Day 19: Gratitude Rolls

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Looking for a special way to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive this holiday season? I LOVE this simple idea from Jen at .

Start by asking each family member to write on a small slip of paper (let little ones dictate their thoughts for you). Encourage them to share something they are grateful for or a special thought about what Christmas means to them.

Next, prepare rolls, spraying the inside lightly with cooking spray. Place one paper strip in each roll. Bake as directed and serve warm. As each person unwraps a message, they read it aloud to the family at Christmas dinner.

Day 18: Family Traditions

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It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make the holiday season extra special for those you love. Red and green sprinkles in the pancakes on Christmas morning, milk and cookies left for Santa, reindeer food sprinkled on the lawn. All of these are little ways to help your children remember the magic, but if you’re looking for a few new ideas this year, try these.

Instead of buying an artificial tree, take a family outing and cut a live tree from a farm or from you own property if you live on acreage. Donate it to be used as hatcheries by your local wildlife office. Or, better yet, make it a tradition to plant a new tree each year and decorate outdoors.

Give each child one new ornament a year to recognize his/her biggest accomplishments or special interests each year. Consider favorite cartoon characters, ballet slippers, a special pet. Anything that will make you look back next year and say…Oh, Remember how you were SO into (Sponge Bob)….

Slumber Party! Pull out the sleeping bags, light the fireplace, and make room for everyone…it’s time to campout under the Christmas tree! Tell stories of your childhood Christmas memories, sing Christmas songs, read the nativity story, and plan your New Year’s resolutions. Just don’t be the first to fall asleep, or you might wake up to a case of the red and green polka dots! (round stickers all over your pj’s!)


Day 17: Fun with Photos

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What kid doesn’t love to see pictures of himself? Just wait until you see the smiles when you trap your little ones in the soap container! Pinned on pinterest, this idea is simple and basically cost-free. Snap a photo, glue to white paper, trim around image. Then, photocopy onto laminating paper (less than $1.00 at your local office store) and trim again. Then, roll to fit into a soap container with clear liquid soap, and you’ve got a personalized bathroom gadget that will help them remember to wash their hands!
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If your child likes to build tall, tall towers and dinosaur caves, make the most of those building blocks by attaching family photos with modgepodge. This will help your child remember their extended family members, even if they’re miles away. Find detailed instructions at lemontreecreations or just wing it. It’s a can’t fail project.

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And how cute is this? Perfect for pre-readers who struggle with traditional gift tags, photos attached to presents will bring nothing but joy when it’s present time at your house!


Day 16: Bring out the Buttons


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Got buttons? There’s no end to the Christmas crafts your family can create with these colorful thing-a-ma-jigs just waiting to be put to good use.

Start with this fab idea for teens and tweens from the craft queen herself, Martha Stewart. You gotta love the button on a string used in place of bows (but remember, if you’ve got little ones, buttons are a big risk!)


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While you’re checking out Martha’s magnificent directions for that craft (linked above), your older children might also enjoy making these snowman cards out of buttons.

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Or, try Michelle Philippi’s colorful button card for a simpler take on the idea. This makes me happy just looking at it!

Here’s one the younger kids can do (with supervision). Simply thread a thin chenille stem through large-holed buttons and shape it into a wreath for your tree.


Steadier hands might want to try these button ornaments. While snowman button ornaments were found all over the web, leave it to Martha Stewart to give us directions for even more buttoned-up friends. This is a no fail craft that takes only pipe cleaners and buttons. Great for young and old, but again…please supervise young children when using buttons.

Or try these stunning ornaments (would make excellent gifts!). Believe it or not, all you need is pins, buttons, a ribbon, and a styrofoam ball. But don’t they look lovely?

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Day 15: Homemade Ornaments

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Whether your kids are still young enough to make handprint ornaments or old enough to craft characters from the dough, you’ll enjoy this old stand-by recipe for making fabulous ornaments for your tree.

You’ll need:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Mix flour and salt well. Gradually add water, stirring with a large spoon. Finish mixing with hands. Knead until soft and pliable.
  3. Roll out on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets. With a toothpick or straw make a hole in the top of the ornament for threading string. Bake at 300 degrees F until hard (about 1 1/2 hours). (If opting for thicker dough, bake at 200 degrees for longer).

It’s fun to add cinnamon to the dough to make it smell yummy. You can also add cake food coloring before baking, or paint the ornaments once dry and cool. Before baking, try stamping your toddler’s handprint, your infant’s footprint, or your teen’s fingerprint into the dough and then cutting a circle around it. Or let kids create fun characters from their imagination. Use a garlic press to create hair, and paint as desired. If desired, add a coat of varnish to preserve the ornaments.

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Need something simpler? Can’t get much easier than this great idea from Real Simple. The fun part is hunting for twigs. What kid doesn’t love to do that? Find some of similar width, trim to size, and secure with jute or twine into the shape of a star.

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Here’s another fun idea from Real Simple: instead of tossing those old mittens and socks, save the tiniest ones and attach them to your tree or mantle. Better yet, attach them to ribbon with clothespins and create a sentimental advent calendar (Thanks, Martha Stewart!). Adorable!
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Or…cut a few slits in a circle of cardboard (painted if desired), tape some colored string to the back and let your kids wind the string from slit to slit to create unique string art ornaments for your tree.

Art from the Heart

Homemade play-dough. Finger paint. Hand puppets. With a little encouragement from parents, preschoolers can let their imaginations soar. It’s a special time, when they haven’t yet been forced to color in the lines. And that’s a good thing.

As adults, we have been trained to follow the rules, to maintain order, to conform. It’s sometimes tempting for us to work behind our children as they create craft projects. We tend to want to reach over them and correct their work, straightening the eyes, nose, and mouth pieces so their self-portraits look more like mass-production stamps than original works of art. What would Picasso think?

Arts and crafts are important parts of childhood development. They allow children to practice crucial fine motor skills such as cutting, tracing, drawing, and maneuvering small art pieces with specific goals in mind. Children gain self-confidence when they complete a task independently, and they learn basic language concepts such as colors, shapes, and prepositions. Cognitive skills are learned too as they follow simple directions and identify which art materials are used in various ways.

However, when trying to teach all of these skills, it’s important to focus on creativity and artistic expression as well.

Next time you spread out the crayons and construction paper, sit back and let your kids go wild – artistically that is. Challenge them to power up their brain muscles, and get their creative juices flowing. When they hand you a drawing that other adults might not consider pretty, frame it for proud display on your wall. Keep in mind that those creations not only track their developmental stages over the years, but they stand as proof that there was a time when we could all think outside of the lines.

Easy Ways to Stimulate Childhood Creativity

1. Provide various art materials and encourage children to create something that makes them feel happy. Talk about why they chose certain colors or textures as opposed to other choices. Play happy music in the background and take turns naming things that make you happy while you work.

2. Give children an empty shoebox and some glue. Add various scraps of materials and tidbit items found in the recycle bin or junk drawer. Think plastic bottle caps, laundry detergent scoops, rubber bands, twist ties, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, paper clips, etc. With supervision, encourage children to create a make-believe world. Be sure to talk about their ideas while they build a fantasy.

3. Take the challenge outdoors. Use baking pans, funnels, spoons, buckets, colanders, plastic knives, etc. to set up a nature kitchen. Help children bake mud pies, acorn cakes, and twig casseroles. Be sure to leave some sweet snacks for the fairies and elves who inhabit those magical corners of your back yard.

4. Choose a sunny spot to create pretend characters with no materials at all. All you need is you body to twist, turn, and stretch into various shadow forms. Give these imaginary friends names and talk about what they like to eat, where they sleep, and what color they are.

5. Use sidewalk chalk to sketch a city. Encourage your child to build a world for you to travel through. How do you move around this world – walk, drive, fly, swim? Who do you meet there? What does a school look like? Where do you eat? Ask questions to prompt children to create an entire community all from their imaginations. There are countless ways to encourage children to use their creative energy. Just remember there is no right or wrong way to approach art. All you need is a little time, patience, and wonder…and you might be amazed at what you find within those little minds.