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Use extra hands for holiday crafts
Let the kids take part in decorative projects around the yard, home
Don't feel like store-bought is the only way to go this holiday. Pine cones, coffee cans, holly berries and more can be used creatively to turn nature into simple gifts, like this candle holder, that the kids can help with, too. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

Simple Holiday Picture Frame

2 pieces of sturdy cardboard cut into 5-by-7 inch rectangles
A bundle of thin, branches
Decorations (Suggestions- ribbon, raffia, dried fruit slices, pieces of garland)

Cut a 4-by-6 inch rectangle into one of the pieces of cardboard, for the front of the frame.
Glue three-edges of the two pieces of cardboard together, leaving the top-side open.
Cut the branches to fit around the front of the frame. Glue them into place.
Decorate the finished product however you like.
Slide your favorite 4-by-6 inch picture into the frame, through the opening that you left in the top.

The frame can be propped in front of other items on your holiday table, or you can glue a piece of twine to the back to make a loop for hanging.

While getting ready for your holiday gatherings, instead of shooing the kids out of the way, take advantage of the extra sets of hands.

Julie Carson, education and volunteer coordinator for the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville, has a number of ideas for holiday craft projects that children can undertake.

Each of the decorative projects includes materials that can be found around your home — including in your yard.

"Items like pine cones, sticks and certain berries can be great for decorations. There are so many different types of berries that you can use, but you want to be careful to pick the ones that are safe for children and pets," Carson said.

"Even sweetgum balls are great. I remember when I was a kid, we would stack them up and make little trees out of them."

If you don't have a lot of time, or crafting skills, a simple project would be to collect pine cones, coat them with spray glue and then sprinkle glitter over them. An even easier project would be to pile pine cones and a few twigs of winter berries into a decorative bowl or another container.

"Kids can help you pick up the pine cones and other items while you are outside. They're a lot more interested in helping if they know they get to do something fun with it later," Carson said.

"A lot of times, I find things while I'm out walking my dog. I've gotten in the habit of taking a bag out with me just to hold the things that I find."

After you finish emptying that can of green beans for your holiday feast, remove the label from the can and wash it out, because it can become a crucial piece to your table's centerpiece.

"All you have to do is cut a few cinnamon sticks and hot-glue them all around the outside of the can," Carson said.

"Once the glue has dried, you can tie a nice piece of ribbon around it for an extra, decorative touch."

After decorating the can, you can use it as a holder for a pillar candle or even fill it with candy, Carson says.

If you have a little more time on your hands to wait for things to dry, the hot glue can be substituted for school or tacky glue.

When bringing in items like moss, berries and greenery from outside, you may want to spray them with shellac to help them maintain their color and reduce shedding, Carson says.

Slices of oranges, lemons and limes can be a colorful addition to any natural, holiday decoration, but before using them, Carson suggests drying them out in a dehydrator first.