* A4 sheets of mixed, brightly coloured,
soft card, in sufficient quantity to allow approximately 3 x A4 size sheets for each child in the class.
Sufficient glue sticks, or some other easy to use form of adhesive stick-on or roll-on glue, for adhering paper to paper, card to card, sufficient for all the children to have ready access,
and easy to use by the youngest and least dexterous children in the class. Glue in a jar plus a brush, would be a disaster! You will need almost one glue stick per child, so I suggest
you buy the smallest size available, or you might end up with many drying out large adhesive sticks, depending on how much artwork you do with the class!
* Sufficient scissors for all the children who can use them. (If you do not
know already, please check which children CAN use scissors.)
* Lots of mixed, brightly coloured, chubby, wax crayons.
* A selection of narrow point, dark coloured, pencils to use for outlining circles.
* A number of rolls of paper ribbon approximately 3-6cm wide ~ definitely no narrower,
but wider would be fine. The number of rolls required depends on their length, and the number of children working with the ribbon. Get a selection of mixed colours if possible, if not stick with white or red. Some types of sturdy paper
ribbon would also work.
* Lots of sheets and pieces of brightly coloured fairly thick wrapping paper, not the very thin, fine, type. The children could ask at home if there is any leftover wrapping paper
from last year, not big enough for wrapping presents. Also, some people keep last year's paper from presents received, and the children could ask to have that for their work. There may be supplies of such paper in the School.
* An alternative, or addition,
is to use the thicker paper, brightly coloured, from high gloss catalogues, especially those showing toys and Christmas decorations, and high-end women's and men's magazines ~ as they usually have the best range of colours. Ask the children to ask
at home for any such catalogues or magazines, or request their parents to pick some up in shops.
* Optional would be sheets of different sized silver and gold gummed or peel-off stars.
* A large collection of plastic
or tin lids (possibly from face cream jars and sauce bottles) with a diameter of approximately 4-6 to 6-10 cms. A good mix of sizes would add to the display's variety.
* Sufficient baskets or flat plastic bowls to hold the strips of coloured
* Sufficient tubs to contain the chubby wax crayons.
Sufficient containers to hold the scissors.
* 4-5 rolls of kitchen paper.
Prepare the Children
Give the children plenty of notice
that they shall be making Christmas decorations to bring home. Tell them they could be hung on the Christmas tree, or at windows, or wherever they choose. Tell the children about asking for the wrapping paper
or catalogues or magazines in plenty of time, to give the parents / guardians / carers (PGCs) a change to collect material.
I suggest you send a note home, in good time, with each child, explaining to the PGCs what the children shall be making and on what day(s), and would they please supply whatever material they can by way of thicker wrapping paper, brightly coloured,
glossy, toy and Christmas catalogues.
Please ask the PGCs NOT to buy NEW glossy
magazines, if they have none at home.
This is a very expensive time of year already.
Of course, the decorations described below can be made at home with the family together and, possibly, with a visiting friend or neighbour. Would it not be lovely for children
to go home with their personal Christmas decorations from your house, and for your family to make your own unique decorations?
Mixed Styles of Decorations for Ranges of Age and Fine Motor Skills
We will have two Styles, with differing degrees of difficulty
The first will be easier, and so more suitable for the two-year-olds, and other children who may have difficulty with fine motor skills.
The second will be more complicated and will require fine motor skills, and would suit the upper age range, and children who are very dexterous.
Some of the younger children may wish to try the second style, and with help they would be able to make a small one which could hang from a tree or doorway.
Equally, some of the older children may wish to try the first style, and they could make more elaborate work, to their taste.
Even if you have a small class, you shall require at least one other teacher or assistant. You cannot be everywhere at once.
Style One ~ Soft Card Chains or Festoons
For those children who are unable to use a scissors, you will need to have prepared
plenty of cut strips of coloured soft card, approximately 6-7 cms in width, prior to the session, and have the baskets or flat plastic bowls filled, and the crayons in their tubs (see below), so that they can
all be brought to the tables when this Exercise is due to begin.
If you are using A4 sheets, rule 6-7 cm wide strips from
top to bottom on the sheets, and cut them. Mix the various colours together and place in two or more baskets or flat plastic bowls for each table. There should be two-three plastic tubs of chubby
wax crayons per table also. The number of various containers per table will depend on how many children sit at each table.
For the younger children, only bring the glue sticks to the tables when they have all worked on a few strips.
You should have prepared some coloured strips to give the children a concrete example of what you are explaining. You should use lots of different crayons,
making different types of design, and using at least one of each of the different colours of card. Just decorate strips at this stage, as you will be demonstrating making the loops on the day.
Make your work as exciting as possible ~ encouraging the children to try anything they fancy!
Have the children pass around your examples so that they can see clearly what you did, and to give them their own ideas.
Work for the Children
All the children will be aware this Exercise is coming up, so let them know the day before that they shall be doing their decorations tomorrow. It is possible the
work may run into two sessions. On the day, explain again to the children that they shall be making Christmas decorations to bring home.
Having brought the materials to the tables for younger children, explain they shall be choosing a strip of coloured card from the containers on their tables, and they may like to draw on them or colour them in with
the wax crayons.
Show your samples, saying something like "this the way I liked
to do them, but we all have our own ideas for our work" ~ you do not want the children thinking they must follow your designs. Encourage them to work on one
strip at a time, using lots of different crayons, and also suggest that they use a mix of the different coloured strips.
When the children have prepared approximately four or five strips each, you can now show them how to make loops.
Be careful when putting on the adhesive,
that you put it on the decorated side of the strip. Put a square of adhesive on one end of the strip, and loop the strip so that the sticky side is underneath.
Press the card firmly to ensure a good connection.
Pass around these single loops to the children so that they can examine them, and see how the sticking works, and how the loops look.
You will probably have to help with the sticking part for most of the younger children. Each child's collection of prepared strips should then be made into a chain by slipping a
second strip into the loop of the first, with the coloured side out, and the adhesive stuck on as before. Some children will be able to do this job, but please make sure that they are putting
their drawing and colouring sides outwards.
Some children will have had enough by the time they have done four or five looped chain, possibly even fewer. If so, cut a length of ribbon and tie a hanging loop to an end of the soft card chain. This can be hung on a Christmas tree, hung on the front door, or near the table where the Christmas meal shall be had, wherever the child feels is right.
Bring out your sheets of gummed or peel-off gold and silver stars of different sizes at this stage. They can be a little extra
decoration on the children's chain, if desired.
Please only have a very few added - you don't want to outshine
the children's own work. If you feel it would be preferable not to produce the stars, don't - this is all about the children's contribution to preparing for and celebrating Christmas.
Others may wish to carry on with making their loops. If they make a 8-10 loop
chain, or even longer, this could be long enough to hang as a festoon on a mantle-piece, across a window, on a hall door, over a doorway, or spread over the branches of the Christmas tree.
It is much easier to make to shorter chains; manipulating a long chain would not be possible for the younger children and, anyway, they would not have the space for it.
Explain this to the children, and assure them that you will help them at the end, in joining together two or more chains, using an extra loop, and they will end up with lovely long chains or festoons.
Style Two ~ Coloured Circles attached to Ribbon, making Festoons or Streamers
As with the previous Style, you shall be required to make some preparations beforehand. Using
the lids of various sizes, fold a sheet of thickish wrapping paper, or a colourful page from a glossy catalogue, in half, so that when you place the first lid down on the paper, and run around its outline with one of the fine pencils, you will have two equal
sized circles, which you then cut out. Carry on cutting out pairs of circles, of different sizes, using a mix of papers, with your selection of lids. Do not make the circles too big, as they
may unbalance the streamer. I suggest you practise making one of these streamers as part of your preparation, as it is only then the possible difficulties will become apparent to you.
Unroll your choice of ribbon, leaving approximately 15cms of it clear, as you
will be making a loop of this later. Cut a length of ribbon you gauge would fit across a wide window or mantle-piece, or that could be hung between two wall lights. Use a shorter piece if you feel that would be easier to manage. You have to put
yourself in the position of the child at work. Of course, lengths of ribbon can be attached to each other when glued under a pair of circles.
Having cut your selection of different sized pairs of circles, in various colours, place adhesive on the inside of
one of your pairs of circles, and lay the ribbon on the adhesive, flat, straight down the middle. Then, place the other circle of the pair on top, with the coloured side up, matching them
as exactly as possible, and press down the top circle firmly all around and along where the ribbon is, underneath.
Carry on with your work, leaving a slightly smaller ribbon gap between smaller circles, and a slightly longer ribbon gap between bigger circles.
You will realize this job requires concentration and care!
As with the younger members of the class, I think you should have a good selection of matching pairs of circles cut out using a wide selection of paper, so that the children can start with those, and then go on to cutting
their own pairs of circles.
Hang up your own lovely streamer, with
loops of ribbon on each end, before the school day begins, in all its colourful glory, so that all the children can see it, admire it, and be inspired, as they come into the classroom!
The coloured paper of various sorts, the scissors in containers handles side
upwards, and the adhesive and rolls of ribbon, should be on the older children's tables, as soon as the exercise is to begin, while leaving plenty of room for work.
Work for the Children
The other teacher or assistant shall need to be overseeing the work of the younger children. You shall have to give a demonstration of how to cut out the matching pairs of circles, which you will need to repeat frequently.
I suggest you give each child a piece of ribbon no longer than 25 cms, possibly shorter - choose for each child, based on your knowledge of his or her fine motor skills and concentration levels. Some children may not want to use matching circles, and that's fine.
Show the children how to put the adhesive on the side of the paper circle that is not going to be seen; how to lay the ribbon
flat across the centre of the circle; how to place the matching circle on top, coloured side uppermost, and pressing it down firmly all over.
This may have to be
repeated a number of times.
Manipulating a long piece of ribbon is extremely difficult, but these older children may have grand ambitions. Let them know, from the start, that
the various sections of ribbon they have decorated can all be attached to each other at the end of the session, making a super-long streamer! ~ a job where your assistance would be required.
All the very sticky hands shall need to be well washed!
I have used these two Styles very successfully with mixed age groups. If the smaller children want to have a go at sticking circles on a length of ribbon, encourage them to, and if they manage to make
a piece with one or two circles, you would tie a loop on the extra ribbon length, and the child would have made a beautiful, unique, hanging decoration for the family Christmas tree.
The older children may wish to stick their coloured circles (or squares or triangles or stars shapes) on strips of card to make loops, or come up with totally original ways of making
There can be a temptation to introduce
glitter, glitter glue, peel-off action heroes / heroines, creatures or animals, and other decorative material. Please resist.
If these are on the table, the children will mostly use them in preference to their own designs. We all want children
to express their own ideas, and not to feel the prepared stickers are superior to their own work.
There may be a few tears, if something goes awry, and a child decides his or her work is a disaster! Be reassuring and encouraging - you will always be able to salvage some of the work, at the very least. Say
that when you were making this Style in preparation for the Exercise, you did not find it too easy either.
The children should come away from this work feeling they have designed and made their own, unique, decorations
for home, as part of making Christmas special.
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.
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