Monday, December 12, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas Crafts

Frequently I suffer from delusions of grandeur. Most recently, for instance, I imagined making a virtual advent calendar here on this blog, where I would post about making a different holiday craft for each day of December.

The photo above, taken while we were decorating our tree a few nights ago, is meant to be a deeply artistic and symbolic image representing the rush of time, the whirlwind, if you will, that we experience around the holiday season. Also, I still haven't quite worked out how to take a decent photo in low light. But I've been crafting, Jerry. Oh, how I've been crafting. So for me this year the stress of the holidays has been totally self-imposed, and is mostly to do with wanting to make SO much stuff, and having so little time to do it. So while I've had to 86 the advent calendar thing, I'm not giving up completely. I'm cutting my expectations almost exactly in half, and will instead post a holiday craft a day for the next 12 days.

Spoiler alert: If you're one of my kids's teachers, or one of my sisters, or my grandmother, or one of my friends, or one of my friend's young children, or think you might someday be any of these people, you might find out what you're getting for Christmas early.


For Christmas one year, when I was six or seven years old, my dad (more likely my dad's girlfriend at the time), got me this book:

And oh, how I loved it. And still love it. I have schlepped this baby around with me for over 30 years, and I take it out every now and then to revisit some of my favorite crafts from childhood and do them again with my kids. The center top photo of the picture frame on this book's cover is a project made out of simple salt dough, which lots of people use for making Christmas ornaments. I loved this craft when I was little because the house I grew up in didn't actually have a stocked craft cabinet full of fancy watercolor pencils and tissue paper and hole punchers, like some spoiled people's kids I know. (Yes, I'm talking to you, my children.) But we always had flour and water and salt lying around. This is a great craft for families with very young children (like mine), who don't yet have the fine motor skills to make more complicated crafts. Even little hands can pitch in to help roll the dough, cut out shapes, and throw huge fists full of glitter all over the kitchen. I mean, decorate ornaments with glitter and glue.

To make salt dough:
Mix about a cup of salt into two cups of flour
Mix about 1/2 to 3/4 a cup of hot water into the dry ingredients, and knead it all together til you've got a good, smooth consistency.

Roll out your dough with a rolling pin, and cut out your shapes with cookie cutters. Don't forget to punch a hole in the top of the ornaments so that you can string it up for hanging later. I use a chopstick to do this. If your hole is too small it'll shrink a bit in the oven and be rendered useless.

Put your shapes onto a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until dry. Don't turn the oven higher than than or you'll ornaments will turn brown (which probably won't matter anyway if you glob on as much paint and glitter as my kids do).

When they're dry they're ready to decorate as you wish. There are endless ways in which to do this, which you can choose to some extent based on the capabilities of your kids. Older kids can decoupage or try dipping into encaustic/wax, for instance. My kids are pretty happy right now with poster paints and glitter.

We've been making lots of different kinds of ornaments for our tree this year, as my goal is to phase out most of the store bought ones and eventually have an entirely handmade tree. I say "most" rather than all store bought ornaments because some were gifts and have sentimental value, and because I'll never learn how to make my own lights. But a lot of our ornaments are pretty cheap dollar store bulbs and the like, which I got so I wouldn't have to worry about my kids trashing them. Which they do. Frequently.

Keep visiting between now and Christmas eve to see many more handmade craft ideas. I'll even throw in a Chanukah craft that's good for kids and would make a great gift. I'll leave you with one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. Not a classic, exactly, but still catchy after all these years.


  1. I used to love making "play do" from a similar recipe as a kid, and making little bears.

  2. Yes, Marie. We love to make play-doh also. This recipe, however is missing the magic ingredient of that recipe, which is cream of tartar. Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  3. Believe it or not, I have some of these from when I was a kid. They last eternally!