The Christmas Craft Olympics.

pinecone tree

Remember this, if nothing else: 4th graders do not care if their finished product is Pinterest-worthy.  Do not.  Will not.  Should not.  4th graders are wise.

Five years ago, in the pre-Pinterest era, my children made for their teachers miniature Christmas wreaths, using tiny ornaments and assorted tiny red/green/white decorations from Michaels.  We sat at the kitchen counter for hours, glue guns blazing, until everything was sufficiently shiny and sturdy.

Since the wreath-making entry we’ve been sitting out the annual Christmas Craft Olympics, except, of course, for the requisite, increasingly crowded field of the Photo Card Competition.  I would have sat out this year’s competition, too, but for a last-minute plea from my daughter’s class room mother for a party activity.  “I’ll bring one,” I posted to the list, hitting SEND before my good sense could stop me.

With only three days to figure out JUST WHAT THE HELL that multicultural, age-appropriate, 15 minute craft was going to be, I practiced active avoidance.  An idea would come to me, surely, even though I had not trained sufficiently for this event.

Heading into Bed Bath & Beyond to buy my daughter’s teacher a Tervis tumbler the night before said-party, I stumbled over a basket full of pine cones.  Thank you, idea.  I knew you would come:  pine cone trees, decorated with the gazillion leftover mini ornaments from our wreath-making year.

Pinecone trees: 1

I will describe, in short detail, how we made these little prizes.  I want you to remember what’s important, though, from back at the beginning of this post.

You’ll need:

  • Pinecones (twice as many as there are children, if you’re buying the pinecones in bags, since some will be unsuitable for the project)
  • Hot glue guns (4)
  • Mini ornaments (I purchased from Michaels)
  • Colored pom-poms (I used red, green and white – also from Michaels)
  • Buttons (again, I purchased a red-green-white assortment from Michaels, years ago)
  • Glitter glue (or glue and loose glitter, if you’re brave)
  • Newspaper to cover the work area

The assembly is pretty self-explanatory: bring children to the work area in groups of 3-5; let each select a pine cone; children use the glue guns to put decorations on their trees.

We discovered, thanks to a budding engineer in the class, that gluing a large button to the bottom of the pine cone would stabilize a rickety one; pom-poms also worked, gluing several little ones in a circle around the center of the base until the pine cone would stand relatively straight.

Some children finished their trees in less than 10 minutes; some wanted to keep working after 30 minutes of meticulously placing ornaments in a pattern and tipping each pine cone “branch” with glitter glue.

Pinecone tree forest

We made the trees around noon, and they were dry by the time the children packed up to leave school for the day.  I left cello treat bags for them to put their finished products in, keeping glitter or loosely glued ornaments from inadvertently decorating the inside of anyone’s backpack.

Were they Pinterest-worthy?  No (seriously).  And if that disqualifies our performance for the 2013 Christmas Craft Olympics, well, this group of 4th graders couldn’t care less.  Mine came home asking not if she could watch TV but rather if we could make more with the leftover supplies.  Her big brother ditched Minecraft to join us.  That, to me, is an Olympic victory of it own.

Cheers to making merry in your own home this weekend, gold medal crafters and drop-outs alike.  May the joy of making things be complete in itself.

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