Easy Elf Houses {made from birdhouses}

We like to tell stories at our house and one of the series we have created is based around Santa and his elves. Over the past three years we have created a complex north pole with a full community of elves . When I picked up a few birdhouses on clearance at a craft store I knew exactly what my plan was and how much my kids would be into it. What I love about this project is that these are great decorations to keep year after year and they will stand up to it too. We kept ours simple but you could add sequins, pompoms, jewels… your imagination is the limit.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some unfinished wood birdhouses, acrylic paint made for wood ( I really love Martha Stewart Multi Surface Paint) , paint brushes , paper plates, table protection, painter’s tape and make sure your kids are in clothes that you do not care if it gets stained. These paints are not washable. I also has baby wipes on hand for quick clean up.
  2. Start by making a door and windows with your painter’s tape on the back of the birdhouse. Older kids can be encouraged to draw their own architectural details but using tape for a resist effect is such a fun way for kids who aren’t able to achieve the look they imagine but still want to create. 
  3. Pour paint into paper plates. Since the paint was not at all washable I kept the bottles far out of reach and provided each kiddo with colors they helped me pick out.
  4. Invite your artists. Paint. A tip for choosing paint brushes for kids , give larger brushes for kids that are younger or have a harder time with fine motor control.  They both loved this and I was so glad. Sometimes my son will just show his sister or else the activity will be so obviously past her ability that I will try to do it with him while she is napping . When I find something they both love I feel like I won the lottery.
  5. Let dry and peel off the tape.
  6. Display. Ours are prominently displayed in our family room – they look like little elf chalets and since they are turned around no one even knows they are birdhouses I grabbed on clearance!

Christmas Books

Counting Christmas by Karen Katz is what you might expect from this awesome author. It’s sweet, cute and will get your littlest readers excited for Christmas. I like the sentiment that Christmas is a magical day to share with family . My daughter adores the illustrations of all the babies and the math element is a great bonus too.

Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk is a cute story about an adorable little dog Tucker who is crazy about Christmas. While getting into the holiday spirit he burns his nose on a cookie pan . When Santa sees his bright red nose he asks him to come a long for the fun on Christmas Eve. There is a lot of good natured humor that any young child will giggle at , Tucker peeing on a Christmas tree got some good giggles at our house.  I doubt this will be a Christmas classic to read on Christmas Eve but it a cute book your kids will enjoy.

SantaKid by James Patterson is a favorite library book in our house this year . My son inherited his love and curiosity of the inner workings of the North Pole from me and this book feeds that wonder. It also taps into something preschoolers are often seeking, power and a voice that gets heard. In the story Santa’s daughter saves the North Pole and Christmas from a corporate take over. I liked this book, and my son did too. It doesn’t focus on the religious celebration but rather on Santa and it doesn’t take a very sophisticated kid to know it’s make believe, 3 pages in my son said ” Mommy, this is a made up story right? Santa isn’t a regular Daddy, that’s silly!”  What it does is focuses on giving kids power to save something. Maybe it’s just my 4 year old but he spends all day pretending to save the day and this book spoke right to that desire to be powerful and good!

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Clay Ornaments -made with stamps & cookie cutters

This year I have cut every corner there is to cut. My daughter has me chasing her , making sure she hasn’t swallowed any of my son’s Legos that may have escaped his room, I have much more grey hair this year… but a more full heart too.  This project isn’t ground breaking but using stamps and cookie cutters with the air dry clay was a great way of making this project attainable for both my kids. Air dry clay is not as easy to manipulate as say salt dough or play dough that little hands are used to so using tools like these help make it a fun successful activity.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some air dry clay ( although you could do it with salt dough or ready to bake clay too), cookie cutters, Christmas themed rubber stamps, a toothpick . Once dry you can paint with all sorts of paints, we used water color.
  2. Start by just playing with the clay. Then cut out with cookie cutters. Both wanted a star .
  3. Using stamps you can make designs on the clay. My daughter loved this and unlike when she uses stamps on playdough the clay was stiff enough that the impressions stayed.My son cut a second and started creating his own shapes … he still hasn’t painted it but if he never does that’s ok too, it doesn’t have to be painted.
  4. Add holes for hanging using a toothpick.
  5. Let dry for a few days.
  6. Time to paint.I loved using the water color because it was a great opportunity to have a lesson about colors with all in front of my toddler without a huge effort.
  7. She explored the paint… make sure it’s non toxic especially if you are doing this with a teething toddler like I did.
  8. I was impressed how vivid the colors stayed on the clay.
  9. Let dry and hang up.

 

Book

The Little Christmas Elf (Little Golden Book) by Nikki Shannon Smith is a sweet book not just about Christmas but also about perseverance, attention to detail and hard work. In this story the littlest elf is working hard but just sin’t fast enough to get her teddy bear finished in time to be in Santa’s sack for Christmas. Santa delivers the bad news but encourages the little elf to keep at it and they will use the toy next year. She still doesn’t give up doing her best work even knowing Santa is already off to children’s homes everywhere. Right after she is done Santa comes back, a new baby was born and he needs that teddy bear! I loved the message and my son did too. Very sweet book.

 

Bubble Wrap Christmas Trees

This was supposed to be a craft just for my daughter, but when my son and his friend saw what we were doing they jumped in too.  I was not planning on 3 kids doing it all at once so it was a little chaotic but the playroom and all the kids survived… remember to use washable paint .  The kids have all used bubble wrap to print on things before so switching it so they painted the bubble wrap was new and a big hit.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some bubble wrap, paint, painter’s tape, paint brushes , heavy paper ( paper grocery bags are perfect), a pencil and scissors.
  2. Start by taping the bubble wrap to the work surface with the painter’s tape.
  3. Next paint the bubble wrap with green. For my toddler I gave her a big brush for the green to encourage coverage. She was encouraged …
  4. Next add the lights colors. Let kids decide which colors they want, this helps with color recognition too.
  5. Ok this is when the boys busted in pretending to be Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader ( I know impossible right… not for two imaginative 5 year olds! ) and grabbed some brushes.
  6. Keep painting the wrap.
  7. Draw some trees on the paper and cut out.
  8. Press the paper into the wrap and peel back carefully.
  9. For my toddler I left the paper big so she could do as much as possible herself , the small tree would have probably gotten ripped. Leaving it big let her do it herself feeling the wrap under the paper and “bang banging” her hand to make the print.
  10. Let dry and cut out the tree shape for the toddler. 
  11. Hang up and show off the fun ( and wee bit of chaos…) remember washable paints!

Craft by Numbers – Christmas Tree

Do you remember paint by numbers? I used to love doing them but mixing the numbers up ( yeah I was that kid) my son however is all about numbers and this was a fun way to make something festive but also let his interest in math be spotlighted. You could do this with shapes, or letters too.  I didn’t tell him that the final result was a Christmas tree so it was fun to have him “decode” the craft as we went.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some pom-poms in different colors, cups to sort them in,  construction paper, glue and a marker.
  2. Start by sorting your pom-poms by color into different cups, write different numbers on each cup. I wrote 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 on mine since we’d just been chatting about counting by 10s.  To have your child help sort the pom poms just put on of each color in one cup to use as a guide.
  3. Write out the numbers on the paper in a design. I did green outline, with random colors and green in the middle.
  4. Start gluing the pom poms on using the code.
  5. hmmmm what could it be?
  6. All done! Let dry.

Great Christmas Book!

a creature was stirring by Clement C. Moore and  Carter Goodrich  was a recent find at the library. Around the holidays ( any holiday) my son and I attack the stacks like soldiers on a mission and look for the sticker on the binding indicating it’s a Christmas themed book. This was one of the few we found yesterday , and what a find! The book is an adaptation of the classic ‘Twas a NIght Before Christmas with a little boy interupting the poem with his own rhyming story.  It’s an adorable story about a little boy who simply can’t sleep , wants to be good but is oh so worried Santa will think he is naughty. I adore this book, it’s simple and fun and a great addition to the classic that so many of us have been read and will read to our kids this Christmas.

Plate For Santa – Crafty Field Trip

All I wanted was to make a keepsake plate for Santa’s cookies! Ever get an idea in your head and you HAVE to do it? Yeah I get like that during the holidays a lot. I had the idea of my son painting a plate for Santa for ages. I was planning on getting a kit and doing it at home , but all the kits were sold out . We drove around to 4 stores, with both kids, in the rain. I ended up close to tears, with no plates. So instead Monday we packed up and went to a paint your own pottery place and should have just done that to start with. It was the perfect day!

We picked our plate . My son chose a small one saying ” Santa eats a lot of cookies all night, let’s only give him 1 or 2.”

We painted it however we wanted. I did a mug, since Santa needs milk too.

The back was an homage to Ichiro and Tatupu my son’s 2 favorite athletes who share the number 51 . We both thought Santa might like them too.

We even used the numbered bottles for a fun ” Find the number game” . Hey I can’t help it , I see lessons everywhere, as long as he is into it I play.  He loves numbers so he was way into it.

Baby girl slept the whole time. It was precious and I will post the final product when we get it back next week, but wanted to share the idea in time for others to find a local pottery studio before Christmas. More than once my son proclaimed ” This is the best day ever Mama!” and it was, truly a holiday memory I will cherish.