Craft Your Way to a Stress-free Holiday
The holiday season is a wonderful time to reconnect with family—but it is also a busy time, and that can add up to stress. You may be making plans for a big family gathering, while also finishing last-minute shopping and trying to keep your kids entertained.
Fortunately, there’s one old-fashioned holiday tradition that studies have shown may help relieve the symptoms of stress: Arts and crafts. In addition to promoting relaxation, research has also shown that leisure activities like crafting may help lower the risk of dementia in older people. Arts and crafts are a wonderful way to connect your kids with their grandparents, while providing a soothing source of entertainment. Consider adding these leisurely craft activities to your holiday plans to help reduce stress—and boost the joy—at your family gatherings.
Scrapbooking: Start A Family Tradition
Scrapbooking is a perfect craft for family events, since it provides both a relaxing activity and a beautiful keepsake that loved ones can enjoy for years to come.
Scrapbooking can be simple if you stick to the basics. All you need is a scrapbook album with sheet protectors (standard sizes include 12”x12” and 8”x8”), a pair of scissors, some type of adhesive such as a glue stick, a pen for labeling photos and adding comments, and photos that you’d like to include.
To get started, simply pick your photos, trim them to size with your scissors, and use your adhesive to mount your photos on the scrapbook page, or patterned paper. You can embellish each page by writing descriptions around the images and adding stickers or fun labels.
Knitting: Connecting Grandparents and Kids
Despite the long needles, knitting is a craft that’s been studied for its stress-relieving benefits. Academic Medicine, the Journal of the Association of Medical Colleges, suggests that knitting may help promote the body’s relaxation response because of its repetitive nature. The holidays offer the perfect time to slow down together, as a family. Knitting is also a great way to bridge the generation gap, since it is an enjoyable craft for people of all ages.
When your family is gathered over the holidays, consider asking a grandparent to teach a child how to knit. According to research from Ohio State University, grandchildren benefit from practicing leisure activities with their grandparents. The goal of teaching children to knit should be more about bonding time between grandparents and children than any result of the knitting. Patience is important, so encourage elder knitters to coach kids to focus on the process of the activity rather than the product.
Sewing for Stress-Relief
A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association considered the stress-relieving benefits of sewing. Participants in the study showed significant signs of stress reduction, including lowered heart rate, breathing rate, and perspiration rate. Consider taking these findings to heart and trying your hand with a needle and thread to soothe frayed nerves this holiday season.
While you may think of sewing as a solo craft, you can make it a social activity. With supervision, even kids can learn and enjoy working on simple sewing projects. Consider investing in a children’s sewing kit, which usually includes large plastic safety needles and an easy project to complete. The enjoyment and relaxation that sewing can bring—whether done alone or as a family—can be well worth the effort.
Stamp Crafts: Easy Holiday Table Runner
While knitting and sewing might be too difficult for some young children, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy fabric crafts. Stamps using non-toxic fabric paint are fun for kids and adults alike, and can create beautiful finished projects.
For a starter project, try making a holiday table runner, based on a design from Martha Stewart Living. You can tailor it to fit any holiday tradition—whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, or another annual holiday. You’ll need a length of fabric, some non-toxic fabric paint, a paintbrush or foam brush, and stamps in a holiday-themed shape, like stars (or you can make your own stamps –as Martha Stewart suggests –from card stock). Simply lay out the fabric, show your kids how to brush paint onto the stamp, then start stamping! Let your kids get creative. Just be sure to lay down some newspapers or garbage bags first, since this craft gets messy.
Popsicle Stick Ornaments and Other Crafts
Popsicle stick crafts can keep kids occupied for hours. They are also simple and safe: With supervision, kids as young as ages 3 to 6 can participate. Plus, you can choose holiday-themed projects—such as popsicle stick wreaths or ornaments—to lend a festive spirit to your kids’ handiwork.
For an easy starter project,try snowflake ornaments that you can make from three popsicle sticks and craft glue. If you’d like these ornaments to be more colorful, first paint both sides of the sticks and let them dry. Then form an “X” with two sticks—glue them together in this shape. Take the third stick and glue it through the middle of the crisscross. After the glue dries, you can use string or cord if you’d like to hang them. Simply fold the string in half and tie a knot with the ends. Glue the end with the knot to the tip of one stick.
Homemade Play-dough: A Gift for Stress-Relief
The stress-relieving benefits of play-dough may come more from the act of playing with it, than making it. At least two universities –the University of San Diego and Northern Illinois University –have even started encouraging stressed-out students to use play-dough for relaxation.
You can make your own play-dough at home with this easy recipe from Family Education. Simply combine half a cup of salt and 2 cups of water in a large pot, and boil the mixture until the salt dissolves. Next, remove the pot from the heat and tint the mixture with a touch of food coloring. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 2 cups of flour, and 2 tablespoons of alum. When the mixture is cool enough to touch, knead the ingredients together with your hands until the dough is smooth. Once it is completely cool, your dough is ready for play! Don’t hang on to it forever though –this dough is only good for 2 months.
In the hustle and bustle of a big family fathering, a craft activity can provide more than simple entertainment. Arts and crafts offer you and your family the chance to unwind and spend quality time relaxing together, while creating holiday keepsakes. What’s more, crafts are an amazing way to bridge the gap between the older and younger generations: Grandparents can offer their knowledge and children can experience the joy of learning to make something new. So create some special memories this winter, and break out the crafts!