Busy Bees

Y’all, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written.  Because, well, life.  I think I probably have started the last umpteen posts that way, if I’d go back and read them.  But seriously, life.  Three busy kids and assistant teaching two days a week has a way of keeping me busy.  We’re getting set to start building our new house, and finally getting settled into the rhythm of life living in our rent house.  This week is our Spring Break, and I must admit that yesterday threw me for a loop.  I had one fun outing planned for each day this week, but that was it.  I mean, that was IT.  I had nothing else planned.  I didn’t really think about the weather forecast for rain several of our days off, or what that would do to all of our spirits.  So they had done pretty much everything I had thought of for them to do including our outing for the day, and it was only 2pm.  Seriously.  I had pulled out worksheets, given them a craft project to make a Leprechaun trap from recycled materials, everything I could think of… I thought I might lose my mind if they kept asking me for more activities!  Yesterday was ROUGH, y’all.  Because I really don’t want to turn the tv on or let them have their kindles for the whole day… but they did end up with about three hours of screen time.  (Which I’m not proud of, but honestly admitting!)

So this morning I decided to get smart.  I pulled up my Pinterest boards and went through my sensory activity pins.  And I was reminded of all the cool, fun things I used to do before I was too busy to make stuff for my kids.  Or maybe lately I’m just too busy to care… hmm.  Need some self reflection there.  I determined we’d see what we had at home already, and then would grab a few things at Walmart to make our week a little more exciting.  So I’m combining here some things we pulled out and did yesterday, some things we’re doing today, and then some links to some activities we’ll be doing later in the week.

Hopefully these ideas will keep your kiddos busy bees this spring – through rainy days, holidays, and any other “I’m BORED!” moments!  (Although I did hear a great idea recently from an older, more experienced mom – she said if her kids ever say, “I’m BORED!” she gives them a rag and has them clean the baseboards.  BRILLIANT!!! I plan to do that later in the week… maybe we’ll get some spring cleaning done around here, too!)

Activity Ideas

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I wish I remembered where I originally saw this idea.  This one came back to me when I started going through my supply box looking for liquid starch, and there I saw the yellow colander.  This time around, I have two kiddos doing the activity, though, so I got out my good one too.  You can get an inexpensive colander at Dollar Tree or Walmart.  I love that yellow one because it’s fun for art too – you can trace around it to make a huge flower!  lol.  It’s as simple as the picture looks – give your child the colander and a bunch of pipe cleaners, and just see what they do!  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with, and the fine motor practice is phenomenal.
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This one came straight from Crystal Underwood over at Growing A Jeweled Rose.  I already had the pipettes – I ordered a big pack of them a long time ago off of Amazon.  I’m no longer an affiliate with them, but here’s the link just to be helpful!  They had a blast, and it kept them occupied for quite a while!  (I presented them with 6 bowls of colored water (the colors of the rainbow) and then they each got a bowl of vegetable oil – for more info, check out her blog!)
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I’m all about rice sensory tubs – my kids LOVE them.  They both absolutely love the feel of the rice between their fingers, and they beg for rice tubs frequently.  I had a pink, red, and white rice mix set up for Valentine’s Day, so for this one, I just scooped out most of that mix, pulled out the Valentine’s add-ins that were in the tub, and dumped in some older bags I had already mixed of blue, green, and white, and then I colored a little orange and purple just to add more spring color.  Then I hid foam letters that spell Happy, Easter, Becca, Grayson, and Elle.  I made sure to write the words on a card and attach to the box since Gray doesn’t know how to spell.  I also took some old foam egg and bunny stickers I got a couple years ago (also in that supply box with the colander…), peeled the backs off, and stuck them together.  Then I hid the eggs and bunnies and the letters to make a fun treasure hunt of sorts!

More Activity Links To Check Out!

Here are some more links to things we’ll be doing later in the week (I won’t promise a blog post because, well, life!)  And also, if you’re just looking for some fun time fillers, be sure to check out Doodle Art Alley – Samantha is an AMAZING artist and does some brilliant work.  She shares TONS of it for FREE on her website – all of it is there just ready for you to download and print!  I printed off a bunch of stuff today and not only did I color with the Bigs earlier, Becca and I enjoyed Cody joining us this evening after the Littles had gone to bed in coloring bookmarks!  We’ll take them and laminate them later this week and then she can use some, and share some with friends when she goes back to school!

Jell-O Scented Moldable Dough for Sensory Play from Sixty Second Parent

Rainbow Fruit Loop Sensory Bin from Love Play Learn

Liquid Starch Slime from Schooling Active Monkeys

Plus, here’s some stuff we’ve done in the past that is worth revisiting for St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

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We also picked up at Walmart a new super fun Paint by Sticker book – the kids love those!  If your kids haven’t tried them, I highly recommend them for fine motor and numeral recognition practice… and plus they are just downright fun!  Here’s one from Amazon (again, no longer an affiliate, just sharing for your benefit!) that we have and the kids love!

So between all of this and a ton of wonderful books, fun outings planned to a couple of parks, and a plan to hit up Dollar Tree for some window clings, some more stickers, and hopefully an easy crossword puzzle book for Becca… I think we’ll survive the rest of the week, and be better set up for some successfully fun weekends in the future, as well! 🙂

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Well, so if you’re homeschooling, you may not officially have a Spring Break… or if you are public/private schooling, you may have kids who are constantly wanting SOMETHING to keep them busy!  Either way, I’ve got two fun activities for you that kids of all ages could enjoy this week as we prepare for St. Patrick’s Day.

First, if you’ve got kids under age 7, who are working on spelling, reading, or even just recognizing their color words, this super fun and easy craft stick rainbow activity is for you!  I wrote for my kids, but for older kids you could easily practice spelling and handwriting in a small space by having them write the color words on the sticks.  (Or older siblings can write for the younger ones!)

I simply had my kids squeeze glue (working on those fine motor skills!) onto the back of a thick paper plate (to provide a nice solid backing).  Then, lay the labeled craft sticks in order of the rainbow.  (I purchased colored craft sticks at Walmart, but you could also have them color or paint plain sticks.)  Then stretch your cotton balls and glue on top.  Once it is totally dry, you can cut off the excess plate and display your beautiful rainbow!

I wish I could take total credit for this next idea, but I can’t.  I saw on Pinterest somewhere a cute rainbow handprint painted sign… and then I downloaded this FREE set from Teachers Pay Teachers that was created by Lindsey from The Teacher Wife.  The two activities melded together well.

The thing I love about her free printable activity is that it’s very flexible for kids of all ages and stages.  To make my pots, I simply cut black construction paper out around Lindsey’s pot template and then cut out the coins from her template from yellow construction paper.  Becca decided she would draw her picture first, and then tell me what to write about it.  She is the one who picked that it would be a friend theme – the actual writing template says “Who is worth more to you than gold?”  She decided that Gray’s should have his friends, too, so I used the blank pieces from the set and just printed out pictures of him with his friends since he wasn’t interested in drawing them on the paper.  I just asked him who he wanted me to include and he told me.

There are multiple other template options in the set that would work for a variety of different ages.  In fact, the two blank pot pieces I used for Gray’s pictures could also easily be used in comic strip fashion and made into a pot of gold comic book by your older artists who are really dying for an engaging project this week.  I would love to see how you modify this to make it your own!

The rainbow painting was simple – I just pulled out paint, painted each child’s hand for each color, and used legal length paper to fit the most handprints together on one page.

**Note – baby wipes work great to get paint off between each color, and then you can do in-depth soap and water cleaning when you’re all done.  I prefer to use acrylic paints because they dry quickly, but they are prone to staining clothing, so if you prefer, use a washable finger paint or add dish soap to tempera paint before using.

 

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.

Thankfulness and Thanksgiving

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My favorite holiday as a kid growing up wasn’t Christmas.  Maybe that makes me an odd kid.  But for me, it was always Thanksgiving.  The traditions our family had were precious to me, and that ritual was something I came to love, and to long for.  To this day, I don’t even have to close my eyes to be transported back to Grandma’s kitchen the morning of Thanksgiving.  It was the same every year.  Year after year, after year.

It’s those memories that make me want to establish special traditions with our own kids related to Thanksgiving.  Not just about Thanksgiving itself, but about thankfulness.  Thats why when my friend Ashley wrote this post about creating a super cute little fall prayer journal, I jumped on the idea and decided to make a similar one using Becca’s handwriting journals and turn it into a Thankfulness Journal.  (Step by step directions on how I made mine can be found at the bottom of this post.)

I think something kids today really struggle with is entitlement.  With very little to no effort on their parts, stuff just shows up.  And I started realizing recently that our kids have no idea what they have.  They have no idea what half of this city doesn’t have… and that’s where my idea for the Thankfulness Journal was born.  Each day of November, Becca will sit down and think about one THING (NOT a person!) she is thankful for.  She can draw a picture, and we’ll work together on sounding out the words, and writing what she is thankful for.  This is a great activity for your kids to work on handwriting, spelling, and phonics!  In the back half of the journal, we will talk about our family traditions (not just from Thanksgiving) we are thankful for and write and illustrate those, as well.  And to keep myself on the right mental path, I’ve downloaded Ashley’s grown up version of a Thankfulness Journal, which you can get free here!

Another activity we’ll do before Thanksgiving to talk about thankfulness is thinking about all the foods that we eat – not just at Thanksgiving, but also other times.  I will give her food magazines to cut pictures from (fine motor practice!) and she can glue them onto poster paper and work on writing labels for the foods she finds.  I will also challenge her to pick foods that she doesn’t like, that she knows other family members DO like.  Maybe she’ll find a picture of scrambled eggs.  Or a picture of bacon.  Or a picture of (Heaven forbid!) broccoli.  I want to encourage her to think about others, and what our preferences are.  This is a great way to think outside the box… and stop the spread of selfishness!!  She also needs practice thinking about balanced meals, so she can use the pictures to make posters of balanced meals… and pick a few of the foods she’d like to try someday!  (Hey, this Mommy can dream, right??)

img_3421Fall is a fabulous time to get outside and remember the beauty that God has blessed us with on this Earth.  Maybe it’s something as simple as a seed collecting and sorting activity.  Or maybe it’s getting out and doing a photo challenge in nature to find certain small creatures or plants – then print those pictures and place them into a little journal that your child can look back at to remember to thank God for the little things in nature that He has placed in our lives to remind us of his majesty.  Even if you don’t think there is much to explore in your front yard, you’d be amazed what you can find when you get down on all fours and pretend you are a beetle!

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I would challenge you to have your children write thank you notes to their friends who give them treats for Halloween.  Encourage them to list out not just what the friend gave, but WHY they are thankful that child is their friend.  “I love it that you make me laugh.”  “I like how you help me when I can’t tie my shoe.”  “Thank you for always smiling at me and helping me be happy when I’m sad.”  Even if your kids are used to writing thank you notes, I bet they are probably used to saying “thanks for the _xyz toy_.” And that’s it.  Mix it up this November.  Get them thinking about WHY they are thankful for that friendship they have.  Let them use fun stickers and special pens or markers to make those friends feel really special, and to add some fun to what can seem very serious for your kids.

Now is the perfect time to plan what activities you’re going to do this November – to not let Thanksgiving get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas.  It’s a great time to think about what new family traditions you want to start, and to really center your own mind on thankfulness.  We often focus so much on the costumes we’ll wear and the gifts that we’ll buy, or even on the turkey we’ll cook… that the actual purpose of giving thanks is lost.  Hopefully these ideas will help everyone in your family remember to be thankful for the objects, foods, nature, and people around them, because Thanksgiving is so much more than just a day we eat a lot of food and hang out with family to watch a parade and some football.  This year, focus on the things and the people they are thankful for, and WHY they are thankful for them.  Let’s raise a generation that isn’t the ME generation, but the YOU generation… the THANK YOU generation.
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Make your own Thankfulness Journal!

Check out how Ashley made hers here.

I don’t have any Modge Podge, and wanted to cover the book entirely… so I took 4 sheets of scrapbook paper and here’s what I came up with!  You can do the same in just about 5 minutes!

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I also cut pieces to cover the insides so that the print on the front cover was not distracting.  You wouldn’t have to do that – in which case, you would only need 2 sheets of 12×12 paper.front-cover-of-journal


There are more posts in this series!  Check them out here:

Saying Thank You with a Handmade Card

Thankfulness and Thanksgiving – For Your Toddler

Writing About Thankfulness