March 17, 2011 -- St. Patrick's Day traditions can seem pretty mysterious to a young kid. What's a leprechaun? Why do people wear green? And where is that pot of gold everyone keeps talking about? Crafts are a fun way to introduce the holiday to children and might even spur a new family tradition.
Here are four fun art projects tried and tested by busy moms. They're all relatively simple and, just as important, inexpensive.
The Leprechaun Trap
Leprechauns, those mischievous elves of Irish folklore, are notoriously hard to catch. But as legend goes there's a handsome monetary reward if you manage to capture one.
Ann Rinkenberger, mother to Olivia, 8, and Sophia, 10, said her daughters have been making "leprechaun traps" for the past five years. But there's just one problem.
"It is rather annoying," Olivia said. "We never catch them."
There are many different ways to imagine a leprechaun trap, they require only a few supplies and a lot of creativity. The Rinkenberger family uses a cardboard box with unsealed flaps at the top.
Next, they paint most of the box green, but they sponge paint one side grey to make it look like a rock wall. That's because leprechauns love stones, Rinkenberger says. And they dislike following rules, so her daughters add signs that read, 'Do Not Climb!'
Then they create a stone pathway, sprinkled with coins, meant to lure the leprechauns all the way to the top of the box where they'll, hopefully, fall right in. Nearby, there's a tiny tea set with a crumb of bread -- just in case the leprechaun is hungry.
"At the bottom of the box, the girls put some wool or paper towels to 'cushion' his fall," said Rinkenberger, 44.
But the Scandia, Minn. family doesn't just make crafts during the holidays. They also make art for a living. Rinkenberger's business on Etsy.com, Harvest Moon by Hand, sells handmade products and toys. Her daughter Sophia also participates by creating beeswax molds, and Olivia is now eager to help out too.
So far they haven't outsmarted the crafty leprechauns, whose overnight visits are marked by golden glitter and gold one dollar coins. But Olivia says if she ever does succeed in trapping a leprechaun, the first order of business would be to "ask where the money is."
Olivia and Sophia Rinkenberger check to see if they caught a leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day in 2009. / Photo courtesy of Ann Rinkenberger.
On the next page, Four Leaf Clover Hats.
Four Leaf Clover Hats
Miriam Kim, 29, a kindergarten teacher at Braddock Elementary in Annandale, Va., says her students love making shamrock hats every year around St. Patrick's Day.
Most of her 22 students don't know what a shamrock is, and they've never heard of a four-leaf clover, so Kim turns the holiday into a learning experience: they spell the color green, count clover leaves, and learn about new shapes.
"We talk about the shamrock and how it's symmetrical," she said. "We make them out of hearts and say that one side is the same as the other side."
To make the shamrock hats they take a medium-sized paper bowl and paint it green. Next, they use yellow pipe cleaner and attach it to the top of the bowl. The kids then cut out a green shamrock and staple it on to the pipe cleaner. Finally, they punch two holes on either side of the bowl and string yellow yarn through the holes, which is how the hat stays on.
On St. Patrick's Day the kids arrive at school to find a disheveled classroom "invaded" by troublemaking leprechauns.
"Some of them are shocked and some don't know how to react. There's a lot of [excited] screaming -- it's organized chaos," Kim said. "They're trying to find a leprechaun, something very tiny, so of course they're awed by it."
The kindergarten class has yet to find one, but each student gets a golden coin at the end of the day for trying.
Miriam Kim's kindergarten class at Braddock Elementary made special green hats in anticipation of St. Patrick's Day. / Photo courtesy of Miriam Kim
On the next page, St. Patrick's Day Postcards.
St. Patrick's Day Postcards
Kimberly Danger, 40, the creator of MommySavers.com, recently blogged about her latest St. Patrick's Day brainstorm: postcards.
During one of her regular shopping trips to Target she visited the dollar section and saw some shiny green wigs. Her next thought? Googly eyes, of course. And then her models stepped in: Danger's children, Sydney, 11, and Nicholas, 7. In the end the whole project cost less than $5. She mailed the cards out on Monday to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
"My kids are so used to me asking them to pose 'nicely' for photos that this was a fun way to let them ham it up for the camera and just be silly. Plus, they had a lot of fun with the wigs after our photo session was over," said Danger, who lives in Mankato, Minn. "When my husband came home from work and saw what we had created, he laughed and said, 'Those are great!'"
Mom of two Kimberly Danger came up with a creative way to keep in touch with relatives while celebrating St. Patrick's Day. / Photo courtesy of Kimberly Danger/MommySavers.com
St. Patrick's Day Treasure Hunt
Mother of two Susie Chadwick wanted to teach her oldest child Maggie, 3, about the shamrock shape. So she sliced green peppers in half and her daughter dipped the vegetables in green paint.
"Maggie thought this was pretty magical. She was impressed that a pepper could make a shamrock shape. She's a little perfectionist sometimes, so she was really interested in making sure the design was complete," Chadwick wrote in an e-mail to ABCNews.com from her family's current home in Bangalore, India.
Leprechaun traps are too complicated for a toddler, so Chadwick decided to teach her daughter about leprechaun folklore by cutting little feet out of green construction paper and creating a trail.
The tiny feet led Maggie to her "pot of gold" (yellow Connect Four checkers and candy).
"She'd never heard of a leprechaun before, so this has been a fun way to introduce her to leprechauns, rainbow following, and pots of gold. The cost was nothing. I already had some gold-wrapped sweets, and I used half a piece of construction paper to make the feet," said Chadwick, who writes about her craft ideas on mommysavers.com.
"We've done this several times over the last week or two. She loves to see where the new trail will lead and make up stories about where the leprechaun went. He often jumps off our balcony to escape."
Three-year-old Maggie Chadwick discovers a 'pot of gold' after following green footprints around the house. / Photo courtesy of S. Chadwick/MommySavers.com