Winter holidays often involve cold weather, hot drinks, and homemade arts and crafts. It also means the kids are out of school for one to three weeks. What homemade arts and crafts can kids do, without risk of injury, that can also serve as holiday gifts? Try soap!
Easy melt and pour soap recipes make great kids’ projects because they don’t melt at high temperatures. They usually clean up with water and a washcloth. Kids get satisfaction in knowing they made the homemade arts and crafts themselves (with a little supervision.) And the projects keep children busy so parents can sneak away to hang lights or wrap gifts.
If you’ve never made a melt and pour soap project, don’t worry. It’s easy to do. Find a soap base, which is available at craft stores and online. The highest quality bases are usually from companies that sell wholesale soap making supplies. Bases can be hypoallergenic, can contain honey or goat milk, or may be hemp or olive oil-based.
For color, purchase artificial soap making dyes or natural pigments and micas. Food coloring isn’t strong enough and will dilute the soap base. For fragrance, essential oils are fine, if you research first to ensure the oil won’t irritate skin. Colorants and fragrance must be skin safe! Do not use candle dyes or scents. If you shop a website that sells specifically to soapmakers, you can find a myriad of luscious fragrances.
Melt soap in the microwave, in a glass or plastic container. Or turn a slow cooker onto low. Perhaps use a double boiler. No matter how you melt it, the soap doesn’t have to get very hot to be liquid. You should be able to insert a finger, without burning yourself, and the soap will still be soft enough to mix in colors and scents.
Of course, supervise small children to be sure soap isn’t overheated and the heat source is safe.
To clean up, simply soak pots and bowls in a larger bowl of warm water, then scrub clean. Soap-covered clothing can be tossed directly into a washing machine.
Soapy Holiday Homemade Arts and Crafts that Kids Can Do
The youngest kids may be unable to make the simplest homemade arts and crafts. For them, just obtaining cute holiday molds and filling with melted soap is enough. Acquire festive shapes but remember these don’t have to be made specifically for soap. Holiday candy or cupcake molds work great.
You’ll need soap base, natural or artificial brown colorant, a gingery or cinnamon-scented fragrance, a jelly roll pan or small cookie sheet with sides, waxed paper, and gingerbread men cookie cutters. Most or all can be found at stores that sell products for homemade arts and crafts. Soap supply companies make fragrances so luscious they rival the nutmeg and buttery tones of a cooked eggnog recipe.
Line the cookie sheet’s bottom and sides with waxed paper. Melt soap base and mix in fragrance and colorant. Pour soap into the cookie sheet and let it cool until it is solid but not completely hard. Cut out gingerbread men with the cookie cutters. Cool completely, remove excess soap, and melt the trimmings to make more soaps.
You don’t need fancy molds or cookie cutters for this one. The bottoms of tiny paper cups will do. You’ll also need white soap base, red coloring, peppermint fragrance, and two bowls or pans for melting.
In one bowl or pan, melt a little base then add red coloring. In the other, melt more soap base and stir in peppermint fragrance. Now pour a little white soap into the bottom of each paper cup. Don’t wait too long before drizzling in the red. Gently swirl colors with a toothpick then allow soap to cool. Pop soaps out of the cups then use a vegetable peeler to bevel edges and make them look like peppermint candies.
Soapy Tree Ornaments
Candy molds can double as soap molds because melt and pour soap doesn’t get hot enough to melt the plastic. For a cute idea, purchase bird-shaped molds such as doves and chickens so you can also teach kids about the song “12 Days of Christmas’” history and meanings behind the birds.
For this homemade arts and crafts project, you will need soap or candy molds, coffee stirrer straws, soap base, and any color or fragrance you choose.
Trim coffee stirrers into segments about an inch long. Melt soap, stir in fragrance and color, and carefully fill molds. When soap is still a little soft, insert a coffee stirrer into each shape, near the top. Be sure stirrer stands straight up. Allow it to cool completely then unmold. Trim stirrers so they lie flush with soap. With a piece of wire, clear any soap which may clog the stirrer’s hole, then insert ornament hooks to hang shapes from the tree.
Soaps on Ropes
This project is made the same way as Soapy Tree Ornaments, except you need larger molds, such as those silicone pans that make cute muffin shapes. Also, look for drinking straws and cut to two-inch lengths.
When soap is nearly solid, insert straw segments. Allow it to cool fully. Unmold, trim straws, and clear the holes with a nail. Insert yarn or twine into the straws to make ropes. Tie ropes at the ends so they can hang from shower hooks. If an adult or older child help with the project, the rope can be inserted using a wooden dowel or skewer instead of a straw.
Hidden Treasures: The Gift that Gives Again
Hidden Treasures soap allows recipients to unwrap their presents, use the soap, and find a second gift! Choose opaque soap base so you don’t spoil the surprise. Also collect square or rectangular molds, which can be as simple as the cavities from those cheese-meat-and-cracker lunch packs. Select fragrance and colorants of your choice as well as craft ribbon in complementary colors. For the hidden surprise, choose items the recipient may like. These must be water-resistant, able to withstand semi-hot temperatures, and small enough to fit. Kids may enjoy finding toy animals or army men in their soap. For a romantic surprise, hide a ring (but be sure the recipient doesn’t throw away the soap before finding their hidden treasure!)
Melt soap base and mix in color and fragrance. Pour a thin layer into each mold: just enough to suspend the gift in the middle instead of letting it rest on the bottom. Let that layer cool. Set the gift into the mold then re-melt remaining soap and pour on top, completely concealing the gift. Let each soap cool completely before unmolding. Tie ribbons around the finished soap so it resembles a wrapped box. Be sure to include a note telling the recipient that a second surprise awaits if they use the soap!
What soapy homemade arts and crafts have you tried? Tell us your ideas!
The Best Molds for Soapmaking
Paper cups and plastic cold cuts containers can make great molds for homemade arts and crafts—if you use the right type of soap. So, what molds are okay for which soap making techniques?
Melt and Pour: This is the easiest, most carefree soap technique. It won’t burn you unless you overheat the soap, which also means it won’t melt containers. Since the chemical process was completed before you ever purchased it, no mold materials such as aluminum will react with soap base. Almost anything can be a soap mold if it doesn’t melt with low heat or soak up the soap.
Try ice cube trays, candy molds, silicone baking forms, old yogurt containers, waxed paper cups, or aluminum cake pans. If the container is rigid, you may have to freeze soap so it will release. Just be sure you can remove your finished project.
Rebatch: Also called hand-milling, rebatching involves grating down an existing bar of soap then adding just enough liquid to melt it and remold. Because the soap is already made, you don’t need to worry about it reacting with the container. But it melts at a much higher temperature than melt and pour, so cheap plastic yogurt containers or cold cut trays may not be sturdy enough. Silicone molds are always a great idea.
Hot Process: This technique is from scratch, involving oils and fats, lye, and water. Definitely not for kids, it also requires gloves and safety glasses. Hot process cooks the soap within a slow cooker or pot, and the chemical change occurs before soap hits its final mold. This means, if it’s made correctly, it will not react with aluminum. But it’s almost boiling temperature and will melt plastic molds. Use wood, metal, dishwasher-safe plastic, or silicon for hot process. If you use wood, line the mold with waxed paper or plastic to make unmolding easier.
Cold Process: Don’t let the name fool you; cold process only means the cooking doesn’t happen in the pot. It happens in the mold if it undergoes “gel” phase. Gel stage can raise soap temperature above 170 degrees, and it can overheat if your soap recipe contains milk, sugar, or pumice. Many plastics will melt if used as molds. In addition, the lye is still active in cold process soap because the chemical reaction occurs after it’s poured into molds. Lye reacts with aluminum.
The safest molds for cold process soap are silicon, dishwasher-safe plastic, and wood. Glass can also be used but isn’t recommended because it’s difficult to unmold from the glass; also, of the glass isn’t oven-safe, it may be unable to withstand heating and cooling, which can result in breakage. If you use wood, line the mold with plastic or waxed paper to aid unmolding.