Gift Your Child an Ornament Every Year

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There are some households where the Christmas tree is color-coordinated or bears a different theme each year. Not so in our house! Our tree is a hodgepodge of homemade and heirlooms and ones we’ve randomly picked up over the years. But here is one nice thing that lends tradition to the tree: making sure to gift each child a special ornament every year.

This goes back to both my kids’ first Christmas, when they received one as a commemorative gift.

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Moving forward, we’ve picked one up each year in relation to a holiday excursion. There’s the train from a trip to a holiday train show, for example…

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…and this year Travis loved selecting owls from a trip to see holiday lights at a botanical garden.

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This is definitely one of those traditions I intend to keep up, moving forward. How do your kids like to decorate the tree? Please share in the comments!


Crystal Chemistry Tree Crate

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Of all the holiday projects from Kiwi Co this year, this was by far Travis’s favorite. You can follow along on this project with materials from the craft store and drugstore; do supervise very closely, as chemicals (ammonia in particular) are involved. But the result is stunning!

To start, we needed to prepare the planting pot. Insert a plastic cup into a silver cup, and decorate with the provided red ribbon for a festive touch. The tree is two pieces of cardboard that slot together. Travis “planted” this firmly.

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He loved the felt ornaments to hang on the tree!

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As a final decoration, twist together three silver pipe cleaners, and arrange as a star on top.

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Now it was time for some science. I poured the bluing solution into the plastic cup first. A bluing solution is potassium nitrite and sodium hydroxide dissolved in water. Travis was a good sport listening to all the safety cautions about handling these chemicals

Next I poured in the provided ammonia. He was not a fan of the smell! Finally, we poured the provided salt packet evenly around the tree.

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Use the provided pipette to drip the solution over the tree branches until saturated.

Only an hour later, I noticed that already a few little sparkles had appeared. Travis went to bed full of wonder at how it might look in the morning.

To be perfectly honest, I’d forgotten about it when we came down for breakfast. “Mom, look!” he called out. I, too, was stunned with the white frosty crystals blooming all over the branches.

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One note of caution: the crystals are very delicate and will fall off at even the tiniest budge, so have your tree some place up high where it won’t get jostled.

Over breakfast, read about what happened. The cardboard soaks up the solution (so a plastic tree, for example, wouldn’t work here), but the liquids evaporate overnight as gases. The salt can’t do this, so it is left behind. Ammonia is present because it helps the evaporation happen faster. And voila – a chemis-tree!

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I Spy an Ornament

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Here’s a fun variation on “I Spy” to play around the Christmas tree after the sun goes down!

Turn off all the lights in the room so that the only illumination left comes from the tree lights. Take turns playing classic “I Spy” (“I spy something green”, “I spy something gold”,) and have the other family members guess which ornament it is.

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Travis loved being in charge of shining a flashlight on the guessed ornament if it was correct. Because he’s young, his clues are sometimes hilarious. “I spy something at the top of the tree with wings.” Our angel!

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This can also be a fun way to talk about family ornaments, for example explaining the significance behind homemade ones, family heirlooms, or those purchased on vacation.

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Travis loved the game so much we might just play every night until the tree comes down!

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Yarn Christmas Trees

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Be forewarned: This holiday decoration project is a messy one! In other words, perfect if your kids love getting their hands dirty and helping deck the halls around the house.

For materials, you’ll need Styrofoam cones (available at craft stores) with the plastic wrap still on. You’ll also need red and green yarn. I had pastel shades of each in my craft bin, which would look lovely if you’re taking a pastel approach to decorating this year! Ideally, I would have had darker red and green, but we were eager to do the project so made do.

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Cut the yarn into pieces about 20 feet long. Yes you read that right, 20 feet! Travis loved helping measure out the long lengths by standing at the opposite end of the apartment from me.

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Next we needed glue. You can use watered down store-bought glue, but we made a neat homemade version simply by mixing 1/2 cup flour with water until the consistency of a thick paste.

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I worried Travis might not get his hands in there, but to my surprise, he was eager to see how it felt. Goopy!

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Soak your stands of yarn in the “glue,” one strand at a time. Once it’s coated, wrap around one of the Styrofoam cones, wrapping and wrapping until completely covered – the more the better!

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The key is not to let the yarn get tangled, or you’ll wind up with a clump you can’t continue to wrap. After a few successful trees, we encountered a tangle. Whoops!

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Luckily the cone was just covered enough.

Let dry overnight. Travis had to come over and touch our flour glue occasionally, to see how the drying process was coming along.

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In the morning, snip the plastic wrap from the cone, and slide the yarn tree off – you’ll have to tug the cone out a bit forcefully. Remove the inner plastic, and the yarn tree now stands alone.

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We thought it might be fun to decorate one with little gems and beads, although it was hard to get them to stick on, as the beads were heavy.

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Pinecones made lovely tree toppers though!

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Little Tree Crate

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We loved our Swirly Ornaments holiday crate from Kiwi Co., and the kit for Little Tree turned out to be just as wonderful. The project set the stage for a festive mood inside our apartment on a drizzly December morning. Read on!

To start making the tree, we first needed to do some math, dividing the kit’s green pipe cleaners into two equal piles. This was a neat way to introduce Travis to counting out two sets of something, just as you would for dealing out cards in a game, for example.

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Cut the pipe cleaners from one pile in half, and leave the others long.

Insert the provided wooden stick into the round wooden stand.

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Starting with the long pipe cleaners, wrap around the stand.

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Repeat with the short pipe cleaners. Travis loved the wrapping, and insisted on doing so himself for each one.

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Adult step: snip the pipe cleaners at an angle, so your tree is a triangle shape. Travis was really psyched to see our fake tree in the same tapered shape as our real tree.

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Peel the backing off a provided star sticker, and attach at the top of the tree.

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Next up, thread on the provided beads and bells as ornaments. “Which are ornaments and which are lights?” Travis wanted to know.

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Good question, but either way, all beautiful!

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To make the base, use any round bowl to trace a circle onto the provided red felt.

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Cut out and decorate with the provided gold glitter glue.

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Travis was equally delighted by the “presents” that can go under the tree – two wooden cubes, onto which we glittered-glued pom poms.

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You can set your tree out as a pretty decoration, and we also plan to leave it alongside cookies and non-dairy milk for Santa on Christmas Eve! It’s also the perfect size to be a play tree for your child’s stuffed animals.

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To round out our festive morning, we made hot cocoa and added in a cute Snowman-themed spelling lesson from

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This fun picture word match was a great way to cuddle up inside during the cold winter months and practice Travis’s spelling skills. For more spelling activities and printables like this check out!

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In sum, we had all the makings of a cozy winter morning.

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Cardboard Learning Tree

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This is a great activity that combines seasonal holiday crafting with a little learning. If you play your cards right, the kids won’t even know you’ve slipped in some education with their fun!

For the shape of your tree, you can either paint a large piece of cardboard (holiday gift delivery boxes, perhaps?) or poster board. We chose poster board because I knew it would be easier to cut out the tree. Either way, Travis was thrilled when I said I needed the entire thing painted green.

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We left the paint to dry overnight, and the next day I cut out the tree shape.

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Next we gathered supplies for the “ornaments.” Use holiday-themed cookie cutters or other shapes, and trace the outlines on colored construction paper.

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Don’t worry if your kids don’t trace perfectly, you can always neaten up the lines when cutting the shapes out later.

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The next step was even more fun: laminating the cards. Although this step is optional, it will definitely make your paper pieces last longer. Travis adores whenever he’s allowed to help laminate, so this was a big hit.

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I cut out the shapes, and set them aside.

We hung our tree on the wall and added a brown piece of construction paper as the trunk.

The final step was to add Velcro strips to our tree and ornaments. Place the soft side of the Velcro on the tree at random intervals, then attach one rough Velcro piece to each ornament. Travis loved this even before we added the learning element, hanging his ornaments and then changing their positions.

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There are so many games you can play from this point on! First, I numbered the ornaments one through twenty with a wipe-clean marker, for a number search game.

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A simple wipe with a paper towel and we could play alphabet games. One suggestion is to hide the letters in your child’s name, and have them pinpoint those on the tree.

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As an alternative, write the upper and lower case of a batch of letters, and have your child find the pairs.

In full honesty, Travis was way more into the mechanics of this game (taking on and off the ornaments, wiping them clean with paper towels), than he was with the learning games, but we’ll play again over the course of the next few weeks!

Popsicle Stick Christmas Tree


Why stop at one Christmas tree when you and your child can craft together this adorable second? Travis was so excited when he realized what shape we were making with our popsicle sticks.

First, you’ll need to get good and messy with green paint. Paint as many popsicle sticks as you need to make a tree shape – be prepared for green fingers so you can paint all the way to the edges! Once the popsicle sticks dry, cut a few into smaller pieces so your tree can taper at the top. Leave two sticks unpainted to serve as the trunk.


Have your child help you arrange your “tree” on poster board, then glue each “branch” down, starting from the bottom up. Travis loved seeing the tree take shape as he worked!


Then it was time to decorate! Party confetti from the grocery store worked perfectly as ornaments and tinsel, but use any sparkly crafty items you have at home that can be glued on.


For the star on the top, we traced a star-shaped cookie cutter on construction paper, then cut out and glued on. A very cute and festive project.