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Crafts with kids

7 simple but stunning Christmas decorations

Chances are that your most cherished holiday decorations also happen to be the ones handmade by the children in your life: popsicle-stick Santas from preschool, those lumpy salt-dough stars that bend the boughs of your tree each year. The kids might have outgrown paper plates and cotton balls as raw materials, but the satisfaction of making beautiful items with one’s own two hands never gets old. So why not while away a Saturday by crafting together, then decking the halls with your creations? Here are some simple but sophisticated projects to help you and yours create fabulous decorations—and wonderful memories.

DIY orange and clove pomander

Parents who have fond memories of making pomanders from oranges and whole cloves will certainly want to pass down this time-honored Christmas tradition. As the cloves can be difficult to push through orange peel, prep this craft in advance for your young helpers. There are two ways, each of which makes the task easier while also providing guidelines for clove placement. Either pre-punch a design into the rind using an ice pick or other sharp implement, or use a zester to strip the peel away in patterns.
Older kids can help with another citrus-centric decoration project: Scandinavian-inspired orange-slice garlands. To create these festive festoons, slice oranges thinly before drying them, first in the oven and then at room temperature. This may take a few days, so plan ahead if you’ve got crafting on the calendar for a weekend. String the slices on sturdy kitchen twine. They’re gorgeous even by themselves, or make a more elaborate garland with the addition of cranberries, holly leaves, cinnamon sticks, ribbon, or pine cones. (Protip: for these last two, simply wrap and tie the twine around them, rather than trying to punch holes through them.)
For a particularly colorful Christmas garland, swap the regular oranges for their crimson-hued cousins, blood oranges, and alternate with dried lime slices.

Totally tubular snowflake Christmas tree ornaments

Instead of recycling your toilet-paper and paper-towel rolls, try upcycling them. It’s a snap to transform these tubes into surprisingly tasteful snowflakes. You will need a hot glue gun and a sturdy pair of scissors (or a craft knife), as well. Once your materials are gathered, simply cut the cardboard into rings, like you would a roll of cookie dough. Flatten slightly and crease at one or two points to create oblong shapes. Use a combination of larger, paper-towel tubes and smaller, toilet-paper ones to fashion your snowflakes, gluing or even using sturdy double-sided tape to secure. Then it’s a matter of deploying the glitter—if you dare. Younger children (or glitter-averse adults) can use sparkly markers or metallic washi tape to make their flakes gleam.

Holiday hula hoop wreath

Have an old hula hoop hiding in the corner of your garage or under your teenager’s bed? Press it into service come Christmastime to make a big, beautiful wreath that’s perfect for adorning your porch. Wrap it in plaid ribbon or rustic burlap for a farmhouse aesthetic, or go a bit glitzier with shimmery fabric or even flexible fairy lights. You could also keep it simple by spray-painting the hoop, then adding interest with a few oversize ornaments, sprigs of mistletoe, pine cones, or poinsettias.
Hung horizontally from the ceiling, a hoop can also become a whimsical chandelier. Try draping it with swags of pine, then letting the children trim it with small, sturdy ornaments or paper chains while you handle hanging fragile or delicate decorations on the tree itself.

Craft happy little Christmas trees

Pine cones and wine corks combine to form darling little Christmas trees that can stand on a mantelpiece or be strung up and hung on the true tannenbaum. While the painting and gluing parts of this charming craft might be better handled by older children, younger ones can participate when it comes time to decorate the trees. Placing beads or itty-bitty, glittery pom-poms on the pine-cone “branches” will help toddlers practice fine motor skills. Top off each with a star cut from cardboard and covered with gold or silver foil.

Spice up your candles

Cinnamon sticks make fun and fragrant stirrers for hot cider, cocoa, or mulled wine, but if you bought them in bulk and have extras lying around, consider using them to craft a scented candle holder. This creation is best with a wide, squat candle, but a taller pillar would work in a pinch. After gluing the sticks vertically around the candle and trimming them to size, wrap the whole kit-and-kaboodle with raffia, ribbon, or yarn. If desired, attach additional touches like buttons, mistletoe, miniature candy canes, or jingle bells. These cinnamon-stick candles do double duty as centerpieces or last-minute holiday presents, too.

Make an ornament out of the ordinary

Here’s a Christmas craft that requires only four items, some or maybe even all of which might be right in your junk drawer: small round balloons, kitchen string, white glue, and glitter. Once a grown-up has blown up the balloons, little hands can get delightfully messy dipping the string into watered-down glue. Help them wrap it gently around the balloon, as though winding up a ball of yarn. Be sure to leave plenty of space between the strings, however. Not only will an open, lacy effect be more beautiful on the bough, but it will also make removing the balloon after popping it that much easier. One last coat of glue, a dusting (or a dumping, depending on the age of your crafters) of glitter, a ribbon loop for hanging, and you’ll be good to go.