4 Christmas crafts to make with friends
This is Part 3 in our Celebrating Christmas series, a peek into some of the activities our family undertakes to make Christmas a special time, even when we’re celebrating alone and there’s no snow in sight. Follow along every Sunday in Advent for Christmas recipes, decoration ideas, book recommendations and an insight into how we celebrate. In previous weeks we have shared our Advent countdown ideas in Part 1 and Christmas pudding recipe in Part 2.
Perhaps you’ve been tasked with organising an activity for the playgroup end-of-year celebration, or you’ve invited some friends over for a morning of Christmas crafts. These activities are engaging for all ages (including adults) and can be pulled together with minimal preparation and scaled to groups of any size. They will work just fine if you want to do them by yourself at home, but I find it’s fun to get together with friends to divide up the prep work (and have someone to take over if you have a baby or young toddler who may not be ready to sit through a whole activity) and it can be a fun way to share the Christmas excitement.
The 4 crafts I’m sharing today are:
- Caprese Santas – a festive ‘bring a plate’ appetiser that doubles as a fun edible craft;
- Gumnut/Mahogany nut baubles – these can easily be adapted for babies through to adults;
- Nature wreaths – younger children will need assistance for making the initial wreath, but will enjoy finding treasures for decorating (you can also make Christmas crowns this way);
- Homemade bon bons (Christmas crackers) – use recycled materials to put them together then fill them with items that aren’t going to straight to landfill.
I first started making these when X was a baby and I wanted something fresh and festive to take to a mothers’ group Christmas morning tea. They’re quick to put together and you can pause the process at any stage (critical when you have a young baby). The idea just came to me, although it’s likely I’d seen pictures in a magazine or on television at some point in the past, as I don’t think it was a new concept (a quick Google search of ‘Caprese Santas’ reveals many many similar versions). I recently brought a deconstructed version (ie all the ingredients in separate bowls) to a playgroup end of year celebration. The older children (3-5 year-olds) enjoyed putting them together independently and making extras to share with their younger friends and siblings and the adults in the group. We now have a family tradition of making these on Christmas Day, too, to eat as a snack while we unwrap presents or as an appetiser before Christmas lunch.
You need: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes (halved), bambini bocconcini, fresh basil, toothpicks.
Method: Thread a cherry tomato onto a toothpick, add a basil leaf ‘scarf’ then a ball of bocconcini, finish with a grape tomato hat.
I serve these with a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip them in. You can adapt this technique to make snowmen (using 2 balls of bocconcini) or bon bons (put a ball of bocconcini or a cherry tomato (for dairy free) in the middle, with basil on each side, then halved tomatoes or bocconcini pointing outwards on each end). I usually just stick with Santas.
Gumnut/Mahogany nut baubles
We recently enjoyed a craft morning with friends in our maker space. Each family collected a variety of nuts to share then we all got stuck into decorating then. Even the youngest toddlers got involved, with fat brushes and shallow tubs of cornflour and food dye paint. The older children experimented with different types of paint to create more elaborate patterns, and the adults had a great time covering them with tissue paper and cornflour paste. Some of the nuts didn’t end up having enough stem to tie a ribbon to them, so we’ve just presented them in a bowl, but most have ended up on our tree. Even if they don’t look that special to the casual observer, they are special to the child who has made them and can proudly hang them up with all of the family’s other decorations.
You need: Mahogany nuts, gumnuts or other similar nature items. Paint (we used cornflour paste with food dye and also tried with poster paint, glossy paint would look nice too as would eco glitter but we didn’t have any), tissue paper, cornflour paste, any other decorative materials you have on hand.
Method: Decorate! Whatever method or style you are into is just fine. Dunk the nuts in paint. Use a thick brush to coat. Use thin brushes to paint intricate designs. Glue on sparkles or tissue paper. There is no set method for decoration (or you can skip decorating and just pick a nice-looking nut and tie a ribbon to it). We set them out to dry on the driveway (some later ones were pegged to dry on a clothesline). Once dry, tie a loop of ribbon to the stem and they’re ready to hang.
We have made these two years in a row at a playgroup we attend in a local community garden. The first year they were made as festive nature crowns for the children to wear, this year we decide to go straight to decorative wreath making. The initial step of making the ‘frame’ for the wreath can be a bit tricky, so most of the group took the children on a walk to find nature items to use for decorating their wreaths whilst a couple of the adults made sure we had enough for one wreath for each family. Ours is hanging on our front gate and has withstood a couple of storms already (the photo above was taken post-storm), but at least if bits fall off we know they will most likely just be leaves, sticks, seedpods and gumnuts, not sequins and plastic getting washed down the drain.
You need: 1m (approx.) lengths ‘springy’ bamboo tips (or other flexible cane-like sticks) with most leaves removed, string/wool/ribbon, nature items to decorate (seedpods, interesting leaves, gumnuts).
Method: Take one bamboo stick and form a circle, intertwining the ends and holding in place with your hand. Interweave more sticks around your circle, until there are enough that they hold themselves in place. Loosely wrap a piece of string/wool/ribbon around your wreath to hold the shape, tie off and leave a tail or loop for hanging. Tuck/tie your decorative nature items into the string to decorate. Some of the older children (3+) and adults also made pom poms by wrapping wool around our hands then slipping a piece of wool through to tightly tie it into a bundle. Remove your hand, cut through the ‘looped’ ends and fan out into a pom pom.
Homemade bon bons (Christmas crackers)
Bon bons have always had a place on our Christmas table, I feel they add to the festivity and excitement of Christmas lunch. Nevertheless, I am reluctant to purchase the supermarket ones as most of the contents end up in the bin a few hours later (although I have had a few more useful and durable surprises over the years, such as bottle openers and mini measuring tapes). There are a number of lovely handcrafted ones available, but I don’t find I can justify purchasing expensive ones for what is essentially a couple of minutes of novelty value in a day that is already full of excitement and gifts. So, last year I decided to make my own. You can purchase complete kits for making them but I don’t feel that’s any easier than just making them with toilet rolls and used wrapping paper/rejected kids’ paintings, although I do purchase the snaps (I got mine from Spotlight but most craft stores have them or they’re available online). Last year, we had 5 people for Christmas lunch and filled each bon bon with a joke (cut from a newspaper) and a small gift (packets of seeds, folded reusable shopping bags, telescopic straw, lip balm). We didn’t include hats, as we all have ‘Santa hats’ already that we can wear, but if we didn’t have hats I would probably have included some newspaper crowns. I'm not going to write or show what I'm putting in this year's ones, as that would ruin the surprise (above trinkets are for photographic purposes only).
Making your own bon bons is fun, but as the maker you miss out on the excitement as you know what’s inside them already. This is why I think it would be a fun activity to do as a group. You could make them together, each bringing some gifts that you secretively add, then put them all in a big pile to divide up between families. Alternatively, you could just make some and swap with another family sometime before Christmas day. You would probably agree on a price range, or that you would only purchase secondhand items or only use stuff already in your home (we probably have enough small trinkets that would be enjoyed by others and wouldn’t be missed, but wouldn’t be exciting to receive ourselves).
You need: Toilet rolls, bon bon snaps, glue/tape, string, thin paper (old wrapping paper or newspaper), surprises to go inside (jokes, hats, trinkets etc).
Method: Cut paper into rectangles that can wrap around the toilet rolls and are long enough to hide the snaps. Cover all toilet rolls, rolling the paper around into a tube and securing the edge with glue. Place a snap inside each tube, tie one end with string, then centre the snap. Fill with surprises. Tie the other end. You may need to make a point of holding the snaps when you pull them, so you don’t just tear the paper apart without the bang. Enjoy!
I hope you enjoy trying out these activities. If you need more detailed instructions let me know and I can put together something for Facebook or Instagram (and if you do try these out, feel free to tag me). Happy Christmas!