The winter holidays bring the fun of family celebrations, public festivals and cozy evenings at home with friends and relatives. Here are some ideas...

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The winter holidays bring the fun of family celebrations, public festivals and cozy evenings at home with friends and relatives. Here are some ideas and tips for the season.

Cookie-cutter tracing

How can you keep your kids happily busy designing holiday cards, tags andornaments? The secret resides in your kitchen drawer: Use cookie cutters to make jolly illustrations. Kids can outline a shape on paper and color it in. Or cut out the shape and use it as a tag or ornament, or glue it to the front of a card.

Sparkly snowflake

The snowflakes outside will sigh with envy when they see this one hanging in the window. Its shining clusters are formed when pipe cleaners are dipped into borax dissolved in boiling water. As the water cools, the borax forms crystals that cling to the pipe cleaners.

Snowflake how-to: Twist together pipe cleaners to form a snowflake. Tie the flake to a pencil with string. Find a jar large enough that the flake, suspended from the pencil, won’t touch the sides.

Fill the jar with 3 tablespoons borax and 1 drop blue food coloring per 1 cup of boiling water. Hang the snowflake in the jar. Let sit overnight; remove.

Cozy chairs

When the temperature drops outdoors, everyone looks indoors for an inviting corner to curl up in. Help your child create a retreat just his size: Push two matching armchairs together, seats facing; tie a strong ribbon around them to make a cozy place for reading, a fort impenetrable to enemies or, in a pinch, an extra bed for a sleepover.

Hidden gifts

After all the care that goes into holiday shopping and gift-wrapping, isn’t it a shame that presents are torn into and opened in just a few minutes? Extend the excitement by turning gift-giving into a scavenger hunt. Fill a few boxes under the tree with clues to hint at where the real gifts can be found.

Aged wine

Think of it as a cultural savings bond: Give parents a bottle of wine from their baby’s birth year that will mature along with their child. You’ll need the help of a trusted wine merchant or expert to choose a “future” — a wine that is likely to age well.

For best results, include a note on how to store the wine (it should be kept in a damp, dark place, such as an unfinished basement, at 55 to 65 degrees and 80-percent humidity). The bottle can be uncorked for a 21st birthday or even for a toast at the child’s wedding.

Elf’s kit

Christmas morning will be relaxed rather than hectic if you have an elf’s kit filled with the items you’ll need. Make a list; check it off in advance.

Batteries are necessary for some presents, and most cameras won’t run without batteries, either. (You should add a Phillips-head screwdriver to your kit, in case it’s needed to open battery compartments.) You may also need extra film or a memory card for the camera. Make sure to recharge the video camera so you can document your children’s delighted smiles.

You’ll also want a notebook in which to jot down who got what from whom, important when writing thank-you notes later. Put scissors in the kit, to help with tightly knotted ribbon.

Many presents have multiple parts that can get lost in the chaos, so keep a stash of plastic bags on hand, then establish a new household rule: Before kids can open a new puzzle, game or toy, all the pieces of the last one must be placed in a bag.

Grapes at midnight

While you’re toasting the New Year with champagne, let kids celebrate with a Spanish custom: eating 12 grapes at midnight for good luck all year long. Fill a champagne flute for every child older than 3 with a dozen grapes; they can eat one for every chime as the clock strikes midnight.