You know what makes a home look more festive than Christmas decorations? MORE Christmas decorations. Any number of books and websites will show you how to craft stylish conversation pieces, but they’re often a bit complicated for those of us with younger children, or a simple lack of time.
Hey presto, here are 20 really simple ways to have a bit of fun with the kids while putting home-made decorations together. All of them can be made from stuff you’ll probably have lying around already, or can easily source. But first, a musical interlude:
Hark the Herald Angels Sing: “Get yourself some glue and string”
Piece of card all ready-styled,
Tape and scissors reconciled.
Joyful all ye children rise!
Fetch the craft box, feast your eyes.
See the sparkly tinsel gleam,
As you craft a Christmas scene.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing: “Let’s all make a festive thing”
20 Quick And Simple Christmas Decorations
Alternative Christmas Tree: Find and clean 10-12 long twigs from your local woods or parkland. Bend them slightly, so they curl outwards at one end. Place them in a vase (or, better yet, a jam jar decorated with festive paper (see below). You can now hang decorations from their ends, such as small baubles or home-made Christmas shapes. Once Christmas is over, you can reuse the twigs for other festivities (hang paper Easter eggs, or Valentine hearts, for example).
Angel For The Tree: Take a paper plate, cut into the centre and curl into a cone. Now decorate with paper wings and head to make an angel that’ll slip over the top of the tree.
Door Tops: The top of a door frame is a scandalously under-used space, yet perfect for Christmas decorations. The simplest option is to tack up some tinsel along the woodwork. But use your imagination and something more original can fill the space. Most door frames are white, which makes the perfect base for a snow scene. Draw and cut out a snowman, or Santa and his reindeer, or an old-fashioned house covered in snow (or all three!) then fix it above the door frame to make an attractive but subtle decoration. If you’re making paper snowflakes (see below) these can be tacked above the frame to add to the scene.
Fan Trees: Got some green paper? Fold thin strips back and forth to make a fan (you know the technique). Then tape up one end. You have a pretty green triangle that can now be decorated with stickers, tinsel or anything else you like, to make a miniature Christmas tree.
Foil Icicles: A good one for preschoolers. All you need is tin foil. Cut and scrunch it up into thin icicle shapes, which can then be hung with cotton loops from the tree or mantel piece. Roll in glue and glitter for extra shine.
Lolly Stick Tree: Take three lolly sticks, paint them green, and glue together into a triangle. That gives you the frame of a tree. You can then wind green yarn or thin tinsel around the frame to fill it out. Finally decorate with stars and circles, and hang from your main tree. A similar trick can be used to make Santa hats, but paint red instead of green and use cotton wool for decoration.
Old Gift-Wrap: I’m betting you’ve got some old offcuts from Christmas past that are too small to use on presents? Don’t throw them away, but think of other uses. Perhaps you could wallpaper a dolls’ house, or cut off thin strips to decorate the tops of doors. Picture paper can be scavenged for collage images, or to decorate the base of your alternative Christmas tree (see above).
Origami Robin: Make a paper version of the seasonal bird with these simple folding instructions.
Paper Chains: The ultimate must-do easy craft project at Christmas. It’s as simple as looping strips of coloured paper around one another. Simple, but versatile. Paper chains can decorate almost any part of the home, from festive door hangings, to a tinsel alternative on the tree.
Pine Cones Everywhere: It’s still possible to find decent pine cones in parks and woodland, or your little ones may already have a stash at home. Use snow spray, white paint or tinsel and glue to decorate the tops of the cones, then leave them on shelves and surfaces as simple decorations.
Play-Doh Nativity: You can while away a good hour or two creating a nativity scene from Play-Doh or other modelling clay. Put yellow tissue paper through a shredder to create straw for the stable floor.
Pom-Pom Baubles: Making a pom-pom by wrapping yarn around cardboard discs is one of the simplest, earliest crafts that most children learn. Use metallic-effect yarn and your creation becomes a novelty bauble.
Mini-Reindeer Antlers: A single brown pipe cleaner can be twisted round any rod-shaped object (cutlery, pencil, toothbrush…) for a fun reindeer makeover.
Rudolph-Up Your Home: Get a sheet of circular coloured stickers, available from any craft shop. You only need the red ones. Now, go around the house looking for pictures and photos of people to stick red noses onto. It could be somebody on a book cover, or a family photograph (though best stick only onto the glass of a framed photo rather than directly onto the image itself). OK, this one is more of a naughty intervention than a craft project, but imagine the fun you’ll all have.
Santa Hats For Toys: You might have a woollen Santa hat, your kids might have little Santa hats… but have you considered making festive headgear for the toys? It doesn’t really matter how you do it -- felt and cotton wool, paper cut-outs, proper knitting or crochet if you’re able -- the joy is in the role-play. You could spend hours of fun getting the bears, dolls, rabbits and action figures properly kitted out for Christmas.
Snowflakes: Another easy classic. You probably already know the drill, but if not, it’s simple. Get a square piece of paper. Fold into a triangle, then again to make a smaller triangle. You then need to fold this into thirds by bending over the corners. Snip off the overhanging ends and you’re left with a tightly folded triangle. Finally, cut nibbles out of the triangle wherever you like, unfold, and be amazed at the pattern. Many step-by-step guides can be found online if you need video or pictorial help.
Tiny Stockings: A good way to teach the rudiments of sewing. Simply cut out two felt L-shapes with rounded corners, then show your children how to sew the edges together. Leave the top unsewn and you can place small sweeties inside.
Toilet Roll Santa: An old favourite. Get a toilet roll tube and cover it in cotton wool and red paper to make a stand-up Santa doll. You can make a whole series, such as a toilet roll snowman, or elf, or reindeer.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.