A Simple Christmas Keepsake Idea for You

Xmas Big Picture Publishing

Our Christmas tree is a bit like a scrapbook. Many of our tree ornaments have stories behind them, or they mark obsessions or events in the lives of our children. I like this because these decorations come out once a year, and since they’re focused around a holiday tradition it makes sense to save them. As our children have grown older and we hang these decorations, Mollie and I are often reflective, and filled with gratitude over how the personalities of our children have born fruit in their adulthood over each passing year.

I want to share a simple, simple idea with you for an ornament that can become an heirloom for your family. This is one of my favorite keepsake gifts that I have given to Mollie because it recorded a specific point in the lives of our children. I suppose it’s really a variation of the plaster-cast-hand-print craft that we have probably all received at some point as parents, except I never really knew what to do with all those plaster casts. (I think we have them somewhere!…)

craft gift idea xmas

In this case, I had each child put his or her handprint in white on a red glass Christmas tree ornament. I put the age of the child next to their print, and the year. For the space that was left I asked the child what they want the ornament to say. (Usually it was something like “Merry Christmas Mommy!” and, “Love, child’s name.”) You probably need to do this before your child’s hands get too big!

I started with my oldest two when they were 3 and 1 and a half years old. After that, in subsequent years I decided to only do one handprint per ornament. The kids got into this because they knew we were making a Christmas present for Mom. I still remember each child’s reaction as I brushed paint on their tiny hands during the handprint process:

Caleb, who is legally blind and very tactile, got a big grin on his face.

Lee became very serious about the importance of the task, and did his best to carry it out perfectly.

Sierra giggled out loud and said it tickled, and that the paint was cold.

Joel kept making a fist, once he figured out I didn’t want him to make a fist.

Renee freaked out because she thought it was gross, and I had to reassure her that the paint would wash. off.

So that’s it! All you need is:
A set of large matching ornaments set aside for this purpose. I used white acrylic paint for the handprints, and green and gold paint for the lettering. Acrylic paint cleans up with water. I suppose you could also use latex (not oil base) house paint. (Don’t use poster paint as it will come off, unless you want to clear coat the ornament when you’re done.) You might want a small, pointed brush for the lettering, but a medium size, soft, flat works best for brushing paint onto hands.

A handprinting tip:
In order to increase your chances of getting a legible handprint, instruct your child to spread his/her fingers apart slightly before printing. (You might need to model this for them.) Then, guide the hand gently onto the ornament and pull the ornament away once you think a good impression has been made. If the hand slides around once it’s on the ornament you will have a globby smudge rather than a handprint. It might help to put the heel of the hand on the ornament first and then lay the fingers down. Also, you only need a thin layer of paint on the hand.

A final thought is that you might consider using plastic ornaments. I prefer glass, and we happened to have a matching set on hand, but I’ll be sad if ours get broken someday.

I’d love to hear from you if you decide to try this!

Brief book update: I’ve finally started illustrations for the next book, The Friendly City. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Thank you for you support – I hope you and your family have a joyful Christmas season! May God reveal Himself more clearly to us all in the coming year,

Scott

christmas-tree-angels

Dad says all the angels have to go at the top of the tree…

A Fun Craft Idea That You & Your Kids Can Make For Your Spouse

arts crafts gift ideas for children

Tiny items on these frames include small erasers, buttons, fake pearls, sea shells, Barbie shoes, beads,  hair barrettes, various game pieces, and a couple of pictures cut out of cereal boxes…

I’m sending this out early enough so that you and your kids can get this done before Mothers’ Day. Or Fathers’ Day. It’s a simple idea, easy to do, and yet the final result is something that will bring a smile to your spouse’s face for years to come.

The end result is a functional picture frame that reflects your child’s unique personality.

When my kids and I made the frames pictured here, my grand scheme was to make a frame with a different kid each year. Their frames still hang in our bedroom. The idea was inspired by looking at a lot of “found object” artwork while I was working as an artist at Hallmark Cards Inc. years ago.

The idea is to completely encrust a bare frame with small found objects of your child’s choosing. I did not disallow created objects, but the overall effect was to end up with a found object piece. One of my kids created a tiny drawing to put on her frame. Some combined objects. One cut up tiny pieces of felt to fill in so that no white spaces showed through on his frame

Your child’s personality will come through in the objects they choose. My oldest son was big into nature, so his frame reflects this, including turquoise-colored aquarium rocks, acorns, and a rubber insect. (Fittingly, his photo features him with his butterfly net.) His younger brother was more into playing with the process and finding things on the street, (which we washed.) My oldest daughter was a girly-girl and wanted lots of pink items and cute things. Even with the differences though, the frames still all look great on the wall together because they all share a similar aesthetic.

There is not much to say about the process. We used Elmer’s glue to attach the items to the frames. I cut my frames out of Foam Core board, but you could use a simple purchased frame. With my last 2 kids I switched from white Foam Core to black Foam Core (below,) since the black isn’t as distracting if the board shows through. My plan was to clear coat the finished encrusted frame to protect the items and to help keep them from falling off over time, (which I will still probably do, perhaps when I retire.) I mounted black and white photos in our frames because the frames themselves were so colorful, I thought black and white photos would stand out better, but that’s just me.

Craft and gift ideas for kids to create

Tiny items on these frames include small toys, pieces from a broken Mouse Trap game, a reflector from a bicycle pedal, costume jewelry, old computer key pad buttons, and Grandpa Walker’s campaign button (which would have otherwise disappeared into oblivion) These two siblings obviously influenced each other…

Below are the dimensions I used for my frames. Of course, you can make yours larger, but if you make a two foot long frame it may take the rest of your kid’s childhood to cover it with small objects!

Found object frame schematic

If you and your spouse share this email and you decide you want to do this, you might want to ask him or her not to read this so as not to spoil the surprise. If you decide to make frames with your kids, I’d love to see the result! Send me a photo of your finished product and I’ll post it on my Big Picture Publishing Facebook page.

Have fun, and happy crafting!