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If you’ve got a crafty kid who loves the holidays, chances are they are tugging on your sleeve and heading to check the art supply cabinet the moment you’ve finished Thanksgiving dinner. And if they’re looking for Christmas-themed ideas, the internet is more than happy to help: there are infinite websites bursting with Christmas tree crafts, from handprint Christmas trees and Christmas tree cards to popsicle stick Christmas trees and 3d paper Christmas trees.
But there’s more to seasonal crafts than the traditional red, green and gold standbys: making your own holiday decorations is a great opportunity to let your child explore their artistic interests — and practice inclusivity. Regardless of what traditions your family observes, holiday craft projects can be an opportunity to celebrate various winter celebrations — Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa, as well as the winter solstice and New Year’s — and learn about the holidays we don’t personally celebrate.
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This could mean encouraging kids to hang the Christmas lights and Christmas ornaments, so they contribute to the holiday atmosphere. But it might be even more meaningful if they make the family Christmas decorations themselves, for instance, to create their own ornament crafts that reflect their personality, interests or passion.
The sky’s the limit for DIY Christmas ornaments: Salt dough ornaments can be a project for the whole family: little ones (as young as preschoolers) can decorate them with their handprint, while older kids can try free-hand painting. These can double as gift ideas for grandma and grandpa.
If you’re looking for a traditional holiday baking activity that’s not specifically Christmas themed, the gingerbread house is an edible way to create a fantasy landscape to celebrate winter (and sugar), while practicing your engineering skills (gluing a graham cracker roof with frosting is harder than it looks!) as well as your self-restraint. (Bonus: Use up any leftover Halloween candy before the New Year.)
When we talk about alternatives to Christmas crafts, we mean two things: on the one hand, don’t limit yourself to making art projects: While some kids will naturally want to make crafts, you can use the holiday theme to encourage other forms of creativity, whether it’s writing a holiday poem, designing their dream holiday setting in Minecraft, or developing a fun Christmas board game.
On the other hand, the winter holidays are also a time to think about the symbols and traditions we share — what’s important to us and why. The holidays can be a perfect opportunity to re-examine our familiar cultural icons. For example, a creative writer might want to put a new twist on classic characters, like Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch, Rudolph and Santa Claus; a musician could try writing new lyrics to seasonal classics like Jingle Bells.
But, in a culture where Christmas cards with symbols such as Santa and a Christmas tree can be the default, remind your kids to create cards for whichever winter holidays that your friends, relatives and neighbors celebrate.
When in doubt, create a general holiday season card with winter elements like snowflakes, cozy mittens and a roaring winter fire to share with those who don’t observe any religious holidays this time of year — or if you’re not sure what celebrations they are involved in.
The internet is always willing to offer up simple craft ideas, on sites like iheartcraftythings, with step-by-step tutorials that can keep kids busy for hours. But keep an open mind before rushing towards the printables. Look at holiday crafting as another opportunity to get your kids to stretch their creative muscles, so if they want to make a nativity scene on the ocean floor, craft their own dreidel out of pinecones, or design a Lego 3d-printed Christmas wreath, don’t limit them (as long as they promise to clean up after themselves).
Here are some of the traditional materials that lend themselves to holiday crafting. (If you don’t have these supplies lying around the house, a quick Amazon order can get you set up.)
Incorporate winter crafts into your homeschool routine by using the holidays as a theme to inspire projects that get kids into a designer mindset. If you want to extend the fun for twenty-four days, buy or make an advent calendar, but rather than filling it with tiny treats, write little design challenges or craft instructions and insert them into the slots. Each member of the family can take turns designing a challenge of their own, but here are some of our ideas to get you started.
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