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! 🙂

Nature Photography Art

steam activities header

Today’s Theme: Science, Tech, Art, Math
(yup, 4 for the price of 1… and technically, you could say it’s Engineering too if you use your items collected to build something…!)

With my life as crazy busy as it has been lately, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you that we’ve been doing a lot of super free, unplanned play.  Like watching a lot of Sesame Street.  And Creative Galaxy.  And Super Why.  And building train sets.  And marble runs.  And working puzzles.  And coloring in coloring books and on plain paper.  Ya know, the ordinary, unexciting activities that make up MOST of our normal lives.  Not a whole lot worth blogging about and saying “wow, isn’t this fantastic?  Don’t you want to do this with YOUR kids?”  HA!  But, I know that one of the things my readers comment on the most is how they feel inspired by what I share.  And honestly, that is humbling.  And it helps hold me to a higher standard for my own kids.  And I appreciate that.  Maybe it’s something about turning 31 today (really?  31?  I remember when 30 seemed ancient… and now 50 doesn’t sound that old…), or maybe it’s just because my life has been so crazy that I’ve had to think about hitting the “reset” button on our school time… but for whatever reason, I came up with a super fun, EASY activity to do with Becca this past week that she absolutely loved.  And hopefully your kids will too!  (And hopefully I can come up with some more fun ideas very soon!  Might be time to pull out my Raising Creative Kids book again and snag some more ideas from Colleen!!  Have you gotten her book yet?  OMG.  You need it.  You really do.  The link is on the right hand side of this page… or at the bottom if you’re on a mobile device.  And yes, it’s an affiliate link, so I make some dough from your purchase – THANK YOU!)

Wow.  That might well have been the longest run-on paragraph I’ve ever written here on my blog.  Thank ya’ll for sticking with me through that!  HA!

And now to the nitty gritty – Nature Photography Art!

Becca LOVES to get out in our yard and explore.  We are so blessed to have some amazing land for her to roam around on, and even more blessed that we’re on the edge of Texas Hill Country, so our wildflowers each Spring are just simply incredible.  With zero work on our part.  God just paints our land every single year for us, and we are so blessed!  Cody and I both love to take nature photos – it’s one of the things that we first found that we had in common when we met.  So our kids see us take pictures of flowers and trees and butterflies and random rock formations ALL. THE. TIME.  And Becca often asks me if she can take the picture.  But I hesitate to let her hold my phone outside – especially on a day like the one when we did this activity – because the ground was moist and there are random rocks… ya know, my luck I’d hand her my iPhone 6 Plus and she’d drop it face down into a mud puddle with rocks at the bottom (I know Apple Care is great, but…)!  So I came up with this idea to get her involved, let her take nature photos, and yet do it in a structured environment.

IMG_8425I took this photo in our front yard while we were working on collecting our flowers for this project.  The butterflies were fluttering EVERYWHERE, and the Indian Blankets are just gorgeous!

Here’s what you’ll need to do this activity:
A bucket or basket of some sort
A source of wildflowers, leaves, grass, or rocks
A sheet of white butcher paper
A good lamp
A magnifying glass
A digital camera of some sort that you are willing to let your child use
Optional extension:  A computer with internet for photo editing (I use PicMonkey.com)

So just take your bucket to your source of nature, and collect objects.  It can be ANYTHING.  Any small piece of nature can be a fabulous source for photography.  Keep in mind that live objects such as caterpillars are harder to photograph – especially for kids – because they are a moving target.  So encourage your child to select STILL LIFE objects.  You can explain that still life is a type of art that depicts objects that are alive, but not moving.  Flowers don’t get up and walk away.  Nor do rocks or grass.  So they work great for this project.  Try to pull an entire wildflower plant up – root and all – to examine with your child.  If that’s not possible, no worries, but it certainly extended our conversation GREATLY to have a couple full plants.  We talked about the parts of the plant while out there in the yard, and also again once we got into the house – a fabulous science lesson.  You can totally do this with rocks as well, and get into discussing and sorting the features of the rocks, and create a rock collection box.

Once your basket or bucket is full, head inside and lay out your white butcher paper.  Set up your lamp and grab your magnifying glass and camera – the fun is about to begin!  Start laying out your objects on the paper.  You can talk about their shadows, their colors, examine them close up, and watch the paper closely with your magnifying glass as lots of teeny tiny little bugs will crawl off of the flowers and begin to explore your paper.  This is a fabulous time to talk about the features of the camera with your child – especially how to make it focus.  If your little one has shaky hands and you’re using a phone for your photos, work as a team – you hold the phone, let your little one select where on the screen to focus, and push the shutter button to snap the picture (that’s what we did).

Try laying your objects out in all different ways – you can get as creative as your child wants.  You could spell nature words with your objects, you could spell your child’s name, you could build something with your rocks, or you could just do random grouping nature shots.  Encourage your child to try holding the camera closer to an object and farther away to see the difference in the two shots.  How does the shadow look on the screen?  Can you move your camera to a different location to make the shadow longer or shorter?  Etc.  The possibilities with this activity are ENDLESS.  And totally repeatable!!  Just collect different objects each time, and you can do this activity over and over and over.

If you want to extend the activity further in the tech area and your child is really into it, you can easily upload your photos to your computer and check out www.picmonkey.com (totally not an affiliate link, I just love them so much and use their site for everything!).  Try making a collage of your photos together, or even play around with their favorite photo to make a sign for their bedroom door, an inspirational saying for their bathroom mirror, or add text to several of the photos to create a book that you can print out and stick in a 3 ring binder for them.  You could also do this activity throughout the seasons and use these photos instead of paintings for your 2016 calendar!  You could also add some math to this activity by measuring each flower and sorting them by length!  The possibilities of where you can go with this activity are truly limitless, and think of the OWNERSHIP your child will have in this project – and the fabulous opportunity to do something one on one with your child.  (I know I’m frequently looking for something special I can do with JUST Becca so that she feels special and grown up.  We did this while Grayson was napping.  If your younger child doesn’t nap anymore, you can easily have them go on the hunt with you and collect their own items in a separate basket, then give them white paper as well and let them play with the objects.  They could draw ovals around them with crayons, count their objects, and sort by color, just to give you a few ideas.)

Here are some of the beautiful pieces we came up with together:

apr 30 nature photography art

Jesus Loves Me

rejoice

Becca Door SignI am truly so excited about this activity, and I can’t wait to do it with her again with other objects and different flowers!!  I especially loved her root picture (she wasn’t that fond of it, but she loved examining the roots and playing with the shadows!)  IMG_8446

 

I hope that you will try this activity with your kids, and that you’ll SHARE your results on my Facebook page!!!  I would love to see what you are doing!!!  Check back next week – I’m hoping to get more posts up before then for the start of our next new month!!

Measuring with Duplos

marvelous math header

I’m excited to share that our Tuesday Mini-Series for April is “Marvelous Math!”  We do so many fun math activities that I just never have time to share them all on STEAM Thursdays… so this month every Tuesday will have a different fun math activity!  I definitely have a little math lover growing up under my nose… so I’m learning to really encourage that by doing some fun activities with her!  I hope you’ll enjoy this month of Tuesdays!

Quite a long time ago, I was super super active on Pinterest.  Like an every day, multiple hours a day user.  So I have a vast library of pins (over 4100) that make an awesome resource for me when I’m willing to take the time to sift through and find what I’m looking for.  (That’s why sometimes I just tell you – I know the idea came from someone else, but I just can’t find the source.)  Well, so anyway, a couple weeks ago, I sat down and sifted through my Lego Learning board, where I saw this idea from Anna at The Imagination Tree (I love her blog!).  I stored it away in my brain, and shared it with a dear friend.  So one day when I had very little inspiration to do anything with “school,” I texted Naomi and said “tell me what I should do!!!  I’m lost!”  And she gave me some ideas.  Measuring with Duplos was one of them, and it was perfect for that moment.

So, I whipped up a little worksheet for us to record our findings on, gathered up some items for us to measure, and the activity began!  Becca had so much fun with her Duplo ruler, that she kept wanting to measure more and more!  So, I made another recording sheet – this time to take a longer ruler outside to measure things in our yard.  She LOVED getting outside, and was soon trying to measure all kinds of things that weren’t on our recording sheet.  So, I created another recording sheet for her using more household items found in our kitchen.  And we went to town once again.  I’m telling you, folks, this girl LOVES to measure!  She’ll be ready for a real ruler very soon.

apr 7 measuring with duplos

 

She was so funny about measuring the swing, though.  I purposefully put something on there to measure the width… that I knew was longer than her Duplo ruler.  I wanted to see what she would do.  She got frustrated.  And just told me to record “too many” as to how many Duplos wide the swing is… We have since talked about other things that are longer than her ruler and how to place her finger or another object to mark where the end of the ruler is, and move it to continue counting.  That’s still a concept that is fairly challenging for her.  We’ll continue to work on it!

The best part about all of this?  I’m sharing my recording sheets with you!  Obviously, feel free to record your own, and please share with us in the comments what your kids love to measure!

Click here to download the FREE PDF document with three recording sheets.
Please note – all of the photos used on these recording sheets were just copied over from Google images.

Did you like this activity?  Please pin the photo to your own Pinterest boards, share this post on Facebook, etc!  I do these things with Becca to enhance her learning, but I share them with you to hopefully inspire you and your kids to keep learning!  If it does inspire you, please pass it on and inspire someone else! 🙂