Because there are a lot of days in winter break, and you probably have to spend some of them with your kids. (Also, you can practice these crafts now, and you’ll have some great homemade gifts for next year. Or even for this year, if you’re a procrastinator like me.)
Connect through Crafts
Before I even considered having my own children, I taught classrooms full of them. I worked kindergarten and elementary grades in progressive schools where students participated in rich, hands-on curricula and pursued their own interests through projects and artistic explorations. Because of this, I did a lot of crafts. More than your average grownup, I assure you. And I developed some pretty efficient systems for churning out lovely, fairly easy, and wonderfully giftable crafts. Enjoy these activities this holiday season, to connect with your children and share their joy with friends and family.
This one’s easy and practical. Everyone needs cards at the holidays, whether to send season’s greetings, to label gifts, or to write thank yous once the New Year rolls around. Grab a stack of watercolor paper and cut or tear (depending on how you like the edges) sheets into 5×8 rectangles (or whatever size and shape you like your cards). I like to attach watercolor paper to pieces of cardboard, using tape at the corners, so kids can feel free to let loose without worrying about making a mess. Provide an assortment of colors, or stick to just a few. Different sized paintbrushes, sponges, medicine droppers, white crayons, and salt all make for fun experiments in watercolors, and abstract art looks great on these cards. After they’re dry, stack a bunch, tie with ribbon, and gift to someone who appreciates the value of outsider art.
The perfect solution for all those broken crayons at the bottom of your arts and crafts bins. Task your kiddos with collecting, peeling, and sorting the crayons while you prep everything else. You’ll need a big old pot that you don’t mind getting a little waxy (and which you will forever use as the candle pot), plenty of wax (soy, paraffin, etc.), votive wicks (when working with children, we prefer the pre-tabbed, pre-waxed wicks), empty coffee cans, and Dixie cups.
Fill your pot about halfway with water, and put it on the stove to boil. You’ll use the coffee cans for melting the wax in the pot, double boiler style, so get as many cans as you have colors. Melt some paraffin in each coffee can, then add crayons to dye the wax. You can add essential oils too, if you prefer scented candles. Line up several Dixie cups and place a votive wick in each, and start pouring. You can fill the cup to the top with one color, or layer colors (don’t forget to let the wax harden between layers!) for a striped effect. After they’re completely cool, peel off paper cups and put them in boxes of four to give to someone who collects but never burns candles.
Another super easy one: you can step up your candle game by creating sparkly candle holders with mason jar, glue, and glitter. Buy or gather glass jars with lids (8-ounce size is good if you want to combine this with the previous project). Use a paintbrush to apply a thin layer of Mod Podge or craft glue to the inside of the jar, and sprinkle in some glitter. Put the lid on and shake it up. Remove the lid and tap out any remaining glitter. Let the glue/glitter dry completely before adding candles. Tie twine or ribbon around the outside, and add little metal or wooden charms for an extra festive vibe, and deliver to someone who’s actually gonna burn those babies.
Maybe this doesn’t count as a craft, but it’s certainly an awesome anytime gift. It’s also a fun way to bake without having to smack your children’s hands away from the batter. And, really, dogs will eat anything, so, as long as you okay the ingredients, there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong. Supervision around the oven is a must, but otherwise, look at this project as an exercise in measurement and chemistry. Children will also probably need help rolling out the dough, and they’ll be impatient to get to the cookie cutter part. There are so many great recipes floating around that I’ll just link to a list that will link to a bunch of them and you can choose your favorites. Package these in festive little bags or jars for friends who tell you’re their dogs are as much work as your kids.
Sure, this one is obvious, but if you up your game a little snowflake making can become an entire day’s adventure. We recommend starting with Snowflake Bentley, a Vermont farmer turned snowflake enthusiast and photomicrography pioneer. His work continues to mesmerize children and adults alike, who can read about his determination and resourcefulness in an eponymous picture book by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian. Explore the outside, hunt for fresh fallen snow, and stay inside and make hot chocolate as you imagine the twinkling crystals falling from the sky. You can find tons of great templates online at sites like First Palette, challenge yourself with 3D snowflakes, or go free form and let the kids figure it out! These are great gifts for those who need help getting into the holiday spirit or who live where it’s too warm for snow.
My favorite winter craft is not quite giftable, but it’s a great way to get outside when it’s cold. It’s also a wonderful bonding experience, especially if you can let go of your grownup agenda and immerse yourself in your child’s world. Fairy houses are an exercise in resourcefulness and magic, both of which kids seem to carry in excess of us adults, so let them lead the way. Gather items from the natural world (think ahead and do this over a period of days; it’s also a good idea to keep a supply onhand), e.g. pebbles, flower petals, twigs, vines, feathers, and pinecones.
Find a spot that’s tucked away, at the base of a tree, or underneath an outcropping, and get to work. Try to remember when you were a child and would mentally design your dream home – and then make it fairy-sized. If you need inspiration, check out the Fairy Houses books by Barry and Tracy Kane. We sometimes leave notes and little snacks for the fairies to find. And, of course, they always write back. Gift this time to your children, and yourself. This is a great way to connect with the natural magic of the season.
What are your favorite winter crafts? Share in the comments!