In my 3 and a half years of teaching, I’ve always had trouble coming up with ideas for a Christmas gift for my students to give their parents. Of course we’re making all sorts of homemade ornaments and fun art projects, but December has always been such a hectic month. I’ve always felt like there’s never enough time to rest and enjoy the simplicity of the Christmas story. Kids don’t need a big production and 500 projects to learn about how Jesus loved us and came to earth as a baby.
With all the anxiety going on at school (Christmas program, fewer days of class, the “need” to do all the classic projects, etc.) and the stress at home (shopping, parties, decorating, cooking, checklists, etc.), why not just sit down and play with a manger scene together, or read some simple stories about the nativity? And why not plan out that Christmas keepsake to give families months in advance?
I planned this project in August, and I’m so glad I did. I was able to spread it out over several months, taking up minimal time and space, and it was easily modified for different needs. The idea is so simple, and I initially got it from this site, though I did change it some. Here are the verses we used for each page. Below I’ll give detailed instructions for how we completed each page.
This is what I did to plan it out. I just decided what colors of cardstock paper I wanted to use, then spread them out over 5 months. I tried to group the paint colors together so I’d only need one color each month. For instance, in October all 3 pages would require orange paint; in November all 3 required brown; etc. Then I could look at one paper when planning for the month – we could complete all 3 projects in one day or do one each week.
I was tickled to find this website full of funny holidays for every day of the year. Not only is this a cute keepsake calendar with little handprints, but obscure celebrations like “Do a Grouch a Favor Day,” “Natinonal Junk Food Day,” “World Juggling Day,” or “Wear a Plunger on Your Head Day” can be enjoyed all year (and for years to come).
For the cover, we just did 2 simple handprints on each side of the text. We also made a calendar for our directors’ office and the church office, on which each child shared a handprint.
January’s snowflake was just the fingers (no thumb or palm) printed 4 times to make a circle. This could also be decorated with small snowflake confetti or foam snowflakes.
The heart for February is a classic: some of our handprint hearts ended up being palm up, and some palm down. I outlined them just to make the heart more distinguishable, and there are foam hearts around it.
Easter falls in March this year, so we made a handprint cross. Once again, I outlined it for clarity’s sake.
For April, we made simple flowers. Next year, I’m going to use their fingerprints to make the stems and leaves, rather than painting it myself. If Easter falls in April, March and April can easily be switched.
May’s butterfly required each hand for the wings. I drew on the black bodies and antennae with a marker and spread a little glitter glue for some extra color. I ended up doing a lot of these extra steps just because this calendar was made by toddlers, but if I was doing it with 4-year-olds, I would let them draw the bodies, decorate with glitter glue, etc.
We made a cute little fish for June. The bubbles are their fingerprints, which we made with a sponge. Just wet the sponge, spread a little fingerpaint on top, and you’ve got your very own inkpad!
July is a footprint… simple! For my little toddlers, I strap them into a high chair when painting their feet.
August’s sun is reminiscent to January’s snowflake. Paint the whole hand except the thumb, and rotate the paper 4 times until you make a circle.
For September, we made apples using only the palms of our hands. The brown stem and green leaf were made with a sponge again (like June’s bubbles). We made them on white paper, and I cut them out, just because they were going on black paper. That really made them pop!
The tree for October was painted on before we made our handprint fall leaves along the top.
Of course, the classic turkey made its way into the calendar for November! I was surprised at how well the toddlers did with several different colors on their hands at a time. They are pros at handprints by now!
December’s Christmas tree is just an upside down handprint minus the thumb. I glued a star on top and did some glitter glue ornaments. Again, just to make it stand out on the red paper, we made our handprints on white paper, and I cut them out.
For the back of the calendar, I used this website to figure out what years the dates would be the same, and just for fun, added how old our 1 and 2 year olds would be that year!
I’ve seen some of these type projects advising people to have enough space to spread all the pages out to dry, but I found it much easier to spread them out over several months. I had a file for each child’s calendar pages, so when December came, it was easy to assemble them all together with our binding machine.
I also made one for a family I babysit, using a 2 and 5 year old’s handprints to make a joint calendar. This would be a fun gift to give grandparents or to make for your family to use too! Our families loved them, and the kids were so proud of their handprints. I will definitely be doing this project again in the coming years!