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!

 

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?

 

Pumpkin/Halloween Center

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A few weeks ago, I posted about play with orange colored rice.  (Here’s that post)  And then a few days after that, I took the purple rice I had, and added lavender essential oil.  I’ve heard that it has calming properties, and thought – what better thing to add to Becca’s rice?  Well, so I added a couple drops too many and the whole house smelled like lavender for two days.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.. just unexpected.  To try and combat the strong lavender scent, I mixed the purple rice with the orange, and then let it sit for about a week or maybe even two before we used it.  Now, it has a nice lavender scent, but isn’t overwhelming.

I love our water table – such versatility.  You can get yours here (aff link).  It works great for centers like this because I can fit several activities on the different layers.

I will give a qualifying statement to this post – like I did on my Apple Theme Center – if you are just starting to do sensory activities with your kids, you might not want to take the time or have the energy to put together an entire theme center.  THAT IS OK!!!  Just pick one or two of these and start there! 🙂

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So here’s the big picture – the overview of everything.  This center has a high emphasis on math and art, where my Apple center was a combination of Language Arts and Math concepts.

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First we’ll look at that sensory rice.  Isn’t it pretty?  And it fit so well in the top of the water table.  I added some fall cookie cutters – they are super fun to sink down and bury in the rice – as well as a variety of sizes of pumpkins that I had collected the past couple of years at Dollar Tree.  She definitely likes the cookie cutters the best.  She likes to hide them and then dig around to try and find them.

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Another fun activity is the pumpkin coloring activity.  We went to Michaels and picked up a white craft pumpkin, and I actually introduced this activity with her BEFORE putting it in the center.  We talked about how this pumpkin is MADE for coloring, and remembered that other pumpkins we have around the house that are decorations were NOT made for coloring.  We also remembered that crayons are only for coloring on paper (and this pumpkin) – not on the table, the couch, the hearth, or any other surface.  So I felt confident that I could put this activity in the pumpkin center and allow her to pull it out and take it anywhere to color, without getting crayon everywhere.  So far, she has done great with it, and will occasionally just go grab it and go to town coloring!  It’s really starting to look cool, and she can definitely take ownership of this and next week, I’ll let her select where she wants to put it to decorate our home!

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I also gave her a little pumpkin ice cube tray that I had bought at Dollar Tree – and I added the numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 to reinforce counting by twos.  My thought was that she could put one little pumpkin in each space, and count them by twos.  She had another idea all together – which reinforces the differences in the way she thinks vs the way I think… and makes me glad I didn’t limit her thinking by telling her what to do with it.  She put two grains of rice in each pumpkin on either side of the two, four by the four, six by the six, and up.  She actually sat there and counted out ten grains of rice two different times to fill up the “10” pumpkins.  Not quite the skill I was hoping to cover, but she kept saying 2,4,6,8,10, so it did end up reinforcing the skill after all.

In addition, I gave her a mesh bag that she could practice putting her pumpkins into (for a gross motor skill of holding a bag open and coordinating the drop to put them in), along with these little black bags for sorting (definitely a much more fine motor skill – these bags are LITTLE).  I got this “fall scatter” (shown below) at Michaels for super cheap.  She had fun sorting them by color and shape, holding them up to the lights to look through them, and of course, making patterns.  (Note: we ended up having to put the acorns away because she kept wanting to pretend she was a squirrel and put the acorns in her mouth, which is of course not safe.  She hasn’t done that with the pumpkins.  Not sure what it was about the acorns – other than her desire to be a squirrel…)

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We also used the cookie cutters, plastic pumpkins, and pumpkin scatter to sort small, medium, and large, and talk about “big, bigger, biggest” and “small, smaller, smallest.”  She informed me that NONE of the pumpkins were big, so it wasn’t correct to use those words about these teeny pumpkins, so then we said they were “teeny, teenier, and teeniest.”  That was super funny, and giggles ensued.