Making Holiday Gifts

Now's the  time to begin making special gifts for families and teachers. Get started by taking a day or two to skim through craft books at the library, or go online and find some ideas. In this article, we've gathered a few neat projects for beginners as well as book and Web site recommendations to help create a crafty Christmas.

Ornaments

Homemade ornaments add a sweet, old-fashioned look to a Christmas tree. They are a terrific way to share the season with relatives and teachers. You may also wish to add one as a beautiful "tie-on" to bigger presents.

Christmas Ornaments from Kids Domain
http://www.kidsdomain.com/craft/_xorn-other.html
This terrific page has dozens of ideas, from candy trains to Victorian potpourri ornaments. The ingredients are not expensive and can be found at most large retail stores or craft stores. Here is one of their projects to try:

Clothespin Reindeer from KidsDomain.com

Reindeer made out of clothespins are cute and quick!
This project is rated VERY EASY to do.

What You Need

3 Clothespins
7mm Wiggle eyes
Small red pom pom
Ribbon
White small pom pom
Tacky glue

How to Make It

Use three clothespins: two pointing down (4 legs); the third pointing up (ears). Glue together.
Add wiggle eyes, a small red pom-pom nose, a ribbon on the neck, and a pom-pom tail using tacky glue.

Tips

Tacky Glue is better for crafts than hot glue, which boys can easily get hurt using; it's thicker and tackier than Elmer's Glue and dries quickly.

Some people like to use their cookie cutters to make forever cookie ornaments. You can either dye the dough beforehand or decorate afterwards if you wish with paint and spangles.

Bakers' Clay for Ornaments (Non-edible) from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Mix the flour, salt and water. Knead dough until smooth. Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour. Once cool paint with colors, if desired.

Yields 5 cups of dough

Cinnamon dough is a more sophisticated and sweet-smelling option for long-lasting ornaments. Click here for the recipe.
***Note: these ornaments take several days to dry!

Wreaths

A beautiful wreath is a nice, impressive way to convey the holiday spirit. Sturdy wreaths are a little tricky for small hands, but older kids (and adults) can get a kick out of creating a wreath filled with candies to sample. Peppermint is traditional for this time of year, but really any kind will work. All you need is a coat hanger, individually-wrapped candies, curling ribbon, wire cutters, pliers, masking tape, and scissors. Click here for complete instructions.

If you'd like more ideas for wreaths, check out

Wreath Making Basics: More Than 80 Wreath Ideas by Dawn Cusick.
Older children and adults will enjoy the detailed instructions for beginning wreath makers that use a variety of materials.

Projects with Wood

Talk about your long-lasting holiday presents! A beginning project, such as a birdhouse, can be both practical and attractive. A birdhouse would be an especially nice present for feathered creatures in chilly December. You can use the skills you learn with basic projects to make more challenging things later.

Building a Birdhouse
http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=howTo&p=Build/BrdHouse
Good instructions for a basic birdhouse with a removable bottom for easy cleaning. Adult supervision is highly recommended.

Woodworking for Kids: 40 Fabulous, Fun, & Useful Things for Kids to Make by Kevin McGuire.
First the author teaches step-by-step how to build five basic woodshop devices to help you with your later projects. Then it's time to create toys, games, instruments, and other fun things, all from wood.

Toys

Face it, brothers and sisters like toys. A pot holder is not going to cut it for them. You can go to the store and get them a hunk of colored plastic, sure, but you could create something on your own.

Here are two books to try which give instructions on making very different types of playthings, whether your lucky sibling prefers traditional toys or something with a little zing to it.

Folk Toys around the World and How to Make Them by Virginie Fowler.
Directions for dolls, toy animals, musical instruments and other fun things from around the world.

Make Amazing Toy and Game Gadgets by Amy Pinchuk.
Complete instructions for building five tech-savvy toys: an "out-of-sight" light box, flashy jewelry, a spy camera, a "buzz-off" game, or cool shades to wear in the dark. Be sure to check out the chapter on safety first! Part of a Popular Mechanics set written especially for kids by an engineer.