Duration of activity
Making the dough takes about five minutes. You can spend a few minutes or a couple of hours making and adorning decorations with your child. The decorations will need to be baked in the oven for up to a couple of hours.
- ¾ cup water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup salt
- Optional for decorations:
- Googly eyes
- Oil based paint
- Magnets to stick on the back of your decorations
- Or string/ribbon for hanging your decorations.
- Drinking straw for making the hole in your decorations where string/ribbon will go through.
If you don’t already have the things you need lying around the house you should be able to purchase enough materials to make hundreds of decorations for under $20.00.
- You can make the dough before you start but it’s also a fun educational activity to involve your child in, if they are old enough.
- Ask your child to measure the 2 cups of plain flour and 1 cup of salt.
- Put them in a bowl and whisk together. Your child will probably enjoy giving them bit of a stir.
- Ask your child to measure ¾ cup of water.
- Mix the ingredients together with a spoon until they stick together in a lump.
- Next knead the dough with your hands for about 5 minutes.
What to do
Cutting and baking decorations
- Line a baking tray with baking paper and preheat the oven to 100o
- Ask your child to roll the dough flat with a rolling pin. It should be about the thickness of cookie dough (1cm – you can make them bigger but they will be heavier and may need extra magnets). Younger children are likely to need quite a bit of help rolling the dough flat but they’ll enjoy having a go. Or you could give them their own cooking utensils and let them imitate you as you measure, roll and stir the dough.
- Use cookie or play dough cutters or a butter knife to cut shapes from the dough.
- If you are making decorations for your Christmas tree or presents that will hang, make a small hole near the top using a drinking straw. This is where the string will go.
- Place the cut out dough shapes on the baking tray.
- Bake the decorations for about 2 hours or until they are hard and dry- the larger the shapes the longer they will take to cook. Turn them after about an hour so both sides cook evenly.
Painting and adorning decorations
- When the decorations have cooled down they are ready to paint. Give your child the paints and paintbrushes and let them paint the decorations they have made.
- Leave them to dry. If the colour is not bright enough, apply a second coat of paint.
- When the paint has dried you can glue on some adornments like glitter, googly eyes, sequins and small beads.
- If you are making magnet decorations, for example to stick on the fridge or a magnetic chalkboard, stick a magnet to the back of the decoration using a child-safe, all surface glue. Don’t forget to check which side of the magnet to glue to the surface of your decorations.
- Use paint from the hardware store that is suitable for use on multiple surfaces. It has a more vibrant colour than normal washable paint. Make sure it is suitable for children.
- When buying paint, buy red, blue, yellow, white and black. You can use these colours to mix all other colours and teach your children about how primary colours can be mixed to make all other colours as you go.
- The local hardware shop is also a great place to find glue that will stick to all sorts of surfaces.
- Use decorations from nature to embellish you Christmas goodies with interesting patterns and shapes before you bake them. For example you could take your child for a walk and collect leaves, petals, ferns, feathers and seeds to press into the dough. Look for interesting patterns and shapes. Use the back of a spoon to press them into the cut out dough shapes (then peel them off using your fingers, leaving the imprint) before you bake. Use spray paint to paint these to make sure the patterns stands out.
- This is a great activity for a pre-Christmas play date.
- Magnets pose serious health risks for children if swallowed. Supervise your child at all times when they are handling magnets and ensure they do not put them in their mouth. If your child does inadvertently swallow a magnet seek medical attention immediately.AAP
Maths is everywhere and this activity is a great opportunity to help your child learn about maths by counting, comparing and measuring things they see every day. When making the dough, let your child measure the ingredients and talk about what they are doing as they go. With younger children discuss the size of the measuring cups and the space between the lines on them using simple mathematical words like big and small or near and far. Older children will be familiar with more complex ways of measuring, for example they’ll be able to appropriately used words like cups and millilitres.
While you’re painting and adorning your decorations, you’ll also be able to talk about their size, but don’t forget colour, shape and pattern as well. Discuss the similarities and differences between the decorations in terms of size, shape and colour. Count how many decorations you made and you’ll be sneaking a maths lesson into the fun of Christmas craft. Preschool age children will be developing and experimenting with more complex mathematical vocabulary, for example instead of only big and small they’ll know other words to describe an object’s size (e.g. long and short). By the end of preschool children will probably be able to order objects according to their size (e.g. biggest to smallest). Older children may enjoy measuring the shapes using a ruler and describing their size in centimeters. If you’ve got a budding mathematician in the house they may even want to dig out their protractor to measure the size of the angles they’ve cut out.
Don’t forget to discuss colour as your child mixes the paints and how, for example blue and red can be mixed together to make purple. By about three years of age children should be interested in the process of mixing colours and offer explanations for why the paint changed colour (e.g. the red paint change to purple because I added blue paint). Older children will be able to distinguish primary and secondary colours and may be interested in making a colour mixing table to record their observations about which primary colours are mixed together to achieve each of the secondary colours.
Fine motor skills
Making Christmas decorations is a great activity for developing children’s fine motor skills, which are the skills they need to control their fingers to manipulate objects. Every time they pick up, move or place small objects like glitter or googly eyes they’ll be developing their finger muscles and control. By two years of age children should already have the ability to pick up small objects using pincer grasp (only their thumb and forefinger). But practice makes perfect and this activity should provide plenty of opportunities for toddlers and preschoolers to practice.
Painting and sticking adornments to the cut out decorations, and pouring ingredients from one container to another when making the dough will also develop your child’s fine motor skills. As they manipulate the paintbrush they’ll be strengthening the same finger muscles they’ll use for writing. As your child ages you’ll notice that their movements (and the things they paint) become more precise, in the same way their hand writing becomes neater. Older children will benefit from challenges like painting intricate shapes and pictures or repeating patterns. For young children just spreading out the paints and watching the colours mix together is probably enough of a challenge.
Gross motor skills
Gross motor skills are those that control movement of the large muscles of the arms and legs. And include actions in which your child either applies or receives force. Like all other activates that require children to use their arms, preparing the dough for this activity helps develop children’s arm muscles in numerous ways because actions like stirring and rolling require children to apply force as they coordinate their arm movements. Whether you child is stirring or rolling the dough, or simply imitating your movements as they watch, they’ll be developing the large muscles of their arms and the coordination that they need to control these movements. Challenge them, for example by asking them to stir the dough faster or slower or roll it thinner.
Communication and social skills
Doing activities with your child is also a fantastic way to develop their social and communications skills. Every time they interact with you during the activity, they’re also learning how to communicate and act in other social situations. Toddlers and early pre-schoolers will learn new words and the rules of conversation- things like listening and taking turns. Older pre-schoolers and primary school age children will have an opportunity to practice using new words and incorporating increasingly complex grammar into their conversation.
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