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Simple Gifts from the Hearts and Hands of Your Students
by Sheila Kearney
This Advent Season, as you help your students prepare their hearts to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, also lead them toward a deeper appreciation for gift-giving.
This Advent Season, as you help your students prepare their hearts to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, also lead them toward a deeper appreciation for gift-giving. Provide them with opportunities to make simple gifts. Arranging the time, ideas, and materials to make simple gifts can be rewarding for both you and your students.

Many craft catalogues (such as Oriental Trading) as well as in-store workshops (such as the ones Michaels presents) offer a variety of simple gifts designed to meet the developmental abilities of a wide age range as well as classroom budgets.  

You might want to begin a unit on gifts by retelling the story of the magi who brought gifts to the Christ Child (Matthew 2:1-12). You might want to emphasize that in giving their gifts, the magi were simple and humble; they gave “homage” to the Child. Help your students understand that the giving of any gift involves simple humility as well as love.   
    
Here are some craft ideas you might want to consider having your students make as gifts.
 

Those Who Are Wise Still Seek Him (wooden ornament)

Materials
* one large and one small unpainted wooden star (available in most craft stores)
* two colors of craft paint (I use blue and white.)
* brushes (I use paints and brushes by DecoArt: decoart.com; use a brush width that your learners can handle easily.)
* strips of ribbon in seasonal colors, about 6” long, for hanging (I use Best Value™ organdy ribbon distributed by Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, joann.com/joann.)
* computer printed caption that says “Those who are wise still seek him” for each star
* wood glue 
* stapler or tape
* small craft drill (if needed to provide hole for hanging ribbon)

Procedure
1. If necessary, drill a hole at the tip of one of the points of the large star, not too close to the edge. (Option: If you do not have a drill, glue two ends of a piece of ribbon to the back of the star to create a loop that can serve as a hanger.) 2. Paint the large star one color and the small star a different color. 3. Let stars dry. 4. Glue the small star in the center of the large star. 5. Thread a piece ribbon through the hole and tie ends together for a hanger (or see option at step 1). 6. Staple or tape the caption to the ribbon. 


Christmas Tree (centerpiece)

Materials
* six-inch Styrofoam™ cone (available in craft stores and Wal-Mart), one for each tree
* approximately 50 long green pipe cleaners per tree
* approximately 200 tri-beads per tree (any kind of medium-size bead will do but tri-beads, with three points, provide more shimmer; I use beads from the Beadery®; thebeadery.com.)
* yellow cardstock
* craft glue
* standard-size scissors (child scissors will not be sharp enough)

Procedure
1. Cut each pipe cleaner into fourths. Be sure to caution the students about the ends of the pipe cleaner after cutting; the ends can be somewhat sharp. 2. Thread one tri-bead onto each pipe cleaner section. 3. Fold each pipe cleaner section in half with tri-bead at the fold (creating a decorated “tree branch”) 4. Starting at the base of the cone, gently insert the two tips of each tree branch about halfway into the cone, moving upward until the entire cone is covered. (Hint: Be careful to insert the tree branches at a downward angle as you near the top of the cone. This helps eliminate the possibility of the top of the tree breaking off.) 5. From yellow cardstock, cut out a shape to serve as the ornament for the top of the tree. (I simply trace around a star cookie cutter.) 6. Repeat 5 so that you have two identical shapes. 6. Sandwich a pipe cleaner section between the shapes, leaving a small portion sticking out from the bottom, and glue the shapes together. 7. Gently insert tree-topper ornament into the top of the cone. 
 

Advent Wreath (for the classroom or the family)

Materials

* one small Styrofoam™ ring for each wreath (I use rings measuring 9” x 1¼” x ¾”.)
* one large green craft foam sheet (about 11” x 17”) and several smaller red ones (provided by Creatology™ and distributed by Michaels) for each wreath
* four LED tea lights per wreath (these are safe because they are battery operated; see 100candles.com for a wide selection)
* a piece of violet or rose ribbon about 10” long
* one holly-leaf template and one circle template for each student (CLICK HERE for patterns)
* several bottles of Aleene’s® Original Tacky Glue (available at most craft stores or at duncancrafts.com)

Procedures
1. Trace the holly-leaf pattern on green craft foam and cut out; make enough leaves to cover the ring. 2. Trace the circle pattern on the red craft foam and cut out “holly berries.” Make as many as desired and glue to holly leaves. 3. Tie a piece of violet or rose ribbon around one of the LED tea lights to represent the candle for the Third Sunday in Advent. 4. Glue tea lights to the ring, spaced evenly around the ring. 


Craft Foam Magnets

Materials

* foam shapes large enough to serve as refrigerator magnets, one for each student (seasonal shapes such as stars, trees, stockings, candy canes, angels, etc.; or students may prefer a specific shape to personalize it for someone)
* magnetic strip tape (such as ProMAG,® available at most craft stores)
* glue
* pencils, markers in various colors
* sequins, glitter, and small craft beads

Procedures
1. Have students sketch on paper the designs they want to put on their craft foam magnets. 2. Using pencils, have students sketch their designs on the foam shapes. 3. Using markers, sequins, glitter, and craft beads, have students decorate their magnets based on their designs. 4. Finish the magnets by cutting strips of magnetic tape that will fit across the back of the foam shapes. 5. Peel off the backing and firmly press the adhesive side of the tape strips to the back of the foam shapes.

A variation of this idea involves the use of precut foam snowflakes. Decorate as desired, affix magnetic tape strip to the back, and wrap simply with a tag attached that reads: “Just like a snowflake, God made you unique.”


Crayola Air-Dry Clay Ornaments

Materials

* a container of Crayola® Air-Dry Clay (crayola.com)
* cookie cutters in holiday shapes
* variety of craft paint and various sizes of brushes
* holiday ribbon trim for hanging ornaments
* glitter
* pencil or narrow-tipped object

Procedures
1. Provide each student with a desired amount of Crayola® Air-Dry Clay (I have found that approximately 20 small ornaments can be made from a single container.) 2. Roll and knead clay to shape and thickness preferred or needed to fit a selected cookie cutter design. 3. Use the cookie cutter to cut out the selected shape from the dough. 4. Using a pencil or other narrow-tipped and safe object, carefully punch a hole through the top of the shape. 5. Set the ornament aside to dry for at least 24 hours. 6. Paint dried ornament with selected colored paint. 7. Sprinkle on glitter before paint dries (optional).


Additional Resources for Craft Supplies and Ideas

Kaboose (kaboose.com)
Four Seasons General Merchandise (4sgm.com)
Amazing Moms (amazingmoms.com)
Disney Family Fun (familyfun.go.com/arts-and-crafts/crafts-by-age)
Make A Plate® (makit.com)
Guildcraft Arts & Crafts (guildcraftinc.com)
Stickler™ from Sakura of America (sakuraofamerica.com/Kits-Sticker)

For your own gift-giving: For special gifts you can make to give to your students this Christmas, check out the article titled “Easy Christmas Gifts for Students: Holiday Presents You Can Make Yourself for Your Religion Class” by Diane Laney Fitzpatrick at  catholicism.suite101.com/article.cfm/easy_christmas_gifts_for_students.


Sheila Kearney has nearly 30 years of experience teaching in Catholic schools. She currently teaches pre-K at St. Raphael’s Catholic School in Crystal, MN.




Copyright 2014, Peter Li, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Peter Li, Inc.