Triangle Children Holiday Classes Create Homespun Gifts


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A whimsical cinnamon-scented elf ornament. A hand-bound book of The Night Before Christmas, where Santa steps happily down the chimney of a lit fireplace. A wreath of green and red macaroni that is missing a noodle or two. Potato-stamped Christmas tree coasters. A manger made of Popsicle people.

Each holiday, parents lovingly display treasures made over the years by their little ones. These gifts are special because of their imperfections. They bring back memories and come from the heart.boxsnowmanlowres_001.jpg

Each year, venues across the Triangle host a variety of classes to help children make gifts the old-fashioned way — by hand — creating new memories for generations to come. (Learn more about the schedules for 2014 Triangle holiday gift-making classes for kids here.)

As the winter holidays approach each year, Jewel Kichak is among those who excitedly pull out decoration boxes. An arts program specialist with the Cary Arts Center, she decorates with ornaments made by “her children” — kids she has taught at art classes over the past two decades.

“A majority of our decorations were created by my children 20-some years ago,” Kichak says. “There are Rudolphs, Santas, stars, snowflakes, snowpersons, gingerbread persons, miniature trees, sleighs, candy canes and more. The eyes may be ‘misplaced,’ the proportions ‘irregular,’ and the colors ‘nontraditional,’ (but they’re) perfect — just the way they were made by all those little hands. Each item represents a memory, a precious gift to be unpacked over and over each year.” (Photos of  box snowman at right and clay Santa on sleigh above courtesy of Town of Cary.)

ballerinaornament3308resized_001.jpgFree Rein to Create

Kari Bacon, an artist who owns The Artful Mind in Wake Forest, teaches fine-art-based holiday classes for children to make gifts. She gives her students free rein in creating but encourages them to think about the person who will receive their gift, and tailor it to suit him or her. Bacon’s gift-making classes have yielded snow globes to be hung on trees, handsewn ornaments and finger puppets, candy dishes, picture frames, nativity sets, greeting cards and paintings of snowmen. This December, her classes will make gingerbread houses, candy cane garlands, clay bud vases and handsewn elf stuffies, among other creations. Her students choose what they will make right from the start.

“I let the child lead the way,” Bacon says. “[Their gift] will be one of a kind, and it will come straight from the heart because I make them really think about who they are giving it to. I say, ‘Does Grandma like the color red, and if not, let’s not put it in there.’” (Photo of ballerina ornament courtesy of Kari Bacon, The Artful Mind)

At West Point on the Eno, Susan Dwiggins, a certified clinical aromatherapist who owns Nature’s Pure Essentials, helps children ages 12 and older use nature to make gifts with scents favored by the person the gift is for. She teaches a “Blending Essential Oils for a Holiday Gift” class for Durham’s Parks and Recreation Department. Her students choose from a variety of essential oils to make scented bath salts, all-natural lotions and body spritzers. Along the way, they learn a dab of chemistry and the precise proportion of oil needed for each gift.

“It’s so easy, and that’s what I like the children to do — and adults — learn how to make these no chemical-, no pesticide-filled aromatic gifts, Dwiggins says. “They learn how many drops to put in a bath. They can either make a blendp1140610_001.jpg or they can use a single drop if they like the aroma of [say] lavender, rose.”

At the J.C. Raulston Arboretum of N.C. State University in Raleigh, a “Holiday Creations” class designed for children of all ages, and their parents, helps them experience the season in the garden. Children make holiday crafts using natural materials such as pinecones, acorn cups or sticks. Their final products range from cards to wrapping paper to hanging decorations, says Elizabeth Overcash, a children’s program coordinator with the arboretum. “It’s definitely a way for kids to connect with the garden and to have a piece of it that they can give — to create with the garden and to share the garden with other people.” (Photo at right courtesy of Elizabeth Overcash, J.C. Raulston Arobretum)

victorianornament2ncmuseumofhistory_001.jpgAt the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, children in Nancy Pennington’s “Make It, Take It: Holiday Ornament” free drop-in program learn surprising facts about Victorian holiday decorating.

“A lot of folks made their own ornaments,” Pennington says. “Sometimes they could be elaborate; sometimes they could be very simple. We are going to focus on some of the simpler ones — made out of paper, maybe out of peanuts.”

Children may make a Victorian cornucopia filled with nuts or hard candy, or Victorian medallions to hang on a tree — using images such as an angel head or Santa cut from magazines.

Pennington, the museum’s associate curator of programming, welcomes children of all ages — and their caregivers — to the program. (Photo at left of Victorian ornament courtesy of Nancy Pennington, North Carolina Museum of History)

Becca Hulett, a pottery instructor who teaches a trinket box-making class for the Durham Arts Council, says children often love the gifts they make so much, they want to keep them. (Photo at right of heart-shaped clay trinket box, courtesy of Becca Hulett, Durham Arts Council)

“I have found that the children prefer to keep their masterpieces for themselves,” Hulett says. “Many parents have hinted that these would make great gifts — to no avail. There is something very satisfying about storing your treasures beccahuletttrinket2trinketboxlowres.jpgin a special box that you made yourself.”

Hulett, who made her first pot at age 4, says her students have been as young as 6 weeks and as old as 16. “Children make their trinket boxes out of clay, and they can be any shape or design. Whatever the child wants to make, we will figure out a way to be successful,” she says, noting that the 6-week-old child made a footprint in clay that was “very cute.”

thescrapexchangelowres.jpgRecycled Gifts From the Heart

For those who appreciate recycled creations, The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit creative reuse center in Durham, invites children and adults to seek inspiration for their creations in the Make-N-Take Room, a studio filled with barrels of reclaimed fabric, tubes, sticker paper, elastic, wire, rubber bands and other clean industrial discards.

The studio inspires glue-free creativity, says Lindsey Miller, The Scrap Exchange’s outreach and events manager. “Though we do supply scissors, tape and staplers, we encourage makers to think outside of the box as they use other techniques to connect their materials. Without glue, these materials can be taken apart and used in new and different ways again and again, further promoting our environmental and creative mission,” she says. Self-led use of the studio is $5 per participant for 1½ hours, and visitors can take home their creations.

Holiday gift-making classes are also popular with many parents because they offer a safe place to drop off their kids while they take care of their holiday shopping. Mark Johns, a program specialist with Cary’s Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, says, “A Natural Holiday” and “Winter Wildlife Wonderland” classes are popular because they enable parents to get their shopping done while the kids create.

As the pace of the holiday season picks up, these classes also provide children a place to contemplate the true meaning of giving. And for those parents who take the time to attend a class with their child, that feeling might rub off on them, too.

For details on class locations and schedules and to register your children now, read  Triangle-Area-Holiday-Gift-Making-Classes-for-Children.

Odile Fredericks is the web editor of Carolina Parent magazine.

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Cost: See website for fees

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Come support your NC State Gymnastics team as they open the 2020 home season against the Towson Tigers on January 25th at 4 PM. Tickets start at just $3!

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Coliseum
2411 Dunn Ave
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.