Christmas is a wonderful time. People are nicer, kids are better behaved (somewhat) to impress Santa, and older kids are excited about the possibility of a cool gift, and school holidays.
Christmas is also a highly commercialised time of year with families going above and beyond to create memories that will live in the minds of their kids when they have their own kids.
But it is possible to create some fantastic core memories without breaking the bank. Sure, it’s tempting to duck down to the local department store and pick up a craft kit, but it’s equally as rewarding to spend an afternoon or weekend making DIY Christmas projects with your kids, including gifts and Christmas ornaments.
From ingredients found in your kitchen to spending a few dollars at a bargain store, here are some fun DIY Christmas projects to keep kids busy, get their imaginations going and create some new traditions and memories to last for years to come.
1. Corn Flour Dough Christmas Ornaments
Corn flour dough is so simple to make, and the dough is so silky smooth.
All you need is:
- ½ a cup of corn flour
- 1 cup of bi-carb soda
- ¾ of a cup of water
Then you simply put all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until it forms a clay-like substance. It goes from liquid to clay fast, so keep an eye on it. Pour it out onto a silicone mat and allow it to cool before allowing little hands to touch it. You can roll it out and use cookie cutters to make shapes or let your kids freehand them. Then just lay them somewhere to airdry for a couple of days.
Somewhere where they can take advantage of the Aussie summer sun would be perfect. You can add a dash of peppermint, citrus or vanilla if you want scented ornaments. Remember to poke a hole somewhere if you want to hang them on the tree.
A fun idea is to use a non-toxic stamp ink and ‘stamp’ kids’ or pets’ prints onto them. They also make a lovely gift.
2. Cinnamon Dough Ornaments
Similar to Corn Flour Clay Christmas ornaments, these are made using simple ingredients you might already have on hand.
Start with a 1-1 ratio of ground cinnamon to applesauce and add extra of each until you have a pliable dough. It should be wet, but not sticky. You can add ground ginger or cloves for a deeper holiday scent if you want. Some recipes call for glue to be added, but that’s a personal choice.
Roll it out, cut out your ornaments and poke a hole for hanging. Leave them to air dry for a few days. You can use egg white royal icing, the type that dries hard, to decorate your ornaments once dried.
3. Dehydrated Fruit Ornaments
There’s something that just says Christmas to me when I see dehydrated orange or apple slices tied with some cinnamon sticks or star anise and hung from a tree.
The easiest way to make them if you don’t have a dehydrator is in the oven. Preheat the oven to the lowest setting it can go.
Slice your fruit (apples, pears, and citrus are the best for this) about 2½ to 5mm thick, trying to keep them the same thinness, and spread in an even, single layer on a cookie sheet or oven tray.
Bake for 2 hours, rotating the tray for even drying. Flip and repeat for another two hours.
4. Window decorations
Buy some cheap glass paint and stencils and let the kids decorate the windows in the house. It’s so fun when the sun shines through and the colours cast patterns on the walls.
Another DIY Christmas project is you can buy fabric markers and let them decorate their own Christmas shirts. Kmart has both at an affordable price.
5. Reindeer food
This is something I started with my kids and now do for a few kids of friends and my siblings’ friends.
It’s a simple mix that’s not toxic to any animals who might eat it. All you need is plain oats, dried cranberries, pepitas, dried carrot and any other fruits or veg you want to dry out or buy dehydrated versions of. Don’t use citrus fruits because they are toxic to dogs. If in doubt, Google or call a local vet.
Then pour some into a container and give it to the kids to sprinkle on the lawn for Santa’s reindeer to find. Or they can leave it next to Santa’s glass of milk (because he shouldn’t drink beer and fly) and cookie with a bowl of water.
Here is another recipe for Reindeer food that uses red and green sprinkles.
6. Magic Candy Cane Seeds
This is another of my favourite DIY Christmas projects. And it’s definitely a grown-up thing so the ‘magic’ isn’t ruined.
Simply buy a bag of candy canes and a bag of round peppermints (the red and white star ones if you can find them) and a red food safe marker.
Draw a candy cane pattern on them and pack them in a small box or jar. Make up or Google a rhyme to go with them and give them to your kids on Christmas Eve. Or the week leading up to Christmas if you want.
Once they ‘plant’ them, while they’re asleep on Christmas Eve, remove the seed and plant the candy cane.
Wreaths aren’t as huge a thing here as they are in other parts of the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make one to hang on your door. Many craft stores sell wire wreaths that you can add garland or tinsel to.
You can make up a “Santa, please stop here” sign or fill it with stuffed toys or tie a bunch of brightly coloured baubles to it. It’s your wreath and whatever you and your kids want to add to it will make it amazing.
8. Natural Christmas Ornaments
If you live near any pine trees, the fallen cones make great ornaments. It’s such a fun thing to go on a nature walk with your kids and pick up any. Also, find some big leaves and small sticks on the way. These can be tied or glued together to make fun ornaments. Have a look at these clever Christmas tree pine cones below – so cool!
It’s a good idea to properly wash any fallen pine cones in a mixture of vinegar and water and bake them at a low temperature for a few hours before use. This gets rid of any bugs and things.
Clear baubles are a veritable treasure trove of ideas. From filling them with mini versions of the books you’ve read that year, to memories you made as a family, to pictures of you that year, to anything you want to keep as a keepsake, baubles can display it safely and can be stored and reused year after year.
10. Gifts for Others
Giving to other people is one of my all-time favourite things to do. Each year now I deliver a small bag with a coffee sachet or special tea bags, milkshake straws for kids and snacks to each of my local family members on Christmas Eve and try valiantly to get my young adults to watch a Christmas movie with me.
Pretty much anything you make or bake can be transformed into a lovely Christmas gift including dehydrated fruit, cookies, brownies and so much more. Take a look at our homemade Christmas gifts for more lovely ideas and DIY Christmas projects to do this December.