Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Decking The Halls

I wanted to include Jonah and Eve in the Christmas decorating as much as I could, so this year we used a lot of decorations that they could help make. Last year, Jonah helped make a handprint wreath.  I wanted to add some more handmade decorations this year. These two decorations were easy for my kids to help with, and they are extremely proud to show them off to visitors!

Paper Chain Garland:
Holiday themed scrap paper or colored construction paper
School Glue
Lots of patience!

This is a classic. And also happens to be a wonderful activity for honing hand-eye coordination and other crucial fine motor skills. I cut strips of holiday colored paper, 8 inches long and about 1 inch wide (I eyeballed it, no need to be exact!) It would be really fun to use holiday patterned scrapbook paper, but we had construction paper on hand. Older children can cut the strips themselves. I tried to let Jonah help cut some, and his were- well, not strips! So this year, I did the cutting. I demonstrated to Jonah how to put a dab of glue on one end of a paper strip, and how to bend it around to create a loop.

I then demonstrated how to put a strip of paper through that loop, and create a new loop, so that we had two attached loops. Jonah was thrilled and very eager to try.
and try....

 and try!
With a lot of guidance and help, we finally had a chain long enough for our mantel.

Jonah had a bit of trouble coordinating both of his hands in this task. It was wonderful practice for him to use fine motor skills that he needs to strengthen and really work on. After doing this craft, I will be making a "busy box" for him with paper chain making as an activity. With this as a busy box activity, he can practice these skills year round!

Coffee Filter Snowflakes:
White coffee filters
poster paint or magic/washable markers
work surface such as a plate or art tray
paint brushes

As many times as I have done coffee filter art, it never occurred to me to cut them into snowflakes until this year. There are many variations of this craft, turning coffee filters into butterflies or flowers; some use washable markers and others use food coloring. For school aged children, you can mix this into a chemistry lesson about chromatography or how colored ink is mixed, if you choose to use markers. Just have the kids color the filters with washable marker, spray or drip water onto the markings, and watch the color spread out and the ink seperate colors. We used this as an introduction to our wintery weather unit. Since it had flurried that morning, it seemed appropriate that we create our chilly weather craft in our nice warm PJ's!

We chose to use watered down poster paint. I wanted the snowflakes to look icy, so I picked purple, a shade of teal, and dark blue. I mixed a very tiny bit of each color into bowls of water. The less water you use, the more vibrant the color, but it will be harder for the colors to spread if it is too thick. Then I gave the kids paint brushes and coffee filters, and let them go at it!
I put the filters onto plates, to keep the paint from getting all over the place. You can also use pie tins or art trays. The surface needs to be wiped between each coffee filter.

I was absolutely amazed at how absorbed my kids were with this activity. They painted for nearly an hour. Had I not told them that time was up, then they would have gladly kept painting!
After we were done painting each coffee filter, I set it on a plastic sheet to dry. This process can take a while, depending on how enthusiastic your child was about painting the filter. If it is saturated, you can speed up the process by using a hair dryer (just keep the dryer moving back and forth, don't let it sit in one spot on the paper.) But, a hair dryer may cause the paper to curl.
Once the filters are dry, fold the circle into fourths, eights, and sixteenths  and begin cutting shapes on the folded edges. Unfold the paper and you will have a lovely snowflake to hang in your windows!

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