Creating decorations for the tree or as gifts for friends and relatives will put your family in a festive mood. Try these fun and simple ideas, a step above stringing popcorn or making simple chains from colored construction paper.

Cinnamon Dough-lights

16 ounces of applesauce 9-10 ounces of ground cinnamon (save money by buying cinnamon in bulk) Variety of cookie cutters in holiday/favorite shapes (from holly leaf to dinosaur) Thin ribbon in festive colors for hanging on tree Optional: Glitter, sequins, other small decorations (such as plastic eyes, available at fabric store) Optional: 2-3 ounces of all-purpose glue (such as Elmer’s)

Mix together applesauce and cinnamon. This will be a dry mixture that will form a dough as you knead it. (You will find yourself adding a touch more applesauce or cinnamon from time to time, depending on whether your dough seems too wet or too dry.)
Roll the dough out, then use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the dough.
Lay the forms on a cookie sheet covered with non-stick aluminum foil.
Use a thin straw or toothpick to poke a hole near the top of each ornament so you can string ribbon through it later for hanging. Take care not to poke the hole too close to the top of ornament.
Bake at 200 degrees for about 1 hour, or more, until hard.
Optional no-bake method: Add glue to your dough before rolling it; allow cutout shapes 48 hours to dry and harden. (It’s OK to add a smaller amount of glue to mixture that is baked in oven as well.)
Idea: Leave some shapes plain if you like, decorate others by spreading on a little glue and sprinkling with glitter. String ribbons through the holes to hang on tree.
Tip: Store ornaments in well-sealed containers, such as Christmas tins.
— Julie Bookman

Shiny Strawberries

As many whole walnuts (in the shell) as you wish to make ornaments
2-3 small jars of glossy bright red paint; model airplane paint (enamel) works very well
Small paint brush
1 package of small pearl-like beads (approx. 2,100 pieces in a bag)
Clear-drying glue (small size)
Strong and shiny gold thread (stretchy thread works well, but is optional)
Green felt (12-inch square is plenty for 30-plus ornaments)

Paint each walnut with the red paint; let dry. Glue pearl-like beads all over the surface of each painted walnut. Parents should first demonstrate how to carefully use a straight pin to pick up one bead, dip in a dab of glue, then place it on the nut. Cover each nut with about 20 or so beads, spaced apart. Cut gold thread into individual pieces (about 4-5 inches long). You need one for each “strawberry” you’re making. Tie each thread piece into a loop. Cut small “star” shapes out of the green felt, one for each ornament; the shapes don’t need to be perfect. These will form the “leaf” atop each nut. Place gold thread loop under each felt piece atop each “strawberry” and glue together so that you have a loop for hanging on tree. (Gold thread is glued in between the painted nut and the felt “leaf.”)
— Julie Bookman

Clay Pot Toy Soldiers

Five 4-inch planters
Spray paint or hobby paint: red, navy blue, black, green and beige (or peach)
7/16-inch round wooden dowel, 20 inches long

Spray-paint (or use a paint brush and hobby paint) one planter black and one planter beige. Use red, blue and green for the remaining planters. Allow them to dry.
Stack the planters, securing them with a small amount of hot glue. The bottom planter should be placed upside-down, the next one right side up, the next upside-down, and so on. The top planter should be upside-down.
Thread the dowel through the planters’ drainage holes.
Use a pencil to sketch the toy soldier’s face, buttons and belt. Paint the features with hobby paint or use permanent markers.
Tie several pieces of twine around the top of the dowel to create a tassel for the hat.

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