All Things Gingerbread

So, here we sit.  Just two days until Christmas Eve.  And if you are anything like me, you are frantically trying to figure out ways to occupy your children, who are more than ready to kill each other.  Y’all, I have even pulled out the “Santa doesn’t bring gifts to children who aren’t kind to each other and their parents” line.  It’s gettin hectic over here.  Plus, I still have gifts left to wrap, bows left to tie, a house to clean, and a whole mountain range of clean laundry to fold and put away (since I conquered the washing part yesterday, thank the Lord!)

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The one thing that seems to be my saving grace the last two days has been All Things Gingerbread.  Seriously.  I threw together some gingerbread play dough, and since we made gingerbread cookies last week, the kids are so excited about this play dough!!!  I gave them the same little cookie cutters we used for our cookies, and they have had a blast making “cookies” and “cookie pops” and then yesterday they even got out Gray’s little construction trucks and informed me that the play dough looks like dirt, and it’s super fun to put into the construction trucks, apparently!  (So sad I didn’t get any pics of them playing, but y’all, seriously – they were happy, playing TOGETHER, and I was taking full advantage and fixing dinner – in peace!!!)

Today I plan to make another batch so they each have their own big ball of it, give them the giant gingerbread man cookie cutter (aff link thank you!), some buttons, some pipe cleaners (for hair or whatever else they get creative and come up with) and let them go to town making their own gingerbread friends!  (Fits great with the fact that we’re frantically finishing up our Christmas Around the World unit (link to the file on TPT) and today is Germany… which is where the gingerbread traditions originated!  Plus, I’m using a Gingerbread Girl organizational chart (it’s in this FREEBIE file on TPT!) today to diagram about the Gingerbread Girl book by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Aff link, thank you!)… dang, doesn’t this make me seem so organized?  HA!  Seriously, y’all… I’m not.  Being real, I originally planned to do this stuff yesterday, but can’t find the Gingerbread Girl book in the vast cavernous mess of books in Becca’s room, and if all else fails, I may try to find a youtube or just say screw it and forget the organizational chart and attempt to do it next year.) (Keepin’ it real here.)  (Also keepin’ it real – if you made it through the mess of links and () in this paragraph, I love you.  HA!)

The best part about play dough is it takes WAY less time to make than it does for me to write this blog post, which I’ve been intending to write for a couple days now.  So you can do it!  Buy yourself a little time (and patience!)… and better yet, stop everything and sit down and play WITH them.  Playing play dough is so calming for me.  Have you tried it lately?  Becca and I loved making “cookie pops” and then “selling” them to each other to work on her money skills!

Here’s the recipe for my Gingerbread play dough:

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And because I know some of you sweet mamas are going crazy and trying to find a gingerbread cookie recipe that your kids will actually eat… use mine.  It’s super easy and even my pickiest eater loves them!  I make these every single year.  Without fail.  Even if I don’t make any other cookies.  I’m in love with them.  Which is why I felt a picture of my tattered, dirty recipe card page was the best way to share it with you.  This recipe is WELL loved.

And so are you, dear blog reader.  Merry Christmas!  May you be richly blessed this holiday season.

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Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas

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It’s hard in the midst of the busyness of the Christmas season to keep the focus where it should be… So might I make a suggestion?  You’re already going to be doing craft projects and activities… what if you just tweaked them a bit to make sure that your focus is on Christ?  Don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you invent the wheel here!  Nope, Alicia Michelle of Your Vibrant Family has already done it for you!  (And no, it’s not too late to get it TODAY!)

When I found out about her Christmas system, I was excited to be a reviewer!  (Full discloser – I received the set in exchange for my review – these opinions shared here are my own, and links to purchase the set are affiliate links that financially benefit our family – THANK YOU!) But once we started using the system, I started to love it even more!  I read through her ideas, and something she said really hit me.  I mean, I had head knowledge, but there was something about reading it… this is what she said:

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And suddenly, reading this, I realized that it was ok to not cram pack every single day with activity.  It was even ok to not do our annual Christmas cookie exchange this year… and instead use the funds to purchase some special craft activities that we could do together as a family, and sponsor an angel from our church’s angel tree.

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Becca and I painted these wooden letters and as we did, we talked about why we chose “Joy” as her middle name, and also talked about that JOY can stand for putting Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself. It was a really fun time painting together, and a great, deep conversation!

Having this mindset and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas has helped my attitude toward the season so much!  It’s amazing.  I mean, it seems so simple.  Because it is.

Check out the Christ-Centered Christmas Banner we have put together from Alicia’s set… (You can purchase your copy of the set here!)

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How we used the banner pieces:
Gray is 2 1/2 and LOVES to stick stickers!  It’s a fabulous way for him to work on hand-eye coordination and build his fine motor skills, so I’m always looking for more sticker opportunities for him.  He decorated the “Light of the World” banner piece with sparkly star stickers, and we talked about the star that shone over the stable where baby Jesus was born.  We also talked about that Jesus can be called the “Light of the World.”  Did he get it? I wasn’t sure.  But the other night he made the connection when he made a star ornament at our church carnival and he said “It’s Jesus’ star over the manger!  Is the ‘Light of the world!'”  He also used stickers to decorate the “Merry Christmas” banner piece.  He really enjoyed decorating – and when I got the banner hung up, he loved seeing his work on the wall!

Becca is working hard on her handwriting skills, but isn’t super fond of copywork.  So – I thought it might be more fun if she could do her copywork onto banner pieces to be hung on the wall.  She jumped on it and was so excited!  She wrote Psalm 34:18 on the “Hope” banner piece, and on the “Joy” banner piece, she wrote “J is for Jesus” from the poem we read (also in the set!) about the meaning of the candy cane.  Then she chose to draw a picture of Jesus on that banner piece as well.

I added a couple of family pictures to the other banner pieces to tie the focus to our specific family.  Then, since we typically have a sign in the middle of our art display wall (I originally posted about this wall here), I used Alicia’s beautiful background paper that I printed on my color printer, and then ran it through my laser printer once it was totally dry… and developed a beautiful advent count-down calendar to fit in the frame that regularly hangs there… that we can mark with a dry erase marker!  (If you purchase this set, please let me know, and as a thank you for your purchase, I will email you your FREE PDF copy of the “O Come, O Come Immanual” advent countdown calendar – that can easily be printed on top of her decorative paper!  It’s not too late to start it!)

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I am so pleased with how the whole wall turned out.  I love that it’s visible from downstairs in our living room, and that it’s in a place where the kids will see it regularly (upstairs near their rooms) to remember where our focus should be this holiday season.

Another activity we did from this set was actually one I used with our AWANA K-2 group this week.  We talked about the meaning of the candy cane, and the kids strung beads on pipe cleaners to make candy canes.  They got to keep one, and take one to a friend at school – along with the candy cane poem printable from the set – as a Christmas gift to share Jesus with their friends!  The kids had so much fun and were really excited to have a gift to take to friends.  They colored the sheets in their classes once they had said their verses, or could take them home to color before giving to their friend.  I’ll be doing the same thing with Becca this weekend – she’ll get to make candy canes to give to her friends, and can color the sheet as a Christmas card.

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It’s so easy to use this set to stay on track, to keep your focus, and yet still accomplish all the goals you normally have during the holiday season!  I so appreciate Alicia’s creation of this set, and look forward to using these parts (and more!) next year.  I love that there’s so many different options, and I can use what works for our family now, and then still have new things we can add on or swap out next year, or the next!

Might I add…   Don’t think if it’s after December 1st that you can’t start this!!!!  It is never too late to get your focus right, and there’s always room to do stuff next year, but if you wait to get it, you’ll forget!  So click here to get it today and use what you can, and just allow it to build in the future.  You won’t regret it.  That I can promise.

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Click Here! Affiliate link – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Thankfulness and Thanksgiving – for your Toddler

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Continuing my series on Thankfulness and Thanksgiving, I wanted to give you some ideas of things you can do with your little ones – the toddlers in your house who are just beginning to get the concept of saying “thank you” when you give them something.

I started with a very basic activity for Gray – I asked him, “Who are your friends that you thank Jesus for?”  Then, I wrote each of their names on a leaf – from this free printable (shown below) and then we hung it on the refrigerator.  He was so proud of his paper!  “Those Gray friends!  I say thank you Jesus my friends!”  Get your own copy of the printable here (it’s page 4 of the free document).

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I also wanted him to be able to participate in some of the thankfulness art he had seen Sister doing, by letting him make some of his own Homemade Cards for his teacher at Mother’s Day Out, and for his nursery teacher on Sunday mornings.  He also wanted to make pictures for his grandparents.  I started him out by simply painting over leaves, and then once it turned into a full-on sensory activity (I knew it would – the boy loves to paint his hands!) then, I grabbed more sheets of paper and helped him make hand prints, which I turned into turkeys.

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I have a couple of cute poems that I’ve pinned over on my Thanksgiving pin board, and I’ll select one of those to write inside the cards.  Super simple, but he had a blast feeling the paint, being tickled by the paint  brush, and feeling the silk leaves.  It was a great sensory activity that was lots of fun for him!

Note – I love using acrylic paint for kid projects because it easily washes off of skin, and dries quickly on paper.  BUT it stains clothing, so we usually do those projects either with a smock, or with him in his diaper.

Back to the original Thankfulness and Thanksgiving post.

Saying Thank You with A Handmade Card

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There are a million different ways to make cards.  But I wanted to do something unique with Becca.  I had a package of silk leaves from Hobby Lobby, and I was wondering what to do with them.  And then it hit me – leaf cards!

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As you can see, they turned out beautiful.  Here’s what we did, and the thoughts behind them.

  1. Peel the plastic stem backing off of silk leaves (or collect fresh fall leaves if you have them!)
  2. Gather card stock paper that is thick.  Fold each sheet in half.  (However many you decide to make is up to you.)
  3. Mix a little bit of water in a bowl with a lot of glue  – just runny enough to be able to paint with the glue.  Completely cover a sheet of thick card stock with the watery glue, leaves, and more watery glue on top.
  4. Lay them open flat to dry – on a plastic tablecloth or place mat.  NOTE – they will be wet enough that if you have used colored card stock, the wetness of the glue will leave color on whatever you let them dry on… I had to Ajax my white countertop to remove the orange.  Not even Magic Eraser would get it off.  Thankfully Ajax w bleach did the trick.  (So learn from my mistake!)  They will take quite a while to dry if you’ve used enough glue to truly hold the leaves on.
  5. Once they are dry, fold them back closed, and place a heavy pan on top of the stack of cards for a day or so to re-crease them. folded-cards
  6. Have your child dictate (or write) thank you notes to community helpers who make a difference, send to grandparents, or to other special people that your child wants to say thank you to.  (We are sending notes to our pastor, our local sheriff’s office, the guy at our post office who always helps us, and for the volunteers at our local fire department.)  If you’re going to mail, you’ll need to make sure that your paper starts out small enough to fit the leaves and everything inside an envelope.  Since we’re hand-delivering ours, we didn’t worry about the size, and I just used full 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper folded in half.

Looking for more Thankfulness and Thanksgiving ideas to use with your kids?  Check back here on Monday, and all next week!

The original Thankfulness and Thanksgiving post is here.

Pumpkin Dough

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I recently had a friend share a pin with me… because she knows I’m ALL about homemade play dough.  We seriously are play dough obsessed around here!  When I saw this recipe, I immediately knew it would be a hit with my kids, and it was similar enough to my favorite recipe that I already had most of the supplies on hand in my pantry.  Becca loves colored doughs, and Gray would love the scent (y’all, it really does smell like fall!)!  I followed her recipe exactly except that I doubled it, and I only made it orange, so I mixed the color in while it was in the skillet.  Rather than list the recipe here on this post, I’d love to give credit back to the original mama who took the time to post it, so please go check out her post HERE.

In her post, she also mentioned collecting items from nature to use with the play dough.  We already had some seeds from our Seed Collecting and Sorting activity, and then I gave the kids a bunch of silk leaves that I got at the craft store.  They also used some fall shaped cookie cutters (this super cute set is similar… aff link… thank you!) that I’ve had for a while.  They both had a blast making trees, bushes, and a variety of other pretend creations with their play dough and leaves!  (Gray wasn’t allowed to use the seeds since I was afraid he would eat them, and I was trying to get the dishes done while they played.)

I love how simple this activity is, but how entertained it kept them!  Typically their play dough play is simply with dough and cutters, or possibly different toy animals or cars to make footprints/tracks.  Adding the leaves and seeds aspect was new and exciting for the kids and they loved it!  I think I want to do something similar in December perhaps with buttons they could use to decorate play dough Christmas trees…. hmmm… my wheels are turning!  😉

What do your kids like to do with their play dough?  Do you have a favorite recipe?