In days of yore (that is, sometime before department stores were invented) families often created their own holiday decorations. In modern times the art of homemade fun has not been lost, especially during the holidays. Making garlands with popcorn and cranberries or creating salt-dough figures and ornaments are great ways for children to spend time with their parents, grandparents, and caregivers.
The kitchen is an overlooked source for craft materials for children. All of the ingredients in popcorn/cranberry garlands and salt-dough ornaments are natural and edible – if not exactly tasty – so there’s no worry about toxicity.
Note: Please be aware of the choking hazard posed by popcorn and raw cranberries to very young children. These decorations aren’t for eating, although nibbling on the popcorn while stringing garlands is perfectly acceptable for older children.
Popcorn and cranberry garlands
Materials: popped popcorn, raw cranberries, sewing thread, plastic needle
To make a garland, help your child make a batch of popcorn, without any added flavorings. Thread the desired length of thread onto the plastic needle, thread it through a cranberry, and tie the cranberry into place on the end. Now the children can thread popcorn with a cranberry added about every 6 inches or so until they’ve reached the end of their attention spans. The project can be worked on in small amounts over several days, by as many children or grownups that want to participate, until the garland is the desired length for decorating a tree or houseplant or draping above a window or doorway.
Materials: salt dough, rolling pin, cookie cutters or plastic knife, baking sheet, baking parchment, toothpick, craft paints and varnish
Mix together 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of salt. Add 1 cup of water gradually to the mixture until it is stiff but not sticky. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and manageable.
Children can model dough as desired, rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters or a knife to shape the ornaments. Keep a small bowl of water handy to use for smoothing the dough and attaching pieces to each other. If making Christmas tree ornaments, use a toothpick to make a 1/8-inch diameter hole in the top of the ornament before baking.
Place ornaments on baking parchment on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for approximately two hours, turning ornaments over and checking periodically, until dry. Ornaments will puff a little when baked.
Finished ornaments may be decorated with nontoxic craft paints and sealed with craft varnish. After the holiday season, store them in a dry, airtight container on a bed of uncooked rice to absorb any excess moisture.