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Toddlers Can Help with Christmas Decorations Too!

father and son doing holiday crafts together

Get Your Whole Family Involved in Decorating this Holiday Season

By now you probably know I have a Grandson, Jasper! He’s 18 months old at the end of September 2012, so by Christmas time, he’ll be 21 months and a full-scale toddler. Right now he’s busy with his cars, his blocks, his fridge letters, and his books. I don’t think he can use scissors yet, but he “colors”. With a Grandfather that is an artist, and a Father who is an artist, and a Mother who loves the arts of all kinds, you can be sure there are plenty of hours each week devoted to artistic endeavors. The following internet article was written by Stephanie Brown and published in I enjoyed reading it and I hope you will too.

When it’s time for the family to get together and make Christmas ornaments and decorations or trim the tree, don’t forget about your toddler. These Christmas activities for toddlers can teach your child concepts about Christmas and help your child feel helpful and included in traditional holiday events.

1. Paint with Christmas Cookie Cutters

Like using stencils or sponge painting, a cookie cutter can help your toddler create something he recognizes when he doesn’t know how to draw the object. It’s also a good starting point for the toddler is reluctant to participate because he doesn’t want to get messy or doesn’t like the way tactile activities like finger painting feel. You can also use this activity to get ready for making ornaments with cookie cutters.

•For a young toddler, put the paint and cutters inside a newspaper-lined pan. This will keep him from making too big a mess as he scoots the cutters around while loading them with paint.
•Older toddlers with a bit more practice can just use a paper plate. Both clean up easy.
•All ages should wear a smock or old T-shirt.

Homemade Paint Recipes
Painting is always a fun activity for toddlers. Early on, they learn about texture by using their hands, and later on they can master fine motor control when you introduce a brush. If you find you don’t always have paint on hand, here are a few recipes, many made with items you probably already have on hand.
Soap Paint

What you need:
Warm water
3 cups Ivory Snow detergent or soap flakes
Food coloring

What to do:
Add water, a little at a time, to detergent flakes.
Mix to consistency of heavy cream.
Color with small amount of food coloring.

Another Soap Paint

What you need:
1 cup soap flakes
1/3 cup liquid starch
1/4 cup water

What to do:
Whisk all ingredients together for 3 minutes.

Puffy Paint

What you need:
Food coloring

What to do:
Mix equal amounts of flour, salt and water.
Add food coloring for color.
Pour mixture into squeeze bottles and paint.
Mixture will harden in a puffy shape.

Salt Paint

What you need:
1/8 cup liquid starch
1/8 cup water
Food coloring

What to do:
Mix together and apply to paper with a brush.
Keep stirring mixture. Paint will crystallize as it dries.

Powdered Milk Paint

What you need:
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup water
powdered tempera

What to do:
Mix all ingredients together.
Store sealed in the refrigerator.

2. Paint Holly Leaves with a Potato

If you don’t have cookie cutters to go with every season (and who does?) then use what you have around the house. You can easily cut shapes into a potato leaving behind a surface that will hold paint and leave a uniquely patterned print behind. To make this activity toddler-friendly, you can stick a craft stick or a fork into the potato so it’s easy to handle. After you get the leaves printed, your toddler can dip his fingertip in red paint and add the berries. If you have large enough paper you can even make a wreath.

3. Make Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments
Making these ornaments isn’t just fun, it’s a learning experience, too. Toddlers can practice following instructions and increase their motor skills as they help measure, pour, stir, roll and press out the ornaments with cookie cutters. Plus the smell of apples and cinnamon will stimulate your child’s sense of smell.
How to Make Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments:

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

You and your toddler will have a great time with this simple recipe for holiday ornaments. There is no cooking required, so it’s a safe activity as well. Friends and family will love to hang these on their trees this year, and the spicy smell is long-lasting. They also make a great addition to gift tags.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: indefinite

Here’s How:
1.The night before, drain the applesauce through cheesecloth and discard the fluid.
2.Cover your toddler (and yourself) with an apron or old shirt.
3.Prepare a surface to roll the dough onto. I like to use wax paper.
4.In a bowl, mix the applesauce and the cinnamon thoroughly and pat into a solidified ball.
5.Take about one cup of the mixture and place on the wax paper.
6.Place another piece of wax paper and place on top of the mixture and pat or roll until the ball is flattened and about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.
7.Cut the dough with cookie cutters. Use a straw to make a hole near the top so the ornament can hang.
8.Allow the ornament to dry. Depending on thickness, this may take 24-48 hours.
9.Thread a paperclip, ornament hook or curl ribbon through the hole.

1.If you don’t have cheesecloth to drain the applesauce, you can use an old birdseye weave cloth diaper (flatfold) or other very thin fabric.
2.Be careful not to make the hole too close to the top or breakage may occur.
3.Ornament hooks can be purchased in bulk at your local hobby store.
4.Be sure to use sweetened applesauce. The sugar content helps hold the ornament together and prevent breakage.

What You Need
•One 16 ounce jar of sweetened applesauce
•8 ounces cinnamon
•Mixing Bowl
•Wax Paper
•Curl ribbon, paperclips or ornament hooks
•Holiday cookie cutter(s)
•One drinking straw

4. Talk About Christmas in the Environment

Christmas is everywhere you look starting as far back as October, so take this opportunity to teach your child about the things you see. Since this time also marks the early winter in most areas, taking a walk around the neighborhood or to a park will likely yield plenty to talk about. Walk around churches to inspect the nativity scenes. Take a walk in the snow and build a snowman (top him off with a Santa hat.) Take a drive to look at all the Christmas lights. Pick a different thing to talk about during each shopping trip, focusing on the things that interest your child or that are a part of your own family’s celebration. This is also a great time to reinforce colors since there is such an abundance of green, red, silver and gold.

5. Play with Christmas Colored Playdough

Another reinforcing activity for Christmas colors can come by playing with red and green playdough. Make it with Kool-Aid or add a few drops of peppermint extract and stimulate your toddler’s sense of smell. Or make it without, add a drop or two of food coloring and let your child experience the mixing of color as he plays. Playdough is an activity that stimulates pure creativity and does so much to help your child master fine motor control.

Tip: Use the same Christmas cookie cutters you used for the painting activity to make festive holiday shapes out of the playdough.

Homemade Playdough Recipes by Stephanie Brown,

These playdough recipes offer parents a way to help increase their toddler’s fine motor skills.

Homemade Playdough RecipeEasy Homemade Playdough Recipes Helpful Tips on making PlaydoughMomsFreeRecipes.Com

All of the playdough recipes below are for children aged 2 years or older and require adult supervision at all times.

Rubbery Playdough

2 cups baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch

Mix with a fork until smooth. Boil over medium heat until thick. Spoon onto plate or wax paper.

Nature’s Playdough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
beet, spinach, and carrot juice

Mix flour, salt and oil, and slowly add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the playdough with your hands until of proper consistency. Use as is, or divide into balls and add a few drops of the vegetable juices to make green, pink, and orange.


4 cups flour
1/4 cup powdered tempera
1/4 cup salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon oil

Mix together flour, powdered paint, and salt. Mix water and oil, and food coloring if desired. Gradually stir the water and oil mix into the flour mix. Knead the playdough as you add the liquid. Add more water if too stiff, more flour if sticky.

Alum Playdough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons alum
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
liquid food coloring

Pour dry ingredients into a large pan. Stir together to mix. Stir oil and food coloring into the water. Pour liquid into the dry ingredients while mixing, squeezing and kneading the playdough. If too sticky, add more flour. Keeps best in the fridge.

Just Like the Real Playdough (so they say)

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon powdered alum
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons vanilla
food coloring

Mix all dry ingredients. Add oil and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until reaching the consistency of mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and food coloring. Divide into balls and work in color by kneading the playdough.

Oatmeal Playdough

1 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup water

Gradually add water to flour and oatmeal in a bowl. Knead until mixed (this playdough is sticky, but unique in texture.) Model as with clay.

Tip: Add cornmeal or coffee grounds in small quantity for texture.

Nutty Butter Playdough

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup honey
1 cup oatmeal

Mix together and play. Make sure this playdough is not used by infants under 12 months of age, who should not consume honey.

Kool-Aid Playdough

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
2 cups boiling water with 1 package Kool-aid (any flavor)
3 tablespoons corn oil
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon alum

Mix ingredients and knead with flour (may take up to 1 extra cup). Use more if the dough draws moisture in high humidity. Keeps well, has a nice fragrance and is very colorful and very flexible. This recipe is super soft and makes great playdough hair.

6. Make Gingerbread Cookies and Houses

Making gingerbread cookies is one of my favorite holiday activities. We love to make the men and flat pieces for gingerbread houses, too. Like making cinnamon applesauce ornaments, this is an activity where toddlers can participate in stirring, mixing, measuring and using cookie cutters. If you’re not into baking or are short on time, try picking up a gingerbread house kit like this one from Wilton where all you have to do is start decorating (just watch out for items your toddler can choke on like gum drops.)

For years, I’ve been using this recipe to make gingerbread men because it’s low in fat and the cookies come out very soft. For houses, you’ll want one that crisps up like the gingerbread recipes here (house instructions included).

Try this Gingerbread Cookie Recipe that Makes Soft Gingerbread Men: Recipe by Fiona Hayes has 4.5 stars out of five stars in reviews!

Cut the fat, not the flavor. These gingerbread men use half the butter normally used in most gingerbread cookie recipes. Applesauce helps the cookies retain their moisture and gives them a soft texture.

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

•1/4 cup butter, softened
•3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
•1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
•1 egg
•1/3 cup dark molasses
•3 cups all-purpose flour
•1 tsp baking soda
•2 tsp ground ginger
•1 tsp ground cinnamon
•1/2 tsp allspice
•1/4 tsp ground cloves


In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and applesauce until smooth. Add egg and molasses and mix well. In another large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and spices. Add to sugar and molasses mixture, stirring well. Divide dough in two; cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to 1/4 or 1/8-inch thickness. Cut gingerbread men with a cookie cutter. Add candies or raisins to decorate. Place 1-2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Add frosting or more decorations when cool. Makes 30 cookies.

Per serving: Calories 94, Calories from Fat 16, Fat 1.8g (sat 1g), Cholesterol 11mg, Sodium 48mg, Carbohydrate 18g, Fiber 0.4g, Protein 1.5g

7. Make Gingerbread Man Ornaments

Don’t put your gingerbread cookie cutter away just yet. Use it to trace and cut out a gingerbread man on cardboard that your child can decorate while you eat cookies fresh from the oven.

Some tips:

•Use a small dish of glue and a paint brush to brush the entire surface of the cardboard for decorating. This is good for young toddlers who can’t yet control the amount of glue they squeeze out of a bottle.
•Decorative items you use could be fabric scraps, little pom poms, buttons, red rickrack, googly eyes, puffy paint or just plain crayons, colored pencils and markers.
•If you use small items like buttons or googly eyes, make sure your toddler has constant supervision to prevent choking and hang it high on the tree when it’s finished.

8. Finger Paint with Christmas Colors

Using finger paints exposes your toddler to a unique sensory world involving sight, slippery touch and squishy sound as well. Add mint or vanilla extract and excite his sense of smell, too. Finger painting helps your toddler gain fine motor control: Each time his hand moves the way his brain directs or expects, he is closer to fully control a paint brush, crayon or pencil. Don’t be afraid to let your toddler mix different colors of paint together. This is part of the learning experience. Finger painting is mostly about the process of art rather than producing a finished product.

Tip: Line the table with newspaper or do this activity in a high chair for easy clean-up.

Finger Paint Recipes again by Stephanie Brown of

Homemade finger paint is a great way to introduce art and improve your toddler’s fine motor skills.
Photo © Stephanie Brown


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Finger painting is just one of the ways your toddler begins to gain fine motor control. Finger painting may seem like a mess now, but it is paving the way for more refined skills like holding a pencil, using buttons and zippers or tying shoes. If you find you don’t always have finger paint on hand, here are a few recipes made with items you probably already have in your pantry.
Finger Paint (Uncooked Version)

What you need:
1/2 cup liquid starch
1/2 cup soap powder
5/8 cup water

What to do:
Beat together until the consistency of whipped potatoes.

Finger Paint (Cooked Version)

What you need:
2 cups flour
4 cups cold water
Food coloring or dry tempera

What to do:
Mix flour and water and cook over low heat until thick.
Add a pinch of salt.
Add dry tempera or food coloring, if desired.
Store in covered jar in refrigerator.

Kool-Aid Finger Paint

What you need:
2 cups flour
2 packs unsweetened Kool-Aid
1/2 cup salt
3 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons oil

What to do:
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Jell-O Finger Paint

What you need:
Any kind of flavored Jell-O
Hot water

What to do:
Mix enough hot water (a little at a time) until the mix has the consistency of finger paint. Allow cooling before play.

Pudding Finger Paint

What you need:
Instant vanilla pudding
Food coloring

What to do:
Mix pudding according to directions.
Add food coloring for the desired color.

9. Make Contact Paper Ornaments

Contact paper is a clean and simple way for toddlers to make collages and these ornaments look great on the tree or as window decorations. Just lay a sheet of contact paper sticky side up on a table and provide your toddler with collage materials. I like to use paper scraps, confetti (make this at home with a hole puncher) or scraps of metallic ribbon. For a stained glass effect (if you’ll be hanging these in a window) use small scraps of tissue paper. When your toddler is done placing the pieces, cover the entire thing with another piece of contact paper, sticky side down. Then cut into shapes, punch a hole in each shape and use fabric or curl ribbon to hang where you’d like.

10. Hang Candy Canes
When it comes time to trim the tree, you probably don’t want your toddler involved in hanging lights or handling glass ornaments. Candy canes, however, are definitely something your toddler can keep busy with while being supervised by other decorators.

11. Make Garland out of Cereal Os

Stringing popcorn and cranberries is a job for older siblings and adults. Both are items your toddler can choke on if not watched the entire time and they require quite a lot of dexterity, not to mention a sharp needle! You can get your toddler busy alongside you by letting him string cereal. Use a sturdy, circular cereal like Fruit Loops or Cheerios. For younger toddlers, the stiffer the string is the better. Older toddlers can do this with yarn and a reinforced end. Do this by wrapping the end of the string with a bit of tape (enough to grasp between finger and thumb and push completely through the hole to be pinched and pulled through the other side) or wrap the end of the string around a pipe cleaner for easier threading.

12. Make Paper Chain Garland

Making paper chains is too complicated for toddlers to manage alone, but it’s definitely something that can be done with supervision. Also, remember that including your toddler in the steps of your own or an older child’s project can yield good results and a feeling of success and cooperation for all.

When making paper chains, your toddler can:
•Color the paper before it is cut
•Use rubber stamps to decorate the paper before it’s cut
•Help with cutting if he is an older toddler
•Hold the paper while you carefully staple it if you’re stapling the links together
•Apply glue with a brush or glue stick if you’re gluing the links together
•Help with counting the pieces of paper you need
•Sort different colors of paper (red and green, for example)

How to Make a Paper Chain Garland by Kate Pullen,

Rubber Stamped Paper Chain

Hand stamped paper chains can be made for any number of occasions. Birthdays, seasonal festivities, barbecues, weddings and all forms of parties can be decorated with some wonderful hand stamped paper chains that are totally unique. The paper and color schemes can be chosen specifically to match the occasion and stamped with images that complement other stamped objects such as cards and decorations.

Paper chains are made from strips of paper that are joined to form links. The paper can be stamped either before or after they have been cut.

This is a good project for beginners as the odd wobbly image will not show.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Quick – depending on the length of chain

Here’s How:
1. Decide whether to stamp the paper first and then cut the strips or cut the strips before stamping. There are advantages to each technique

Stamping Before Cutting •Easier to stamp as the paper is bigger and less fiddly
•Any stamp can be used as it does not matter if the stamp is larger than the paper strip
•A random pattern can be achieved
•It is less obvious if a stamp is misplaced
Cutting Before Stamping •Perfect for the formal placement of stamps
•Strips can be stamped for a specific position within the chain, for instance, links that feature a certain design
Beginners may find it easier to stamp the paper first.
2.Stamp the paper before or after cutting as required. The stamps can be positioned in any way, however, remember that the finished images will be viewed either way up, therefore, a random stamping pattern might be best.
3.Cut the paper into strips. The strips of paper can be any size. Smaller strips will give a more delicate chain whereas larger strips will give a more bulky chain. The choice of size will largely be down to personal preference however a good size for a rubber stamped paper chain is 8-by-2 inches. A fairly large chain is required to show off your lovely stamping!
4.Form one strip of paper into a loop to form a link and fasten it using glue or another method as required. Take the next strip and place this through the first link, forming this into a loop and fasten. Repeat in this manner until the chain is the required length.

1.If you are stamping before cutting, fasten the paper to the work surface to stop it curling.
2.A proportion of 4:1 is a useful ‘rule of thumb’ when planning the size of strips (for example a strip should be 4 times longer than wide).
3. Use a fast drying ink so that you can cut the strips immediately.
4. Try other fastening techniques such as using brads or stickers.
5.Mark out the strips in pencil on the rear of the paper before cutting or cut a card template to use to cut around.

What You Need
•Rubber stamps – the design and size will depend on the occasion
•Paper – craft or postal paper is ideal
•Glue or other methods of joining the links