Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two Festive Christmas Crafts - Cinnamon Spice Ornaments and Soap Balls

Two tried and true activities during the holiday season are cinnamon spice ornaments and homemade soap balls.

Both of these activities are ones that young children can do, but may need some assistance with doing. You can still make them in a very Montessori inspired way, although they are best as something done in a fully stocked kitchen and not sitting in a classroom as shelf work. If you want to have them as "shelf work", you can have some of the tasks on trays, such as:
Tray Option 1 (for soap ball craft):
A template for cutting the fabric, some holiday fabric, scissors, and a pen or pencil...
Tray Option 2 (for either craft):
you could also set up a tray with the card stock and colored pencils to make the gift tags for either gift, etc. That's about as far as it will work as shelf work, though...

If your classroom has access to water from a sink and a microwave, or if not, a microwave or a still is possible to make these. If you do make these in the classroom, you might want them to be something done at a small table in the hallway or in a corner of your classroom, with a parent volunteer who understands the importance of a calm classroom and can work incredibly quietly without disturbing nearby children.
The volunteer can assist each child if the child needs any assistance...
Making these in the regular classroom setting is just a little more of a challenge than in a regular kitchen. One of the schools I worked at had a fully stocked kitchen...the other had a sink in the room and a microwave across the hallway.
I made these every year when I was in the classroom, so it can be done successfully.

Cinnamon Spice Ornaments:
This recipe will make somewhere around ten ornaments, so if you are making ornaments with your entire class, you will have to do this same recipe three times. Do not attempt to double or triple the recipe, as it is too much to stir at once, gets too hard too fast, and makes too much of a "cinnamon cloud"...believe me, I know from personal experience...I tried to save time once...lesson learned!
You will need:
A large container of cinnamon (Sam's, BJ's, and Costco all have big ones that work great)
A few lunch sized cups of applesauce (get the thinnest, cheapest kind you can works better for this recipe...)
Approximately 2 T. Elmer's School Glue
A few toothpicks
Some "doctor's office" type gloves
Some thin ribbon in holiday colors
Parchment paper
Cookie sheet
Child sized rolling pins
Child sized spoons, 1 per child
1 adult sized spoon
1 to 2 T. of other spices, such as Penzey's Baking Spice Mix, or ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, or orange peel.
Tiny buttons
Low temp. glue gun and low temp glue sticks

I have tried several different versions of this recipe.
The version where you add glue seems to work out better, as the ornaments seem to be less fragile.
My favorite way to make these is not a very easy recipe to duplicate, though, because you keep adding the various ingredients until everything is the right thickness. I have never in all the year of making these, measured out exact amounts for these...the children and I just keep adding in the ingredients and mixing until we have a very stiff dough...
Basically, I always gets a big container of cinnamon, some additional baking spices I have laying around, some school glue, and a few containers of lunch portion cups of applesauce.

For this recipe, do NOT use chunky, natural applesauce.
Get the thinner, cheaper applesauce for this.

I also throw in some additional spices, such as ginger, cloves, allspice, or nutmeg...many times, I just end up adding a few shakes of Baking Spice from Penzey's. These additional spices just enhance the smell of the ornaments, but are really not necessary to the recipe.
Straight up cinnamon gets the job done, too.

As far as having children in making the recipe, they can help to add the applesauce, but I highly recommend that an adult carefully pour out the cinnamon into a bowl and add the first bunch of applesauce and glue and give it a few stirs before having children involved.
The reason for this is that the cinnamon is very strong and especially if you have children with allergies and asthma, it is better to get the recipe to the point of being a dough before children start to work with it.
I also have my sons wear doctor's office style gloves when they help with this, as the dough can be harsh on sensitive skin...with all of that, basically, you mix up the ingredients until you have a nice, stiff dough.
Then, your children can help you to fold the dough out onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
They can then use their child sized rolling pins to roll out their portion of the dough.
Once the dough is rolled out, your children can them cut out shapes with gingerbread cookie cutters, or any other appropriate holiday cookie cutter.
You then should demonstrate for your child how to poke a hole through with a toothpick at the top of the ornament so that you will have a hole to string a thin ribbon through when the ornaments dry.
Let ornaments dry for a few days until they are totally dry.
You then can string ribbon through and can then add additional items, such as tiny buttons, by using a low temp glue gun on the ornaments.

Homemade Soap Balls:
You will need:
Bar of soap, such as Ivory
Cheese Grater
Essential oil
Microwave safe container
Water (approx. 1/4 cup)
Child's Sized metal pitcher
Parchment paper
cookie sheet
Index cards or card stock or pre-made gift tags
Pencil (to sign name on gift tags and to label whose soap balls are whose on the parchment paper)
Ribbon or yarn - holiday colors
Fabric - holiday patterned or in holiday colors
Optional: Mellon ball scooper or ice cream scooper

For homemade soap balls, take a bar of mild soap, such as Ivory or any sort of lightly scented white soap. Using a cheese grater, have your child help to grind up the soap.
Heat up some water in the microwave.

Some recipes call for the water to be boiling, but I have never found this to be necessary...I just heat the water up for about 30 seconds...

You will need about 1/4 of a cup of water.
Add a few Tablespoons of essential oil to the hot water.
You can use something like Bath and Body Work's Gingerbread Oil or their Frosted Cranberry Oil. If you want to use something more organic, that will work great as well.
Just depends on what you have on hand.
Let the oil and hot water mix sit for a few seconds and then, slowly start to pour the mixture over the soap shavings.

If you transfer the hot water from the microwave safe container and the essential oil from its bottle mixture to a small child sized metal pitcher, they can help with this step.
If not, you can do the pouring and then, your children can help you to stir and to form the balls.

The mixture will be a little warm, but after stirring for a few minutes, it should be warm but not too hot. At this point, you can transfer the soap mixture to a flat surface covered with parchment paper. Give each child a portion of the soap mixture to roll into a ball. If you have anyone who wants to make these but has some challenges in the area of fine motor, you can have them scoop out small balls with an ice cream scooper or melon ball scooper.

Let the balls dry on the parchment paper. This will take a few days.
Then, to make the presentation more decorative, cut out circles of fabric that are large enough to hold your soap balls. Tie the soap balls inside the fabric with yarn or ribbon. Have your child make a personal tag to attach to the soap balls.

Depending on the age and cutting skills of your children, they can help with this step. You may even want to have a variety of fabrics for them to choose from, along with a variety of yarn and ribbon for them to choose as well.

Have fun making these gifts!
They are very fun to make and smell great!

We will post recipes when we actually make ours this year.

We are holding off on cooking, as both Big Bro and Little Bro are sick at the moment.

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