Holiday Crafts for Children with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability (IDD)

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — December 17, 2020 — 5 min read
The most wonderful time of the year—the holiday season is upon us. No matter what you celebrate, the end of the year brings with it joy, cheer, family, and often the bright décor of red and green. Our favorite decorations are those made by hand—ornaments, paper chains, paintings, and more. Kids love creating gifts and decorations for their family, and parents love how inexpensive crafting can be.

When your child has an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), holiday crafting can be tricky. That’s why we gathered and tested four accessible crafting ideas for families of kids with IDD. (Yes, we tried out each one.) Read on to learn more!

1. Christmas Tree Wish List (Option 1)

This craft is perfect for kids who can safely use finger paint (and love getting a little messy!).

Supplies Needed

  • White and red construction paper
  • Green and red finger paint
  • Liquid glue
  • Glitter
  • Markers

How to Make It

1. Start by coating your child’s hand in green paint.
2. Help them carefully press their hand (fingers together) on the paper at a slight angle. Their fingertips should be pointed toward one corner of the paper.
3. Coat your child’s hand again and press their hand (fingers together) on the paper. Their fingertips should be pointing towards the other corner (pictured here).

4. Your child can use their fingertips to fill in the gap between the two edges of the tree.
5. Allow the green paint to dry. Then, let your child decorate the tree however they want! See our suggestions below.
6. Have your child dip their finger in the different color paint and dot the tree to make ornaments.

7. Use glue to draw where the glitter will go. Create a star at the top of the tree, zig-zag down the tree to make tinsel, or create more ornaments. Sprinkle the glitter over the liquid glue, and then carefully dump the leftover glitter back into its container.

8. Finally, glue the sheet onto brightly colored construction paper.
9. Encourage your child to write or draw what gifts they want this holiday season.

2. Christmas Tree Wish List (Option 2)

If you’re not so sure you want to use finger paint, here’s an option with less mess.

Supplies Needed

  • Green and red construction paper
  • White paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Assorted pipe cleaners
  • Finger paint (optional)

How to Make It

1. Start by drawing a tree on green construction paper. Your child can help you with this if it’s appropriate to their development level. The tree can be a simple triangle or it can have more detail—allow your child to choose what type of tree they want to make.
2. Carefully cut out the tree, following the lines. You might have to help your child with this step.
3. Glue the tree onto a white piece of paper, and then glue the white paper onto colored construction paper. This gives it a cool frame!
4. Help your child use different color finger paints to dot the tree with ornaments. (Skip this step if you aren’t using paint.)
5. While supervising your child, let them use pipe cleaners to decorate the tree. They can bend the pipe cleaners to create candy canes, tinsel, or even a star for the top of the tree.
6. Help your child glue each pipe cleaner creation onto the tree.

7. Offer them a marker so they can draw or write what presents they’re wishing for this year!

3. Pipe Cleaner Ornaments

This craft is great for kids who enjoy tactile sensory activities. It’s also a safe way to let your child’s imagination run wild. Afterward, they can proudly hang their ornament on the tree, knowing that they made it all by themselves.

Supplies Needed

  • Assorted pipe cleaners
  • Scissors

How to Make It

1. Lay out all the different color pipe cleaners in front of your child.
2. Start by making a candy cane by twisting two different color pipe cleaners together. Depending on how big your child wants to make the ornament, you may have to help them connect two same color pipe cleaners from end to end.
3. Bend the top of the twisted pipe cleaners to create a hook, and voila! A candy cane!
4. Let your child get creative—pipe cleaners hold their shape, so encourage them to use different objects to create cool designs.
5. Make sure your child always creates a loop at the top of the ornament, so they can hang it.
6. Other easy pipe cleaner shapes include:
  • A Christmas tree. Zig-zag the pipe cleaner, slowly shortening the space between each bend to create a triangle shape.
  • Holiday wreath. Twist the top of three pipe cleaners and tape to the table. Help your child loosely braid the pipe cleaners together and bend to connect to the first end (making a circle). Bend a different color pipe cleaner into the shape of a bow and attach it to the top of the circle.
  • Colorful icicle. Take one to three pipe cleaners (we used purple and gold below) and have your child wrap them around their finger. In our ornament, we connected two more pipe cleaners to the end of each color. That allowed us to create an even longer icicle.

*Note: If your child needs to shorten a pipe cleaner, help them use scissors to cut it. It’s sometimes difficult to cut through the metal inside.

4. Festive Paper Chain

While this craft may be an affordable classic, it’s one we recommend for kids who like repetitive tasks. They can make their paper chain long or short, depending on where they want to hang it. Your child can also work on it throughout the week while watching their favorite holiday movies.

Supplies Needed

  • Construction paper (we recommend green and red—but allow your child to choose the color they like best!)
  • A glue stick or liquid glue
  • Scissors

How to Make It

1. First, help your child cut the construction paper into strips. You can do this faster by layering four to five sheets of paper and cutting two-inch strips down the long edge. This will make more strips with one cut.
2. Once you child has all their strips, help them wrap the first strip into a circle and glue the flat side of the edges together (pictured below).

3. After creating the first chain link, thread the next strip inside the loop and glue the flat sides together. We love to alternate between different colors.
4. Have your child repeat this process until the chain is as long as they want. Then help them hang it all over the house!

We hope you enjoyed making these crafts as much as we did! If you're looking for more holiday craft ideas, Pinterest has plenty of ideas and inspiration (tip: search "kids holiday crafts"). Happy holidays and happy crafting!
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