Pine cones aren’t just a rough, prickly container for a tree’s seeds -- they’re also a great natural medium for children's Christmas activities, crafts, gifts and experiments. These are not only inexpensive, they also offer a multisensory experience while your preschooler plays and creates.
Throw on some warm clothes and boots, grab your little one and go on a winter scavenger hunt for pine cones. As the two of you walk around, collect different sizes of pine cones and store them in a bag. Once you’ve collected your share, you should bake them for 45 minutes at 200 degrees F. to kill any bugs or mites that may be lingering in the pine cones.
Get crafty with these gifts from nature. Throw down some newspapers and let your preschooler paint a pine cone with some green paint. When it’s dry, let him glue small, colored beads on the pine cone tree as if they were tree decorations. If you’re in need of a Christmas wreath, look no further. Cut a large “O” out of stiff cardstock. Let your kiddo paint several pine cones white, red or green. Once the paint has dried, glue the pine cones to the cardstock. Once they’re dry, glue on a holiday ribbon and display your new holiday wreath in a place for all to see. You could also turn pine cones into reindeer heads or snowmen with paint and some strategically placed felt, googly eyes and buttons.
What would Christmas time be without kid’s crafts as gifts? You could make a bird feeder for the bird-lover of the family. Attach a pine cone to a 3-foot long stretch of ribbon or string. Either pour corn syrup in a small dish or mix equal parts of peanut butter and margarine together in a bowl. Have your preschooler smear either gooey mixture all over the pine cone and then roll it in birdseed. Once it’s hardened a bit, throw it in a small box and you’re set. If you’re not up the sticky aftermath of this gift, try another gift idea – make Christmas tree ornaments. Connect a loop of fishing line to the top of the pine cones. Let your child roll the pine cones in a pie dish that has a layer of glue in it. Then roll the pine cone in some glitter or fake snow. Place the ornaments on a newspaper until they’re dry.
The cold winter months shouldn’t stop you from conducting science experiments -- it also makes for interesting conversations when the relatives come over for the holidays and keeps your child busy while the Christmas ham is baking. Examine several different pine cones with your child. Notice the different sizes and textures. Notice if the cone’s scales are opened or closed. If they’re open and bushy, that means the air is dry. If the scales are closed and tight, the air is moist and it may rain soon if it hasn’t already. Crack a pine cone open and look at the seeds inside. The seeds sometimes have a wing-like structure that lets them twirl in the air as they fall and it carries them farther from the mommy tree. Grab a few, release them into the air and watch them float down.