger than pipe cleaners really.

Two child-made Santa sleighs and reindeer, with Santa smiling

As this could also be a great craft activity for Christmas in July (and craft in the upcoming winter school holidays may be a good choice!), here is my break down of how to make Santa and his sleigh.

Making Santa and some reindeer is a fun kids' craft activity.

Materials

  • 1 cardboard box with lid (about 7cm long and 4cm wide)
  • sheet of plain paper (could be coloured or Christmas themed but that reduces decorating!)
  • scissors
  • textas, pencils, glitter, glue, etc for decorating
  • double sided tape (or glue)
  • two cotton reels (wooden preferably)
  • 1 brown pipe cleaner
  • 3 glittery red pipe cleaners
  • two googly eyes (you could draw them on if you wanted to)
  • gold elasticized thread or string
  • a golden bell (or a bead will do)
  • a couple of cotton wool balls
  • thick red paper

Instructions to make the sleigh

Cut out two sides for the sleigh, making them about as long as an A4 page.

One end needs to be about 15cm high and the other only 3 cm or so high. The shape in between is up to you – it can slope down quickly like a husky sled or stay high and then slope down like a sleigh (better for keeping Santa warm and his sack safe!)

CLose up images of Santa's sleigh made from paper and a cardboard box

Decorate the cut outs as you wish with colour and glitter.

Sit the box inside the lid.

Doing one side at a time, attach the sleigh sides onto the box with double sided tape (or glue). Leave 2 or 3 cm of the paper past the box.

 

Instructions to make SantaRed paper Santa face made by a child

Take the red paper – cut it into a circle of about 10 cm in diameter (ie 10 cm across the circle).

Cut a triangle wedge – about 1/5 of the circle.

Roll the piece of paper so that the two sides of the wedge overlap and can be taped or glued together.

Stick a cotton ball on the top of the cone and another near the base to be Santa’s beard.

Draw on some eyes and Santa is done!

 

Instructions to make the reindeer

Stick the googly eyes onto a cotton reel.

Fold the brown pipe cleaner in half and push the folded end into the top of the cotton reel with eyes. Depending in the size of the hole, you may want to add some glue to keep the pipe cleaner in place. Adjust the pipe cleaner to look like the reindeer’s antlers.

Cotton reel and pipe cleaner reindeer made by a child for Christmas

Push all three red pipe cleaners through the other cotton reel. Then, adjust them so that there are four ends are equal on each side of the cotton reel – these are the four legs and can be pulled into position.

One of the remaining ends can be shorter and bent upwards to form the tail. Take the remaining end of the pipe cleaner and put into the other cotton reel to join the two reels together, forming the reindeer’s neck.

Note you could make one pipe cleaner a different colour for the tail and neck – I just kept it simple!

Putting Santa with his sleigh

Stick one end of the gold thread onto the smaller end of the sleigh side with some sticky tape.

Thread the bell onto the thread and knot it in place about half way along the thread.

Loop the golden thread and bell around the red pipe cleaner neck.

Stick the other end of the thread onto the other side of the sleigh.

Sit Santa in the cardboard box.

Santa and his sleigh can now be put on a display as a hand crafted Christmas decoration or given as a gift.

Making cute Santas

a craft kit of Santas

The Jolly & Joy Christmas Santa craft kit

A paper Santa made by a 6 year old
I made some Santas with my kids recently from a kit I had grabbed, so I thought I’d share the results as a review for anyone else thinking of getting this kit.

Jolly & Joy Santa kit

I actually got this kit a while ago so I can’t remember the price but I don’t think it was particularly expensive as I got it as a back up activity to do with the kids.

The kit

Laid out contents of the paper Santa kit

Kit contents plus scissors

The materials to make six Santas were in a simple plastic bag. Most things were counted exactly (eg there were 36 ‘diamonds’ for Santa’s belt) or are cut from larger pieces of paper (we used less than half a sheet of each colour). Note we just got little jewels whereas the packet mentions holographs.

Making the Santas

I helped a four year old and two six year olds make these Santas, so adjust my comments as need be to suit the children you have.

Craft glue

Young fingers squeezing a tube of glueMy biggest complaint is the glue. One little tube was included in the kit.

One tube of glue for three kids meant a lot of waiting and stretched patience – in the end, the older two went and played until the four year old had finished with the glue. Which was admirable of them and made helping easier!

In addition, there was not enough glue in the tube to finish three Santas, let alone the six the kit promises. I had more craft glue but if you were relying on the kit to be complete, it would be a problem.

Figure it out for yourself

The kit did not come with instructions or even an image of the individual pieces. Overall, it’s not something you need instructions for – but kids doing it alone would need help.

I realised that the belt, boots, mittens, nose, mouth and face all had to be cut out of the provided paper. I had to use the Santa cut out as a sort of template to cut out the shapes which was a bit too tricky for the kids.

The actual creation

Child's fingers gluing a pompom onto SantaGluing the pieces onto Santa was fun and easy enough. It kept the kids happy for quite a while and they were very proud of their results – I think they did a good job, too.

Yes, a bit of glue was all over their fingers and they had trouble gluing on the pom poms (because they stuck to their glue fingers better than the cardboard!) but that’s all part of children’s craft work.

The verdict?

Despite a couple of disappointments, these were fun to make and we ended up with some very cute Santas. We attached them to the wall above each child’s bed where they looked really nice.

Certainly a nicer result than making these from scratch and the kit would suit a fairly wide range of age groups. So I’d say they’re worth a look if you want a Christmas craft idea or some Santas to decorate with.

If you’ve used one of these kits, or go on to use one, what do you think of them? Would you consider getting another one?
three Santas made by children

Scented sachets

kids filling fabric bags with scented leaves

It took concentration but the kids loved filling the bags for their Grandparents’ Christmas gifts.

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually get my kids to make presents for their grandparents each Christmas. It can be difficult finding things to make as I want it to be something the grandparents can keep and enjoy rather than just a scrap of paper with a scribble on it, and ideally it will be something at least a little bit useful!

So one year they made scented sachets as gifts.

Steps to scented sachets…

  1. I pulled out various bits of material I already had and let each child choose fabric to use.
  2. For the chosen fabrics, I cut a rectangle of about 18cm x 5cm# and used a sewing machine to create them into bags* – some with a lace trim
  3. we then walked around the garden together, collecting stuffing for the bags – we used home grown lavender, gum leaves, native mint leaves and miscellaneous leaves. Yes, you’d probably get better long term results from dried plant matter but I wanted the kids to be involved in the whole process and didn’t mind if these sachets didn’t last more than a few months.
  4. the children then had a lovely time filling their bags with the scented plant material
  5. I hand stitched the opening of the bags
  6. The kids lovingly wrapped their gifts and put them under the Christmas tree.

For older children, you could get them more involved in making the bags, too.

 

# Some I cut in 10cm x 9 cm pieces if that fitted my material better

* To make the bags, simply fold the fabric in half with the right sides touching and sew along most of the open edges, leaving a small opening to add the filling. To trim with lace, simply pin the lace between the two pieces of fabric (so the pretty part is hidden from view as you pin and sew) and sew as per the plain bags.

Tiny Christmas pudding gifts ~ recipe

I’ve been busy so left it a little late to plan the gifts for prep/kinder teachers the children wanted to make. So I looked back through the Love Santa recipes and found Anna’s tiny Christmas puddings 🙂

These will be easy enough to make quickly, I figured, and the kids could be involved in every step – and enjoy the final decorating phase. So this is what our final gifts to the kinder teachers looked like:

Tiny Christmas puddings ready to be wrapped in celophane

Tiny Christmas puddings ready to be wrapped in cellophane

Making tiny Christmas puds

And this is what we did to make them…

I bought a fruit cake from the supermarket that we have enjoyed many times – it’s just a homebrand cake but it is moist and not too heavy. I’m not a huge fan of the dark traditional Christmas cakes as I find them too heavy and dry, but you could certainly use one if you, like my husband, do like them.

Ingredients

Prepared fruit cake – bought or home made!
yoghurt
icing sugar
red & green jelly babies
red & green smarties

Quantities will depend on how many puddings you want to make 🙂 I used about half a cup of icing sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of yoghurt and most of a purchased 1 kg fruit cake.

Small packets of jelly babies and/or smarties should be enough as long as there is enough red and green ones in there!

Instructions…

Cut the cake – slice off about 3cm piece

Slice cut off a fruit cake

Slice off a generous piece of cake

Cut the slice into smaller pieces. Roll each piece into a ball – actually, you’ll need to form the shape as it will fall apart if you try rolling it.

Fruit cake shaped into small balls

Not very glamourous at this stage – balls of fruit cake

Put the cake balls into the fridge for a while – I left them there overnight. This helps them firm up a little so they are easier to work with.

As the balls were fiddlier and less stable than I expected, I also tried do big pieces to effectively make small cakes for my son’s teachers. These were also easier for little fingers to decorate (and quicker to prepare!).

Small Christmas cakes, decorated and gift wrapped

Small Christmas cakes, decorated and gift wrapped

Slice up the jelly babies – making small red circles and long, thin green strips. Cut the green smarties in half.

red and green smarties and jelly babies on a plate

Whole or sliced, jelly babies and smarties are colourful

Mix the yoghurt and icing sugar to a reasonably thick mixture.

Spoon some icing over the cake balls.

Decorate the tiny puddings with the red and green lollies. I created a holly effect but my son just had fun making the cakes colourful!

Child's hand decorating small Christmas cakes

My son enjoyed adding lots of colour to the small Christmas cakes!

Cheerful cake pops to make with kids

I made my first cake pops today.

cake pops iced in green with red decorations added

Some red and green Christmas cheer via cake pops

I may be a bit behind the trends but at least I bought the trays a little while ago!

My son’s birthday is next month and I am planning some themed cake pops for his party so I figured I should have a trial run or two first. Thus, I made some cake pops today.

Of course, as a test run, I didn’t touch his birthday theme and gave them a Christmassy touch instead!

They were fun to make and easy enough with my children so this could be a fun activity to build up the Christmas excitement during December.

My cake pop tips…

So here’s what I learned today…

  1. fill the holes to about level. On the plus side, if you over fill them you simply get cute little mushroom caps that easily come off the tin to leave perfect cake balls.
  2. they cook quickly which was great for my three year old helper. She wasn’t so keen on the waiting-for-them-to-cool-down phase though! Use that time to prepare any decorations. If you want lots of cake pops, the quick cooking time would be a bonus.
  3. make sure your icing is quite thick (and maybe even starting to set). Mine was pretty thick I thought and it covered the balls well but as they sat to set, much of the icing slowly dripped away…

    Cake pops iced in green - and dripping!

    Initially, the icing stayed put but after a few minutes it pooled onto the plate…

  4. think ahead of time and have a means of standing your cake pops upright as they dry. An old bit of packaging could do the trick or some firm cardboard with holes poked through. Although you can lay the cake pops on a plate or some greaseproof paper, the finished result is less even.
  5. a little icing on the stick will hold it in place better than just putting in the stick. This is almost instantly better actually.
  6. you will not be able to have the stick placed to best show off each ball (ie seams will be amongst decorations at the top) if you have little people helping you insert the sticks… My four year old was very proud to help but he couldn’t care less where he shoved the sticks!

My Christmassy Cake Pops…

I made a batch of my usual easy cake and had left overs from the cake pop tray.

Simply mix 1 cup self-raising flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons milk, 125g butter (melted is easiest) and 2 tablespoons of cocoa.

As cake pops, cook for 15-20 minutes at 180.

Remove from oven and trays. Let cool.

Insert stick.

Coat in green icing (I used yoghurt, icing sugar and green food dye) – best results by tipping the bowl on its side and rolling the cake around.

Decorate with small pieces of red lolly snakes.

Voila!

 

Hand print artwork makes a beautiful Christmas gift

Four paintings made of children's hand printsLast Christmas, we made some beautiful artwork as gifts for Grandparents.

I thought of them as an extension of some handprint ideas I’ve seen before (a single handprint with a poem or a group of children’s prints randomly across a farewell card) and was really pleased with how they turned out. It’s just taken me a while to edit the photos and write about them!

Making the artwork

We bought some canvasses cheaply, along with some nice quality acrylic paints.

I painted each canvas in a colour suited to the gift recipient (eg yellow for the grandparents with a yellow feature wall in their lounge room and pink for the grandparents with a dusky pink lounge room.)

 Once the canvases were dry, the kids got involved.

Due to the paint and likelihood of mess, I controlled this artwork closely. I went from youngest to eldest as the older children were more patient and better at spreading the paint over their hands. I also held their wrists as we made the prints to minimise smudges and errors.

Again, I chose a paint colour to suit the home of the recipient plus the canvas colour (ie choosing enough contrast to be visually effective).

One by one, I painted a hand of each child and we created a row of handprints. We did a test first, without paint, to decide on a pattern that looked good and included all four prints – you will need to find a pattern to fit the number of people and canvas size.

And that was it!

We wrapped them and the paintings were well received on Christmas Day by three sets of grandparents – and a surprised Daddy who hadn’t realised we made four!

Who decorates your Christmas tree?

It may seem like an obvious or irrelevant question, but who decorates your Christmas tree?Three chidlren decroating a Christmas tree

I discussed this with some Mums at kinder yesterday as we watched the kids decorate their kinder tree – a real Christmas tree sits in their group area with baskets of tinsel and ornaments so they can decorate and redecorate it as they wish. It’s a simple and fun activity for them.

Allowing children to decorate a Christmas tree

One Mum doesn’t let her kids near the tree and decorates it all herself so it is done properly and looks perfect. And Dhrynio commented last week that her mother-in-law had always decorated their tree so Dhrynio’s husband didn’t know how to do it!

Other Mums let their kids decorate the lower parts of the tree however they want. The upper part is either done by the parents or is directed by the kids but with parental assistance.Yong boy and Dad hang an ornament on a Christmas tree

A blog post I  read recently mixed both these traditions (I can’t remember where I read it – I’ll add the link when I find it!). She let the kids go wild and decorate the tree in the evening. Once they had gone to bed, she pulled everything off the tree and started again, doing it her ‘control freak’ way! She gave the kids the fun of decorating and herself the reward of having a perfect tree she could enjoy. I’m just not sure how the kids would feel when seeing their creativity was replaced by Mum’s perfection.

Protecting special decorations

Most of us keep certain ornaments – fragile and particularly sentimental ones – out of the kids’ reach and put them on the tree ourselves.

One Mum said she kept nothing from her daughter to provide the lesson of caring for things and being careful. I love that principle and her courage (she even lets her touch glass balls imported from Europe!), but I just don’t want to risk some of my more precious decorations to a curious and lively two-year old!

Many of my more precious ornaments are actually precious because they were made by my daughters when younger – they are fragile at the joins, etc rather than because they are glass, and precious because they are not replaceable.

Child participation and perfection

Can you have it both ways – let everyone put decorations on the tree for fun and have a tree that is stylish and perhaps artistic?

It may be a bit hard to manage both on one tree (although I have this image in my head now of a tree done perfectly on one side and chaotically on the other, and just rotating it as suits the time or audience!)

To me, a solution is to have two trees or two rooms/areas and treat each differently.

For example, have a stylish tree in a formal lounge room and let the kids be creative with the family room tree.

Or maybe it can be a time share thing – let the kids decorate the tree on 1 December but redecorate it on the 19th or so so it is ‘perfect’ for Christmas Day photos and any gatherings you have in the house in the last few days.

So who decorates your Christmas tree?

Did you set your own decorating tradition or have you copied what you did as a child?

Anyone for tea?

I came across this recipe and enjoyed the flavour so much I am making packets of it as Christmas gifts. And my kids are making some this weekend to give their teachers and activity leaders as gifts, too.

Spicy orange tea

2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
14 whole cloves
3 tablespoons dried orange peel (I dehydrated my own after the kids ate a pile of oranges!)
10 whole black peppercorns
11 tablespoons loose black tea leaves (You could try green tea, too, or mix them together)

Put it all together in an air tight container

Leave it for a week

Boil some water

put one spoon of tea mix per person into teapot

add appropriate amount of water

steep for 2 – 5 minutes

pour into cups and enjoy!

 

Remember to label the packets you give as gifts, including instructions of use. Kids can decorate the labels to make them personal and unique gifts.

Maybe leave some out ready for Santa to have a nice cup (as long as he’s willing to boil the kettle himself!) while he puts presents into stockings for you!

Christmas can be a great teacher for kids

Christmas is magical and fun, but it can also teach kids a lot.

Excited toddler laughing at some Christmas magic

Kids get excited by the magic of Christmas and decorations

So why are some people trying change Christmas and avoid those lessons?

First, we had the Mothers Union wanting to cancel writing to Santa instead of teaching kids how to write good letters instead of just greedy lists. All because they don’t respect parents to be able to say no…

Ally Fogg disagreed and rightly took the parent’s responsibility of refusing expensive gift suggestions, but was perhaps a bit negative about Christmas being about soul-destroying disappointment.

Now a  Melbourne paper is running a story about avoiding tearful disappointments. Not much of the article is visible online but it suggests that kids’ expectations can never be met (well how about we teach them to have realistic expectations? And teach them that sometimes we don’t get everything we want or have to work for it?) and that they shouldn’t see toy catalogues ‘so they don’t know what they’re missing out on [or] learn what a cheap skate you are’.

My son loves junk mail (he calls them magazines!) and looking at all the pictures entertains him for hours. Sure he has asked for a couple of things but I say no or ‘we’ll think about it’ so he knows he doesn’t get everything he sees.

Seeing things we don’t have can inspire our imaginations and motivate us – some we can dream about without real expectations of getting and others we want to can find a way to earn them. Why should kids not get that opportunity too?

And I totally resent being called a cheap skate because I don’t buy my children everything they (would otherwise) see in catalogues.

They don’t need everything and do need to learn they can’t get everything so of course I say no to some (many) of their requests. That doesn’t make me a cheap skate.

If I don’t buy something because I can’t afford to, that also does not make me a cheap skate. But calling me that is exactly the sort of commercial pressure that stresses parents more than writing a letter to Santa does.

Let’s get back to Christmas being positive

Christmas is fun and magical.

Santa is a loving, generous person who can teach our children to be generous and loving if we let him.

The magic and wonder of Christmas, which includes writing to a hero like Santa, is important against the amount of solid information kids get the rest of the year – so says parenting expert Michael Grose.

Writing to Santa can teach kids letter writing and communication skills (which includes caring about who you write to, not just yourself) as well as be a time to manage expectations, spend quality time together and develop some motor skills.

Girl in red Santa outfit holding a gift

Kids also enjoy giving

Teaching kids to be grateful for what they are given – making them use basic manners, sending thank you letters to Santa, letting them see others have less, and so on – is a valuable lesson. That will not only do more to stop greed for Christmas but make them better people.

Help parents teach

I would prefer to see all these ‘support groups’ and media support parents learn how Christmas can be used to help children.

Parenting is a tough job, and making rules that are hard to enforce (and that parents don’t actually want to enforce) isn’t helping.

Let’s help parents (and I need as much help as any other parents) make Christmas magical.

Let’s make Christmas a time to share and be happy.

Let’s concentrate on helping others and show our kids that is what Christmas and Santa are really all about.

How can we help parents help and teach kids? What ideas do you have?

These moves against letting kids learn from Christmas are really irritating me (can you tell?) but I shall hop off my high horse now and wait for you to share your ideas…

Simple Christmas decorations made by kids

A while ago I worked as child carer in my own home. Leading up to Christmas, I wanted to do some Christmas activities with the kids, as you do!

I was also on a budget but I found this activity worked really well – it cost nothing as I had stuff lying around, the kids were amused for hours and got creative (and developed fine motor skills of course), and by their nature, parents had somewhere to display their work (there are only so many paintings that fit on a fridge!)

Cardboard Christmas Tree decorations

As I was working with two year olds, I did a lot of the preparation work and divide the instructions for an adult and kids. If you have older kids, they may be able to do some of the earlier steps as well.

instructions for the adult

Cut out Christmas shapes from cardboard (cereal boxes work but washing powder boxes are thicker cardboard so are better). Stars, stockings and bells are easy, but get as creative as you want!

Punch a hole near one edge (poke the hole with scissors if you don’t have a hole punch).

instructions for the kids

Decorate the shapes! Glue on bits of coloured paper, tinsel and cotton wool balls, add stickers, glitter and paints.

Let it dry.

Thread gift ribbon (or string) through the hole and tie into a loop.

Hang the loop on the Christmas tree (or a door handle).

Stand back and admire your beautiful work 🙂

Love Santa says – send us photos of your creations, too!

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