Winter Wonderland

Backyard Birdie Banquet
Know a flock of feathered friends that didn't fly south for the winter? Give the birds in your backyard habitat something nutritious to nibble while the ground is frozen and the plants are resting. Here are a few tweet ideas that use recycled materials:
 
Upside Down Bottle Feeder: Save those plastic soda or water bottles, ribbons and toddler plastic plates! Purchase a small bag of bird seed and a bag of skewers from the diesount store. Cut or snap pointy ends off two or three skewers. Punch holes in the plastic bottles with scisors, hammer and nail OR a power drill. Make two sets of holes near the neck of the bottle -- one tiny hole to push the skewer through the bottle and out the other side and one larger hole so the birds can poke their beaks inside to eat. Punch two more holes near the bottom of the bottle and use skewer to thread a large piece of ribbon across as a hanging tie. Plastic plate "umbrella" is optional and can be glued or tied to the bottom of the bottle. Help your child fill the bottle with bird food, screw on the cap tightly and turn upside down to hang. 
 
Pinecone Feeder: Gather pinecones, string, peanut butter, shortening, cornmeal and birdseed. Tie a string around one layer of each cone and loop to hang later. Mix equal parts peanut butter, shortening and cornmeal in a large bowl. Dip pinecone into bowl and slather mixture thickly over cone. Roll pinecone in birdfood. Warning -- this is one messy project AND the squirrels will love your sweet treat. Hang pinecones several feet away from your home's entry. 
 
Paper Carton Feeder: Rinse and reuse your milk or orange juice paper cartons. Gather string, scissors and birdfood. Punch two holes in the top of the carton and push ribbon/string across to tie a loop and hang later. Approximately two inches up from the bottom of the container, cut two square windows from two sides. Discard cut carton pieces. Fill with birdfood and hang outdoors. Birds will fly into the windows of your carton to feast!
 
Fun Winter Projects
Stuck inside on a blustery day? Try one of these quick and easy projects suitable for kids of all ages.
 
Scrap-It Wreath 
Don't throw away those ribbon and paper scraps this year! Let your child make something festive -- and environmentally-friendly -- while you wrap presents, bake cookies or simply relax. Pull a cardboard gift or ceral box from your recycling stack. Cut one side of the box into a wreath shape (like the letter 'O'). Punch a hole in the top and run a piece of ribbon or string through BEFORE you start. Tie the ribbon into a loop for easy hanging. Gather any holiday scrap ribbon pieces, wrapping paper, greeting cards, envelopes, mailers, etc. Using glue for the paper scraps, cover the entire piece of cardboard, similar to making a collage. Using tape, add embellishments like curly string, pom poms, buttons, pinecones or any other multi-dimensional object. Voila! 
 
 
Frosty the Paper Roll Snowman
Here's a quirky snowman that's made from the actual paper that came off the roll. That's right. Use white paper towels or toilet paper to adorn this frosty snowman.  Gather paper pieces, cardboard roll, an old toddler sock, black and orange markers, short piece of string, scissors and glue. Tear the paper into tiny pieces. Glue pieces to completely cover cardboard tube. Wrap the opening of the sock around the top of the tube and cut off excess material. Tie top of sock with string. Decorate with black eyes and orange triangle nose. Have fun sharing the story of bringing Frosty to life!
 
 
 
Cocoa Canes
Gather candy canes, a bag of your favorite milk or semi-sweet or chocolate chips, and a bag of mini marshmallows. Heat the chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat as necessary until chips are blended, but not soft enough to pour from the bowl. Dip the bottom half of the candy cane into chocolate and sprinkle chocolate with marshmallows. Place dipped canes on sheets of wax or parchment paper to harden. Package in festive holiday bags. Serve with hot chocolate by dangling crook of canes over cups. Sure to be a hit at parties --- if the candy canes make it out the door by your kids!! 
 
 
Reindeer Hand Puppets
Here's a simple project even for the littlest creative mind. You only need a brown paper bag, sheet of brown construction paper, glue or tape, markers or crayons and your child to make this fun reindeer puppet. Trace your child's hands on the construction paper and 'cut out' the two hands. Glue them to the top of the brown bag like antlers. Draw eyes and a nose on the top part of the bag. Open the bag and insert hand to make the reindeer fly!
 
 
Gift Tags
Want a personalized, homemade touch on your holiday gifts this year? Recycle your stack of greeting cards from last year to create personal tags for each present. Choose cards that have interesting, eye-popping or spunky designs on the front panel. Cut around the picture and/or sentiment you want to share. Punch a hole in the top of the cardstock and thread a ribbon through it. Dangle your one-of-a-kind tag from each gift. Be sure to include a holiday sentiment. And, remember to save greeting cards throughout the year for crafty projects in the future. 
 
 
Peppermint Bark
For a quick host or sweet-tooth gift, gather one bag of white chocolate chips and one bag of candy canes. Heat the chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat as necessary until chips are soft enough to pour from the bowl. In a sealed plastic baggie, crush candy canes. (NOTE: We use a crab mallet. DO NOT pummel into a powder!) Stir small candy cane pieces into melted white chocolate. Pour mixture onto wax or parchment paper and spread thinly. When chocolate hardens, break into chunks and package in festive plastic bags. Use the paper as "gloves" to avoid smearing fingerprints on the bark. Enjoy!
 
 
Plastic Baggie Wreaths
This is an oldie-but-goodie project that requires only a box of 100+ sandwich baggies and a metal coat hanger. Simply stretch a metal coat hanger into a circle and tie each bag onto the metal circle. Slide the bags around until the whole hanger is full. Just for fun, sprinkle with glue and glitter, paper ornaments, pompoms, photos -- anything your kids choose. Top with a bow and hang to deck the halls. NOTE: Don't have a metal coat hanger? Purchase a plastic embroidery loop or use a pipecleaner twisted into a circle. GO GREEN: Cut your store-brought bags into strips and tie around your wreath base.