’Tis the holiday season, when I constantly try to think up some new craft or decorating project for the kids to do. This year I literally ran into an idea. We were visiting family in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, and while I was out for a jog one morning I happened upon scads of pinecones!

Festive Scene
Homemade decorations make extra-special gifts for Grandma!
Photo Credit: Sarah Landicho
Spreading Glue
The kids love messing with the glue – just make sure to use the child-friendly, washable kind!
Photo Credit: Sarah Landicho
Shake that pinecone
Shake that pinecone!
Photo Credit: Sarah Landicho
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Pinecone
Meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Pinecone.
Photo Credit: Sarah Landicho

Yes, pinecones are everywhere around my mother-in-law’s home and neighborhood. And as I passed pinecone after pinecone during my run, I started thinking about all the holiday ornaments we could make with them. My kids have always loved picking up pinecones whenever we’re out on one of our walks, so that’s just what I thought we’d do – go on a pinecone treasure hunt. So later that afternoon we pulled out a basket and off we went.

When we returned, we sorted through the lot, looking for the best of the bunch. Then I gently washed off the good ones and soaked them for a few hours in a big bowl of water. (I wanted to make sure any creepy-crawlies hiding inside wouldn’t be around to interfere with our crafting follies.) I let the pinecones dry out overnight and into the next day.

Then it was off to the local craft store. I didn’t need many supplies for what I had in mind: just some washable glue, a variety of glitter, some festive pipe cleaners, ribbon, googly eyes, some little white pom-poms and sealable plastic bags.

Once the pinecones were completely dry, we were ready to start our project. I cleared a big space off the table and covered it with newspaper. Then the girls each chose a pinecone, and together we covered their selections in glue. (The girls loved spreading the sticky coating all over those big seeds!) After washing their hands, they picked their glitter (which I shook out into a baggie for each of them), dropped their pinecones inside and happily shook their bags until the pinecones were covered with sparkles. Then we just pulled them out and set them on some paper to dry. The girls cheerfully repeated the process several more times.

These glitter-covered beauties make great instant “trees” for your Christmas train tracks or for a mini Christmas town. But you can also decorate the pinecones with sequins and other craft supplies to create miniature Christmas trees. Or you can string a little ribbon around them for sparkling decorations to hang on your own tree branches.

But my daughters and I weren’t ready to stop there. Another decorating idea we had was to create figurines out of our pinecones. The girls love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so we thought a Santa Claus and Rudolph would be just the thing for Grandma’s house. (These decorations were a bit trickier for 4- and 6-year-old fingers, though, so I took over the bulk of these projects while the girls worked on some other holiday ornaments.)

Rudolph came first. He just needed two googly eyes and a few pipe cleaners (two brown, one gold and a sparkly red). I simply twisted the gold pipe cleaner into antlers and wound it around his pinecone “head.” Then I wrapped the two brown ones around the deer’s body to give him some legs. Then I cut off a small piece of the red pipe cleaner and wound it onto the pinecone for that famous glowing nose. The girls helped glue his eyes on. And voilà! Instant Rudolph. (The girls think he looks a little too chubby to fly, but he’s pretty darn cute!)

Pinecone Santa was a bit more of a challenge. First, I use several red pipe cleaners to wind up a Santa hat. Then I glued it to the top of the pinecone (admittedly, a bit tricky). Next, I used two more red pipe cleaners to create Santa’s arms and legs. Once I got the proportions right, I glued in the little white pompoms around the head to create the jolly ol’ elf’s hair and beard.

Next came the difficult part: winding more red pipe cleaners around the pinecone to create Santa’s suit. (Note to self: Next time just buy red glitter and do the glue-and-shaker-bag trick like we did with our pinecone trees and ornaments. Much easier!) Next came a brown pipe cleaner belt with a gold buckle, followed by those fun googly eyes.

We also made a pinecone Christmas angel, in much the same way. We used pipe cleaners to create her wings and halo, and another to give her a belt (which we used to attach said wings and halo). Then we brought all of our creations together to make a festive holiday scene for Grandma.

All in all, it was a rather merry scene, and it was a great source of entertainment for the whole family. We had such a blast creating them out in Vegas, we’ll be making some more at home for our own holiday celebration here. (And this time, I’ll buy the red glitter.)