Nothing revs up a child's spirits like beribboned gifts placed beneath a Christmas tree. But the holidays offer opportunities for kids to learn about the pleasure of giving as well as receiving. And by crafting these four festive ornaments, a child makes a lasting contribution to a family tradition and has fun too.
This project will also challenge your child's fine-motor skills, says Amy Flynn, director of the Bank Street Family Center in New York City. She advises choosing projects appropriate for your child's age and emphasizing the process rather than the final product for younger ones. "Brushing glue on a foam ball and rolling it in glitter is easy enough for a 2-year-old," she says. "But school-age kids will want to experiment, so offer lots of materials to use in a variety of ways to promote creativity and problem-solving."
Flynn adds that the creative process can boost a child's self-esteem, especially when it's an experience she can look forward to each year: "When you create a tradition for the family, a child can say, 'See how I've grown,' when she compares how her ornaments look as she gets older. And kids feel good when they make something for others."
1. Squeeze glue into a bowl or plate, and thin with a few drops of water. Pour glitter into the other bowl. Have your child brush the glue onto the foam balls and roll them in glitter. Let dry.
2. Insert a toothpick halfway into the larger ball. Press the smaller ball onto the other half of the toothpick to join balls. Thread straight pins through black beads to make eyes and buttons, and repeat with the red bead for the mouth. Cut a 1" piece of pipe cleaner for the nose, and press it into the head.
3. To make the base of the hat, trace around the base of a mug that's about 3" in diameter on black paper. Cut out the circle. In the center, draw another circle about 1" in diameter. Cut out this circle with a craft knife, and set it aside (this will be the hat's top). Punch a hole in the center of the 1" circle with the craft knife -- you'll need it later to insert a string for hanging the ornament.
4. For the body of the hat, cut a 5" by 1" strip from black paper. Press 1/4" folds along both long edges of the strip, and then snip along folded edges at 1/2" intervals. Form the strip into a tube with the folded edges bending toward the inside. Overlap the two short ends of the strip about 1/4", and glue in place.
5. To assemble hat, apply glue around the inside hole of the larger, donut-shaped circle and press one folded, snipped edge of the tube over the hole. Cut an 8" section of silver string and tie it around the head of a pin at the center, tie the ends in a knot, and press the pin into the snowman's head. Add a drop of glue to the pin's head to secure. Thread the loop of string through the inside of the small hole at the top of the hat. Dab glue around the top folded, snipped edge, and place the 1" circle on top. Glue hat to the snowman's head. Tie on a red felt scarf if desired.
1. To make Santa's nose, press the small foam ball to flatten it a bit. Insert a toothpick into the center of the larger ball so about 1/2" projects out. Apply glue around the toothpick, stick the small ball over it, and squish it onto the larger one.
2. Cut a piece of batting 7" to 8" in diameter. Squeeze glue into a bowl, thin with a few drops of water, and have your child brush it on the half of the ball below the nose. Stretch batting over glue for beard and hair.
3. Dab glue on the back of two blue rhinestones, and place above the nose for Santa's eyes. Thread the pins on two black beads, and press into the ball below the rhinestones to make his pupils. Repeat with a red bead for a mouth. (Younger children can glue on small buttons instead.) Let your child add pink dots of paint to the cheeks and nose. Let dry.
4. For the hat, cut a 9"-long triangle from red felt. Apply glue along one side, shape the triangle into a cone, and press until dry. Next, form a 9" by 1" strip of batting. Brush glue around the hat's base, and apply batting. Glue a ball of batting to the hat's point. Add glue around the base of the inside of the hat, fit it on the head, and let dry.
5. To hang, slip an 8" section of silver string through a large needle. Fold the felt hat in the center. Insert the threaded needle through the top of the hat's fold. Take out the needle, center the piece of silver string, and tie the loose ends in a knot.
1. Cut three 4" strips from pipe cleaners. Cut six 2" to 2 1/2" strips and six 1 1/2" strips. Fold the six shortest strips in half.
2. Bunch the three long pipe cleaner strips, and thread them through a bead; center the bead. Bend two pipe cleaners into an X shape; leave the center one straight to form a six-pointed star. Dab glue into the bead to keep pipe cleaners in place. Let dry.
3. About 2" from the end of a spoke, twist one of the 2 1/2" strips around the spoke, fanning out the ends once it's in place. Repeat on other spokes. About 1" from the end of each spoke, repeat process with 1 1/2" strips. Dab glue at each joint to secure, and allow to dry.
4. Squeeze glue into holes of the beads and press them into the spokes' ends. Tie an 8" strip of silver string below a bead at a spoke's tip and knot ends.
1. Have your child draw a reindeer on paper cut into a 4 1/2" square. Make sure the legs are 1/2" at the widest point. Cut out pattern.
2. Fold a piece of brown felt in half, and pin on pattern. Cut out the shape, and remove pins and pattern to detach the two shapes.
3. Cut a 2 1/2" strip and a 1 1/2" strip of pipe cleaner for the reindeer's antlers. Fold the short strip in half, and twist around center of the 2 1/2" strip. Fan open the ends of the shorter strip, and bend the longer strip into a crescent.
4. Apply glue along perimeter of chest, head, back, and tail of one side of the reindeer. Position antlers over the glue in front of the ears, and press the other cutout on top. Let dry. Push an inch or so of batting into the head and neck to fill the body and legs. Apply glue on bottom piece of felt along perimeter of the legs, belly, and hind end of the reindeer, press top into place, and hold there until dry.
5. Measure and cut a 1/4" by 4" section of light brown felt, and help your child glue on the rhinestone fittings. Wrap the strip around the reindeer's neck, and glue the ends together.
6. Ask your child to glue a rhinestone on each side of the head for eyes and repeat with flat red bead for nose. Thread an 8"-long piece of silver string through harness, and knot the ends.
Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the December/January 2002 issue of Child magazine.