Expressive Arts & Design

Christmas craft activity: scissors and ‘stained glass’

Having taken a detailed look back at all that my granddaughter Daisy has achieved in 2020, I’m definitely ready to look forward to Christmas and to embrace some festive craft activities! 

This blog outlines a simple craft activity that doesn’t require too much in the way of preparation or materials; you may find that you have most of what you need around the house. Although I offer some variations with a festive feel, the main activity – making ‘stained glass’ windows from translucent coloured paper – won’t feel out of place at any time of year!

The core of this activity is mastering early scissor skills – I’ll explain why this is important for preschool children, and how to ensure that left-handed children aren’t overlooked in the process. 

A girl uses a pair of scissors to cut up a cereal packet

During this year I’ve watched Daisy’s fine motor skills develop at a rapid pace. She loves to use her magnetic drawing board and she’s shown she’s able to master the basics of weaving, but her favourite fine motor activity for many, many months now, has been practicing her scissor skills. 

When Daisy is at a loose end after a play session, or when Mummy or Daddy need her to stay occupied for a short period, a reliable way to engage her is to produce her favourite pair of child-safe nail scissors and almost any printed matter, from old magazines to simple coloured paper.

The cutting edge of development

In her early stages Daisy used ‘play’ scissors during messy play sessions to cut softer items such as iceberg lettuce leaves, cooked spaghetti and rolled modelling dough. Later, Mummy and Daddy showed her how she could create rudimentary collages, selecting images and cutting shapes from magazines to stick onto an outline. 

Aside from her own artistic endeavours, there are frequent opportunities to get cutting when Mummy and I have our scissors and textiles out – Daisy always offers to ‘help’ and loves to join in with us! And of course, a few weeks again Daisy was busy cutting out her feet ready for a measuring activity with Daddy.

There is usually a stage in their development where young children grow frustrated with using play scissors –  they won’t always cut through the thick card or fabric, and they don’t allow the accuracy that children start to desire. At this stage, a child is ready to progress to a sharper pair of scissors.

I recommend lightweight scissors with short blades and rounded tips. It’s very important for an adult to supervise any activities using scissors, making sure that children are aware of how to handle the scissors safely and appropriately.

Set up for scissor success

At the time that children are developing their scissor skills they may also be showing a right- or left-handed dominance. If you know anyone who is left-handed you will be aware that it is very difficult for them to successfully use scissors that are designed for right-handed use (and vice versa). 

Some scissors are described as being suitable for right or left-handed use because the handles will fit comfortably for either hand to grip. The handles are one consideration. When we cut anything, we cut watching where the blades are cutting.

Left-handed scissors have the blades reversed so that it’s possible for a left-handed person to see where they are cutting, something which isn’t possible when a left-handed person uses a right-handed pair of scissors. The correct equipment helps us all to be successful in any activity.

Activity time: stained glass windows

This week I’ve brought the black sugar paper out again for a crafting activity that Daisy can enjoy while also developing cutting skills. We did this ‘stained glass windows’ activity with a FaceTime call and Daddy helped Daisy to finish it off later. Depending on a young child’s interest level they may want to complete this over a couple of sessions.

The tools required for a craft activity: black sugar paper, mulitcoloured, tissue paper, scissors, pen, glue and stickers

The activity requires:

  • Black sugar paper, or dark paper that is both opaque and relatively thin (it needs to be folded in eighths)
  • Some sheets of coloured tissue paper
  • PVA glue with glue spreader, or a glue stick
  • A pair of scissors! 

(I’ve chosen to use the black sugar paper for this activity as it is the easiest paper for Daisy to cut.)

Stage 1: Folding

  • Start by folding the black paper in half down the length and together, crease in the fold – the paper is now folded in half.
  • With the creased edge on one side, fold the paper in half, folding the top to bottom. And crease in that fold – the paper is now folded into quarters.
  • Then fold the cut edges back to this folded edge – the paper is now folded into eighths.
  • This folding makes it easy to cut out the ‘windows’ without having to try to pierce the paper.
Paper folded into quarters

Stage 2: Draw and cut the shapes

  • Draw a square or triangle shape against these two folded edges, leaving generous borders around the shape.
  • Cut out the shapes and then unfold the paper and flatten it on a flat surface. 
  • Let your child see that, as the paper is unfolded, the shapes that they have cut out will change: triangles become diamonds and squares become rectangles. This is an early introduction to lines of symmetry!

Stage 3: Cut and glue the tissue paper

  • Cutting skills continue in the next step, cutting the tissue paper into randomly shaped pieces, in a mixture of colours.
  • Place the black paper ‘windows’ on a flat crafting surface. Working on one cut-out shape at a time, spread PVA glue around the border of the shape and then stick tissue paper pieces around the border and over the cut out area, overlapping pieces until the whole area is covered.
  • Repeat for each cut out shape.

Stage 4: Let it glow

  • For the full effect, when the completed pictures are dry they can then be fixed on a window to allow light to shine through the images. 
  • When doing the activity with older children it is possible to replace the tissue paper with cellophane.

In Daisy’s case, this brought to mind an episode of one of her favourite programmes, Sarah & Duck, which involved a hunt for translucent materials (sweet wrappers, leaves, tissue paper), which Sarah and Duck then use to cover a window on a sunny day, and create a ‘coloured light’ pattern on the floor.

Option B: decorate a Christmas tree

We did a second paper stained glass window with Daisy, folding another piece of black paper in half lengthways and drawing half a Christmas tree outline and cutting this out, adding a couple of ‘windows’ and decorating these with coloured tissue paper. 

We then had some stickers to go around the border of the tree outline to look like baubles and tree decorations.

More festive fun with black sugar paper

Black sugar paper is a useful resource to have in your crafting kit. Last year, I purchased a pack of black sugar paper and used it for several activities with Daisy. I wrote two blogs suggesting activities using the black paper as a background for glueing and sticking activity and another one using chalks on the black sugar paper. 

Adapting them to the seasons, both these activities could be used during December – glueing discs of white paper (created by drawing around an upturned cup) onto the black sugar paper to create a snowman, or using chalk to draw shooting stars on the black paper, with some shiny stickers to enhance the picture!

Granny Smith says…

We are becoming aware of how much loneliness people are experiencing with the cold months approaching and the isolation of lockdown – maybe you know someone who would enjoy receiving a festive picture such as these from a young person?

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