Over the past few weeks, we’ve been bringing you some posts on great places to get outside and walk with the kiddos (like Westmoor Park, Elizabeth Park, and the West Hartford Reservoir) before we all have to hibernate for the cold winter months. And nothing necessitates a walk more than that four-hour Thanksgiving feast, right?
Now, our babies can still spend a happy half-hour in their strollers while we get to exercise (alright, stroll and gossip), but you might also have older children or even relatives coming to visit for the holidays who are bringing their preschoolers. And anyone who has ever spent even a minute around small children has probably noticed that they: A. love to pick things up off the ground and B. are more likely to stay happy longer with a structured activity. So it seemed only logical to suggest this trick for the family walk: have the kids hunt for pine cones along the way. They will stay happy while they “treasure hunt,” which means you can go farther than just the end of your block. Or, even if the wee ones are still on wheels, you might enjoy the thrill of the hunt yourself! Of course, then you’re going to have a pile of hard-earned pine cones on your front step. So we thought we’d give you a few suggestions of ways to get crafty with your cones.
Now, before we continue, I have to admit that “preparing” the pine cones I found near my house proved a little more complicated (not to mention time-consuming) than I had anticipated.
Pine cones, of course, are found in nature. And anything found in nature will probably also be full of other types of nature. In this case, I mean dirt, sap, and (ick) bugs. Even if you can’t see them, chances are, all that stuff is there somewhere. And seeing as most of these craft projects result in items for display inside one’s house, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t bringing in any unwelcome visitors or unanticipated messes. Lots of resources online offer ways to clean and de-bug your cones, but many of them involve an oven and (gasp) a risk of smoke and fire from the dripping sap. Others involved bleach, and I learned long ago that me plus bleach only leads to trouble (and lots of ruined clothing). One site suggested soaking the cones for 30 minutes in a sink full of water and 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar. Unfortunately, that didn’t do much to remove the sticky sap. But I did see a few little itty bitty bugs floating in the water. So, I immediately decided that these cones would be used for outdoor purposes, like filling my barren window boxes and empty porch urns or making outdoor decorations. I also found two other promising crafts perfect for your kiddo’s pine cone loot: pine cone bird feeders and scented fireplace pine cones.
Side note: if you do decide to “wash” your pine cones, which will certainly help to remove dirt and pests, be prepared to let them dry for up to five days (they should also open up some). Click here for more information on different methods for cleaning and preparing pine cones. Also, sticky sap can be a pain to remove from hands. I found a bunch of non-toxic remedies here, but after testing a few (toothpaste didn’t work so well on the sap, but it did make my hands smell minty fresh!) I’ve determined that cooking spray (i.e. Pam) will now be my go-to sap remover. Just spray on dry hands, rub around for a minute or two, then rinse with soap and water. Who knew?!
Simple crafts for collected pine cones (no cleaning required):
Pine cone swag:
Indoor plant “ground cover”:
Pine cone bird feeders: Here’s a blast from the past. I think everyone remembers this one from childhood. It’s a classic!
Step 1: Gather pine cones, kitchen twine (or ribbon if you want to be a bit fancy), bird seed, peanut butter, and a dish to spread the bird seed in.
Step 2: Tie twine securely around pine cone; it will be pretty heavy once you layer on the peanut butter and the bird seed, so make sure it is tied tight.
Step 3: Spread peanut butter on pine cone. (Hint: don’t forget to scoop the requisite amount of peanut butter into a separate bowl so you don’t have to dip that dirty spreader into the jar.)
Step 4: Roll cone in bird seed to coat.
That’s it! Hang your new bird feeder on a garden hook or a tree limb in view of a window so you can spy on the little birdies coming to feast on your handiwork.
Scented fireplace pine cones: These clever cones are coated in kitchen spices. Toss one on the fire to add subtle fragrance to the room.
Step 1: Gather pine cones, kitchen spices (like cinnamon and all spice), washable school glue (like Elmer’s), a paint brush, and a plastic zip-top freezer bag (gallon size).
Step 2: Add equal parts of spices to the plastic bag.
Step 3: In a small bowl, mix glue with enough water to create the consistency of paint.
Step 4: Brush glue mixture onto pine cones.
Step 5: Drop pine cones in spice bag and shake to coat. (Alternatively, you can sprinkle spices over glue-coated pine cones.)
Step 6: Remove pine cones from bag, tap off excess spice, and allow to dry for at least 24 hours.
If you’re really ambitious, you can also find instructions here to create pine cone fire starters for use in place of kindling in your fireplace.
Easy crafts for cleaned or purchased pine cones:
Of course, Mandy and I just couldn’t ignore all the other cute crafts we found. Like these:
And believe it or not, you can actually purchase pine cones in many craft stores (sap and bugs not included). So that’s what we did.
And before you call it cheating, take a look at these fun, five-minute projects we took for a test-drive.
Shawna’s Turkey Place Card Holders
Step 1: Choose your pine cones; short, stubby ones will work best. Figure out which side will be the bottom by testing how the pine cone sits on its own.
Step 2: Gather other materials. You will need: a hot glue gun; scissors; googly eyes (available at craft stores); yellow, red, and orange construction paper; place cards; and a marker.
Step 3: Cut a yellow triangle for the beak. Attach to tip of pine cone with hot glue. Add googly eyes on each side.
Step 4: Fold orange construction paper in half several times to create a “booklet” at least 4″ on each side (does not need to be square).
Step 5: Use scissors to cut one leaf shape into the booklet, being sure to cut around the whole shape so that the folded edges will not remain attached. You should have created several identical cutouts with that one cut.
Step 6: Repeat Step 5 with the two remaining sheets of construction paper (red and yellow). The resulting cutouts from Steps 5 & 6 are the turkey’s “tail feathers.”
Step 7: Take a minute to arrange the “feathers” before you start to glue. Find a pattern that you are happy with.
Step 8: Starting with the left-most “feathers,” attach at the base of the pine cone to the front or rear of pine cone petals with drops of hot glue.
Step 9: Continue adding “feathers” until you are happy with the turkey’s tail.
These are sure to be a hit at both the kids’ and the grown-ups’ tables 🙂
Mandy’s Pine Cone Garland
To see all of these crafts, plus more than a dozen new ideas, visit our pinterest page. And if you have a great idea for getting crafty with pine cones, please share!
Happy Holidays 🙂
Don’t miss those Black Friday sales just because you’ve got a wee one in tow. We’ve got great tips for shopping with tots!