Dancing Rain

My Life Inspired by My Loves

Countdown to Christmas with a Family-friendly Advent Tree

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Looking for a fun use of all those toilet paper and paper tower rolls you have been saving? Use them to make an advent calendar tree with punch-out numbers to help the kids count down to Christmas. Kids will love looking for the daily number and punching it open to see what fun activity waits inside.

How to make this:
1. Cut the toilet paper rolls in half to maximize your supply. Then cut the paper towel rolls to match. Skip this is you have plenty available and want to have larger tubes for your advent tree.

2. Prep your tube wrapping materials. This includes cutting 24 strips of wrapping paper to wrap around the tubes. Cut 24 squares of tissue paper that will be used to cover the tubes. And cut 24 strands of ribbon, long enough to make small knots around the tubes.

3. Gather your numbers. I chose a variety of sticker numbers that I had on hand. Printing small numbers in different font types and colors could also work. You would just need to cut them out and have double-sided tape handy.

4. Prep your advent filling. I used this printable list of kid-friendly activities and folded them up inside each tube. Some days I included two activities, especially on weekends, because there were so many cute and fun ideas. As a variation, you could include candy, a Christmas joke, an act of kindness, a bible verse, or mix and match!

5. Prep your backboard. I cut a cardboard box (diaper box actually) to use as the backboard of my advent tree. I wrapped it using a different paper than I planned to use to wrap the tubes.

6. Assemble. This is obviously the longest step, but once you get into a rhythm it goes quickly. To start, wrap the tubes with the wrapping paper. Then cover one end with the cut tissue paper and tie with the ribbon. Add the number onto the tissue paper.

7. Add your filling (candy, activity, etc.) and secure the tube to the board to make a tree shape. I used white glue and planned out the best tree design to fit my backboard before I started assembly.

8. Repeat for all tubes, making sure to vary the number placement on the board as you build the tree shape. This makes it more fun for the kiddos to find the number each day. I chose to make the trunk and star on top part of the advent calendar, and used different colored tissue paper to create the look of the trunk and star tree-topper.

9. Optional: I made this advent calendar as a gift for my sister and her family. So I planned ahead and got their gifts to include as gifts under the tree. I purchased small gift boxes from a craft store and wrapped them in a contrasting wrapping paper. I made little nametags by cutting tag shapes out of patterns on old Christmas cards I have been saving — DIY gift tags is something I plan to do from now on for all my gifts! Then I taped the gifts to the board so they would be able to pull them off to open on Christmas Day.

10. Optional: I also included instructions for the advent calendar in the form of a wall hanging/gift tag that I affixed on the backboard next to the tree. I again used a fun saying cut from an old Christmas card and wrote the message on the back, making sure to let them know to wait until Christmas to open the gifts under the tree.

I hope my niece and nephew enjoy this advent activity tree. Given that we won’t see each other very much this holiday season, I hope they will think of us each day they do their advent activity. I think I am going to ask them to send me pictures of them doing their activities too!

Happy crafting and have a blessed advent!

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Christmas Advent Wreath with Daily Bible Verse

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An advent wreath is a great twist on the typical advent calendar. It serves as a nice decoration and can be as simple or complex as you desire, depending on how much you want to make yourself. I went with the semi-homemade simple version… it features printed number ornaments with a daily bible verse written on the back of each ornament.

To make it, I started with an inexpensive pre-made wreath bought from a hardware store (oddly enough). It has a thick plastic frame with red garland wrapped around it. Making the wreath could be a DIY project in itself, but I swallowed my ambition and chose to save time and buy the wreath instead.

I found these lovely advent printable numbers, printed them and used my circle cutter to cut them so they will look like ornaments on the wreath. I also found this verse-a-day advent bible series online and wrote the daily verse on the back of each corresponding ornament. This could be varied depending on your advent plans. You could do an advent calendar with a daily holiday activity, a daily act of kindness, a daily Christmas joke, or mix and match.

Then I cut small slits in the top of each ornament using a blade and hung them on the tree with silver and green ornament hooks that I found on sale. I scattered the numbers around the wreath to make it more fun to try to find the ornament each day. The ornaments are the perfect size for the wreath, not too big and overbearing, and look like little ornaments — just the look I wanted!

What are you doing for advent this year? Please share your ideas and projects!

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Weekend Project: Handprint Turkey Thank You Cards

Get into the Thanksgiving spirit with this fun activity you can do with your kids. Instead of buying over-priced greeting cards, make your own using your child’s handprint. The handprint turkey is a festive holiday design and is a special gift in itself for the recipient (especially grandparents or godparents who deserve a card made with a personal touch!). If you complete this activity now, you will have plenty of time to mail them before Thanksgiving!

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For our cards, we used a different color paint for each finger to make colorful turkey feathers. After getting several good prints on sheets of blank white paper, we let the paint dry and then cut down the card and glued the turkey prints to coordinating patterned and solid paper. Finish the front design by adding legs, a beak and wattle with orange and red markers, and a Happy Thanksgiving headline across the top. The result is a cute little card.

We hand wrote a little message on the back, making sure to include “We are thankful for you!” I love handprint art and am always looking to create a homemade card, so this was a perfect combination of those two crafts. I even kept one for myself to display on the refrigerator!

Check out this similar project using your child’s handprint for homemade birthday cards.

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File for Next Year: Family Halloween Arts & Crafts

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It’s never too early to plan for next year’s Halloween! Gathering your ideas now will help when it comes to planning and prepping later. For this post, I am sharing some fun kid-friendly activities. These are good for family time fun or Halloween party arts and crafts.

Monster Cupcakes
Whip up a batch of your favorite flavor cupcakes, and then let the kids decorate them like monsters. Get a couple tubs of white/vanilla frosting and use food coloring to create the desired colors. I suggest green, purple and orange at a minimum. Use candy eyes, candy and black decorating gel to create the perfect cupcake monsters!

No-carve Jack-o-lanterns
Avoid the mess of carving pumpkins and decorate them instead! They will last longer uncarved so this is a great family activity to do early in the month so you have more time to admire your creations. Pick out a variety of small pumpkins when you visit the pumpkin patch (or buy fake pumpkins at your local craft store), then decorate with foam cutouts, paper, pipe cleaners, cotton puffs or pretty much any craft scraps you have on hand.

Milk Carton Ghosts
This is a good activity to plan a bit in advance, as it might take a few weeks or more to collect some empty milk or water jugs. Clean them and dry thoroughly. Then use black permanent markers or paint to draw the ghostly faces. Vary the faces for a fun variety. For added excitement, line up the ghost cartons, insert a strand of white lights and set them out at night for a homemade light-up decoration.

Marshmallow Ghosts
This one is very easy and cheap to make! All you need is a package of mini mallows, some glue and black paper. Use the glue to make a ghost design on the paper, then cover the outline with mallows. Reapply glue if it dries before you can place the mallows. And voila, a cute decoration! Just make sure to let it dry before displaying.

I hope you enjoy these and the many other Halloween activities out there. There is so much fun to be had by kids of all ages!

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DIY Birthday Cards Featuring Your Child’s Handprint

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Now that I have a toddler, I am very into handprint art! Before we get to doing our first handprint turkeys, we had to make some birthday cards for a handful of upcoming birthdays. I got this idea from Pinterest and wanted to share our attempt at it.

I poured the selected paint colors into small bowls. Then I painted her hands, using her palm for the cake color and her fingers (not the thumb) for the candles in a separate color. I used a white 12×12 sheet of paper and pressed her hand all over the paper, reapplying the paint after every two handprints.

To make the flames, I hand cut teardrop shapes in yellow/gold scrap paper. Then I cut around the handprints and applied the candle flames. For the card itself I cut and used various color combinations of scrap paper, sizing the backing to fit the envelope. On the back, I wrote the birthday message.

And there you have it, simple and sweet homemade birthday cards that double as a keepsake, perfect for grandparents and godparents!

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Some tips for next time because I know there will be a next time:

  • Precut the white paper into proper size sheets and have them ready for the handprint.
  • Make more to have on hand as needed because there will always be birthdays and these are way better than store-bought cards!

What types of things do you make with your child’s handprint? I would love to see your creations and ideas!

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Kid-friendly Halloween Party Food

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Our Halloween party this year featured a variety of adult- and kid-friendly treats. I have to give big props to my mom and sister for their creative spirit in helping to make our great treat spread happen!

Here’s the breakdown of what’s pictured above:

  • Jack-o-lantern puffs: Great as party treats or take-home favors (see the how-to here)
  • Pb&j Halloween cutout sandwiches: A loaf of white bread and a loaf of wheat bread, strawberry and seedless boysenberry jam, reduced fat peanut butter and a selection of Halloween cookie cutters were all it took to whip up 20 kid-friendly snacks
  • Spider cookies: Make these simple adorable cookies with a peanut butter cookie box mix, chocolate candy balls, candy eyes and black icing gel
  • Character cookies: If you are feeling adventurous, make and decorate some cutout sugar cookies with the kids, or find a great local bakery and buy some festively decorated cookies like we did
  • Halloween brownies: Bake your favorite box mix and decorate with orange frosting and Halloween sprinkles

I also recommend our Halloween seven-layer dip that was featured separately (see “Halloween Twist on 7 Layer Dip“).

This selection of treats combines simple homemade, semi-homemade and store-bought goodies to make your Halloween party prep manageable while creating a memorable spread for your adult and kid party guests alike.

Time to start planning for next Halloween!

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