I don’t know what possessed me. On a good day, my crafting skills extend to sewing on a button if – and that’s a big if – I can locate a needle and thread. I’m of the ‘why make it when you can buy it’ school of thought, someone who reckons crafting is for women in Alice bands who think reckless means peeling a carrot without wearing an apron.
Yet here I am, a kitchen full of kids under seven champing at the bit to be let loose with glue and glitter. I’ve enlisted the help of a few valiant mums and one dad. With all that creative energy zipping around, this is not a mission to be undertaken single-handedly.
A quick trawl through the internet and some crafty books has thrown up hundreds of ideas. Not being the most artistic, simple activities are the order of the day. For the under-twos it’s snowflake stamps for decorating gift bags, the under-fives are assigned curly Christmas tree cards, and the under-sevens have the more technical task of creating their own Santa gift jars to fill with jelly beans. I must confess, I was quite giddy during the supply-purchasing stage, gaily tripping through toy shops looking for sparkly pom poms and shimmering stickers. But that festive joy soon disappears. As one of our young guests hurls his shoes around the room with excited anticipation and another bursts into tears and flings herself on the ground, I begin to wonder what I’ve let myself in for.
The older kids, like whippets out of a trap, throw themselves into the Santa-making with great gusto. In fact, they’re so keen, they’ve completed the jar before they’ve finished reading the instructions. This has interesting results, not least the fact that we can no longer get the lid off to add the jelly beans. But before the safety features of toddler scissors are put to the test, I magic up more pots and get them going on Santa jars – take two.
Meanwhile, the middle kids are approaching the curly Christmas trees with the precision and speed of brain surgeons. I find myself struggling to curb my control freak tendencies as they cut through card at a glacial pace. Desperate to shout ‘give it here for goodness sake!’ I bite my tongue and let them get on with it. It’s heartening to discover that they do sometimes listen to their mums and dads as they’re repeatedly telling each other to be careful, that scissors can be dangerous.
Most surprising, however, is the sheer devilment displayed by the under-twos. They’re milling around the kitchen, fistfuls of finger paint and glints in their eyes, ready to sabotage any artistic creation (or fridge, or floor, or unsuspecting sandal) that takes their fancy. This, unexpectedly, doesn’t spark tears and tantrums, but rather sympathy that their efforts are, in the words of one young crafter, ‘a bit rubbish’.
True, their sparkly snowflake gift bag is not overly impressive, but as yet, they’re unable to do anything with the grace and finesse of, say, a four-year-old. The homemade snowflake prints work fantastically well when placed gently with care. They’re less effective when hammered onto the bag with the force of a tornado. Toddlers, we discover, are not great advocates of the ‘less is more’ principle, and with an entire tube of purple glitter now stuck on in clumps, the bag, not to mention the kitchen, is beginning to resemble a Francis Bacon creation.
While the Christmas tree cards earn rounds of applause all round, the new and improved Santa jars are still not quite how they should be if we’re being true to the book. The noses have ‘gone wonky’ and the jelly beans give Santa a slightly bruised complexion, but we’re all happy with our creative efforts – so much so that we make the schoolgirl error of launching into one, last, communal activity. Green paint at the ready, we fill pages of paper with handprints, cut them out and make a Christmas tree. Decorated with sequins and stickers, it looks great. We’re all delighted with our productive afternoon and sit back to enjoy the therapeutic power of peeling dried glue off our hands.
But then we hear the distant tinkling of the ivories. It takes only a few seconds before we suspect that not everyone has made it through the kitchen sink hand-washing relay. We look at each other in panic before charging through to see one, green-handed little Liberace creating his own art on the piano… Perhaps next time we’ll make stress balls.
Sweet Santa’s jolly jars
1 Cut out a circle of red card about twice the size of the lid of your jar (it needn’t be exact). Put a dot in the centre of the circle and cut a slit from one edge to the dot. Overlap the edges to form a cone (Santa’s hat).
2 Hold the cone over the jar and adjust it until it fits the lid, then tape it to hold.
3 Glue a strip of cotton wool to the bottom of the cone.
4 Loosen the lid of the jar, but don’t remove it. Glue the cone to the lid of the jar.
5 Put glue on the jar in a U-shape and stick on cotton wool to make the beard and hair.
6 Cut out a nose and mouth from card and glue it onto the jar. Add wiggly eyes.
7 Fill with sweets.
Curly wurly Christmas cards
1 Fold a piece of green card into three. Draw a long triangle on the folded paper and cut it out so you have three triangles the same size.
2 Cut a strip off the bottom of one of the triangles and a bigger strip off another to make them different sizes.
3 Use toddler scissors to snip along the base to make a fringed edge. Wrap the fringe around a pencil to make it curly.
4 Fold a big piece of different coloured card in half to make the card. Glue on a piece of brown paper to make the trunk.
5 Glue the biggest triangle to the trunk, then the medium one on top of that, then the small one.
6 Dip your finger in white paint, dab on blobs to make snowflakes and finger paint some snow on the ground.
7 Add glitter, stars or any other decorations you can think of.
You’ve been framed
1 Take two pieces of equal-sized cardboard
2 In the front piece, cut out a square, circle or rectangle for your photo.
3 Place the front piece on some sponge (available from tailors) and make a copy of the front piece.
4 Take some fabric and on the wrong side, trace the front piece, but remember to leave 1.5cm to fold over for finishing.
5 Glue the fabric over the padding and onto the front piece, then glue the front piece on three sides to stick to the back, leaving the top open to add your photo.
6 Decorate the fabric with whatever you fancy, then add your photo and a piece of ribbon for hanging.