Four Easy Photo Ornaments November 25 2009

Every year, my husband and I give each of our kids a special ornament with which to decorate our Christmas tree. Somewhere on the ornament, I write the year and the name of the child that the ornament belongs to. When my kids are all grown up, they'll have these Christmas ornaments for their own trees, collected through the years.

But I haven't yet decided about the ornaments that they make for us in their classrooms. I suppose those decorations should go to the child who made them, but I treasure them and can't imagine giving them away. :) This line of thought helps me to decide what to have my students make as gifts for their parents.

Ornaments are simple, fairly inexpensive, and personal. I've included a list of materials, and my top 4 ornament styles for the season, including one from TRC's own Carol Brooke.


You probably have a bunch of these supplies tucked away already, but in case you don't, they are inexpensive and easy to find. Remember to save the leftover supplies for later in the year, too!

  • One picture of each student (extras or adhesive photos from Picture Day, or have students bring in a photo)
  • Construction paper
  • Foam paper
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Liquid glue
  • Ribbons of various colors
  • Scissors
  • Markers and Paints
  • Glitter and other bright, random embellishments

The Basic Photo Ornament

This ornament has a limitless variety of possibilities. Provide a construction or foam paper background, glue and materials for students to decorate the front and they're good to go! Attach a looped ribbon to the top, and the ornament is ready to hang!

If you want to provide a little more structure, cut out rectangles of a specific size, big enough to form a frame around the picture each student is using. Then have students cut a similar sized rectangle from construction or foam paper, cutting out the middle so that the photo shows through. The students can then glue the top frame onto the background and decorate!

If you want to create ornaments that are holiday specific, TRC's Carol Brooke has created the Snowman Photo Ornament good for all winter long. She also created a Christmas Ornament Template, which is ready to photocopy and use as patterns for your ornament projects!

Clear Spheres

For this ornament, you'll need one clear ball - 6" or larger - per student. The ornament must have a removable top and hook. The picture may need to be trimmed to match the diameter of the clear ball, so have students cut their photos if necessary (if you have younger kids, you might want to do the trimming before starting this project).

To place the photo inside the clear ball, wrap the photo around the end of a pencil (picture side out). Then, have your students slide the pencil inside the top of the ball and let the photo expand again. Your students will have to use the pencil to straighten or otherwise situate the photo. Use confetti or glitter to add some sparkle to the area behind the photo, and use paint or permanent marker for students' names and the year.

Handprint Included

This particular ornament involves the handprint as the background for the child's photo, and it's so simple!

Use a heavy cardstock or foam paper, and have each student draw - and then cut - an outline of his/her hand. Students must trim their photos so that the pictures fit in the palm of the hand. Then have your kids glue the photo on the cut-out hand and write their names and the year on the back. Then, decorate and it's ready to wrap!

A variation on this ornament would be to have students dip a hand in paint and make a handprint. Cut a circle around the handprint - this is the ornament - and glue the trimmed photo in the middle. Write the name and year on the back, punch a hole in the top and attach a ribbon and it's ready to go!

Sweet Faces

Technically, this isn't a photo ornament...but it's still about childrens' faces. I like this project (from Family Fun) because there's more of an art focus to it through sculpture. It is, however, more complicated and messy - it also looks like it would be worth it. I still have mine from 1986!

First, you'll need to make the dough. Mix 3 cups flour, 1 cup salt and 1 cup water with an electric mixer until a ball forms, then knead it until smooth.

Give each student a small ball of dough that they flatten with their hands into a circle - or face - shape. Then give them a separate bit of dough to fashion into hair, eyes, a nose and mouth. They will need a tiny bit of water to make the parts stick onto the face. While they're doing this part, go around and poke a hole in the top of the ornament with a wood skewer - the directions suggest poking holes for eyes as well.

The next part is tricky, and you'll benefit from parent help. These need to bake at 275 degrees for about 2 hours. Remove and allow to cool completely, and then students can paint their faces - the base will need to dry before painting the facial features. Insert a ribbon in the hole and tie, and the ornament is ready to hang.

If you want a dough ornament that does have a picture on it and doesn't need to bake, check out Carol Brooke's recipes and directions for an easy alternative!

One way to make Christmas presents personal for parents is to make the gift all about the students in your classroom. Any of these photo ornaments will be treasured Christmas decoration for years to come.