Easy peasy Christmas crafts
Get creative with your children this festive season with these easy-to-do DIY decor ideas, writes Dearbhala Cox Giffin
Everything is so commercial nowadays, and it's easy to become jaded. Yet to our children, Christmas is all new and exciting and sincere. They love the lights, the smells, the songs and the sparkle of decorations, so why not begin your own family Christmas tradition this year, and start making your own decorations?
Art usually involves unstructured, freestyle activities where your child can express their imagination, whereas crafts tend to involve structured tasks with a specific goal in mind, so try to have a balance of arts and crafts activities for your child to enjoy.
If your child loves getting stuck into arts and crafts projects with paint or glue up to their elbows, relax and enjoy it with them - they're learning and developing so many skills whilst making a beautiful mess. Crafts such as colouring, drawing and cutting engage multiple brain areas simultaneously and require your child to use both of their hands together, supporting the development of muscles in their hands and developing both their fine motor skills and bilateral co-ordination. These are integral to developing a range of life skills such as writing, dexterity, dressing themselves and tying shoelaces.
It is also important to choose arts and crafts that are at your child's skill level and that don't need too much adult intervention to complete - keep it simple. It is far more rewarding if your child's creation is all their own as they will feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Making their own decorations and getting creative at home is both educational and therapeutic for children - and also lots of fun. The kitchen table is at the centre of the home and is much more than just a place to eat dinner. It's a place where memories are created.
Make sure it is covered with plenty of newspaper or an old washable table cloth so that you and your child can get creative and messy together without worrying about a few spills or getting paint on the furniture.
This is a chance for your child to unleash their imagination, and for you to channel your inner child. Here are seven ideas:
1 Make Christmas cards for your child's friends, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings - just be prepared for the mess of lots of glitter and glue. You can use a variety of materials, markers, coloured glue, glitter, beads, scrap paper, magazines, buttons and more. Attaching a photo of your child or a hand-drawn self-portrait adds a lovely personal touch to the card. Or you can choose to paint on the card with your child. There's lots of colourful card available in the shops at this time of year so you can be bright and bold and have great fun together deciding on what to paint. Also, give your child the opportunity to free paint when designing their cards so they can express all their own inner creativity.
2 Create Christmas place mats. Give your child an A4 piece of coloured card and a variety of seasonal resources such as Christmas sponges for printing, scraps of Christmas wrapping paper, markers, glue and glitter. Decorate the card and allow it to dry. If possible, laminate the cards to turn them in to cherished Christmas place mats that can be reused every year. These can make great gifts too - especially for grandparents.
3 Children love to decorate pine cones and hang them from the tree with a colourful ribbon. It can get a little messy with spray paint so make sure that your child has an apron or an old shirt and has plenty of newspaper and cloths to hand. Once your child has sprayed the cone, allow it to dry fully, then tie coloured ribbon around the base and it will be ready to find its place on the tree.
4 Simple snowflakes are another very easy decoration to make together. Start by showing your child how to trace a circle on their favourite colour card or thick drawing paper using greaseproof paper. Cut out the circle and fold it in half three times and then draw shapes from the edges with a pencil, making sure that the shapes are not too close together as the snowflake will fall apart once the shapes have been cut. Show your child how to carefully cut out the shapes on the paper and then carefully open the circle to reveal a beautiful snowflake design.
5 Oranges decorated with cloves, and cinnamon sticks tied with colourful ribbon, add a lovely natural touch, and their spicy aroma will make the whole house smell of Christmas. For the clove oranges, an older child can wrap a brightly coloured thin ribbon around the orange, twisting at the base, to divide the orange into quarters. They then feed the ends under the piece of ribbon at the top of the orange and tie a simple overhand knot to secure the ribbon in place. Then the fun part begins and your child can get creative pressing cloves into the oranges. Once the oranges are decorated, hang them on your tree by tying it on with the extra ribbon, and enjoy the spicy Christmas aroma! They also make a lovely decorative centrepiece for your table if placed in a glass fruit bowl.
6 Make some salt dough Christmas decorations together. These look really lovely on the Christmas tree and are very easy to do with your child. You can add food colouring or glitter to the salt dough to create a festive look and cut out a range of Christmas shapes. The decorations should be baked for at least two to three hours at a low heat, and don't forget to make a small hole at the top of each decoration so that you can thread some ribbon through to tie it on the tree. If your younger children want to get involved, they can make an imprint of their hand in a circular cut out which can then be painted the following day - it makes a lovely memory. Salt dough is easily made by combining one cup of salt, two cups of plain flour (don't use self-raising as it raises when cooked), and one cup of lukewarm water.
7 Christmas baking is always great fun. You can pick up some Christmas tree, angel and snowman cookie cutters and use them to cut out the biscuits (these can also be used for making salt dough Christmas decorations). A standard cookie dough recipe will work but you may wish to add some cinnamon or nutmeg to create a delicious, festive aroma. Bags of homemade biscuits make a lovely gift for family and friends.
Christmas crafts is a time for bonding with your child and having fun. Your child will love spending time with you and creating masterpieces together - some of which will become keepsake ornaments that will be rehung on the tree year after year.
Dearbhala Cox Giffin is director of childcare at Giraffe; giraffe.ie
• Scissors, coloured card and paper (recycled Christmas paper works a treat)
• Paint and paint brushes, markers and colouring pencils
• Glue and glue sticks
• Glitter, cotton wool
• Red wool or ribbon
• Salt dough and cookie cutters in Christmas shapes
• Greaseproof paper for tracing
• Pine cones and gold and silver spray paint (for older children)
• Oranges, cloves and cinnamon sticks
• Cereal boxes and yoghurt cartons
• Cardboard tubes from inside kitchen towelling
• Old CDs
• Colourful buttons
• Old shirts make great aprons