Create Your Own… Recycled Christmas Tree

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Looking for a super fun, EASY, throw-it-together-in-two-minutes project for your kids that involves STEAM?  Check out this fun little engineering activity I did with Becca this morning!  She had to miss “school” (Mother’s Day Out) today because we are all sick, but I promised her something fun.  She agreed that this project delivered on that promise.  And seriously, ya’ll… it was SUPER easy.

recycled christmas tree

All you’ll need are some cups (any kind of cups would work, but we happened to have green and yellow solo cups, so we had a green tree with a yellow star on top!), some straws, some fruit pouch lids (or any sort of recycled lids you can use), and some masking tape!  Our lovely Christmas tree is now in our foyer on our entry table next to our nativity set – she said we should put it there so Baby Jesus could see it.

This project was great for her problem solving skills – we had to use a lot of tape to make sure the cups wouldn’t fall, and she was upset that our first design didn’t look much like a tree, so we re-built it and she was much more satisfied with it’s shape the second time.  We spent about twenty minutes working on this together.  It was the perfect easy time killer, and lots of giggles were included!  She can’t wait for Daddy to get home from work so she can show him our “masterpiece!”

Looking for more Christmas activity ideas?  Check out my post here for little “busy bag” activities you can put together to keep even your toddlers busy!

Looking for more STEAM and Engineering activity ideas?  Check out my STEAM and Engineering pages!

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!

 

Calendar Art… It’s Time!!

art

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you already know about the Christmas gift of the century that Becca and I created last year for her Pappy, PawPaw, and Daddy.  I nearly killed myself trying to get it all done in time.  So I decided to blog about it starting back in January, and start working on the art work – and give you ideas so that you could create your own calendars with your kids.  If you didn’t see the original post, it’s here.

Maybe you’ve been working on your amazing artwork all year right along with us, or maybe you’re just now getting started.  The beautiful thing is, it’s still August.  YOU HAVE TIME.  If you haven’t started yet, TODAY is the day!  It’s TIME!!  If you’ve got your artwork ready, and you’re just waiting for the calendar printout I promised, it’s HERE!  Click HERE to download your FREE 2016 printable calendar ready to print out and stick in those calendars.  free calendar 2016

In a couple of weeks I’ll sit down and get to the nitty gritty of actually how I put them together.  Because you’ll want to know the lessons I learned from my mistakes, I’m sure. 🙂

My challenge for myself this year has been that I did a bunch of art with Becca early in the year, and I just flat out haven’t been brave with Grayson really yet.  So in the next few weeks, I’m going to bring out some of our favorite art painting techniques and let Grayson try them!  So for those of you with Baby Bees, you’re about to see this mama get really brave… It’s Toddler Painting Time in the Hinnant House!  My goal is to have enough artwork to make every third month a collage of Grayson’s art.  Next year we’ll start in January with both of them and do every other month in the calendar as work from each child.  This year Becca will be a lot more involved in making the collages, too.  I’m really excited about starting on them – I’ve gotten a few of them started with her over the course of time, but haven’t fully finished any of them.  This is such a fun project, and I’m excited about planning an art time into our “school” day each day – for both kids.

Here are links to some of our favorite “Fun with Art” ideas that we’ll be revisiting in the next few weeks with Grayson:
Painting With Cars
Kitchen Brush Flowers
An Invitation to Scrape

Plus check back here next Friday for a super fun idea for Toddler Bees AND Big Butterflies that uses those millions of toilet paper rolls you throw away every week!!

Wonderful Wednesday

Normally on Wednesdays, I post the funny or cute little things Becca has said. This week, I wanted to share a conversation we had this past weekend that warmed my heart. The perfect conversation to share the day before we celebrate our Savior’s birth.

When headed back to our car at the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning, we encountered several nice folks who commented to Becca on how cute she looked. She’d grin and say “Merry Christmas” to each of them. She did look especially adorable in her bouncy ponytail and her big puffy burgundy pink coat and brightly flashing pink and white Minnie Mouse tennis shoes.

But as we turned a corner, I saw someone we couldn’t just walk by. He was an older gentleman, with a long scruffy white beard. His belly had the rounded sagginess of hunger, not of too many Christmas cookies consumed. He was far from Santa Claus, but had his life gone differently, he could have been Santa for the company Christmas party, or for his grandkids. No, instead this old guy was sitting on the metal chair on the outskirts of the band in his floppy dirty shorts and a long sleeved tshirt with holes. His shoes had seen many long hours of walking, and his prosthetic leg was well worn and beaten. He looked desperately cold, as the wind whipped between the buildings and the leaves swirled around him.

We couldn’t just walk right by him. My heart immediately ached for him. He wasn’t begging, just sitting in the chair listening to the music. I looked in our bag, surveying the goods we’d just received, and I stopped Becca. I told her- “You see that man sitting over there? We’re gonna give him some of our cherry tomatoes.” She perked up and said, “Can I give them to him?” I told her, “No, I’ll hand them to him. You hold my hand still, ok? He’s a stranger, so let Mommy talk to him.” She said, “ok.” And we walked up.

I said, “Sir, we’d like to give you a couple of these fresh juicy tomatoes we just bought, if you’d like to have them.” He replied, “oh thank you very much, ma’am!” And took off his partially intact glove to reveal a horribly unmanicured hand. I placed the three largest cherry tomatoes in his hand and said, “Merry Christmas!” He smiled, his teeth telling another sad story of a life gone terribly wrong, and he said, “Thank you, ma’am! Merry Christmas.”

As we walked toward our car, Becca was silent for a couple of long minutes. I said, “That man probably hadn’t had fresh healthy vegetables like that in a long time. I’m glad we could share some of our tomatoes with him.” She was quiet. Then she spoke. “Mommy, that man doesn’t have a coat. I think he’s probly very cold.” “Yes baby, he probably is.” “We don’t have a coat we can give him, do we?” “No, baby, we don’t.” We got into the car, and she was very quiet.

She has recently started understanding something of the concept that God keeps us in his hands, because she frequently will say things like what she said as we drove away: “God will hold him and keep him warm, right, Mommy?” “Yes, sweetheart, I’m sure He will.”

Long minutes and several Christmas songs on the stereo passed before she spoke again. “I hope he likes tomatoes. They are too squirty for me.”

There’s my girl. Always thinking. Sometimes hours or even days later still reflecting on the same topic. I feel sure we haven’t heard the last of her thoughts about the would-be Santa and those three squirty tomatoes.

God bless her sweet little heart for caring so much. As a mom, it makes my heart so warm and fuzzy inside. May we as parents never hesitate to take those moments to teach our children by our actions how to care for God’s creatures- big and small. This Christmas, I’ll be thinking about that man, and praying that God brings someone his way who can give him some better clothes, and that as Becca said, God will hold him close and keep him warm.

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My girl with her sweet kitty cat, Toodles.

Candy Cane Science Experiment

When I was teaching, I remember one of my coworkers who taught 3rd grade doing this super fun experiment with her kids the day before Christmas break each year, and I thought I’d pull it out for Becca.  We had a blast together.

 

Here’s what you’ll need:
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4 clear plastic cups
Sharpee marker
3 cups HOT water (I microwaved for 2 mins)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup vinegar
4 small candy canes
Paper to record your findings

As you can see, I labeled our cups, and drew a line where I had figured out 1 cup would be – so they’d all be equal.  We poured our hot water into the three water cups, and stirred to dissolve the salt and the baking soda.  Added our vinegar to the vinegar cup, then Becca did a quick taste of each candy cane to ensure authenticity and uniformity in our experiment.  She said they were all real. 😉  Then, we dropped one in each cup and began to observe.

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Here’s what we found… see what you find!  This would be really fun to do with red and white candy canes, and then do another set with candy canes of different colors to see how different colors react.

Initial observations:
Water had the most bubbles instantly.
Baking Soda Water turned the pink the fastest and left no red on the candy cane within one minute.
The vinegar had a definite divide between the pink liquid and clear liquid – the pink didn’t float up past the top of the candy cane.
The salt water seemed to have the most pink dispersed throughout the cup.IMG_1579

Ten minutes later:
The candy cane in the water was totally gone.
The candy cane in the baking soda was totally gone.
The candy cane in the salt water was mostly gone – Becca predicted it’d be all gone in 4 minutes (she was right!)
The candy cane in the vinegar was just a thin white piece – she predicted it’d be all gone in 6 minutes (she was right!)

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Two hours later:
All cups have a higher concentration of pink at the bottom than at the top, but the baking soda and plain water have some pink throughout.  The salt water has pink settled only at the bottom, and the vinegar has pink only at the bottom.