Every year as Christmas approaches, we make handmade Christmas ornaments. Often we give them as gifts to teachers and grandparents, but just as often we make them for the sheer joy of making them and hanging them on our tree. Some are more temporary than others. Popcorn garlands and gingerbread cookie ornaments don’t last much beyond the big day itself. Others, we’ve kept for years and years, treasuring the evidence of eager little fingers covered in too much glue and not enough glitter — when is there ever enough glitter when you are three and four and five?
Last year, we went mad for salt dough. It was not the first time we’ve made salt dough ornaments, and I can guarantee that it won’t be the last. Salt dough is a lot of fun, and perfect for making ornaments with. It’s also easy enough that you can do it with kids as young as 2 years old, as long as you let go of the expectation that the ornaments have to look like anything other than colourful little blobs of painted salt dough on a string. Add some fancy cookie cutters and a generous helping of acrylic paints, and you’ve got hours and hours and hours of fun for kids (and grown-ups) of all ages.
Last year, we also decorated the tree on our front lawn, using what has to be hands-down the easiest kids ornament craft ever. Seriously. And they came out so cute!
This year, we’ve been branching out in new directions.
I saved a huge mess of branches when I pruned the silverleaf dogwoods that grow beneath our livingroom window, since they are such a lovely red, and I thought we would make wreaths with them. Of course, I did a spectacularly poor job of researching dogwood wreath making. In fact, I based the entire adventure on a childhood memory of twining grape vines into wreaths. We had grapes growing up the side of our house when I was a child, and one year my parents cut them all down for some reason — I think they were damaging the brick. Never one to pass up a good craft opportunity, my mother decided to make wreaths. I don’t recall what we did with our wreaths, but I do remember spending hours upon hours twisting grape vines into circles.
It’s true what they say, you know. History truly does repeat itself, only this time it was with beautifully lustrous dogwood branches and an eager 8 year old B doing the twisting.
And twist, she did! Hours and hours and hours worth of twisting and twining and shaping. She made wreaths daily for over a week. She made larger ones, then smaller ones, then palm-sized ones, and with each iteration, she used fewer and fewer branches until, eventually, she had shaped her vision of a wreath out of a single branch, and it was only just barely big enough to fit over her doll’s hand to be a bracelet. Because dolls need Christmas presents too, don’t you know.
Lest you think B and I did all the crafting, rest assured, K tried his hand at wreath-making too, but as is typical for him, once he had done it once, he considered it to be a skill he had mastered and so he moved on to other things. Like Lego. And Minecraft. And practicing on his big brass baritone horn. He does that a lot these days, you know, and we’re coming to appreciate the loud, rich sound of brass instruments in a way we hadn’t before. Because, it must be said, brass instruments are loud. Extremely loud. Especially when played with enthusiasm, and he does play with enthusiasm. Lots and lots of enthusiasm. Which translates into lots and lots of volume.
After a while, however, one tires of wreath-making, and so we moved on to a new thing: Paper.
We began with a simple ornament made of strips of paper in varying lengths, glued together by the ends. We used clothespins to help hold them together while the glue set up, and double-sided scrapbook paper to give them some colour and heft. I don’t think I would make this with regular weight paper, as they would be far too fragile and not likely to curve smoothly. We glued them with regular old school glue, but you could staple them, too, which would make them even easier to do.
Once we had each made a few of them, we moved on to a more complicated star made from thinner strips of the same scrapbook paper. This one is made by first weaving six strips of paper together, then twisting some of the pieces into points, making a second piece identical to the first, and then glueing the two together into an eight-sided star. It looks much more complicated than it was.
All in all, our paper ornament experiment was an enormous success. There was only one small problem. An itsy bitsy problem, really, but a problem nonetheless. We got so caught up in the crafting that we completely lost track of time, and when we realized we were way past what should have been dinner, and that the table we usually eat on was covered in paper and glue and fragile still-wet ornaments held together by clothes pins…
…we left the entire mess sit until morning and ate in front of the television.