Low on time and money this holiday season? Need some quick crafts from upcycled materials you already have on hand? Well, here are three upcycled cookie cutter crafts for kids and adults – these are so easy even I can do them!
I’m visiting family for the holidays and am away from my stash of holiday craft stuff. The kids still want to make ornaments and cover themselves in glitter glue, though, so I’ve had to get creative. I rummaged around my mom’s various cabinets until I found some cookie cutters, random bits of paper (including coloring pages my girls were through with) and a decent pair of scissors. It turns out you can have a lot of fun with just these few items!
I will say, though, that I do miss my holiday crafting and decorating cabinet. Do you have a special place set aside for you holiday craft items? (If you just want the cookie cutter craft ideas, scroll down a bit.)
Holiday Stash Cabinet
The following is an excerpt from our soon-to-be-released newest book, Homestead Holidays. We’d like to gently suggest that you have a special place for certain holiday items to make them easy to inventory and access. The space doesn’t have to be large, especially at first. Traditions and holiday fun take work – make it as easy as possible on yourself to facilitate these good times!
From Homestead Holidays:
I find that the biggest impediment to actually doing all this fun holiday tradition stuff is time. Time. There’s just never enough of it. That, and money. To tackle both these roadblocks head on, I had to organize.
When our family was young and our stash of ornaments and holiday frippery was small, I was able to employ a simple cupboard as my holiday stash cabinet.
Inside my cabinet, I put:
- Plain colored tablecloths in red, white, blue, yellow and orange. These are used each holiday season and dressed up with greenery or paper ornaments made by the kids to indicate which holiday we are celebrating. I love linens and would happily own exquisitely woven tablecloths for each holiday season; if I were wealthy, I’d blow my bucks on table linens and fancy dishes. Since I don’t have funds to spend on such finery, I buy the best the thrift store has to offer and dress it up. I love giving items new life by re-purposing from the thrift store! By keeping them in my holiday stash cabinet I always know where they are and don’t have to go searching through my other tablecloths.
- Special holiday breakables like dishes, glasses or collectibles. You may not have much of these if your budget is small, but sometimes the thrift store can bring unexpected blessings. Don’t accumulate stuff just to have stuff, but if the items speak to you, it can be become meaningful to your family over time. If anything in the cabinet loses its usefulness, don’t be afraid to take it out and donate it so someone else can love it.
- Decorations. When you’re first starting out, you should only need a small tote with a few appropriate decorations for each holiday. As your collection grows, you may need larger totes that have their own space in the garage. While it’s small, keep your holiday decoration piles in the cabinet for ease of access.
- Craft items specific to holidays. I home educate, so I have items that could be considered craft materials scattered all over my house. From tape to glue sticks to pencil sharpeners, I have so much of this stuff around that it’s underfoot most of the time. My Holiday Stash Cabinet has nothing so mundane as a glue stick in it, however. This space is reserved only for holiday scrap, Halloween sequins and Valentine’s doilies. This is my special collection of holiday crafting materials that never, under any circumstances, comes out for any purpose other than holiday crafting. Period. You have to be firm because the kids will try to wheedle these items out of you for different projects. The Holiday Stash Cabinet is for holidays only.
The two exceptions to my mundane crafts supplies in the holiday closet are sharp scissors and glue dots.
Whoever invented glue dots deserves to a millionaire, in my opinion. They’re a little more expensive than I like for every day crafts, but for holidays I keep a stash on hand. Glue dots are especially easier for young children to use, making more advanced crafts (in other words, those that require patience) more easily accomplished by their little hands.
And, of course, a person can never have enough sharp scissors. Why? Because no matter how many new pairs we buy ourselves, people always find them. Clear back when I was a teenager, I bought a pair of sewing scissors and wrote the following on them with a permanent marker: Not Heather’s. Heather is my baby sister who, though I love her deeply and although she’s a much better seamstress that I am now and probably deserved the scissors more, constantly absconded with my sewing scissors. Seriously, all the time.
Years passed, I went off to college, served a mission for our church, came home and visited with my sister in her newly married home. It happened to be Christmas time and she had her sewing stash out to make amazing things for the holidays. What did I spy on Heather’s sewing table? You guessed it, my long-ago pair of sewing scissors marked “Not Heather’s”. Sharp scissors are like a Pied Piper calling out to be carried away. Learn the lesson of my cautionary tale and keep a few pairs locked up in your holiday cabinet.
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3 Upcycled Cookie Cutter Crafts
I really like the upcycled, whatever-I-have-on-hand nature of these crafts, but you can go out and purchase special supplies like specific craft paper and holiday trimmings, of course!
Cookie Cutter Dough Ornaments
The most traditional way to use a cookie cutter for quick crafting fun is to make actual cookie ornaments. Traditionally, these ornaments would be made of hard gingerbread that could be eaten or hung on the Christmas tree, or both.
For a Healthy Gingerbread Recipe, click here – it’s the recipe for the first house.
If you’d like a Cinnamon Cookie Recipe for Ornaments, click here – this one is from Strength and Sunshine.
The Victorians and even Charles Dickens can be credited with making popular the German tradition of bringing an evergreen tree into the house for the Christmas celebration. The idea grew in popularity from there but, even so, for a long time most families didn’t bring their tree in and decorate it until Christmas Eve. So, the idea of an edible ornament wasn’t that big of a deal and a very economical choice.
We’ve made gingerbread ornaments before, and we’ve also made salt dough ornaments. My husband even mixed up a ceramic-type material in his civil engineering lab one year that we used for ornaments. Of all these, the salt dough has held up the best over the years. These certainly won’t last forever, but they’re an easy cookies to make and fun to paint.
We’ve used these ornaments to decorate for Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween – Christmas is not the ONLY holiday for which we feel the need to decorate.
The recipe for these can be found in our e-book, The 12 Days of Christmas. We share it here for your holiday enjoyment!
Salt Dough Ornaments
- 4 Cups of flour
- 1 Cup of salt
- 1 1/2 Cup water
- Mix flour and salt.
- Slowly add water and mix with your hands.
- Knead the dough a few minutes until it’s clay-like. If you’ve ever made play dough, this is very similar.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface and use holiday cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
- Ornaments should be 1/4 inch thick and no more.
- Make a hole at the top of each ornaments with a toothpick or skewer.
- Bake the ornaments at 300f/150c for 40 minutes, or until they harden. Be sure to check them so that they don’t burn if your oven runs hot.
- After they cool, paint the ornaments with acrylic paint and allow them to dry overnight.
- The next day you can add a coat of shellac or varnish to preserve them against the damp. If you live in a really humid area, this will only accomplish so much, FYI.
- String a ribbon or hook through the hole and hang them on your tree – or give them as gifts!
Cookie Cutter Craft Balls and Ornaments
These might be too advanced for a really young child, but the eight and up crowd should be able to make and enjoy them. I like to have extra paper, glitter glue and pens on the table for my five year old to create her own masterpieces while my older kids are doing more advanced projects. She feels included and has time to do her own thing. I try not to worry too much about what she “wastes” as she engages in this type of learning – nothing is wasted if she’s learning to be creative. I do tend to give her more cost-efficient items to craft with, though.
This cookie cutter craft can be used as an ornament for any holiday or an elaborate gift tag.
Cutting the Cookie Cutter Template
To begin this craft:
- Pick your paper. Tissue paper would be fine to use if you don’t mind your finished product being rather flimsy – it will still be cute, though. Card stock might be slightly thick for ease of use, but will hold up the best. For the ornaments you’ll see in the photos we used upcycled greeting cards, paper grocery bags, the back of a coloring book, unused recipe cards, an old calendar and coloring pages that my girls had finished with. Both sides of your paper will be visible, so keep that in mind as you choose it. I actually like to have one side colored and the other side blank, but I think all variations look interesting.
- Use the cookie cutter to trace a shape onto your paper. Cut out one shape and use it as a template to cut out at least nine more, for a total of ten. Keep your shapes simple. These ornaments end up being three dimensional and complicated shapes (like Santa or the Easter Bunny) won’t really translate well. Having said that, it’s completely up to you and I suggest you experiment. If you have success with a complicated shape, send me a photo and I’ll include it in this post!
- After you’ve cut out ten shapes, fold each in half on both sides. So, fold one side in half vertically. Flip it over and fold it vertically on the other side. This will create a flexible, vertical crease in the middle of your shape.
- Stack the shapes as uniformly as you can and vertically bend them in half all together, back and forth. This will increase the flexibility. If you’re using tissue paper, you won’t need to do all this because of how flexible tissue paper is already. I don’t suggest you use tissue paper with any child under twelve as it’s just too delicate and will be frustrating. Honestly, it’s too frustrating for me to use on anything but our Martinmas lanterns – I’m just not detail oriented enough to work with something so fine.
Making the Paper 3-D Ornament
To form the paper ball from your cookie cutter paper shapes:
- Place two staples, one at the top and one at the bottom of you stack. Orient the staples so that they, too, are vertical and directly inside the fold mark. If you can’t get a staple in that space, you may also use thin, flexible wire to wrap the entire stack of paper cutouts along that vertical fold line. Securely twist the wire at the ends, using them to create a hook from which the ornament can hang. Securing the stack keeps the ornament from falling apart up the center.
- Beginning at one side of your stack of cutouts (it’s basically divided into halves by your staples or wire), place one glue dot at the top of one cutout in the stack and secure it to the top of the next cutout in the stack.
- Then, place a glue dot on the bottom of the already secured cutout and secure it to the next cutout in the stack at the bottom.
- Alternate top and bottom glue dots until you’ve gone halfway around your stack of cutouts.
Placing a Hook Loop and Finishing:
- If you want to place a ribbon, loop of twine or even a pipe cleaner in the center of your ornament to create a hook from which it can hang, now’s the time. Make a loop and tape it securely into the center. It will be hidden from view by further alternating of glue dots as you finish your ornament. However, keep it tidy on the inside, just in case.
- Continue alternating glue dots to secure the tops and bottoms of each cutout. You should be able to see the pattern of alternating top and bottom by now – it creates a kind of accordion effect. For a great photo tutorial you can visit Homemade Gifts Made Easy here. She even has templates and paper you can print out if you’d like something a little fancier.
- After you’ve secured all your cutouts top and bottom, gently bend and adjust them to even out how they open. Watch out you don’t exert too much force and pop open one of your connections. Use extra glue dots if you need them to reconnect cutouts.
No Glue Dots?
No worries! If you don’t have glue dots on hand, you can also use plain tape to connect your cutouts. Hiding the tape by rolling it and putting between the cutouts won’t work because of the amount of force exerted upon each cutout once the ornaments is finished. You’ll need to use small pieces of tape to go over the edges of both cutouts, so use clear tape that will be easier to hide.
To Make a Gift Tag Instead
If you would rather use this ornament as a gift tag, leave your last cutouts unglued. This will keep the back flat so you can write on it. I would suggest writing on it before you start applying the glue dots.
You can also simply use a flat piece of holiday paper and any cookie cutter as a template. Flat gift tags are where you can use your fancier cookie cutters that were too complicated for the 3-D ornament balls.
Cookie Cutter Craft Garland – Don’t Throw Away the Old Ones!
My mom still has the plastic cookie cutters from my youth – just looking at them makes me nostalgic and happy. Some of them have really intricate designs and others are simple, sweet shapes from a now vintage era.
As we trade out our old cookie cutters for newer, sturdier, stainless steel ones I certainly didn’t want to throw the old ones away! So, we turned them into a garland and now we can enjoy them every year as a decoration.
To Make a Cookie Cutter Craft Garland:
- Tie twine, thread or ribbon on each cookie cutter somewhere near the top in a line. If the cookie cutter is longer than it is wide, tie onto it in two places at the top so that it will hang evenly.
- Leave at least four inches between each cookie cutter and tie the next one on.
- Finish with ribbon at each end.