Our desire to reach out to loved ones is what sends us to the post office with stacks of holiday greetings each year. Most recipients are happy just to hear from us; even a postcard embellished with little more than a signature will do. But there are plenty of ways to make more meaningful cards with very little effort.
If you start thinking about your holiday greetings a few weeks early, you can take a unique approach and include your children in the gesture. Whether they contribute a drawing or a handwritten message, you will instill in them the importance of thinking about and keeping in touch with the people they care about. And those people, in turn, will be delighted by the one-of-a-kind cards they receive.
Of course, getting kids to make hundreds of cards can be as tedious as unraveling Christmas lights. But there's no need to turn your home into a workshop. Children younger than age 6 can contribute a single drawing that can be reproduced using technologies new and old for a large mailing. Let them draw on plain paper with three or four markers, then select an image or section to reproduce. This is also an opportune time to help them practice signing their name or writing simple holiday phrases.
Older kids can make a handful of cards for grandparents, teachers, or friends. Try not to dictate what your kids draw or write. Instead, encourage them to reminisce about the person they are making the card for. This will inspire them to write personal messages and will help them to understand why making cards is worthwhile. If your kids want to use decorations, choose flat ones and don't supply too many, or you're likely to end up with a sticky mess.
Also, keep in mind that cards larger than 11 1/2 by 6 1/8 inches will require additional postage, and letters and postcards must be a minimum of 3 1/2 by 5 inches. No matter how beautiful or lopsided the results, the sentiment of a handmade card is always appreciated. They are a meaningful reminder of what the holidays are truly about.
Rubber stamps are often custom-made for business purposes, but you can easily have one made for decorating all of your holiday cards, envelopes, gift tags, labels, and wrapping paper. Ask your child to use a single marker to draw whatever inspires him.
Select your favorite image; you can enlarge or reduce it on a photocopier (the larger the image, the more unwieldy the stamp). Even images with small details, like the reindeer and snowman above, will reproduce well. Stamps can take as few as two days to make and cost about $20, depending on the size. Clean the rubber with a damp paper towel between uses. It's a good idea to store ink pads in resealable plastic bags.
Blank cardboard frames (available at craft stores) can be used for picture cards or ornaments. Ours are embellished with sequins, glitter, paper cutouts, and crayon, but you can use any collage materials that are flat.
Glue decorations on, let dry completely, then slip a photograph or drawing into the frame (for multiples, you can make color photocopies of the image). Greetings can be written on the back of the frame. To turn it into an ornament, punch a small hole at the top; thread a thin ribbon through it, and tie.
Kids will get the giggles as they make these less-than-traditional portraits-- and so will friends when they receive them. To start, make several color photocopies of family pictures that your child can cut out and work with.
Clothes can be made from leftover wrapping paper, construction paper, wallpaper, or even newspaper, and glued on with a glue stick. The accordion-folded card has a designated space for each member of the family. Hands and feet and a Christmas tree with presents are added with a black marker. The snowman portrait is embellished with silver glitter snow. If you fall in love with your kid's design, you can make color copies of the card and send them to everyone on your list so you can keep the original.
A handkerchief is always an elegant accessory, but one that's embellished with a hand-drawn snowman or snowflake is especially smart. To make one, all you'll need is a cotton or linen handkerchief and fabric crayons (available at craft and sewing stores).
Iron the handkerchief while your child practices his drawing a few times on scratch paper. When he's confident, let him draw it directly on the handkerchief with the fabric crayons. Hold the corners of the cloth steady for him, or tape them down. Place a scrap piece of fabric over the drawing, and gently iron according to the instructions on the crayon package to make the design permanent.
Fold the handkerchief so that it will fit in the envelope with the design centered on top, and loosely tie it with waxed cord or thin ribbon, adding the gift tag (ours were printed from a computer or written in crayon).
To make these playful magnets, you'll need a computer, scanner, color ink-jet printer, and perforated magnetic sheets for business cards (available at office-supply stores). Choose a drawing, and scan it; soft colors won't reproduce well, so bright images are best. If necessary, shrink or enlarge the image to fit the dimensions of the card.
Using a word-processing or graphics program (most will let you automatically format a document for business cards), copy and paste the image into a document, adding text if you like. Print out on magnetic sheets. To add to cards, cut four slits in the cover of each card with a utility knife; slip magnets in.