Gingerbread Cookies and Houses!

Decorated gingerbread house
Decorated gingerbread house

What better to do while counting down the days to Christmas than do some baking. My mom, Mummo (Grandma in Finnish), really wanted to make a gingerbread house with Sophia this year.

Rolling out gingerbread dough
Rolling out gingerbread dough

There are many different ways to make gingerbread houses but this recipe is fairly close to what Mummo makes. For recipe click here. If you want to make the yard and all the trees and animals then double the recipe.

Cutting out cookies while Mummo cuts out the gingerbread house parts
Cutting out cookies while Mummo cuts out the gingerbread house parts

Sophia used cookie cutters to make some cookies while Mummo cut out the gingerbread house pieces.

Tasting the cookie dough
Tasting the cookie dough

The best part of baking is taste testing πŸ™‚

Bake the house pieces and cookies as the recipe states. After the pieces are cooled off you can glue the pieces together.

Mummo glued together and decorated the house a bit
Mummo glued together and decorated the house a bit

Mummo used melted sugar to glue the house together. She also did a bit of pre-decorating of the house pieces.

So excited to decorate and taste it all
So excited to decorate and taste it all

Decorating with candied cherries, candies, sprinkles, and icing. Use the icing to “glue” the decorations on.

Placing green and red cherries on
Placing green and red cherries on
Eating a cherry
Eating a cherry

Of course it’s important to taste all the decorations πŸ™‚

Decorated gingerbread house
Decorated gingerbread house

Sophia’s and Mummo’s finished gingerbread house.

TIP: You can even dust it with powdered sugar for a light snow effect.

Decorated gingerbread house
Decorated gingerbread house

Pine Cone Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Pine Cone Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Pine Cone Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

What you will need:

  • Small and Large Pine Cones
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • White and Red Felt for making a hat (or buy a hat pre-made)
  • Googlie eyes
  • 3 Brown pipe cleaners
  • Red pom-pom
Santa Hats
Santa Hats

I was planning on making a Santa hat out of felt for our pine cone Rudolph, until I found these cute Santa hats on sale at Hobby Lobby for 50% off.

Things needed
Things needed
Placing the leg
Placing the leg

Weave/wrap the first pipe cleaner through the pine cone in the spot you want the legs to go, when the two ends meet leave them about an inch apart.

Weave through
Weave through

Fold back the end of the pipe cleaner back up to the pine cone (so you have shorter sturdier legs) the finished legs should be about 2-3 inches long.

Fold up
Fold up

Weave/wrap the second pipe cleaner about an 1.5 inches down from the first legs.

Weave the pipe cleaner through the pine cone
Weave the pipe cleaner through the pine cone

Once the legs are on there make sure that it balances well.

TIP: You can re-adjust them as needed since they are only pushed in the pine cone cracks and not permanently attached in any way.

Once the legs are on there make sure that it balances well
Once the legs are on there make sure that it balances well

Weave the remaining pipe cleaner to one end of the small pine cone. Cut off about 2 inches off the end of the pipe cleanersΒ  and then twist them on to the antlers as desired.

Weave the remaining pipe cleaner to one end of the small pine cone
Weave the remaining pipe cleaner to one end of the small pine cone

Squeeze hot glue to the large pine cone to where you want the head to sit and put the smaller cone into place. Glue the hat on behind the antlers.

Gluing the nose on Rudolph
Gluing the nose on Rudolph

On the tip of the small pine cone put glue and put the pom-pom nose on.

Lastly glue on the eyes
Lastly glue on the eyes

Lastly glue on the eyes.

Reindeer hugs
Reindeer hugs

Your reindeer is ready for some love πŸ™‚

Reindeer kisses
Reindeer kisses
Pine Cone Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Pine Cone Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Pine Cone Holiday Penguin!

Holiday pine cone penguin!
Holiday pine cone penguin!

What you will need:

  • A Pine Cone
  • Black tempera paint
  • Paint brush
  • hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Black, White and Red Felt for making tummy/face, wings, and a hat (or buy a hat pre-made)
  • Googlie eyes
  • Orange pipe cleaner
  • Wet wipes (for cleaning)
Santa Hats
Santa Hats

I was planning on making a Santa hat out of felt for our pine cone penguin, until I found these cute Santa hats on sale at Hobby Lobby for 50% off.

Paint the pine cone black
Paint the pine cone black

First paint the pine cone black and let the paint dry.

TIP: If you the squeeze the paint directly on the pine cone and then spread it with a brush, it is easier to do than putting the paint on a plate and having to scoop it up with the brush.

Things to make a holiday pine cone penguin!
Things to make a holiday pine cone penguin!

Cut the white felt in a oblong 8 figure as shown in the picture above. Cut two wings out of the black felt. If you are making your own Santa hat make it before you start on the penguin.

Penguin's beak and feet
Penguin’s beak and feet

Cut a small part off the orange pipe cleaner and bend it in a “V” shape for the beak. Then take the remaining piece and bend 3 toes on each end as shown in the above picture.

Ready to hot glue!
Ready to hot glue!

Plug in your hot glue gun and let it heat up.

Gluing the face first!
Gluing the face first!

Start with gluing the face first on to the white felt piece.

Then take the pine cone and glue the white felt piece on as desired. After that glue the hat and wings on as desired.

Penguin's feet glued on
Penguin’s feet glued on

On the bottom of the pine cone glue on the feet as shown above.

Pine Cone Holiday Penguin!
Pine Cone Holiday Penguin!

Enjoy your new Holiday Penguin πŸ™‚

Penguin love
Penguin love <3
Pine Cone Holiday Penguin and Rudolf!
Pine Cone Holiday Penguin and Rudolf!

Instructions for Rudolf here.

Our holiday pine cone friends πŸ™‚

Holiday pine cone friends
Holiday pine cone friends

Instructions for pine cone Santa click here

Instructions for the painted tree click here

Instructions for the salt dough ornaments click here

Potato Stamping Christmas Cards!

Toddler Potato Stamping Christmas Cards
Toddler Potato Stamping Christmas Cards

It’s the time of year to get your Christmas cards sent. We decided to make some this year. I figured for the most toddler participation, potato stamping would be the best option. (I didn’t want to have Sophia only be interested in making one or two cards and all the rest left to me)

Free hand Christmas tree stamp
Free hand Christmas tree stamp

What you will need:

  • A large potato
  • A large knife (to cut the potato in half)
  • A small knife (for carving)
  • Cookie cutters
  • Tempera paints
  • Foam brushes
  • Card stock paper for cards
  • A paper cutter
  • A cup with water for setting dirty paint brushes in
  • Wet wipes (for easy clean up)

First cut your potato in half. Then cut out designs as wanted. I wanted to use cookie cutters on both but the tree cookie cutter I have was too big for the potato, so I ended free handing it.

When using a cookie cutter press it in to your potato half about a quarter inch. Then take your knife and cut away the potato to the cookie cutters edges.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the stamp
Use a cookie cutter to cut out the stamp

Cut the card stock paper in half to a desirable size card. We decided we wanted our cards to fold open with a stamp on the outside and a stamp on the inside.

Ready for Potato Stamping Christmas Cards
Ready for Potato Stamping Christmas Cards

Put some tempera paint on your stamp with a foam brush. You don’t want to put the paint on too thickly or it will just smear.

TIP: Practice a few stamps on a scrap sheet of paper to figure out a good amount of paint for the stamp.

Excited to start stamping!
Excited to start stamping!
So amazed! :)
So amazed! πŸ™‚

Place the stamp on the card and press firmly down on it before removing from paper.

Allow the first stamp to dry before stamping the inside of the cards.

Ready to stamp candy canes
Ready to stamp candy canes

I tried to make striped candy canes with red and white but it just blended together in to pink candy canes.

Stamping the candy canes
Stamping the candy canes

Allow paint to dry. Then they are ready to write in or decorate further if desired. Sophia drew pictures and added some stickers to ours πŸ™‚

The Painted Tree

Our pastel painted branch!
Our pastel painted branch!

I saw this fun idea on Babble Dabble Do blog for a rainbow tree.

From that day I was on a constant search for a branch that would work. It took several weeks since around where we live right now 99% of the trees are pines.

What you will need:

  • A branch of your liking
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Cup with water for setting dirty paint brushes in
  • Wet wipes (for easy clean up)
All set up to paint
All set up to paint

Cover your work surface. I tape (with painters or packing tape) the wax cloth directly on to the table so it doesn’t move around while we work.

Excited to paint :)
Excited to paint πŸ™‚
Painting our pastel tree
Painting our pastel tree

TIP: The foam paint brushes are the best for toddlers to work with on this project

Ready to flip over
Ready to flip over

Sophia was more interested in using a fewer colors over all covering larger areas.

It's great for hanging up crafts
It’s great for hanging up crafts

I placed rocks in a vase to hold up our tree. The tree is a really fun way to display some of our art work we do πŸ™‚

Snowflake the Elf all ready for mornign for Sophia to find her
Tree with our salt dough ornaments

(I painted the vase pink since I wasn’t a fan of the brownish red color it was before. )

How to make:

Cookie cutter salt dough ornaments here and decorating them here

Pine Cone Santa here

Counting down to Christmas with Elf on the Shelf with a toddler friendly version here

Counting down to Christmas! Book a day and Elf on the Shelf (modified version)

The fun of counting down to Christmas, with a book advent mailbox and Snowflake the Elf
The fun of counting down to Christmas, with a book advent mailbox and Snowflake the Elf

Instead of doing the traditional advent calendars I really liked the idea of getting a book a day instead. I saw an idea posted about (not able to relocate it now :/ ) where you wrap 25 books and have them in a basket and have your child pick a new one every night before bed. Well that concept, I felt, was a bit complex for a 1.5 year old so instead I crafted this mail box (with the help of my dad) last year. Every morning she would wake up and go get her mailbox and bring it to our bed and she’d unwrap the book and we would read it as a family in bed. She would check the mailbox after her naps too but to her disappointment the books only manifested in there in the mornings πŸ™‚

25 Christmas themed books ready for Christmas count down!
25 Christmas themed books ready for Christmas count down!

I chose to do all Christmas and winter themed books. You could do any topics that interest your children.

Next year I think I will pick through all our most favorite Christmas books and re-wrap them and only get a few new ones to add to the bunch. I don’t need to end up with hundreds of random Christmas books after all. πŸ˜‰

Snowflake the Elf all ready for morning for Sophia to find her
Snowflake the Elf all ready for morning for Sophia to find her

We also started Elf on the Shelf last year with Sophia. She named her elf Snowflake. We are doing a modified version of Elf on the Shelf and sticking with only part of the story. For us she tells Santa about all the good things Sophia does but not the bad. We don’t focus on any negativity with her, shes just for fun. We move her to a new location every night for Sophia to find. We did keep her up high and out of reach last year as we didn’t think she’d remember not to touch her… she might be staying high up this year too.

Pine Cone Santa!

Pine Cone Santa
Pine Cone Santa

I was planning on making a Santa hat out of felt for our pine cone Santa, until I found these cute Santa hats on sale at Hobby Lobby for 50% off.

Santa Hats
Santa Hats

What you will need:

  • A Pine Cone
  • Red Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Gorilla Glue (you could use a hot glue gun instead)
  • Felt for making a hat or buy a hat pre-made
  • Googlie eyes
  • Cotton balls
  • Dowel Cap (for head)
  • Wet wipes (for cleaning)

 

Ready to paint
Ready to paint

Paint the pine cone.

Painting the pine cone
Painting the pine cone

It doesn’t have to be completely covered in paint, the imperfections will add character πŸ™‚

TIP: Have wet wipes handy to wipe off paint from hands

Painted pine cone
Painted pine cone

Allow the paint to dry.

TIP: You could add glitter if you wanted to by sprinkling some into the wet paint.

Ready to glue together the Santa
Ready to glue together the Santa

Test out how you want the head (dowel) to sit before adding the glue.

Put glue in the bottom and sides of the hole in the dowel and then fit it over the pine cone top pieces (the spot you want the head to sit).

Attaching the beard
Attaching the beard

Stretch out and shape a cotton ball into a beard of your liking. Then place glue on the parts of the pine cone that it will touch and set it in place.

TIP: You will want to glue the top of the beard on to the head, so add a dab of glue there.

Attaching the googlie eyes
Attaching the googlie eyes

Put a dab of glue to where you want the eyes to go and put the googlie eyes in place.

Attaching the googlie eyes
Attaching the googlie eyes

Put a small cotton ball inside the hat (to help keep it’s form). Put glue on the edges of the hat and cotton ball where they touch theΒ  dowel (head). Allow all the glue to dry.

TIP: This is where I wished I had faster drying glue option (like hot glue or maybe super glue) since the hat didn’t want to stay exactly where I wanted it to at first.

Finished Pine Cone Santa!
Finished Pine Cone Santa!

Salt Dough Handprint Ornaments

 

salt dough and handprint ornaments and a free style salt dough ornament
salt dough and handprint ornaments and a free salt style dough ornament

I’ve done salt dough handprint ornaments the last two years (Sophia was 6 months and 1.5 years old). There is a good recipe and instructions for the salt dough handprints here on The Imagination Tree. I did a few things a bit differently like adding water a little at a time so it doesn’t get sticky plus they dry faster the less water there is.

The first year I made these I didn’t trim off the excess dough. I found that those were really heavy. So this time I trimmed the dough around the edges with a kitchen knife. Below are a few more helpful tips.

What you will need:

Salt

Flour

Water

Parchment paper

Acrylic paint

Mod podge

Ribbon

Paint brushes

I set Sophia up to work on top of the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. This keeps the dough from sticking to the pan when cooked and you wont have to worry about moving their finished master piece.

exploring salt dough
exploring salt dough

TIP: If you want to smooth down cracks and rough edges, you can do so by dipping your finger in water and smoothing them out, adding water as needed.

exploring salt dough
exploring salt dough

TIP: If you are making the dough by yourself, as I did, have it all set up before inviting your toddler to join you. This is very helpful since little ones have short attention spans so it’s best to use it doing the project instead of them watching you set up for it.

making salt dough ornament
making salt dough ornament

TIP: Also we did the handprints first as quickly as I could crank them out, maybe took 4-5 minutes. After which I allowed Sophia to explore the dough with different tools as she wanted.

DON’T: Forget to poke holes in the ornaments (for the ribbon to go through when done) before baking

baked salt dough handprint ornaments
baked salt dough handprint ornaments

After the salt dough ornaments had cooled off and I was certain they had fully dried off (the next day) I set Sophia up for painting them. I had originally thought about painting them my self and making these cute Santa’s out of them. But then figured that family getting the ornaments would like them better if Sophia had her own hand in painting them.

TIP: You can do this in one day if you make the ornaments first thing in the morning and get them baking. If you make them really thick they take a lot longer than the 2 hours recommended bake time.

painting salt dough handprint ornament
painting salt dough handprint ornament

Look of hard concentration πŸ™‚

painting salt dough handprint ornament
painting salt dough handprint ornament

Paint a layer of mod podge on them after the paint has dried. This will help preserve them longer. The mod podge dries clear so don’t worry about it looking cloudy when you put it on.

On the red “sun” ornament we sprinkled red glitter on top of the wet paint.

The instructions for the handprint bauble ornament pictured below will be posted soon. Check back soon πŸ™‚

salt dough and handprint ornaments and a free style salt dough ornament
salt dough and handprint ornaments and a free style salt dough ornament

 

 

Glitter Painted Pine Cone Ornaments

Glitter painted pine cone ornaments
Glitter painted pine cone ornaments

Only 48 days until Christmas! It’s the perfect time of year to start making ornaments. (Sophia was 1.5 years old, since this is from last year.)

Setting up for projects properly is the most important part when working with a toddler. You want to have everything you may need at arms reach. Tip: Tin foil is super easy for cleaning up afterwards, so I use it a lot.

Chris helped me with this project and it helps immensely to have an extra pair of hands and eyes. This year I would tackle this with just Sophia and I, since she follows instructions (most of the time).

What you will need:

-pine cones (you can buy them if you aren’t able to find any)

-white, glitter red, and glitter green acrylic paints

-paint brushes

-eyelet screws

-string

mod podge

Set up is half the battle
Set up is half the battle

I found really nice pine cones on one of our walks in our neighborhood and picked them up. I cleaned them off, screwed in the eyelet screws, put strings on and painted them white. I hung them up to dry (put something underneath to catch the paint drips).

Once they were dry I set it all up for Sophia to paint. Since this was her first time painting, we didn’t know what to expect, so we prepared for the worst. We took off her shirt, had a packet of wet wipes, paper towel roll, towels… well you get the idea.

Really all it took was to be in control the paint and give her more when she wanted it but keeping it out of reach other wise.

Painting on pine cone- red glitter paint
Painting on pine cone- red glitter paint
Painting on pine cone- red glitter paint
Painting on pine cone- red glitter paint
Painting on pine cone- green glitter paint
Painting on pine cone- green glitter paint

Once the glitter paint was all dry I painted a thin layer of mod podge over the pine cones to help preserve them longer. Ps it dries clear so don’t worry about it looking cloudy when you put it on.

Sophia really enjoyed the experience and they made super cute presents for family πŸ™‚

Glitter painted pine cones
Glitter painted pine cones