There’s something truly special about the act of giving and sharing at this time of the year, something we’ve highlighted in our new #MakeTheirsMagic Christmas calendar, which contains a range of activities designed to make your neighbours and community smile.
One of the nicest ways to do so is to surprise someone with something hand crafted and personal, so here we gather together some fun, easy Christmas DIY crafts which you can do at home for minimal or no cost, and involve a lot of fun as a family.
Make your own Christmas cards
Christmas is a wonderful time for most of us, but it can also be a time of family tension. Making your own cards with your children, is a great way to spend a rainy (or even snowy) day and bring a bit of extra joy to the family members and friends you send them to. Here are a few of our top tips to make the most of your Christmas crafting:
a) Unleash their imagination
Spend some time beforehand discussing what your children want to include on their card – do they want to focus on classics like Father Christmas or snowmen, or do they want to include their other interests? Many a children’s TV character or computer game icon looks just great with the addition of a festive hat and stack of presents, and Santa can turn his hand to anything, whether it’s skateboarding, football or ballet!
b) Gathering materials
A handmade card is always appreciated, and you can make these with bits and pieces you’ve put aside. Save things like the thin card from inside a pack of tights or underwear to use as the card base. Snip out the loops of ribbon used to keep new clothes on the hanger, and autumn leaves as well as winter foliage or materials from around the house such as buttons, tape and ribbon. A useful trick is to repurpose the decorative bits on last year’s Christmas crackers and cut out festive baubles, characters and colours from old Christmas cards for your new creations – just make sure you don’t send them back to the people who sent you them originally!
Top tip – last year’s festive cards can be cut into triangles and threaded on a string for quick and easy festive bunting; and plain envelopes can be made festive with a few drawings decorating them.
c) Get creative with shapes
All that’s required for a quality Christmas card is a sheet of A4 card folded in half, but there’s no reason why you have to stick to the basic shape. Why not experiment with cards in the shape of baubles, Christmas trees or cakes (or even space ships… there’s no reason we need to limit our imagination, and Santa needs to get around the world somehow if his reindeers are tired)!
d) Say a crafty Christmas thank you
Over the last few years we’ve all become more aware of the contribution of key workers and the people who keep the wheels turning – whether that’s nurses, supermarket workers or postal workers. Our key workers are often at work over the festive period, so let’s carry on showing our support. You could create a festive thank you card and drop them off in your community, give them directly to local key workers or post them in your window to show you care. There is a pre-prepared card template to colour in available as part of our FREE Christmas calendar pack if you’d like a quick option!
In the absence of a sleigh and reindeer…
Why not make a day out of getting your masterpiece’s into the hands of their intended recipients? You can take a trip together to the Post Office to purchase special Christmas themed stamps, or even play make-believe with younger children that you’re Christmas elves and deliver them anonymously.
Top tip – a call ahead to grandparents or friends to make sure they play along with receiving the mystery card goes a long way!
“A call ahead to grandparents or friends to make sure they play along with receiving the mystery card goes a long way!”
Make a twig tree
All you need to make a twig tree are some twigs … then how you use them is up to you! Gather twigs that look like mini trees from your own garden or get permission to take some from a friend or neighbours.
a) Keep things simple
Shop window displays may have complex twig trees, made up of lots of different elements. But one long twig with many branches can look very effective placed in a pot and covered in decorations – whether this is traditional Christmas fare like tinsel and lights, gathered seasonal foliage like pinecones or things like buttons, tinfoil and beads.
b) Think vertically
There’s no reason you have to have your tree free standing. If you gather a series of differently sized twigs together and hang them from smallest to largest, you’ll have a lovely tree-shaped wall hanging or decoration that you can decorate just as easily as a free-standing one. Here’s a guide to making a vertical twig tree that may inspire you.
c) Make seasonal decorations
Returning to nature
If you’ve been reading our above suggestions, you’ll note a continuing theme with gathering materials from outdoors. Whether it’s pinecones, twigs or pine needles bringing the outdoors indoors is a sure-fire way to feel festive. A painted pinecone (or a gluey pinecone dipped in glitter) is a particularly attractive, and natural-feeling decoration for minimum effort.
Hobby shops sell empty glass and plastic baubles and empty snow globes (and these are also sold online or in pound shops). Using these opens up a world of creative possibilities… you can cover them in glue and glitter, use fake snow and twigs to make a festive scene or fill them with decorative sweets or sprinkles… simple!
You can also make snow globes with a clean screw-top jar. Just glue a figure or decoration standing upright on the inside of the lid, fill the jar three-quarters full with water, add glycerine (available from chemists for very little money) and a spoon full of glitter. Tiny ones made using baby food jars look great on the Christmas tree.
If you’ve already taken a look at our Christmas calendar pack you’ll have already seen our suggestion for simple Gingerbread Houses. The good news is that if you decide to make a batch of gingerbread you can repurpose early experimental gingerbread biscuits or sugar cookies as decorations if you made too many or they’re a little bit too… ahem, “sturdy” for human consumption (you can pretend you meant it… we won’t tell). If this is the case, merely make a hole in them and use decorative ribbon to hang them on your tree!
Christmas jumpers and pyjamas
For decades festive jumpers were the by-word for a terrible present from a well–meaning relative… but nowadays these are a fun way to exercise your craft skills. Even if you’re an expert with a set of knitting needles or sewing machine, crafting your own jumpers or set of matching pyjamas for the family is a difficult task for smaller fingers, so here are two ideas to bring a festive outfit home.
Hit the charity shops!
Christmas jumpers often end up in charity shops after being worn once or stored for another year. Take advantage of this by shopping around during the mid-festive season to see if you can find a jumper for each family member.
Top tip: The important bit is spending time together, so if you’ve got a clothes horse who can’t find anything perhaps bend the rules and let them have a new top or t-shirt anyway – they’ll still see it as “their” Christmas clothes. Even if you don’t find a specific festive knit you may find a plain one for our next idea.
If you can’t buy them… make them!
High street stationers and craft shops sell “fabric paint”, “fabric pens” or “textile pens” that can be used to decorate jumpers, sweatshirts and tees – simply draw on the design. Young children will need supervising, and check if you need an iron to make the design stay put. Perhaps spend some time beforehand discussing what they want to draw so that you can place a limit on the number of colours you buy, to keep costs down. If you have a set of red jumpers, then you can do a lot of Christmassy designs just with a white fabric pen and a black permanent marker – Father Christmas, snowmen, snowflakes, etc. Red, green and white are the most festive colours, or gold and silver for a bit of shimmer.
If you’re a little bit handy with sewing but not knitting you could also consider applique, sewing ribbons, buttons and decorations onto an existing jumper. Simple designs work best – try a swirly ribbon in the shape of a Christmas tree using buttons for baubles.
Make some reindeer food
Why not follow in the footsteps of our Royal Patron Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and craft some reindeer food to leave outside? For an environmentally friendly reindeer food recipe check out the RSPCA’s instructions.
We hope the above suggestions will help make your family’s Christmas a special one this year. If you want to use the money you’ve saved to help relieve some of the pressure faced by families, and spread some Christmas cheer, you can do so by getting involved in our Toy Appeal.