Easy Holiday Projects for Children
Candles and trivets can double as gifts
by Noël-Marie Taylor
hildren love doing craft projects, but after a while, there's no room left to display all their masterpieces. Luckily, during the holiday season they can enjoy making their projects and then giving them away (which also helps to teach that gifts that are hand-made are just as wonderful as--and often even better than--those purchased at a store).
Craft projects can be simple ornaments (take piece of paper, cut into holiday shape, let child decorate with crayons or glitter, add hanger), or more complex designs. Two of my family's current favorites--candle making and hand-decorated trivets--are described below.
I remember making candles: Melt wax, pour into container with wick. Not very exciting, and not exactly child-friendly. However, candle-making techniques apparently have improved in the past few decades, because there are two great ways that even toddlers can make candles now.
Roll your own
The first is using sheets of beeswax. These are available at any craft store, in a variety of colors. Pick up several different colors, along with a roll of candle wick (treated string, sometimes with a wire core, made specifically for candles). Simply place a wick along one edge of the beeswax piece, and roll the wax around it. Instant candle! No heat or melting of wax is necessary--the warmth of your hands is enough to soften the wax for shaping.
This project can be dressed up in a number of ways:
- Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and press them into the main candle
- Decorate with other items: beads, glitter, etc. Simply press into the edge of the candle, or glue if desired
- Make a "candy cane" candle--start with a basic candle of one color, then wrap a strip of contrasting wax around it.
- To make bigger, fancier candles, start with a simple pillar candle, and wrap a single layer of the beeswax around the outer edge. (Note: if the pillar is paraffin, and the beeswax does not stick easily, you may want to use some glue to help) Then decorate using any of the techniques listed above. This will allow you to make bigger candles from less beeswax, and help save money (especially if your child falls in love with this project and insists she MUST make a candle for every person she's ever met, real or imaginary).
Another simple, though sometimes slightly messier, method of candle making is using the wax "beads" that are now available in most craft stores. These are small balls of wax, in a rainbow of colors, which can be poured into a jar to create candles (think of the sand jars that kids love doing at fairs--it's the same concept).
To make these, you need wax beads, a glass container (you could use heavy plastic, but glass is safer in this instance), and a wick with a weight at the bottom (buy candle weights, or tie a metal washer to the wick). Other useful supplies include spoons and a pencil (or pen).
Tie one end of the wick to a pencil, and the other end to a weight. Put the weight into the glass container, balancing the pencil across the container lip to keep in place. Then , simply spoon wax beads into the jar, filling it about 1/2 full. Cut the wick off the pen (leaving some sticking out of the wax), and you have a candle!
This is a great craft for all age children, assuming they won't eat the wax beads. Candles can be individualized by choosing a jar that suits the specific person--a shaped container, one tinted in a favorite color, or one painted with a specific design or the person's name.
Once your kids have mastered these candle crafts, they may be interested in trying some more advanced candle-making projects. A great starting point for these is Waxed Out, which has information on supplies, possible projects, and even storing finished candles.
If the idea of letting the kids play with wax doesn't appeal to you, how about painting? Grandma probably already has enough one-of-a-kind pieces on her refrigerator, but does she have one on the table? One that it's actually okay to put a pot on?
If not, then start making trivets! This project is slightly messier than those listed above, and definitely needs adult input, especially for the baking.
For each trivet, you'll need a white ceramic tile. Get one with a non-porous, flat surface for the best results. Other necessary materials: Bake-able enamel paint (Perm-Enamel or other brand), glue, felt, scissors, paintbrushes. Optional items: Shaped sponges, stencils.
Paint a design onto the trivet. This can be a freehand piece of artwork, or a sponged or stenciled-on picture. Let dry.
Bake the trivet according to the directions on the paint container (most say at about 350 degrees for 20 minutes), then let cool completely.
Cut a piece of felt the same size as the tile, and glue to the bottom of the trivet. For a slightly heavier base, use a piece of cork.
Voilà! A one-of-a-kind trivet! If you're feeling ambitious, make a set of coasters to match!
Need more ideas?
Be sure to check out our article on fabric-painted crafts. There are all sorts of ways this craft can be modified to make gift items: shirts, hats, aprons, pillows, tablecloths, etc.
Some other quick-but-impressive crafts:
- Use precut foam shapes to create a design. Glue a magnet on the back, or prepare for hanging as an ornament.
- Need an idea for those tiny pictures you got with your portrait package? Get a box of paper--NOT plastic--slide cases (the kind used for the individual negative squares; you can find them at any major photo supply store). Let the kids decorate each casing. Then put a picture into each one, glue closed, and add a magnet or hanger.
- Use paints or markers to decorate a terra cotta flowerpot.
Have some other simple gift ideas for kids to make? Please post them to the Forum!
Noël-Marie Taylor is a freelance writer located in Columbia, Maryland. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including PC Magazine and The Mother Is Me. A stay-at-home mom to two children, she is also the designer of several cross-stitch kits for children.
Categories: holidays, holiday, gifts, inexpensive, cheap, cheap_gifts, gift, homemade, frugal, simple, Christmas