I’m Baaaack!!

So guess what, y’all? I’m back! Not long before I quit writing last year, we found out we were… SURPRISE!!!!… pregnant!  And then last fall, I got back into the classroom at a fabulous private preschool in San Antonio – teaching three days a week as an assistant to a simply amazing teacher who has become a great friend as well as coworker.  I absolutely LOVE teaching Pre-K, and look forward to getting back to teaching this summer for a few days of summer camp, and then to diving back in in the fall.  So anyway, on February 2nd, Mirielle (a French name that means miraculous, because, she really is, ya know?) was born… and the rest of her story is yet to be written!  I’m sure God has an amazing plan for her life!

Now, I’m starting a new adventure in my life – not only being a mom of THREE, but also I have now set a new path for my career! My master’s degree is in curriculum development, and I have long loved creating products for my own classroom, so I figured my maternity leave would be a great time to join the wonderful set of teachers on the fabulous website – Teachers Pay Teachers.

The very first free product I’m offering is a cute little book I’ve titled, “My Colors.”  It’s rainbow inspired for the spring, and was created specifically with Gray in mind, because he really wants to learn how to read, and since he knows his rainbow colors, I thought a simple little reader might help him pick up the color words as sight words.  Instead of merely creating a book on plain paper, we did a super fun art project to tie it all together, and then because Sis wanted to get involved, she colored her own copy of the book for me to use to show y’all as a sample!

Here’s the link to get your free download of the book.  Directions on how to put it together can be found below.

And here’s how we did the art!  Y’all, it’s so simple, it’s like falling off of a log!  I put some rainbow paint colors in an old egg carton, and made stampers from folded paper towels and clothes pins.  First, I had Gray do the craft part – the specific stamping of the colors in order – one purple spot in the middle, surrounded by blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.  I showed him on my plate how to do it, first.  Then, I let him loose and let him just create art!  He used the sponges, his hands, and even asked for a paint brush!  I love that he was exploring with the textures, and we talked about how each material he used made different marks on the plates.  We had such great discussions, and he was happily occupied for a good 45 minutes!  (Total mom score!!  Right??)  (Sidenote – did you notice how I called this activity both a craft AND art?  Check out my post here about the difference between process art and crafts...)

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We’ll be using the other plates he painted as book covers, too… be sure to check my Teachers Pay Teachers page soon for more free downloads, and for other fun book ideas using the covers we made!

How to Assemble Your Books:
To put any of these books together, you’ll want to first make sure your plate is thoroughly  dry, then fold it in half, and cut.  If you’ve done the rainbow circle, it magically becomes a rainbow!  You can simply add a cloud and it becomes much like this craft from Fantastic Fun and Learning.  Or, keep going and turn it into a book cover!  Take your colored “My Colors” book, and cut it in half.  Then, placing the bottom left corner of the book pages in line with the bottom left corner of your rainbow plate, cut around the top to make the arch.  Make sure the pages are all in rainbow color order, and then staple in the bottom left corner.  Use a sharpie to write your title and name, and then enjoy reading your book over and over!

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Thank you for checking out this post!  If it’s your first time to visit, welcome!  I share lots more on Facebook, so be sure to click on over and “like” my page.  I’d also love for you to follow my Teachers Pay Teachers page – as I’ll be adding lots of files in the coming weeks and months!  I love teaching preschool, and I love that now I get to share with y’all the fun things I’m creating!  I’ll also be throwing a few older kid downloads out there as well, when I make little things for Sis!  So you won’t want to miss anything – I won’t always do a blog post for every file.  If you have something you’d love to see me create, or a topic you’d love to see covered here on the blog, please be sure and let me know!  Just shoot me an email any time – I’d love to hear from you! 

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.

 

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!

Snap-a-Day Advent Photo Challenge

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Last year I stumbled upon a photo challenge for advent, and I jumped in!  I looked up Bible verses to go with each one, wrote them on index cards, and put them in cute envelopes to be opened by Becca each night before bed.

This year, I’ve teamed up with that blogger- the one who does the photo challenge each year- and Allison Gringas and I are happy to bring you the Snap-a-Day Advent Challenge- now with FREE printable Bible verse cards for each day! 

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Simply share your photos daily on IG with #SnapAdvent and tag Allison @reconciledtoyou, and me @cdhinnant!  This printable makes it quick and easy for you to do a Bible verse with your child nightly, and combine it with the fun of a photo challenge!  You don’t even have to look up the verses- they are typed on each card for you in the NIV version (sample shown below).

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We are so excited to offer this to you FREE, and pray that it will bless your family.  Just print on any printer, cut, and enjoy!  Please do tag us both on your photos so we know that you’re benefiting from this printable!  God bless, and may you have an amazing Advent season as we prepare for Christ’s birth!