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  • Writer's pictureJulie Galloway, LPC-RPT

Merry Making- Lessons for Homemade Family Fun

If you ask any parent or grandparent they will tell you that their favorite Christmas ornaments and treats are the ones made with love.

Most homemade ornaments are torn and tattered from years of use, yet they are hung on our trees in the most prestigious places. Joy can even be experienced when the child who is now an adult reminisces on these homemade masterpieces. Childhood memories and special moments are often the ones involving messy kitchens filled with baking and decorating cookies or gingerbread houses. The smells of the holidays can even bring the scroogiest human to their knees.

Merry Making is for Everyone.

Holiday crafting can be found in almost every school and church. These are the places and humble beginnings to lessons learned from homemade projects and gift giving. Merry making at home might be a little bit more intimidating to parents and grandparents. Fear not Merry Making projects range from simple and quick to moderate and difficult. There is no shortage of holiday ideas and activities found on the's just a click away.

Here are a few quick and simple activities for all ages:

  1. Handprints or footprints with washable paint or plaster kits

  2. Construction paper or foam frames for a favorite photo

  3. Felt ornament kits

  4. Beaded candy cane ornaments with pipe cleaners and beads

  5. Gingerbread house kits that are pre-assembled and ready for decorating

  6. Cookie kits bought at your local grocery store or bakery.

  7. Construction paper, stickers and stamps for holiday card projects

Merry Making is about the making...the process and the joy that comes when giving from the heart.

As a Registered Play Therapist, I get giddy when I think about my clients and the families I work with during the holiday season. There are so many opportunities for families to enjoy and learn from each other. The pressures of the holidays are always going to be around but our children grow up and the traditions and lessons learned now are the ones that they carry with them to their own homes and families.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind before jumping on board Julie's Merry Making Bandwagon.

Lesson #1- Target your Audience

Projects should be easy with time frames appropriate for everyone's cognitive learning level. Keep in mind that our children grow and learn at their own pace, consider your child's individual skills and talents, individual interests and attention span.

According to childhood developmental experts, a reasonable attention span for a Neurotypical child (period of time a child can focus on a task) is usually 2 to 5 minutes per year of their age. For example, a 2 year old would range from 4 to 7 minutes.

Lesson #2- Planning with a Purpose.

Planning, preparing and gathering the needed materials for the projects ahead of time will help create successful experiences. When we scroll through Pinterest or our favorite recipe sites and books look for ideas that are appropriate for skills levels and current likes and dislikes. When we plan an activity for multiple children consider targeting the youngest member of the group. This provides opportunities for older children to help assist younger siblings, cousins or friends which creates meaningful connections even for the siblings who struggle with their relationships throughout the year.

Lesson # 3- Giving Power to the People.

Once you have a few ideas, involve the crafters or bakers with the decision making process. When our children feel a part of the planning, they will invest more in the project and will be more excited to participate. Allowing our children to choose, invites empowerment which builds self-esteem. Shhhhhh don't tell them but when we choose a few ideas before, we are purposefully choosing activities that we can provide without much difficulty...consider your budget, comfort with materials and overall messiness of the project.

Lesson #4- Preparing for Success.

Spending time preparing the projects can help short attention spans or exceptional children complete the projects while feeling proud of themselves. Preparing might be measuring ingredients prior to baking or setting out the ingredient in the order of the recipe's steps. For crafting activities, preparing might be cutting materials, counting out the items needed for each crafter and organizing. For older children, you may want to involve them in more of the experience, using it as an opportunity for learning. However you wish to prepare the activity, for a successful experience each child should be able to complete the project with little to no help.

Lesson #3- Timing the Big Ones.

Timing...when to start the projects and how much time is needed for the project to be completed are vital for success! Projects and activities are best planned when children are well rested, fed and happy. Choose a time of day when there are less distractions in the home with no pressures to tend to the important daily activities like meal prepping and homework.

On those bigger projects, consider breaking it up into sections. Dividing the project up into smaller sections will build excitement, help with problem solving, and invites creative thinking. It will also help to avoid project fatigue. The bonus will be the fun conversations and connections we will receive from our children in the meantime.

Lesson #4- Try it Out.

Visuals always help especially for those quiet, shy or exceptional learners. When we complete the project prior to the experience, it helps us to trouble shoot any issues and obstacles that may spoil or divert from the fun. It can also provide ideas for additional add ons and options for an alternative and original outcome.

Lesson #5- Let it Be.

You might be surprised but our children do struggle with perfectionistic characteristics which often come from our own struggles. Wanting to get things right or perfect will deter children from experiencing the joy of the moment or even wanting to participate in the activity. STOP YOURSELF...DO NOT go over the project adjusting or fixing things, when we do that we could be sending silent messages that something went wrong or what was done was not good enough. Those little innocent and good intentions are the things that ripple into adulthood.

The recipient really does love the originality and the effort that the gift giver gives the project. The intention for homemade family fun is that each child learns the joys of merry making. Plus, I challenge you to think of one person who doesn't smile at a card made by a preschooler's big crayon scribble with misspelled words. Exactly...nobody... we love them!

Lesson #6- Love is in the Outcomes.

Enjoy the outcomes, no matter what. Burnt cookies, crooked bows, and broken candy canes evokes laughter and joy from us all. Lessons learned from these moments are the best family memories. Praise the effort and time spent together, that's the true magic of MERRY MAKING.

Merry making is not how much we give but how much LOVE we put into GIVING.

If you like what you read and want more check out Galloway Counseling Services at

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