This post is was originally published on The Penny Hoarder

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

As the holidays get closer, it’s fairly normal to start freaking out about those last-minute gifts you still need to buy despite the fact that your next paycheck hasn’t cleared yet. If you’re the crafty type, this is the ideal time of year to start flexing your artistic muscles and making handmade gifts for friends and family to cherish.

But what if, like me, you don’t have an artistic bone in your body?

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who could make Christmas gifts, but usually anything I try to make ends up looking like the handiwork of a preschooler. Luckily for me, I now have a toddler who’s almost a preschooler to  “help” me make gifts for the people who will smile and say they love them — even if they don’t know exactly what they are.

So I sat down with my 2½-year-old daughter Rose to see what we could accomplish together. Surely we could combine her love of paint and generally making a mess with my desire to give gifts without spending a fortune to come up with something passable as a gift.

Thanks to our awesome teamwork, Rose and I made these really cool popsicle stick Christmas trees to give to her grandparents as holiday ornaments to hang on their trees.

How to Make Popsicle Stick Christmas Trees

Plan Out Your Project

a little girl crafting with popsicle sticksPhoto courtesy of Catherine Hiles

First, decide how many trees you want to make — it’s easier to make them all at once than make a few now and a few later. You’ll need three popsicle sticks per tree, so do the math and count out the number you need (plus a few extras, just in case you mess some up).

Next, you’ll need green paint. I used tempera paint because I had it in the house already. As I mentioned, I am not good at crafty things, but I was able to make a fairly decent green color by mixing together yellow, blue and white. If you don’t want to mess with that, buy paint that’s already green.

Paint the Popsicle Sticks

Now it’s time to paint your popsicle sticks. We laid ours down on a piece of contact paper, which was the recipient of more paint than the popsicle sticks themselves.

I helped Rose paint these, as she doesn’t have the back-and-forth motion down yet, but together we were able to give them a decent coat.

Take a Break

You’ll need to give the paint some time to dry, so set the sticks aside and take a break. We worked on some other craft projects while waiting for the paint to dry, which took about 15 minutes. Once dry, paint the other side and repeat.

Assemble Your Forest

Once both sides of the popsicle sticks are painted and dry, it’s time to glue them together. I used Elmer’s school glue to make a triangle (or tree shape) out of three popsicle sticks and repeated until I’d assembled three total. The glue will need time to dry, so you’ll have around 15 to 20 minutes of more downtime here.

Trim Those Trees

Now that the popsicle sticks resemble trees, you can decorate them like you would a real Christmas tree. The sky’s the limit as far as what you use to decorate.

Glitter glue, pompoms and stickers are all good ideas for little fingers. Let your kid (or yourself, no judgment) go to town and decorate the trees however they see fit. Rose went right for the glitter glue and squeezed it all over the ornaments, sticking pompoms in its wake. She wasn’t as interested in the gem stickers I bought and ended up sticking them on herself rather than on the popsicle sticks.

The more uniquely you decorate the trees, the better, as your gift recipients will know your child had a hand in making the ornaments rather than you doing it yourself.

Add Ribbon and Personalize

After the trees are decorated and the glue/paint/whatever decor you used is dry, cut a length of sparkly ribbon and make a loop. Glue the loop to the top of the tree at the back to create a hook from which you can hang your ornament.

As a finishing touch, write your child’s name and the year on the back of the tree. That way, your friends and family can keep track of the year you made the ornament, which is especially useful if, like me, you decide that crafting is actually a lot of fun and plan to make ornaments each year with your kid.

Catherine Hiles is a writer but not an artist. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, running long distances and now, crafting with her toddler.

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