Christmas Activities

I debated about how to do this post – if I should put everything separate so it doesn’t seem overwhelming, or just put it all together.  I decided it’s easier to reference later if it’s all together… and honestly, if I wait on some things until later, you have less time to do them with your kids!  So… get ready.  I’m about to bombard you with a bunch of fun ideas – the first several will be great for even your little toddlers, and the rest will be geared toward your older kiddos.

Many of these activities I have stored in little plastic bags and all inside a storage box (in fact, the same box that once held our Apple Activities).  But a couple of them are ready at the window any time one of the kids wants them.  The great thing about the activities in the box is that while Becca is working on her activities, she can select something from the box for Gray to do, to appease his desire to do what she is doing.  She can also interact with him on his activities, and I love watching the tender moments they share (which usually come right before a snatch-grab-cry-scream fest HA!) together when working on a project.  If you have a toddler and an older child, you know how hard it is to find something they can both do either together, or to keep the little one occupied while the older one does something different.  This box of activities seems to be my best effort yet in this department.. and is about 80% effective!   So, here we go!  Let me know if you try any of these with your kids!  I’d love to see you share pictures on my Facebook page, as well!

sticky window

The Christmas Tree Sticky Window is super simple to make – just draw a Christmas tree onto a piece of clear contact paper, and then attach it to your window with tape – so that the sticky side is out.   Then, cut various shapes out of felt or other fabric (so that they won’t adhere permanently) and let your kids decorate the tree over and over again!  While Becca enjoyed this activity at first, this is definitely a Grayson favorite.  He LOVES standing at the window and moving the shapes around.  Of course, he also loves to carry the shapes all over the house and leave them random places…

shape identification

This felt Christmas tree was a busy bag I made a few years ago at a MOPS meeting – simply by cutting shapes from various colors of felt.  It’s a great activity for the kids to do together – Becca loves to tell Gray the names of the shapes and their colors.  She likes to make patterns of ornaments – he likes to throw them in the air and watch them rain down around him.  Either way, they are happily occupied.

writing coloring

In an effort to provide activity for Gray AND Becca in the same box, I have a couple of Christmas coloring books and some blank paper that either of them can enjoy, but I also have magnetic Christmas words that Becca can spell, and then write in her bare book (I found a bunch of them in the Target dollar section at one point this summer!).  She also has two rhyming word wheels that she can practice with and write the rhyming words in her book.  Gray loves that he’s “writing” with crayons while Sis is writing too.  He feels so big and important, and it shows!  We just have to watch that he doesn’t run around with a crayon sticking out of his mouth… he has that tendency.

geo shapes

We have some really fun building materials – you could use anything you have laying around – Legos, Duplos (for your little hands), building blocks, marble runs, whatever you  have.  Challenge your little ones to build a Christmas tree out of the supplies provided!!  Looking for more STEAM Engineering ideas?  Click Here!

reading retelling

We have a play Peanuts nativity set (affiliate link – thank you!) available on our low window sill for Becca to retell the Christmas story anytime she’d like.  Gray also enjoys playing with the characters, and he loves to sit and listen to her act out the story.  I also provided in her Christmas activity box Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends (affiliate links – thank you!) books – along with a tiny stuffed ginger baby that she can read the books to, and then use to re-inact the stories.

christmas treeNot an activity for Brother, Becca LOVES making Christmas trees of various designs using green popsicle sticks, red buttons, white pom poms, and one gold one for the star on top.  She has come up with some of the coolest, and also weirdest designs.  Some look like trees, and some, well… don’t.  But she is having a blast, it’s a great sensory activity for her that really allows her imagination and creativity to go wild.

fine motor

Becca struggles with some simple things like getting dressed, and in order to strengthen her hands and fingers to work on those little things like putting on socks and shoes, I try to find lots of fine motor skill practice activities for her.  I had some green colored pasta leftover from one of our habitat boxes, and also have some little Christmas jewelry pieces that I put in some little containers and let her string onto pipe cleaners to make bracelets and necklaces.  She LOVES it, and it’s great practice.  I even made an extension to this that stays in her room for holiday play – mini ball ornaments that she can string onto pipe cleaners.  It’s fabulous for her, and I’ve seen just in the past couple of weeks her fine motor skills making some great improvements!

star math

I programmed several index cards with a variety of patterns and addition/subtraction/multiplication story problems, and had her use these little star cards to solve them.  She even said “I wish all math was fun like this!”  So we’ve started using the star cards for other kinds of math too.  You could use anything you have around the house – scraps of paper, fabric, cut pipe cleaners, Legos, Duplos, crayons, etc.  Hands down, using manipulatives makes math more fun!  (And Mr. Gingerbaby even got involved in the math, too!)

more math

Becca has always struggled with seeing the importance behind having any numbers beyond 20.  She can count to 100 now with ease, but just really doesn’t see the point.  But she does love a good challenge, so I cut some 100s grids into lots of funny pieces, and she really enjoys putting them together.  I also took her sensory box from last Christmas and stepped it up a notch.  She loves playing with it with her balance.  She has discovered that the shiny and matte ornaments do not weigh the same as each other.  She has weighed the cookie cutters that are also in the box, and loves to scoop and pour the rice/split peas into and out of the balance.  She gets so excited when she makes them equal, and loves trying new combinations to see how much she needs to equalize if one side has more ornaments, etc.  I love seeing her creativity come out in this simple hands-on sensory activity, and I love to see her enjoying math.  She’s measuring with her measuring cup each time, and getting better at recognizing the values, etc.  Seeing her enjoy math is so good for me – I’m not a fan of math at all… so I try hard to make it really enjoyable for her so that she will love it.

What Christmas activities do you have going on in your house?  We are also doing daily advent activities, reading lots of Christmas books, and watching lots of special Christmas shows.  I’m hoping we can get out to look at Christmas lights sometime soon as well.  It can be such a crazy time of the year, but when we remember to stop and focus on the Reason for the season, it is all worth while.

May God richly bless you and yours this Christmas!  I look forward to hearing from you on Facebook, and I look forward to starting the new year with some new resolutions and some new post ideas!!  Do you have something you’d like to see me post here on my blog?  Send me an email!  I’d love to hear from you!


Apple Activity Box

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably remember the really fun activity centers I made for Becca last fall using our water table.  I brought it in from our summer play on the back porch, and she really had a blast… and I was super proud of all I came up with for her to do!  Fast forward a year, and lil Bro is into EVERYTHING… even things he’s not ready to do yet.  So, I found a way to re-make her apple activity center into a box that can easily be packed up and kept out of reach of Grayson’s little grabby hands!

apple box 2

You can find boxes like this one at your local craft store in the scrapbooking section – they are 13×13 and are fabulous!!!  I used scotch tape to stick the index cards on so they can easily be removed and the next seasonal activity center can go in their places.

Here are the skills that I included:
Math – apple patterning / apple adding & subtracting / measuring
Reading – a book to read and retell / a poem to read and recite
Writing – magnetic words to build / a blank book to write them in
Art – markers to make illustrations in the book and on the poem cards
Science – non-fiction book to read
Hand-Eye-Coordination/Fine Motor/Engineering – create an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons

apple box 1

Here are the direction cards, which guide play but certainly don’t limit it – she has gone way outside the box of just following these cards, though the lil OCD in her followed each card in order to some extent before moving on to do her own thing.  I also included with each instruction the list of items your child will need to complete the activity.  Some require prep, some don’t.

apple writing1. Write and illustrate a book about apples using the words on your magnets.
–>I got packs of 3 blank books for $1 at Target before school started!  Score. You could make your own just by folding paper together and stapling.  You’ll also need to write a few fall words on index cards, cut out, and stick magnet tape on the back.

2. Practice saying the poem without looking. (Recite from memory).
–>You’ll need to write the poem on index cards.  I got it online – original source unknown.  Here are the words:
—->card 1: Apples are so good to eat,
—->card 2: To have them is a special treat.
—->card 3: Red, green, yellow too,
—->card 4: All of them are good for you!

3. Draw pictures on the poem cards to illustrate what the words say.
–>Provide markers or crayons for illustrations

apple pattern4. Make an apple pattern. / Add the apples: green apples + red apples = how many apples all together?  (We extended this and did subtraction and multiplication as well – we have 2 groups of 5 apples.)
–>I got these little apples at Dollar Tree.  You could easily use buttons or gems or place apple stickers on index cards and cut out.  As long as there are at least red and green so that your child can make patterns, you’re good!

apple buttons5. Make an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons.  How many buttons did you use?  How many are left over?
–>You’ll need a bunch of random red, green, and/or yellow buttons, and some popsicle sticks.  I had green popsicle sticks, so we used those.  Any color will work.  You can really extend this by having your child pattern with the buttons, sort by size, add, subtract, make even groups for multiplication, etc.

6. Read the book “Apples” by Ken Robbins.  Retell to a grownup.
–>Any non-fiction book about apples will work.  This one fit well into the box I had.  I selected a non-fiction book to add in a science aspect to the box, but you could easily do a fiction book.  In my apple center last year, we had Ten Apples Up On Top and did a block activity with it.  You could easily have your child use the buttons to put ten apples on top of the book characters, or some such.  Use what you have, and you know your child – if your child won’t be “into” a non-fiction text, use what they will love!

apple word build7. Build the fall words on your magnet tray!
–>This activity is totally a repeat from last year’s apple center, because it’s just so fun and it’s always great to practice spelling!  I didn’t want to buy a bunch of magnetic letters, so I just wrote the words on index cards, cut out the letters, and put magnet tape on the back!  Super simple and cheap!  And obviously, you can save them from year to year to use again!  You’ll also need some sort of magnetic tray – I got this pizza pan from Dollar Tree and she uses it for all of her magnetic activities, including building sandcastles, which she loves.

apple measure8. How many cups of apple “tea” mix?  Find and bury treasure!
–>Again a repeated material from last year’s apple center, I simply took a bag of green decorative fish tank rocks from Dollar Tree and added some Black Apple Tea leaves to it to make it smell like apples.  We didn’t know that she has Anosmia back then… (Anosmia = no sense of smell.)  To extend this activity this year, I took the rock/tea mix and put into a small container and provided her with measuring cups to measure with, and a couple of fall shaped mini cookie cutters to bury and then dig around for.  She loves digging in the rocks, and will bury and find and rebury and find the cookie cutters over and over again.

This apple activity box has already brought us HOURS of fun, and I just created it this week.  It’s sure to be a hit well into early October, when I plan to take them out and convert the box to a pumpkin activity for Halloween/Thanksgiving!  I hope you enjoy the ideas… I’d love to know how you put them to use with your kids!  Please share!  If you’re not following my Facebook page, please be sure to click over and “like” the page and then share your photos and ideas anytime! 🙂

Math – Made Fun with Food Pouch Lids!

steam activities headerWelcome to another STEAM Thursday!  Not sure what STEAM is?  Check out my STEAM page here, and peruse through all of my previous STEAM posts!  Today’s topic is Math – specifically adding, subtracting, counting by 2s and 10s, geometry, and patterning.  But, as usual, we have also squeezed some engineering in too… we seem to find a way to do that with everything these days!

food pouch lids

Last fall, I shared some ideas for what to do with all those extra food pouch lids you might have sitting around your house… and today I wanted to expound on those ideas a bit.  I briefly mentioned making patterns in my previous post, but Becca has been interested in making more complex patterns, so today we tried a really hard one – peach, pink, pink, pink, peach, peach, pink, pink, pink, peach.  She continued the pattern correctly – pink, pink, pink, peach, peach, pink, pink, pink, pink, peach.  (I didn’t get a picture).

In the process of stacking them up to make the pattern, we ended up building pyramids and cubes as well.  Then we discovered that simply stacking them on top of each other makes a cylinder!

Our main focus, however, was adding and subtracting.  Just like you might use a ten grid to add and subtract with counters, I simply took some scrap paper from our recycle pile and drew ten rectangles on it that we used for our pouch lids.  We started out with basic equations to remind her how the ten grid works (it’s been a while since she’s seen one), but then we got more complex by adding her ten grid to mine to see how many pouch lids we both had combined, or subtracting hers from mine to see how many more I had, or reverse.

I was able to show her the physical ability of the pouch lids to cancel each other out to subtract and find the difference more quickly.

We practiced counting by twos to put the lids into groups of tens, and then counted by tens to see how many lids we have.  We compared the groups to see which color we had more of, and which color had less.  Then we subtracted by canceling out the groups of ten to find out how many more pinks we had than the peaches.

If you saw my post on Monday, you know that Becca considers math “kind of schoolish” and not really “summer fun…” however, she stayed so engaged with this activity that when I said, “So, did you enjoy doing math today?”  She said, “If all math was like that, I’d love it every day!”  HA!  So, now I’m on a mission to make math much more hands on and fun for her!  And you can bet that we’ll be doing a lot more with these food pouch lids in the future!!!

If you have kids who like applesauce (or anything else) in a pouch, SAVE THE LIDS!!!  There are just so many fabulous things you can do with them.  The possibilities are endless!  Please share – what are some ways you reuse your food pouch lids?


Flower Addition

marvelous math header

Whew.  What a crazy busy month it has been!  I’m not really sure how it’s already the end of the month!  When I was a kid, April was the longest month of the year after December… since my birthday is the 30th!  But as an adult, it seems that the month gets shorter and shorter every year!

Because it’s been so crazy around here, my posts this month have been sporadic at best… so I’ve decided to continue my Marvelous Math mini series through the month of May, because I really do have a lot of wonderful ideas to share with you.  I’m not a huge fan of math myself, but Becca certainly is, so I’m learning new ways to make it fun and exciting for her using materials and games that she loves.  Today’s flower addition activity is no exception.  She loved it, and I’m already thinking I need to make her another set of these.

apr 28 addition flowers

This idea was born on a rainy day when we were stuck inside, but looking out at the beautiful colors of the wildflowers around our house as they soaked in the moisture… Becca loves adding and subtracting – we do it all day long with food, toys, couch pillows, etc… but it’s usually with smaller numbers, and because it’s verbal, she doesn’t see it written out on paper.  So this activity combines what she is used to (adding the “flower” pompoms) with the visual aid of seeing the addition process as well as the vertical math problem in written form.

All you need is THIS FREE PRINTABLE (looks best printed in color/works best on card stock- but not required), a bunch of pompoms and glue, and you are set!  I wrote the vertical problems on paper with a marker as we went through and did the activity, and then just cut out around them and taped to the wall next to the sheets.  You wouldn’t have to do that, but I feel like the visual of the vertical math problem is helpful to start making those connections that addition can take on many different formats.

If teaching math isn’t something you’re super familiar with, here’s how I talked Becca through this sheet:

  • First, we only looked at one page at a time (my original idea was to do these on four different days, but she got so excited about it that we ended up doing them all at one sitting!)
  • We would look at the number at the end, and I reminded her the equal sign means total – our total number of flowers will be 10.  SO, let’s figure out how we’re going to make 10.
  • Then we would count the first addend (the first set of flower stems).  Ok, so we need 5 pompoms.  She would pick a color and count them out.  You could mix your colors, but I liked Becca to use all the same color for the set so that she had the visual of them being alike – this will help when we get further down the road in math and start identifying the type of units we are adding.  (If your kids are ready for this topic, you’d of course want both sets to have the same color so that you are adding LIKE objects.)
  • Then we would count the second added and add them, counting up as we went (so the second set of 5, we started counting at 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).  I did glue dots above each flower stem as she counted them and then she would add the pompom to the glue.  Obviously, a good practice of fine motor skills would be to have the child handle the glue, but Becca was frustrated with the glue bottle, and our focus wasn’t on fine motor, but on math, so I did the glue so that she wouldn’t loose her focus in her frustration.
  • Then I would write the vertical math problem – Ok, so 5 flowers + 6 flowers equals 11 flowers.  Note that as I did it, I was already identifying the units verbally – so that she’ll start to get that idea.  She’s just not ready yet for me to explain the concept and make sure that we are adding like units.  Remember that you’re never too early to start planting an idea, they just might not grasp the full concept for a while, and that’s ok!!
    For example, she said the word strawberry sort of slowly yesterday, so I asked her how many parts she hears in that word, and did a teensy lesson on syllables right there while I was fixing her dinner.  Doesn’t mean she’s fully ready to grasp the concept, but it’s been mentioned and is working in her brain.  I’ll bring it up several more times over the course of the next few weeks, and judge when she’s ready for a more in-depth lesson based on her response.  As for the units, I’m waiting to hear her verbally adding something and adding unit names to it.  Yesterday she was adding Duplos and started to get there – she said, “I have three blocks and two and that’s five!”  So she started by naming her units, but isn’t fully there yet.  I encouraged her by repeating and saying, “That’s right, you have three blocks and two blocks, which makes five blocks!  Good adding!”  I’ll know she’s ready to start adding like units when she is regularly verbalizing her units… then we’ll talk about well, ok, so these are red blocks and these are blue blocks.  So you have three red blocks plus two blue blocks equals five blocks total.  Then, we’ll take the next step forward to discuss the concept of comparing apples to oranges.  Remember that it’s easy in our adult minds to make leaps forward that our kids aren’t ready for yet.  The term “baby steps” has been coined for a reason.  Take it slow and be patient… which is the pot calling the kettle black over here… I struggle with patience regularly!!

Need more tips on teaching your kids math, or more fun math activities?  Check out my math page here, and be sure to visit my Facebook page regularly for more tips that I share from other bloggers as well!

Math Clips Addition Matching Game

steam activities header

Our STEAM Subject today is MATH!

There are SO MANY times that I get frustrated.  It’s really hard to be the mother of a gifted child who is VERY asynchronous in her development.  I see all these adorable activities on Pinterest that are age appropriate for her, but they are color matching.  Or they are shape sorting.  And while those activities might be fun and totally appropriate for 98% of her peers, they aren’t appropriate for Becca.  She doesn’t like to do things that are too easy.  The girl wants to be challenged.  A lot.  And that’s fabulous.  But, it does create quite a frustration on my part.  She is super into math.  She wants to add and subtract food from her plate (which we do frequently).  She wants to add and subtract shoes from the shelf (which we also do frequently).  But addition and subtraction activities without manipulatives usually equal a worksheet, which she HATES doing.  And I don’t blame her.  Worksheets remind her that she can’t write yet.  And then she gets frustrated.

So, I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with some ideas for games that are similar to those color matching / shape sorting type activities, that cover the skills she’s ready for.  Enter my

math clips

I had a bunch of little ocean stickers, so mine are ocean themed.  You could do conversation hearts for Valentines day, or stars, or dinosaurs – whatever you have of the little tiny incentive chart stickers.  Note: your child may not need the stickers to count.  Becca doesn’t use them some of the time.  But they make it more age appropriate and fun!  Plus, it’s always good to have that visual reminder of what 8 starfish look like, what 7 turtles look like, etc.  I also put a sticker on the end of the clothespin so that the answers for each card can easily be matched to the correct card if they are all stuck in a large Ziploc bag together.  I did +2 and +3  with answers 5 and above.  But if you have more stickers and use a larger sheet (I just cut one piece of card stock in half lengthwise), you could easily do larger numbers.  Or, you could do much smaller numbers if your child isn’t quite ready for the big answers, and/or is still needing to sit and count each sticker to get to the total.  I love how easily this activity can be modified to fit the needs of the child.  And honestly, wouldn’t this be a fabulously fun activity for 1st graders learning addition as well?

IMG_2395 IMG_2396

Note: clothespins can be very challenging for a child who struggles in the fine motor department.  Becca has had lots of practice and still has trouble – especially since these are on the right side of the paper and she is left-handed.  If your child is struggling with the clips, it helps if you hold the card for them so that all they have to worry about is putting the clip on.  They may also need you to hold their hand to help them squeeze if their pincer grip isn’t very strong.