We’re still working on establishing holiday traditions are our place, but one thing that has taken hold here is making our own Christmas tree decorations, and then of course decorating the tree together with our things. I started this years ago, I think when my oldest son was just three years old. There are lots of things that little children can help make; here are a few of our staples.
- Salt Dough Ornaments – so easy to make, perfectly tactile for little hands, and fun to paint (sparkles!) and decorate. These hang on from year to year if you’re careful with them. To make: Mix 2 cups flour and 1 cup salt, and add 2 Tbsp oil. Slowly add 3/4 to 1 cup of water, until you have a smooth, clay-like consistency. Make shapes that you like, and then bake at 250 degree for about an hour. If you want to hang your ornaments, remember to poke a hole in it before baking (a straw is ideal for this, but I never have one and just use a bamboo skewer).
- Dried Orange Slices – older children could help slice these, and then you just bake in an oven on low temperature until they’re dry. They smell lovely, are so pretty on the tree, and even young kids can poke them with picture wire to make hooks for hanging.
- Popcorn and Cranberry Strings – simple and festive on the tree. It’s best to use day-old popcorn for stringing as it’s less likely to crack when you sew them together. With supervision, little hands can do this, especially with a yarn needle that’s not quite so sharp, although I tend to give my kids regular needles as they’re more effective in poking the popcorn and cranberry.
- Miniature Wreaths – these are little squares of fabric (that don’t fray) strung on a strong thread (like embroidery floss or fishing line) and then tied together to make a circle. We have scrap fleece so we use that, but felt or wool (felted or boiled) would also work well. I made these with the kids originally for window decorating, but they have since grabbed them for the tree.
We don’t have our tree yet this year, but just yesterday afternoon, and I swear I didn’t stage this, my boys spontaneously started making Christmas decorations. We had driven home from a lesson in the dark, during which they excitedly pointed out every house that had holiday lights and decorations, and this must have spurred to them to their own creations. They ended up making wreaths on their own from construction paper – I couldn’t participate because I had to make dinner and take care of the (sick) baby. But I watched them fold, cut, colour, and tape these to our front window, working cooperatively the entire time.
I know these decorations from the outside may not look like much, but I love that my boys feel that they have the capacity and wherewithal to make Christmas treasures with their own hands, which of course they do. I hope that our annual makings for the Christmas tree foster this. Our tree will display our things, including a few gifted ornaments and artwork that they boys deem appropriate, and this works for us.