Big Fun Christmas Crafts & Activities: Over 200 Quick & Easy Activities for Holiday Fun!, by Judy Press (2006)
As the week winds to a close, I thought I would do my fourth Christmas review of the year on a craft book and give you a day or two to come up with the supplies to keep your 3-7 year old children occupied this weekend!
This craft book indicates that it is intended for use with children ages 3-7. Although the majority of the text is written as though it is addressing children (“Ask a grown-up to help you hang it on a neighbor’s door.”), I think that only a few in the target age-group would be able to use the book independently (and, of course, there are several activities involving knives and sharp scissors where you certainly wouldn’t want them to try it alone!). It is mostly intended for parents, teachers, and caregivers to use with individuals or groups of children (both large and small groups), but the crafts themselves are not the sort where the adult has to pretty much do every single step for the project to turn out well. There will be prep work, of course, but many of the projects seem simple enough to assemble or create independently (at least for school age children–all bets are off with preschoolers!) with a little oversight.
The table of contents makes the different projects easy to find. The categories are Christmas Is A-Coming! (decorations), Christmas Cards & Happy Wishes, Gifts to Make & Give, All Wrapped Up! (wrapping paper and gift bags), Let It Snow! (snow-related crafts, most not Christmas-specific), and Light Up the Night! (winter holidays from other cultural and religious traditions).
The book starts with a section explaining the book to the supervising adult. The projects leave room for the imagination, and there are tips and suggestions scattered throughout to make using the book easier. Some projects include a “Quick & Easy” version of the craft for a simpler or faster project, some have “Waiting Games” for related activities, others give an “Act of Kindness” tip for doing something with the craft or related to the craft for others. There are also sections called “Little Hands Story Corner” that suggest read-alouds to go with the craft (excellent for planning storytimes or themed lessons at school!). General safety tips are given in this introduction and are also listed as reminders on the specific crafts that call for them.
In the body of the book, each section starts with a two-stanza poem introducing the content. The pages are illustrated with colorful drawings rather than photographs of the projects, but they have enough realism to make them easy enough to use as a reference for the craft anyway. Each craft has a “What you need” list so you can easily identify what materials are required for the activity. In addition to the extras mentioned in the adult introduction, a “Yummy Treats” section on some pages gives crafty snack ideas, and there are occasional “Customs Around the World” sidebars with supplemental information about the origin of the craft or other related traditions.
Perhaps the most useful part of the book comes right before the index: the Crafts by Skill Level list! Using the list, adults can select skill-appropriate crafts from the Easy, Medium, or Challenging lists to best fit their child or group! Although it doesn’t appear as though the book is still in print, there are many relatively inexpensive copies available on Amazon, and I am pretty sure I’m going to invest in a copy for GirlChild and BoyChild for next year. Even though GirlChild will be at the top of the suggested age range, I think she’ll still enjoy many of the ideas for several more years to come! Unlike many craft books, the crafts are simple, adaptable, and use common supplies and common sense! This is a great addition to any classroom or home library!
Other Christmas craft books:
Earth-Friendly Christmas Crafts in 5 Easy Steps, by Anna Llimós (2006): Five steps is kind of understating some of these since a step might involve crafting a Santa head out of clay (which I would certainly consider a very involved step), but the ideas are very cute and some seem simpler than others. There is a lot of crafting from clay and allowing it to dry in this book, so I would recommend this for older kids with more dexterity and patience.
175 Easy-to-Do Christmas Crafts, edited by Sharon Dunn Umnik (1996): Actual photographs of the finished craft along with a basic how-to accompany each of the multitudinous crafts in this book. Again, because of the level of dexterity and the amount of deductive reasoning needed (because the steps aren’t illustrated, etc.), I recommend this for older children or as a spring-board for an adult to lead a crafting session. (This series also includes Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Everyday craft books!) These appear to be excellent resources for adults who are supposed to come up with frequent crafts for children!