To heck with Hallmark

Make holiday cards with your kids

Every year we are deluged by holiday cards. Many are simply pre-printed, pre-signed, pre-addressed cards from a printer. But getting your kids involved is a way to encourage creativity, spend time together and even learn about other faiths.

"Artistic expression is one of the only times children are able to create something new in their world," says Mary Olson, visual arts teacher at Windsor Elementary School in Arlington Heights. "Incorporating their art into your holiday cards makes them an integral part of the creative process and brings families together."

So how do you get started? The simplest way is to buy blank cards at a craft store and set up a workshop on your kitchen table with markers, crayons and other supplies. Older kids can make paper cutouts of Christmas trees, menorahs and other holiday symbols with construction paper or old wrapping paper to glue on. Scour the scrapbook aisles for pre-cut shapes or 3-D items to attach, such as tiny, wrapped presents or furry reindeer. Create a snowy scene with a navy blue sky sprinkled with silver glitter.

Olson also suggests letting kids draw a picture of relatives, such as grandma and grandpa, and turning that into a card. You could also glue on a photo of your kids hugging grandma and grandpa and let them draw a border around it.

Rubber stamps are also fun, and stamp markers allow kids to make stamps more elaborate and colorful. Stamps are also great for little kids, says Bolingbrook mom Sarah Manuel. Last year, her older daughter, Siena, then 2, helped stamp images on holiday card envelopes.

If you’re short on time—or long on your list of cards—have your kids draw pictures, scan them into your computer and print out multiple copies.

If you have a new baby, stamp your child’s feet on the card.

Making cards to reflect friends’ diverse faiths is also a chance to teach kids about different holiday celebrations such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas.

"It helps your children learn a part of new history and to understand different cultures," says Olson.

No matter what you do—or how the cards turn out—it’s worth the effort, Manuel says.

"I have found this is a great activity to do with them because we can spend quality time together while I get my card projects done," Manuel says. "Anyone can go to a store and buy a card. But creating them with your children makes everyone feel good. It’s so much more personal."

Michelle Sussman

Kids Eat Chicago

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