Brandy has started an interesting discussion on the place for crafts. You can read some here, here and here. I had already started this post when she started writing, but I like how home-made Christmas ornaments fit into the realm of lasting treasures, unlike so many of the other things my kids love to make and I hate to throw away (but can't imagine where I'd store).
From the beginning, I always wanted to make Christmas ornaments with my kids every year and give them as gifts to grandparents, aunts and uncles. First Son was born two weeks before Christmas and I thought giving birth was quite enough so we didn't try anything the first year. (In fact, I'm pretty sure it was past New Year's Day before Kansas Dad and I were functioning at a level beyond basic survival.)
In 2004, I was only a little more adventurous. We bought three kits like this one. Even with Kansas Dad and I working together, it was a bit difficult to get First Son to cooperate. We finally had to settle for footprints, which just barely fit on the ornament. We saved one and gave one to each of the grandparents. I admit I love this ornament, but I'm a little afraid every year we'll break it and I'll cry.
In 2005, I was sick and tired (being pregnant with First Daughter). First Son was just two and I wasn't feeling well enough to tackle a complicated ornament, so we just ordered some cute ones from Snapfish with his picture and called it done. (Someday, Kansas Dad hopes to have an area for woodworking and would be happy to help the kids make the annual ornament, but that's still at least a few years in the future.)
Finally, in 2006, I came across a suggested ornament in Wondertime that seemed perfect for early-preschooler First Son. They were really easy. We learned that the smaller cookie cutters worked the best and that even at three, First Son had a limited attention span for the task. (I also preferred the smaller pieces of glitter.) After the first one, I smeared the glue on myself and just let him shake the glitter bag. Even so, he wasn't too interested at the end. (It would be much easier now with two of them to split the task.) I printed out pictures of the kids and wrote on the back the year, then hole-punched them and slipped them on the ribbon before tying it up.
Then, 2007 rolled around...and I was once again sick and tired (thanks to Second Daughter). First Son, First Daughter and a full-time job added to my exhaustion. I couldn't think long enough to come up with something fun. So I bought some felt ornaments and let First Son color them when he was home sick one day. It wasn't very creative, but it did entertain him long enough for me to still get some work done that day.
Last year, the kids and I copied an ornament a younger cousin of mine had made with her mom many years ago. I took old puzzle pieces and glued them together upside-down in the shape of Christmas trees. It was much more complicated to get them to stick together than I anticipated, though I probably could have used something more substantial as the glue. (I've since learned Aleene's Tacky Glue is hard to beat for craft projects like this.) I also painted them myself (and used all our green poster paint in the process). Then, I let the kids decorate them with stickers of ornaments and such. I liked how these ornaments turned out, but even spreading them out over a few days the kids were tired of putting on the stickers. Of course, now I would feel more confident giving them the painting portion which they would love. I wish I had a picture of them to share. I didn't follow any specific instructions, but these instructions look great. I wish I had thought of using buttons for the ornaments, though I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have trusted the kids using the tacky glue themselves last year. You can find lots of ideas for other shapes here.
I've already got the idea for this year. I can't tell you, though, because people who will be receiving the ornaments sometimes read the blog. Hopefully I'll remember to take some pictures and let you know how it goes. This is the one real holiday tradition we've started with the children and it's one I see growing so much as they gain skills and confidence in the craftsmanship. In the next few years, I will probably try to pick two different ornaments so First Son can attempt something more complicated. I think it's also important that we keep one of the ornaments for ourselves each year. I love hanging them on our tree and remembering the little hands that made them.
By the way, in case you're wondering about the relative quiet here on the Range, Second Daughter has been sick. Just a cold and a cough, but it's the kind that has this Mama propped nearly upright in bed all night with a toddler on her chest. Kansas Dad picked up a humidifier for our room that made a big difference last night. Sometimes she would consent to sleep next to me. It's not too fun but hopefully it won't last too much longer.