There’s nothing like doing crafts with your kids to celebrate major public holidays.
There’s nothing like browsing the vast number of craft blogs on the internet to dampen your Christmas spirit.
I was searching for some easy, but sophisticated crafts to do with kids over the winter holiday.
Besides learning that you can make a toddler’s party dress out of an old AC/DC t-shirt, I also discovered that “easy-but-sophisticated” is a fallacy in the hard-core crafting world.
Every craft I looked at initially seemed cozy, homespun and easy as pumpkin pie – as if the crafter had just thrown it together with a sprinkle of fairy dust.
When I dug a little deeper into the craft tutorial, I realized that most of them are in fact small feats of engineering requiring multi-phased project management and a profound understanding of the limits of glue guns.
Nonetheless, I chose a few crafts to do with my daughters, aged 2 and almost 5. I timed our family craft evening to coincide with a visit from my much craftier sister.
Our first project was a paper candle lantern. The concept is simple: poke holes in a piece of white paper in a festive pattern, wrap it around a glass jar and put a candle inside.
Our challenge was finding an appropriate poking tool. We tried an assortment of nails, screws and other pointy objects before settling on the uniform prick of a plastic thumbtack.
This seemed also to be the right size for a toddler, assuming you don’t have the kind of kid who tests out small objects by first tasting them and then, finding them tasteless, poking themselves in the eye.
Martha Stewart has templates for making pictures and designs, but random, vigorous pokings suited us fine.
The pricking of the paper could have lasted hours. Not only because it’s slow, but because my kids were genuinely fascinated with it.
It ranks with bubble wrap, although I may have developed a very small, localized case of tendonitis in my right thumb. Anything for my kids.
The finished product was not entirely to Martha’s standard. But, with all the lights in the house off, save for the three candles, it was adequately magical to ring in the season. Frankly, a craft that involves matches, glass jars and sharp objects all at once is bound to be a hit with most kids.
Our second project was gingerbread puzzles. They are extremely straightforward.
Make gingerbread into flat squares, any size you want. While the cookie is still warm, cut it into pieces with a knife or a pizza cutter.
Wait for it to cool, then ice it with royal icing in any fashion you want. You can then package up the pieces into a fancy tin or box and deliver it to an adoring and gracious grandparent.
In our house, the making of the gingerbread is an evening activity on its own. The fact that I don’t own a mixer makes the creaming of the butter last several hours.
It only heightens the anticipation, though, and as we learned in paragraph 6, a two-part craft only enhances its cachet.
We ended up with two square slabs and a selection of injured and dismembered gingerbread people.
I cut one of the puzzles into geometric shapes. For the other, I pressed a cookie cutter into the slab while it was still warm, then cut the surrounding cookie into pieces.
We iced them with a main colour, then used a small zipper bag full of icing of an accent colour to make the patterns.
All in all, it was a successful kick-off to the Christmas season. We light the candles in the evening and talk about our craft and periodically discuss who will receive the gingerbread puzzles.
These gifts just keep on giving. Fancy that.
Glenda Koh is a terrible home decorator, but at least she never wore an orange jumpsuit.