Ed Elf here. Good to have you along as we get clever and creative. Making stuff is great fun. Some of the most fun times I’ve had have been when I’ve made stuff. Not stuff I’ve needed to make as part of my job as an elf…just making stuff for the heck of it. Making stuff to decorate the house. Better still, making stuff to eat. I like the word stuff. Can you tell?

Santa Strawberries

These are easy to make, but look brilliant. All you need are strawberries, thick butter cream and tiny chocolate bits. Cut the top off a strawberry. Put a blob of cream on the base of the strawberry. Put the top of the strawberry on the blob of cream. It will look like a Santa hat.

Put two specs of cream on the front of the base of the strawberry. Put two chocolate bits at the front of the cream to make Santa’s eyes. Repeat the process with as many strawberries as you like. And there you have it…a plate of mini Santas. This is also a great way to decorate cupcakes and brownies. Pop a strawberry Santa hat on each and you have the most Christmassy plate of food.

food strawberry santa hats_85878376

Glittery Reindeer Food

You can leave carrots alongside Santa’s Christmas Eve cookies and milk (or whatever it is you feed the big man) for the reindeer to eat. But I know something they like even better – and it will also guide them safely to your house. It’s glittery reindeer food.

grotto oats reindeer food_150302738You will need half a cup of porridge oats, some edible glitter and a small plastic bag. That’s all. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

Edible glitter comes in many colours. I like mixing red and gold or green and gold – but it is up to you. Don’t buy the craft glitter – that’s not good for animals to eat. It will make them poorly. You can buy little tubs of edible glitter for just a small amount of money from most grotto reindeer food whisky_148413245supermarkets and craft shops.

Mix the oats and glitter in a bowl. Make a wish while you stir. Pour the mixture into a small plastic bag. You can even place that inside a lovely red fabric pouch to make it look more Christmassy.

Tie the bag with string or ribbon. Make sure the oats can’t fall out. You can attach your own sticky label to the plastic bag if you want, perhaps with a picture of a reindeer on it. If you use a fabric bag, tie a tag to this instead. I like to write a poem on my label too – just for the reindeer. It reads: “Magic reindeer in the sky, up above the rooftops high, I have food to fuel your flight, as you visit me this night.”

You can put the bag under the tree until Christmas Eve. That magical night, before you go to bed, sprinkle the oats outside your house to guide the reindeer to where you live. The glitter will sparkle in the dark and they will smell the oats. If it’s rainy, put the oats on grass or soil or in a plastic bucket so they don’t wash away. Perhaps leave the rest of the leftover oats in their festive bag with a few carrots, alongside a mince pie and a glass of something lovely for Father Christmas, just in case he needs to give the reindeer a top up of food.

Hey Mum and Dad, if you have a chimney in your house I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this glittery reindeer food ended up around the fireplace. I know for a fact that Blitzen is so nosey he loves to poke his head into the chimney to see what’s going on – even with a mouthful of oats. Some always fall out and down the chimney. They even get caught in Santa’s beard.

And kids, why not make a few bags of glittery reindeer food and give some to your family and friends. Remember to attach the sticker and poem if you do give the bags of food as presents.

Santa

Pinecone Garlands

grotto pinecones_156862142Collect as many pine cones as you can find on a winter walk through the woods – which will be a fun thing to do with your family or friends. Don’t do this alone. At the same time, gather a few small cuttings from the pine trees – each piece just a few centimetres long. This won’t harm the tree. Ask a grown-up for help.

Using a length of garden twine, tie a knot around the top of a pinecone and then tie a knot around a pine cutting. Repeat the process until you have a garland long enough to hang on the tree or to drape across a banister, bed headboard or window.

Snowflakes

All you need is some white paper, a pair of round-edged scissors (always take care using scissors of any kind) and thin ribbon. Oh yes – and your imagination.

Fold a square piece of white paper in half to make a triangle. Fold it in half again to make a smaller triangle. Then fold it again to make an even smaller triangle. grotto paper snowflakes_64642Are you with me?grotto paper snowflake red_90550492

Cut a small piece off the top of the triangle. This is the top of the triangle from which all the folds come. Open the paper out again and you’ll see what I mean.

Cut small rectangles, circles or squares into the sides of the triangle – whatever pattern you want. Be sure not to cut all the way from one side of the triangle to the other.

Unfold the paper and you should have your own unique snowflake. Rest a book on it to flatten it out. Hang each snowflake with a thin piece of ribbon or twine from one of its corners. You can join the snowflakes together with twine or a glue stick to make a snowflake chain.

Christmas Thumbprint Cookies

If you want to make a change from leaving a mince pie for Santa on Christmas Eve, why not try some Christmas cookies. You will need a grown-up to help you.

You will need: 3 cups of flour; 1.5 cups of butter; 1.5 cups of sugar; 2 egg yolks; 2 teaspoons of baking powder; 1 tablespoon of grated orange peel; 1 tablespoon of vanilla; 1 teaspoon of salt; raspberry jam.

Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl until it is creamy and light. If the grown-up with you has an electric mixer, get them to do this bit for you. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Mix in the orange peel and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Next, stir this mixture into the othergrotto food cookies_80355514 bowl containing the butter mixture. You should soon have a soft dough. Leave the dough in the fridge for an hour. I know, I know! This is the frustrating bit. You can fill the time making paper chains or something.

Ask the grown-up with you to pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). You can butter two large cookie sheets.

Use your hands to shape the cookie dough into balls about three centimetres in size and place them on the cookie sheets, about five centimetres apart. Make a thumbprint on each cookie. Make sure you press down gently. No holes in the dough, please. Bake for 15 minutes until the cookies have a golden colour.

Once the grown-up with you has taken the cookie sheets out of the oven, you can add a small blob of jam on each cookie and leave them to cool down. These can be stored in an airtight tin for a few days, ready for Santa. There should be dozens of cookies from these ingredients so please feel free to eat some yourself – but not before your dinner.

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Paper Chains

These can be bought in ready-to-make packages and come in all kinds of colours. But you can also make your own from scratch using plain white paper and a glue stick.

Grotto paper chain 140402800Cut some A4 paper into strips. Again, be careful using scissors. Use round-edged ones if you can. Much safer. Make the strips about 5 centimetres wide and cut the paper from side-to-side, not lengthways. Paint or draw Christmas patterns on one side of each strip. You can put stickers on or add glitter at this point. Get creative.

Put a blob of glue from the glue stick on one end of the patterned side of the strip and fold over the other end to make a small loop. Put another strip inside the loop and do the same thing again, so you have two intertwined loops. Simply repeat the process until you have a paper chain of the length you require.

If you want to make an all-white chain to match your snowflakes, this is even easier because you can forget the art bit. I like to say, “Whatever floats your boat.”

Soapy Windows

grotto snow on window_222877897Get a grown-up to help you with this. You will need a bar of white or cream-coloured soap.snowflakes on window_122716333  Ask the grow-up to use a knife to shave one corner of the soap into a pointy shape.

Dip the pointy end in a bowl of warm water for about 10 seconds. Now you are ready to draw a Christmas pattern on the inside of windows – maybe a snowflake or a star. You will need to put the pointy end in the water quite often to keep the soap soft enough to draw a pattern or picture.

If you make a mistake, it will easily rub off the window. You could always draw a design with pencil or crayon on a piece of paper and stick it to the other side of the window to give you a guide pattern. This works great every time. Once Christmas is over, the soap will just wash off. Maybe you should volunteer to do this bit. Don’t leave it to Mum or Dad.

Button Decorations

Use a pipe cleaner and buttons for this first project. Red and green are always Christmassy, but you can use your favourite colours or whatever is lying unused in the sewing box. Ask a grown-up for permission to use the buttons before taking them from the box. If you want to make lots of these for your tree or for gifts, you can buy bags of buttons cheaply enough. You will need maybe eight to 10 buttons for each wreath.

grotto button box_94440505Feed the pipe cleaner in and out through two holes of each button, grotto button snowflake_120571600making sure to neatly space the buttons. Bend the pipe cleaner into a circle as you go. Twist the top of the circle together and hang with a piece of red ribbon. Feel free to add a red bow at the top, too.

There is another way to make these decorations. Put the pipe cleaner through just one hole of each button. Bend the pipe cleaner at one end so the buttons don’t fall off. Just keep adding the buttons until the pipe cleaner is almost full. You may need up to 30 buttons for each wreath. Twist the pipe cleaner to secure the circle and add a ribbon for hanging.

You can always stick buttons on a piece of card to make another form of decoration. Arrange the buttons on the table first (as we show you in the picture) to decide what pattern to use. Snowflakes look good. You can draw a pencil outline on the card as well to give you a guide. Then stick the buttons on with white glue. When the glue has dried, you can cut round the edge. Make a hole in the card that is still attached to the buttons and thread some ribbon through to tie to the tree. These would make good Christmas cards too – if you forget the cutting out and ribbon bit. We have an idea for a button tree card on this page as well.

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Orange Decorations

Again, get a grown-up to help you with this project. Get the person helping you to slice an orange into thin, circular pieces. Be very careful around sharp knives. Place them on a baking tray at 120 degrees Celsius (250 degrees grotto orange slice decs_120045835Fahrenheit) for three hours, turning the slices of orange occasionally. Handling the hot tray and turning the slices sounds like an adult job to me. Don’t you do this kids! Please!

Once they have baked, dried and cooled (some patience here please) put a small hole just under the orange skin with a skewer. Insert a piece of red ribbon and hang from the tree or tie several of them together in a garland. They can be placed in a bowl as pot pourri. Don’t know what that is? An adult will tell you. If you feel like going crazy, you can attach a sprig of Christmas greenery to the orange slices – and perhaps a cinnamon stick that has been broken into smaller pieces. The orange decorations will look good and smell great.

Christmas Cards

grotto cards making card_1967958You might want to get a grown-up to help you start these projects – if only to buy the materials you may need. Your shopping list might include: round-edged scissors, coloured card, felt fabric, beads, PVA glue, glitter, glitter pen, envelopes. You will find hobbycraft.co.uk has everything you will need and there are many other stockists online. You are likely to have some stuff in the house already – pencils, cotton wool and buttons for example.

Snowman Card: There are so many ideas for Christmas cards. You can let your imagination run wild. One of my favourites is the cotton wool snowman. Fold in half a piece of coloured card. Draw a large circle at the base and a smaller circle on top of that. Use PVA glue (that’s white glue to you and me) to stick down pieces of cotton wool onto the circles so that you have the basic snowman shape. Make his hat, eyes and smiley mouth out of black felt material. Add three tiny buttons from Mum’s/Gran’s/Auntie’s sewing box on his belly. Use a coloured bead for his nose. Sprinkle glitter around him like shimmering, falling snow.

Candy Cane Stocking Card: Cut a stocking shape out a piece of fabric. Put glue around the edge of the stocking – apart from at the top. Stick it to the folded card and let it dry. Again, make sure the top of the stocking is not stuck down. That’s because you need to be able to slide a mini candy cane into the stocking. You can buy these cheaply from supermarkets. Once you have put the mini candy cane in place your card is ready.

Button Tree Card: A simple but effective idea is to draw a triangle on the front of a piece of grotto cards making card_2236310folded card. Fill the triangle with old buttons. Stick a square of silver foil paper at the base to resemble a shiny bucket and at the top of the triangle in the shape of a star. Your button tree is complete.

Fabric Card: You will need five scraps of fabric for this card – one small square and four rectangles. It can be from old curtains, an old dress – anything you want as long as you have a grown-up’s permission to use it. The edges can be frayed too – that actually looks good. Each rectangle you cut should be slightly bigger than the last. The square piece of fabric is placed near the top of the folded card and the other four pieces are placed underneath the square in order – the smaller ones first, the grotto glitter_82876630biggest piece last. You should now have a tree shape. Lay out the fabric pieces to see they look right and that they fit together well before you stick them down. With a glitter pen, draw a star on top of the tree and a small trunk at the bottom of the tree.

Glitter Snowflake Card: Earlier on this page I described how to make your own snowflakes. Why not try sticking them to coloured card as well. When you have done this, dot blobs of glue on the snowflake and cover with glitter. Let the extra glitter slide off the card into a bowl so you don’t waste any. And there you have it – a glittering snowflake card. In a similar way, you can make gift tags by using glue and glitter to trim the edges of the tags – or maybe draw a simple star or bell shape with a glue stick and sprinkle with glitter. Have fun.

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Popcorn and Cranberry Garland

Garland popcorn 85428352This looks great on the indoor Christmas tree and can feed the wildlife outdoors as well. You will need some plain popcorn in one bowl, fresh cranberries in another bowl, strong thread and a bodkin – which is basically a needle but bigger and not so sharp as to hurt yourself. A grown-up will help you find a bodkin. By the way, air-popped popcorn is better than oil-popped popcorn. It’s less greasy. Again, a grown-up will help with this. Thread the bodkin and tie a large knot a few centimetres from the end of the thread. Add the popcorn and cranberries in sequence. One cup of popcorn and one cup of cranberries is usually good for about a metre of garland. Tie another knot at the other end once you have finished threading. The garlands can be draped on trees and bushes outdoors. The birds will love them.

          Ice Cream Snowmansnowman ice cream grotto_124388329

This could hardly be any easier – and all you need is ice cream, chocolate drops, an ice cream cone and something to use for the snowman’s cane. Put one scoop of ice cream on top of another. Use chocolate drops for the snowman’s eyes, mouth and buttons and the end of the cone for his nose. Break off a large curved piece of the cone for his hat – or use an upturned ice cream case made from the same kind of wafer biscuit. We used a vanilla pod for his cane – but a Cadbury’s Chocolate Finger will work. All you need to do next is eat him all up.

Elf Helper: Pay a visit to activityvillage.co.uk if you get chance. It has all kinds of wonderful activities and crafts for children. You can also print out pictures to colour in, bookmarks, learn to draw pages and so much more. There are also games and puzzles galore. Activities are made to fit the season. I know a lot of parents and teachers who love this website.

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I don’t know about you, but I need a lie down after that little lot.