You are way more organized that I am, and you’ve probably taken down your Christmas tree by now. You’ve hauled it out to the backyard to make a nice wild animal habitat until next summer’s bonfire, or you’ve dumped it into a friend’s fishing pond as a nice hiding spot for the brim, or maybe, if you live down South (you haven’t done this if you live near me, where the temperature is 1 degree right now), you’ve already mulched it and laid it over the top of your garden beds.
I have not done any of these things.
What I HAVE done, however, is had the children participate in our yearly tradition of cannibalizing our old tree for craft supplies. While there are lots of things that can be done with a captive indoor evergreen, this particular project is one of their favorites. Here’s how the kids turn their Christmas tree into these tree branch paintbrushes:
You will need:
1. your former Christmas tree, or another evergreen.
2. sturdy scissors.
3. tempera or similar poster paint. You want the paint to be cheap and very spreadable, because your kids will be making large-scale creations here.
4. large paper. Let the kids really spread out and play with this project–giant paper is essential for this.
1. Set up the space. The kids will be flinging a lot of paint around with their tree branch paintbrushes, so if you set up the space properly before they begin, then you won’t have to fuss at them in the middle of their play. We subscribe to the newspaper, so newspaper is my solution for everything–newspaper on the table, newspaper on the floor, newspaper any place where paint might land. If you don’t subscribe to the newspaper, you could make a one-time investment in a few re-usable tarps, and simply wash when necessary.
I also like to lay out the paper that I want the kids to paint on (this makes it more likely that they’ll paint over the newspaper, and not over the carpet) and set out the paint bottles and paint cups. We’ve used these no-spill paint pots ever since the kids were toddlers; now that they’re older, we don’t utilize the no-spill lids, but it is very handy to have dedicated, washable paint pots in our stash.
2. Cut the tree branch paintbrushes. Hand the kids a couple of pairs of sturdy kitchen scissors or pruning shears, and let them cut their own paintbrushes. Half the fun for them will be in cutting the branches off of the tree, so plan for it to take a while.
3. Paint! The kids are going to love this part. I like to stay handy to help them switch out paper when they’d like a fresh piece, but otherwise I try to stay out of their way and let them experiment and explore and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
As I mentioned in my review of 15+Screen-Free Activities for Kids, don’t be surprised if even older kids don’t actually *make* anything other than a mess on the paper–kids need just tons of time to explore new tools before they can really settle down into using them AS tools, so you can expect to see a lot of abstract art going on. Even if your kids otherwise do a lot of painting, a tree branch paintbrush is an entirely new beast!
4. Clean up. My favorite part of this activity is that there are no dirty paintbrushes to wash; the kids just toss them out into the backyard, aiming more or less for the compost heap. They wash the paint pots, recycle the newspaper, air dry their paintings (I admire them and then secretly recycle them later–shh!), and then they gallop off to destroy things and shout a lot and do any of the other million messy things that they also count as play.
You can find tree branch paintbrushes at any time of year, of course–in fact, although using your Christmas tree is something special, I highly recommend trying this again in fine weather, when you can paint outside.
There’s even less clean-up that you’ll have to do then!