Making your own festive fun

This year, many of the usual family activities that mark the run up to Christmas are on hold. There will be no chance to enjoy some piping hot roast chestnuts or succulent bratwurst in a bun as you wander the stalls in the Christmas Village. Many pantomimes and concert performances have been cancelled and there are only so many times you can watch Shrek the Halls and Miracle on 34th Street without starting to feel like the Grinch.

Instead, why not make Christmas magical by getting together as a family and making cards, decorations, gifts and festive treats? There are plenty of kits, ideas and recipes out there that will work for kids of any age group. If they look a bit scruffy and you get glitter everywhere, well, that’s just part of the fun. It could be the start of a whole new festive tradition… 

Younger kids

Salt dough is really simple to make and can be used to create everything from tree decorations to door wreaths. You can even make gift tags. Just mix up 250g plain flour, 125g table salt and about 125ml of water until it comes together into a ball. Line baking sheets with silicone paper, pre-heat your oven to its lowest setting. Roll out the dough then cut out or mould your shapes. Try snowmen, Santa hats, holly leaves and tree baubles or download a template for a gingerbread house or reindeer sleigh if you’re feeling particularly ambitious. Remember to make a hole if you want to string the final creations. Transfer them to the baking sheet, bake for around 3 hours till solid. Cool then decorate with acrylic paints, felt tips, or glitter glue.

You can also cut out Christmas Tree shapes in thick card or get pre-made wooden ones then get little ones  wrap them with green ribbon or wool. Add a few pompoms to decorate. You can use other shapes like snowmen, reindeer, or stockings and decorate in the same way.

Cracker kits are also pretty easy for school age children to make. Most supermarkets will have them. Little ones can help fill them and decorate. Set a price limit for the gifts and let your kids choose them. Pound shops are great for this, but do make sure the gifts will fit in the crackers.

Older kids

Older kids may enjoy creating bath bombs for relatives. Use any kind of flexible mould for the best results. If you want to make lager batches, it’s worth seeking out bulk supplies online to keep costs down. This recipe will make four half ball bath bombs. They take up to four hours to set.

100g bicarbonate of soda, 50g citric acid, 25g cornflour, 25g Epsom salts (optional), 2 tbsp. sunflower, coconut or olive oil, about 10-15 drops of essential oil – frankincense and myrrh are festive, as are pine and cinnamon, a few drops of food colouring and perhaps some dried petals, lavender or orange peel. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the oil, essential oil and food colouring in a small bowl, mix and then slowly add this to the dry mix a little at a time. Add a few drops of water, and mix it quickly. (It’ll fizz when you do this.) It should clump together when pressed in your hand. Add peel or flower petals to the bottom of the mould then pack the mixture tightly on top. Leave it to dry for 4 hours, then gift wrap in foil. You can then use them as gifts in home-made crackers or pop them into jars decorated with ribbon.

You can also use a mixture of essential oils, pink Himalayan sea salt and Epsom salts to make home-made bath salts. There are lots of oil blends online. Just package in an attractive jar and tie with some ribbon for a simple, but thoughtful, gift.

There are plenty of kits for making your own Christmas stockings, from simple felt versions to elaborate cross stitch or tapestry kits.  It’s a good way to present food gifts for relatives too. You could also gather some greenery or get some cheap tree baubles and a glue gun and work together to create a wreath for the door. Florist supply shops, Homesense, Hobbycraft and The Range are good starting points.

Food gifts are another way that kids can get more involved in the run up to Christmas. There are lots of recipes for Christmas cookies, peppermint creams, decorated chocolate slabs, peppermint bark and other seasonal treats. All you need is some attractive containers which can be decorated with tags and ribbon and you’re good to go.

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