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.

Day 14: Run, Run, Fast As You Can!

It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through our Advent activities, but it’s December 14 and time for GINGERBREAD! I admit, when it comes to gingerbread houses, we cheat. We do make homemade gingerbread cookies, but we use graham crackers to build our houses.

We make one each year, and it’s always a treat. First, we coat a cardboard soda bottle package with icing. Then we attach graham crackers as the walls and roof. Finally, we decorate with leftover Trick-or-Treat candy. This is all set on a thick, square piece of cardboard we cut from a large box. We coat that in icing too, and the sugar-coated landscaping is never anything less than divine.

But instead of boring you with our personal photos, I thought you might like to see some gingerbread houses from my elementary school this year (including the photo above). These were made by preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students who all enjoyed the activity.

Get messy, indulge your sweet tooth, and HAVE FUN!



Be sure to read The Gingerbread Man and then learn the following poem:

Oh where, oh where, is my gingerbread man? Oh where, oh where, can he be? He popped out of the oven and ran out the door. Oh where, oh where, can he be?

Now, bake some gingerbread cookies or make a gingerbread man out of paper. Then, set a trap and see if you can catch your gingerbread man! Here are some of the traps around our school this week.



Day 13: Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!

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Pinecones are Mother Nature’s special way of decorating her living room. And if it’s good enough for Mother Nature, than it’s good enough! Not to mention…it’s the perfect size for little fingers and the options are endless. Try this one, for instance. Add colorful balls of wool or inexpensive craft balls from a discount store. Attach with glue and you’re done!
If pinecones are a little too prickly and glue a little too sticky for you, then try this great idea from familyfun for a cutie patootie pipe cleaner tree. Find instructions here.

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Still a little too much crafting? Try this mess free option for those of you who just don’t like the idea of cleaning up pine needles or glue or beads. Simply cut a tree from green felt and create all sorts of colorful decorations from felt. It works magically…felt sticks to felt! Attach the “tree” to a wall using temporary adhesive strips and give your toddlers a Christmas tree they can decorate again…and again…and again! (Thanks to for this super idea. My kids are too old for this one, but I’m filing it for my classroom.)
For your teen/tween booklover, why not try this fabulous idea for a book tree? I shared this from a post on facebook and despite my best efforts, I can’t find the original source. If you happen to know who gets credit for this one…please share!

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Want to include a little math with that tree crafting, or looking for an idea for the classroom? Try this idea from Mrs. Lee’s Kinderkids. Provide red construction paper and tree pieces. Help children organize the tree strips from longest to shortest before glueing on the paper. Last, dip q-tips in white paint and dot the entire piece with snow. See Mrs. Lee’s blog for many more great teaching ideas for little ones.

Hope you have fun celebrating the Christmas season with those you love. Be sure to check out previous blog posts and stay tuned for more December postings to find tons of ideas to connect with your family this holiday.