The perils of paper snowflakes

Priorities First

When I arrived at West and Lillie's Westerville home for a winter adventure, I had competition for 5-year-old West's attention. It wasn't a new game or toy: It was homework. Extracurricular math homework. This kid - who is already reading The Indian in the Cupboard - has always been an overachiever. He even prefers sushi to chicken fingers.

As his mother bribed West with candy to put aside his schoolwork, I made a note to my future self to remind teenaged West to have a little fun.

The Activity

My plan with the kids was to mimic a childhood tradition and make paper snowflakes with them. Growing up, when the seasons changed, my family would pull out a box of paper decorations to tape to our windows. When Thanksgiving came, turkeys and pilgrim hats replaced aging paper ghosts. And when Ohio was set on winter, out came the cut-out snowflakes. They were all a little different - like real snowflakes - each one perfectly imperfect. For Lillie, the activity was new. West had already done it with a grandfather, but this was his first time in the driver's seat with scissors.

The Supplies

I picked up a ream of white paper, guiltily remembering how my family carefully reused construction paper for all craft activities. For West and 3-year-old Lillie, we had up to 500 bright white chances to create the snowflakes of our dreams.

Rounded plastic scissors were nowhere to be found, though a nearby dollar store unearthed child-sized metal ones. A quick phone call to their mother confirmed that Lillie could handle the small ones with supervision. In the same aisle, I found what turned out to be the perfect impulse buy, something that brought snowflake art to the new millennium: glitter glue.

The Process

I became a square-making factory, handing off templates to each child, each developing their own technique for creating wintery wonder. Lillie's involved glitter glue, and lots of it, strategically placed in dots around the paper. For West, holding the scissors became a challenge and it was a miracle (partially due to the watchful eye of his mother) that he did not cut himself. He methodically created what he called "fancy squares."

Lesson Learned: Discerning the Truth

When I asked the kids what they liked the best about the activity, I got varied answers. Lillie was predictable. The glitter glue made her day. West's answer was a little more complicated. "I liked building these snowflakes," he said. Knowing his penchant to please, his mother called him out on his obvious people-pleasing tendencies. Given a second chance, his answer was more direct: "I liked that I got candy afterwards," he said, before adding, "and I liked the glitter glue, too."

- Jill Moorhead doesn't have children, but borrows her friends' kids with a dual purpose: to actually see her friends, and to find ways to spoil their offspring. She writes about food in Columbus Crave and Columbus Monthly, as well as at itinerantfoodies.com.