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A toned down Christmas

Posted by Sue Gascoyne and Gemma Clarke on

Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly this Christmas

One of the things I most enjoy about decorating the house for Christmas is finding all the handmade creations my children have made over the years, the obligatory Angel with woollen hair and doily dress, colourful clay, leaf or handprints made at nursery and hand-stitched felt mini-stockings, which proudly adorn the tree.

Each year I encourage the children to make at least one new decoration to add to our collection. As well as making great presents for elderly relatives they come in handy when you discover, as we did one year, that most of the decorations had been nibbled by a family of mice! If you’re looking for no and low cost activities with the added bonus of bringing life to your tree, here’s my pick of the best Christmas decoration fun.

Mini Christmas Trees

This year we will definitely be making some cute and adorable mini trees. All you need are some pinecones, paint and mini terracotta pots. First you need to collect the pine cones, a great excuse for getting wrapped up for a winter walk, then home for a warming mug of hot chocolate while the glue and paint dry. Don’t forget glitter and sequins to decorate the mini trees and a loop of gift wrap ribbon for hanging on the tree.

Sparkly Stars

While the glitter is out, you may as well make some sparkly stars. Made from cutting up the inners from wrapping, kitchen or toilet paper tubes and covering in glitter, they are sure to make your tree sparkle with Christmas spirit. These gorgeous sparkly stars are also likely to be a firm favourite, the perfect way to recycle and repurpose the innards from all that paper waste.


For a more grown up decoration for the teen in your life to make, how about getting them to choose family snaps taken throughout the year? Simply back the photos on to card, red, green or whatever your colour scheme is, make slits in the corners to hold the pictures, and attach to the tree or make a pretty garland to hang on the wall. A hands on smelly alternative is threading slices of dried citrus fruit and cinnamon sticks to make a wreath or garland to decorate the hearth. Simply buy and prepare your fruit – lemons, oranges and limes work well, then dry very slowly in the oven on a low heat. Provide tapestry needles and fine string for some aromatic threading, then sit back and enjoy the colours and festive smells of the fruits of your labour.

Present time

Decorations sorted its time to turn my attention to the presents. With increasing pester power and the overwhelming feeling to buy buy buy, this year I decided to take to the internet to look at ways to reduce present costs. It seems that I’m not alone as I discovered a growing trend for the 4 Gift Christmas Challenge. What’s this I hear you ask, well the premise is you buy children only 4 things:

  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear, and
  4. Something to read

After a slightly nervous ramble as I tried to explain, or should I say sell this idea to the children, I was pleasantly surprised at how on board they were! Far from lamenting their lost presents they were genuinely excited to be able to spend more time choosing and enjoying each gift. We sometimes forget that children get overwhelmed by the mass of gifts under the tree. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the sheer disappointment at the conveyor belt of unwrapping that happens, as each new gift is seemingly discarded in favour of the next. You may even have commented on how much longer they spent playing with the packaging than the toy! With so much suffering in the world and the environment paying the price of our excesses it’s nice to know that each gift that you have spent your hard earned cash on will be cherished and enjoyed like those special presents from our childhood which didn’t cost the earth but bought so much joy. This year I’m hoping for a stress-free, more cash in my pocket, enjoyable Christmas. Cheers, I’ll drink to that!

Here are some links to the activities mentioned:


  • Christmas
  • handmade
  • activities
  • decorations
  • presents
  • 4 Gifts Christmas Challenge