Creating homemade natural Christmas decorations with children is the “odds and ends fashioned with your heart and with your hands” just like Kenny Rogers sang about in “Christmas in Kentucky.” There is nothing like taking the time with your kiddos to create a cozy, natural space for the holidays by making homemade ornaments and decorations using things found in nature.
Making homemade ornaments is a ton of fun with the kids. It’s like making gingerbread cookies, except they last a long time. The ingredients list is minimal using only applesauce, cinnamon, glue, and a little pumpkin pie spice for an additional scent (or whatever spice you enjoy). They smell amazing and add a special touch to the family tree. They make great personal gifts as well as gift tags too!
- 1 cup applesauce
- 1.5 cups cinnamon
- 2 T glue
- Cookie cutters
- Straw or skewer
- Ribbon or Twine
- Puffy Paint
- Parchment paper or plastic wrap
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (for added scent)
- Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Mix the applesauce, cinnamon, glue, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl and combine. Knead until soft and pliable. If too sticky add more cinnamon. If too crumbly add more applesauce.
- To keep dough from drying out, divide the dough in two and work in small batches.
- Using two sheets of parchment paper, spinkle some cinnamon on the bottom sheet and sandwich the dough between the two to roll it out.
- Roll dough out to 1/4" thick and use your favorite cookie cutters to cut ornaments out.
- Smooth the sides and edges of ornaments using your fingertips.
- Using a straw or skewer, poke a hole at the top of the ornament for the ribbon or twine (making sure not to get too close to the edge).
- When you are happy with your shapes, place them on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 2.5 hours. They should be hard when you pull them out of the oven.
- Once your ornaments are completely dry and cooled, you can have fun painting and decorating them using puff paint, acrylics, or any other embellishments.
- Thread them with a pretty ribbon or twine and hang on the tree or use as an embellishment for gift wrapping.
- Continue to enjoy their beautiful cinnamon scent for years to come.
This recipe is from Naomi Ovando (Wild & Free Contributor in the 2022 Glorious Bundle).
Preparing the Oranges
There are two ways you can prepare the oranges. After you slice them, you will want to either dry them in the oven or a dehydrator. Personally, I prefer to use my Excalibur Dehydrator to free up my oven for other things. If you do not have a dehydrator, you can set your oven to 200°F and dry them for about 2 hours, making sure to flip them every 30 minutes. The dehydrator method is a set-it-and-forget-it method you can do several days in advance while you gather your other materials. It takes a bit longer but there is no flipping needed as the sheets allow for air to flow on both sides at the same time. Mine took about 6 hours on a medium setting.
Adding Ribbon or Twine
Star Tree Topper
A star tree topper is super easy to make. The kids and I took pruning sheers out into the woods and cut sticks from fallen branches that were straight and equal in thickness. Cut the sticks in equal lengths depending on your preferred size. Ultimately, you could make star stick ornaments as well as a tree topper. For the topper, I measured about 8-9 inch sticks but for an ornament, I would measure about 3 inches for each stick.
- Start by placing five twigs into a star shape. Then glue the ends together.
- You can layer more twigs over the original five, gluing the ends as you go but I kept mine simple.
- Wrap twine around the joints where the twigs meet and tie to secure.
Eucalyptus & Cotton
Ever since we visited Williamsburg at Christmastime, I have dreamed of decorating my entire home in a Colonial Christmas theme using cotton, eucalyptus, pinecones, oranges, feathers, shells, dried flowers, dried pomegranates, dried artichokes, and magnolia leaves. As we strolled through the colonial town I was mesmerized by all the natural beauty found in gathered items from nature. It felt so holistic and connected, not to mention beautiful. There was nothing commercial about it.
Treasured Memories at Penwell Christmas Tree Farm
This year, we drew the line at paying $150 for a cut tree at a Christmas tree lot down south that would shed and die in a matter of weeks. Up north, we had memories of going to Penwell Christmas tree farm all bundled up in cozy hats and mittens. There was something sacred about warming ourselves by the potbelly stove in the workshop, sucking on candy canes from Santa’s mailbox, selecting a Christmas wreath, and riding in the little blue truck around the farm with Mr. Nichols as we combed the property for that one perfect tree. We knew our favorite kind of tree and which section they grew. Ultimately, we would all agree on, select, and cut down our favorite Cypress Spruce tree for only $40. The children grew up here making memories and we are so grateful for those memories. But now it is time to make new memories…
Going Artificial? I Never…
A Christmas tree lot is just not the same so we bit the bullet and did something I never thought we would do: we invested in an artificial tree from King of Christmas (voted best artificial Christmas Tree in 2022). The upfront cost was a bit to swallow, but truthfully after paying $150 for a cut tree, not to mention the lights every year (because they don’t last anymore), we felt it was a better use of our money.
Anyway, the tree arrived with a severed wire at the top that was meant as a topper plug-in. The lights still worked, but we would not be able to use the plug-in. The wires were also exposed and needed to be wrapped in electrical tape to prevent shock. My point is that although I was fine mending the tree, with the amount we invested, I wanted the tree to be whole and as advertised. I emailed them and sent pictures and asked them to remedy the situation. They sent us a whole new tree and told us to keep the “broken” one. Surprise…a gift from God. Now we had two Christmas trees and I could finally get my Williamsburg Christmas. Isn’t God so good?
The Christmas Tree
My family always won out with the colored lights and brightly colored ornaments. I just placed my dream of a Williamsburg Christmas in my “someday” category and let the children make their Christmas memories. But this year, with our surprise gift, we had two trees and I was in heaven decorating them both with the children. We could all express the Christmas of our dreams. There is something so beautifully healing about using natural decorations that hit me in an unexpected way. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my tree with the colored lights and Hallmark ornaments, and I did add ornaments from my husband’s and my collection to our natural tree, but finally getting to live out my dream was so surreal.
Each year I change up my mantle and in keeping up with the whole citrus theme, I dehydrated a few extra oranges and strung them together with kitchen twine. I loved the pop of orange color it brought to the greens and the twinkle lights just made the oranges glow.
We have a black walnut tree on our property and one afternoon while sitting on the swing, I looked down and discovered a love note from God (heart shape). Additionally, I thought the shell looked like the most adorable owl face. There is much creative fun to be had when you look around in nature for craft ideas. I just hot-glued two walnut shells together and glued them to a stick and voila!