As a kid I was enamored with the Little House on the Prairie books; in particular I loved their description of a pioneer Christmas: homemade gifts tied up in humble packaging (remember Grace’s blue rag coat in By the Shores of Silver Lake?), and handmade decorations.  This year I am making some Christmas ornaments for our tree, and it has been such a homey, fun experience!

Because last Christmas was the first in our house, we splurged on a big tree, and decorated it with all our fragile, hand-me-down ornaments.  Three hours after we hung the last ornament on its branches, the whole thing toppled over! Fortunately, many of the ornaments came out of the fall unharmed, but the incident did get me thinking that this year we will need some unbreakable, toddler-proof ornaments. Scribble is 14 months old, pulling up on everything (still no walking!), and of course grabbing anything he can reach.  We could station our tree in our dining room, but I can’t stand the idea of not being able to see my tree as much as possible during bleak December.  So instead we are going to buy a more modest tree, and decorate it with unbreakable ornaments.

Of course, we have no budget for a tree’s worth of new decorations, so I’ve been shopping around my house to find materials to make our new trimmings!

Finger-Painted Trees and Stars:

This is a low/no waste project that you can make with stuff around your house. I just cut the lid sections from a cardboard box, taped them to the kitchen table, and let Scribble finger paint on them.  Then I cut out shapes, modge-podged them, added a layer of fine glitter (which I already owned), and added a top coat of modge podge to seal the glitter.  To make them fully recyclable, opt not to use glitter.  But these are pretty sturdy, so I think we will use them for years to come, especially since they have Scribble’s little fingerprints on them!

I don’t have a hole punch, so I will probably thread some ribbon through the corrugated cardboard, but if you have a hole punch, you can add holes for ribbon before you glitter and modge podge the shapes.

These would make great gift tags too!

Paper Chain:

Another no/low waste project.  Paper chains are so hot right now; in fact, here are some more from Hellobee contributor Hank + Hunt.  For my paper chains, I used gift bags that are past their prime, scraps from paper bags I used at Scribble’s first birthday party, and posterboard we used for a garage sale sign a few weeks ago.  Tape is recyclable in most areas, so if your toddler ruins your paper chains, all you have to do is toss them in the bin.

And here are some more ideas I’m thinking about incorporating into our tree!

Fabric and Paper: 

Washi Tape – This is a cute washi tape garland that you could easily use on a tree or mantel.

Felt – Here’s just one of a million ideas I’ve seen for beautiful, heirloom felt ornaments.  You could make, or instead have fun on Etsy shopping for them!

Paper Snowflakes – An easy craft that is truly zero waste! String snowflakes made of old mail on fishing line for a floating effect, and recycle after the holidays are over. Keep the fishing line for another use!

Crocheted Snowflakes – 
Again, make these or just buy some on Etsy.  But if you are a crochet expert, you can make your own crocheted snowflakes. I’m using ones my grandmother made years ago!

Pom Pom Yarn – If you’re worried about garland as a choking hazard, a roll of pom-pom yarn is a great alternative.  I bought a roll at Michael’s to use in Scribble’s nursery and I have used it as party garland too.  We’ll use it again on our Christmas tree this year! Once Christmas is over, just roll the yarn up and use it for other events in the future.

Cards – I always prop the Christmas cards I get from family and friends into my tree for display.  Easy tree filler, and it means you don’t have to have a card display on a table elsewhere for your toddler to topple.


If your children are old enough that they won’t immediately put items in their mouth, you can incorporate edible and natural elements into your Christmas decor. I’ve always wanted to put a popcorn garland on the tree, and I think I will take my chances and try hanging a few candy canes too.  To reduce waste, you can tuck the candy canes into your gifts the night before Christmas.

Dough – Dough ornaments are popular with the preschool set.  You can make a salt dough with one part water, one part salt. It isn’t zero waste, but at least it is 100% compostable, in the even that your child breaks the ornaments and you can’t reuse them!

Cinnamon Dough – Cinnamon dough was one of my favorite projects growing up! I made a few for our tree the year we got married, and I swear they still give off scent five Christmases later!  If you want to compost them later, maybe this Ukkie glue would work?

Popcorn Garland – This is a precious example of how to make a classic popcorn garland modern– by alternating the kernels with pieces of cut-up paper straw!

Are you making any budget-friendly Christmas DIYs this year? I’d love some more ideas!

Christmas Posts part 14 of 19

1. 19 Holiday Kids' Crafts by Mrs. Bee
2. Holiday Gift Tags by printables
3. Watercolor Gift Tags by printables
4. Baby's First Holiday Ornament Roundup by Mrs. Marbles
5. Counting Down to Christmas - Book Advent Calendar by Mrs. Paintbrush
6. DIY Holly & Berry Balloon Garland by Brittany @ The House That Lars Built
7. 18 Child Friendly Christmas Tree Alternatives by Mrs. Bee
8. DIY Artwork Gift Tags by Caroline @ Armelle Blog
9. DIY Jingle Bell Ornament by Danyelle @ Dandee Designs
10. DIY Modern Christmas Tree Art by Caroline @ Armelle Blog
11. 42 Inspirational and Creative Ways to Wrap Gifts by Mrs. Bee
12. DIY Paper Houses by Oana Befort
13. Holiday Traditions by Swarm
14. Low/No Waste, Toddler-Proof Christmas DIYs by Mrs. Sketchbook
15. DIY Advent or Waldorf Birthday Ring by Mrs. Sketchbook
16. DIY Cinnamon Ornaments by Mrs. Palette
17. Be present not perfect: my new mantra for the holiday season by Mrs. Train
18. Santa is real in our house by Mrs. Train
19. Wreaths Across America by Mrs. Train