Ideas from smmartideas.blogspot.com by Lisa Bergantz:
Teaches reading and math
To make the shooter, roll half a piece of construction paper into a tube. Make sure the diameter is just large enough to fit a cranberry. Fasten one end closed with a paper clip.
Make a list of holiday words such as "lights," "Christmas," "presents," "songs," "nativity" and "snow."
With a permanent marker, write each letter of the words on a separate cranberry. (You don't have to write the letters for each word, since some words share letters.) Place the cranberry letters in a bowl.
Have your child find the letters of a word on the list in the bowl and place the letters in the correct order in the open end of the shooter. When all of the letters are in place, have your child release the paper clip while holding the shooter over an empty bowl and watch the letters roll out. If he is skilled enough, the letters will stay in order, but many times they roll out quickly and get a little out of order. Have your child refer to the list to place the letters back in the correct order for double spelling practice.
For a math activity with the shooter, give simple addition problems such as "3+3." Your child can place 3 cranberries in the shooter, then 3 more and then count the 6 cranberries after they roll out.
Cranberry Letter Snakes
Set out a bowl of fresh cranberries and a pile of toothpicks. Have your child tell you how many letters are in a word you would like to practice.
H-O-P-E has 4 letters, so your child will place 4 cranberries in front of her. Then, let your child write a letter on each cranberry to spell out the word "hope."
Now, have your child attach the cranberries together with toothpicks to create the word.
Keep your child busy by providing a list of words so she can check her spelling.
Variation: Use a black permanent marker to write the letters of a few words you would like your child to practice on fresh cranberries. Remember those water noodles from the summer? Cut off a 1- or 2-foot piece and slice it down the middle to form two slides.
Now, ask your child to spell or sound out a word. As your child finds the correct letters, she rolls the cranberries down the slide into a bowl. After you have a bowl full of the correct letters, have your child arrange the cranberry letters into the word. Now your child has spelled the word twice.
You can also float the cranberries that make a word in a bowl of water and let your child scoop out each letter in order with a slotted spoon.
Cranberry Garland Patterns
While you are busy decorating or baking, keep your children happy with a simple cranberry and popcorn garland. Lay out a bowl of cranberries for each garland maker and a big bowl of popcorn in the center of the table for all to share. Thread a long piece of dental floss onto a large, fat needle.
Come up with a pattern such as berry, berry, berry, popcorn, popcorn, berry, berry, berry and so forth. Let your child create his own garland pattern.
Use as a garland for the Christmas tree or go outside and find the perfect tree upon which to lay your feast for the birds.
Expose your children to 3-D shapes. Show your child a 2-D square made of toothpicks and cranberries, then build it into its 3-D counterpart - the cube.
Bergantz's family also likes to use grapes and marshmallows to make them edible.
Sparkling Ice Ornaments
Glittering ice ornaments can adorn your bare bushes outdoors. Help your child collect small waterproof items of interest around the house and from outdoors. Include twigs of evergreen and cranberries to make the ornaments festive. You can even include birdseed to make them a natural and usable ornament.
Some things that will work well are glitter, small toys, colored yarn, leaves and small pebbles. Your child can help you cut up the string or ribbon into small pieces. Help your child fill up a bundt cake pan, plastic bowl, ice cube tray, or any other type of mold with water. If you have a little holiday plastic ice or chocolate mold, they work great for smaller, individual ornaments.
Sprinkle the waterproof trinkets all over the water. Let your child stir up the treasures in the water. Many items will sink to the bottom, but when the mold freezes, those items will show nicely on the top of the ice.
Cut a long piece of yarn and fold it in half. Rest the ends of the string inside the mold, so they'll freeze and you'll have a hanger for your ice ornament. Tape the string onto the side of the mold to ensure they stay put.
Place the water molds on a cookie sheet and pop into the freezer until completely firm. Unmold the ice ornaments and hang around your outdoor trees, on the deck or outside your window for festive holiday shimmer.