f your mailbox is like mine, it’s been clogged with holiday catalogs and mailers since Halloween. Instead of being bummed about the waste, regard it as a bounty of colorful craft materials!
Holiday catalogs are a cool, free resource for creative ways to enjoy some learning fun, especially during that LONG school break. Once you’ve flipped through them, try these ways to recycle them.
Super Story Starters
Fuel your kiddos’ creativity and communication skills with stimulating story starter cards.
- Index cards
Encourage children to find interesting images of people, animals, places, and situations to cut out and glue onto the index cards. Let the cards dry and, if necessary, set them under some heavy books overnight to flatten.
Time to Play
- Stack the cards face down. Have someone draw a card to start the story telling. Take turns drawing cards and adding to the story.
- As the story is being told, line up the cards in chronological order so that everyone can remember the sequence of events.
- Foster language development by modeling rich vocabulary and descriptive language that appeals to the five senses. (Once upon a time, there was a man with a fantastic power. He could fly like a bird. One day, he zoomed up into the sky. There were puffy, white clouds all around him…)
TIP: For younger or more inexperienced story tellers, choose just a few cards, arrange them face up, and use them as inspiration for a cooperative story.
As kids play with the cards, they’ll sharpen their sequencing skills and their understanding of cause and effect, build their listening and speaking skills, and share thoughts and feelings.
Promote children’s drawing with simple finish-the-picture prompts.
- Plain white paper
- Markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.
Cut out small to medium-sized, action-oriented pictures from catalogs. Mount one picture on each sheet of paper, making sure there is plenty of room for your child to add to the picture. Provide drawing materials and invite your child to add details to finish the picture. Children might also want to add a title or caption to their drawings.
TIP: Vary your placement of the pictures (middle, bottom, corner) so that your child has a different spatial challenge each time.
As children draw, they are exercising the fine-motor skills needed for handwriting.
Awesome Alphabet Books
Bring the alphabet to life with personalized alphabet books that kids create themselves.
- Markers or crayons
Staple paper together so that you have a 26-page book plus cover. Write, or have children write, each letter in its uppercase and lowercase form. Then have them search through catalogs to find pictures that begin with each letter and glue them on the appropriate pages. One or two letters a session is plenty for early learners!
As kids create and use their books, they are establishing letter-sound relationships, a critical pre-reading skill.
Inspire imagination with collages based on your child’s passions.
- Card stock or manila folder
Cut the card stock into a shape such as a heart, a picture frame, or even your child’s initials. Encourage your child to cut out small pictures of items that he or she likes such as: foods, objects, colors, sports, places, animals, anything that has meaning to them. Then have them glue them – mosaic-style – on the shape.
TIP: Younger children will find it easier to glue their pictures on a simple rectangular piece of paper.
As kids create their collages, they are building self-esteem and developing spatial reasoning skills.
“I Spy” Games
Cuddle up with a catalog to play this familiar game!
Choose a catalog with lots of pictures on each spread. Describe a picture without naming it. Clues might include: color, shape, size, sound it makes, function, and so on: “I spy something blue. It has two wheels and a horn.” To make the game challenging, give clues that might apply to several objects at first. Take turns being detective, giving your child the opportunity to describe a secret object.
As kids play these games, they increase their listening comprehension and expressive language skills and hone their observation abilities.
Hang colorful paper chains from walls, ceilings, even on the tree for fast, simple, holiday decorating.
- Tape, small hand-held stapler, glue stick
Cut rectangular strips about an inch wide from catalogs. Tape, staple, or glue the ends of the paper strip together to form a loop or ring. Thread another strip of paper through the center of the first ring and secure with tape, stapes, etc. Keep adding links until the chain is the desired length.
TIP: Alternate the catalog rings with solid-colored construction paper rings to create patterns.
As children create paper chains, they are building fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well as creating and completing patterns, an important beginning math skill.
Transform holiday staples, from cards to placemats, with whimsical weaving.
- Paper (construction paper or card stock)
- Strips of paper (1/2” to 1”) cut from catalog pages
Time to Weave
- Create a “loom” on the back of your sheet of paper. (You will need to prepare the loom for young children.)
- Mark two horizontal lines a half-inch from the top and a half-inch from the bottom of your sheet.
- Then mark vertical lines between the two. The vertical lines should be the same distance apart as the width of the paper strips.
- Cut along the vertical lines with a scissor or craft knife, leaving the half-inch border at top and bottom intact.
- Have your child start at the first slit, weaving a catalog strip under and over until they have gone all the way across.
- Start the next row of weaving with the strip of paper beginning over and under.
- Continue alternating starting position of each strip until you have reached the bottom of the loom.
To turn your child’s work into a greeting card or wall art, make a paper or cardboard frame for it. This hides the edges and reduces the amount of finishing required. To do this, cut a shape from the middle of a piece of card, and place it over the woven paper, so the weaving shows through the hole. The frame doesn’t have to be rectangular, and you can mount the woven piece at any angle – experiment to find an effect you like.
As children weave, they exercise fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
STILL HAVE SOME CATALOGS LEFT?
Here are two quick ways to use them up:
- Shred pages to create perfect packing material for shipping gifts to loved ones.
- Wrap small gift boxes or tape several pages together for “patchwork” wrapping paper.