Help little hands deck the halls, hearth, and entire house

In the go-go, rush-rush of holiday hustle and bustle, taking time to make holiday decorations with kids can be among the sweetest moments of the season. Heat up some cocoa, plug in or download a few carols, and pull out the glitter and glue. Make sparkly treasures kids can show off with pride, along with memories to last a lifetime.

Katherine Pyles, columnist for the Huntington, WV, Herald-Dispatch wrote “Add Cheer, Not Stress, with These Simple Crafts for Kids." When it occurred to her that despite having limited time, creating some “good old-fashioned Christmas crafts” would be a great idea, she carved out a cozy, cheerful workspace where she and her 3-year-old son got busy. She said, “ With apple cider mulling in the Crock-Pot and a dusting of glitter on everything we touched, it might as well have been Santa's workshop.”

Her ideas include classic paper chains made from strips cut out of construction paper, card stock, or recycled Christmas cards; potato stamping of simple holiday shapes (star, wreath, etc.) carved in relief on a potato; foil ornaments using cardboard, tin foil, and glue; and “ice painting” using Epsom salts stirred into water. After painting snowflakes and other scenes, when it dries it “crystallizes” and looks like ice!

Another super simple and inexpensive “classic” is the paper plate angel. Hang a string of them around the room!

Time spent making decorations is also a wonderful time to share memories from your own childhood of doing “same” on your own, at school, and with parents or grandparents. Did you string popcorn or cranberries? Make styrofoam ball ornaments? How long has it been, anyway since you tried your hand at paper snowflakes? Feeling a little rusty? Here are a dozen free templates for download from First Palette, “your step-by-step guide to kids’ crafts.”

Though it takes a few more ingredients and a bit more time, Martha Stewart’s “Winter Wonderland in a Jar” homemade snow globe is sure to delight. Many kinds of jars will work, but baby food jars are one good choice.

Parent-child craft time delivers benefits beyond the visible. Richard Rende, Ph.D., developmental psychologist, researcher, educator, and author, wrote an article for Parenting titled, “Research Shows Parent/Child Craft Time Has Lifelong Benefits.” He suggests that crafting can improve visual processing skills, fine motor skills, and executive function (involving planned behavior and the ability to pay attention). All of these are important to school school success. But just the bonding time matters significantly. Rende concludes by saying, “Years from now, it won't matter what you created, just that you did it together.”

For still more ideas, see “60 Christmas Crafts for Kids,” from HGTV, including a pattern for assembling a herd of printable paper deer, marshmallow snowmen for garnishing cocoa, and making personalized gift tags or ornaments out of repurposed game board pieces!

Share the gifts of time and imagination with your special elves, and light up the season with ear-to-ear smiles.