The Gift of Giving

It’s something all parents (I’d hope, anyway) want their kids to be able to do – to give.  To give of themselves, to give things they love, to give to people they love, and to give to people they’ve never even met.  But how do you start teaching and nurturing that gift in your child?  And when?  I think the answer to when, and maybe even how, varies by child.  But here’s what I did with Becca this year that seems to have started planting the seed.

She’s super into money – sorting coins is really fun for her.  She doesn’t really understand or remember the values of the coins, but she understands the concept of what it’s for, and that it all adds up to equal stuff purchased at the store.  Before she was born, we were given a large piggy bank for her, and over time, the coins (and a few stray $1 bills) have added up.  We dump loose change into her piggy bank (and now her brother’s as well) randomly.  So, I got out her coin sorting tray one day, and we dumped her piggy bank contents out on the floor.  She was super excited to help me sort, and decided she would find all the pennies, and leave the silver ones for Mommy.  That’s fine.  We had fun with the activity, and it was great fine motor practice for her too – picking up and sorting through all those coins.

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Then, we sat down and made a list of all the people she would like to buy a gift for for Christmas.  She thought of most of the people on her own, though she did have prompting for a couple of them.

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The next day, we went to Dollar Tree on a mission.  She had her list in hand, and we talked very seriously before we got out of the car about what the expectations were for this trip.  We weren’t there to buy things for her.  We were there to buy specifically for the people on her list.  She had a bag of quarters (and a few $1 bills) to cover her gifts and the tax.  We also took three extra dollars just in case she thought of someone last minute, and also so that she would have to count out the money to the cashier.

She did a fabulous job.  She got a bit “grabby” a couple of times, and I had to remind her to allow ME to take the items off the shelf for her.  But I was super impressed with her thoughtfulness.  She’s a very deep thinker anyway, so it was the perfect place for her to stop and think about what each person on her list would enjoy.  A game for a friend, a craft for another, a candle for one family member, an airplane puzzle for another.  A sudoku book, a little stuffed animal, she had a thoughtful reason for each and every gift she selected.  And then we got to the checkout, and she was so proud to tell the cashier she was spending HER money to buy gifts.  We had the bag of quarters pre-counted, so I handed the cashier the bag and said “This is $7.  She’ll count the rest of it for you.”  We had practiced at home, so she knew to start with $8 in her counting.  She counted out the $1’s and I handed each $1 to the cashier as she counted it.  She was excited that she got to keep some, too.  (I hadn’t told her I brought extra.)IMG_0454

Here she is opening her bag to get her $1 bills out to count them.

She was SO proud of her receipt showing she had bought presents with her very own money.

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When it came time to wrap, I had her help me wrap the presents that were going to my family in Tulsa for Thanksgiving.  I’ll be perfectly honest and say that having her help wrap was very stressful for both of us.  She did enjoy having me help her write on the little labels, and sticking them on the packages.  She was so happy on Thanksgiving (“Thanksmas”) morning to get to give her gifts to Granny, PawPaw, and Daddy!

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Since we learned from the first wrapping experience, I decided to do something totally different for the rest of her gifts.  The two for friends, we put in gift bags.  The gifts for family, I wrapped (while she watched) in brown paper, and then she used wet chalks to decorate the boxes.  I helped her write who they were to and her name, and then we put them under our tree.  She is so excited about having her gifts for family under the tree!!  And I know she’ll be really excited about giving them as well.  IMG_1525IMG_1526

There is nothing like seeing the excitement on your child’s face as she eagerly anticipates Christmas morning… but there’s really nothing in the world like knowing that a lot of that excitement is about GIVING her gifts that she bought.  Because THAT is what Christmas is all about – remembering God’s Gift to us, and giving our gifts to others.

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Christmas Tree Busy Bag

This is probably one of the most basic projects, with the most open-ended results, and tons of fun!

What you’ll need:
Felt in lots of colors, mainly scraps – but one large green piece.
A Ziploc bag for storage

Simply cut out a tree shape, and then cut your scraps in random other shapes to make the ornaments for the tree… sit back, and let your child decorate!  It’s really that simple!  I made this bag last year as a craft at our MOPS group, and was so excited to pull it out of the Christmas box for Becca this year – she is LOVING it!

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Christmas Treasure Box

Back in August in my post, Buried Treasure, I had made a little storage container of beans, and hidden pom poms.  She enjoyed that activity for a while, and then I recycled the beans over to her sensory table for our big Thanksgiving activity… but the idea is BACK… for Christmas!

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I was grocery shopping and on the dry goods aisle, I saw a bag of split peas, and there the idea was born. I grabbed that $0.88 bag, a $0.64 bag of rice, and I was done!  I already had at home the other items needed for this box.

Here’s what I used:
1 bag split peas
1 bag rice
Mint extract (b/c it’s what I had, you could use essential oil)
Vinegar
Red food coloring (it pretty much took the whole tiny squeeze bottle for it to not look pink, so be prepared)
A large Ziploc bag
Wax paper
A large Ziploc storage box
Treasure, a scoop, and a bowl

So to make the rice red, you’ll dump your bag of rice into your big Ziploc bag (I used a gallon storage bag), add 2 Tbsp vinegar, and then lots of red.  I think I ended up counting like 45 drops before I got it really red.  The gel food coloring supposedly works better – I haven’t tried it b/c I just always use what I have.  Thinking I’ll buy some next time.  Then, if you’d like, add a few drops of your Mint scent – you could use Essential Oils if you have them, or if you happen to have Mint extract on hand from cooking, that will work too – that’s what I used.  Shake it all up really good, and spread it out on wax paper to dry.  Once it’s really, really dry (give it several hours), you can combine the peas and the red rice in the storage box.  Then I had some little shatter proof ornaments ($1) and some cookie cutters I put in the box to be her “treasure.”  She has LOVED hiding the items under the peas and rice and then digging them out.  We even tried a candy cane ornament from the tree, as well as a bracelet.  The possibilities for treasure are endless!

The best part about this activity was it’s cost and how quickly it all came together once the rice was dry – on a day we had a ton of other stuff going on, no less!  And she loves it!  SCORE!

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2014 Advent Activities

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Well, it’s finally here.  My advent activities post.  I know some of you were really hoping to see this last week so you’d have more time to prep.  So I apologize for the delay… but sometimes you just gotta prioritize… and sleep is really important for this mama!  HA!

I’m super excited for these activities – and I really appreciate the advice that my dear hubby gave me – to not over-do my planning because I don’t want to wear myself out.  So, instead of doing a service activity every single day, I included some of our family activities that we were already planning, as well as some super simple things that will take just a few minutes to do so that I avoid burnout.  Here are the activities we’ll be doing (though they are randomized on this list since some folks will read this who will be recipients of our projects, and we don’t want them to know what day to expect our good cheer)… feel free to “steal” any of these ideas for your own kiddos!

Advent Ideas
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1st – Make and deliver two snowman neighbor gifts (UPDATE: link now corrected, sorry!).  (This we actually ARE doing on the 1st because you want to get this started EARLY in the month – click the link to get all the info, FREE printables, etc do do this yourself!!)
Make a pretty snow picture for our babysitters.
Bake breads to give to people.
Make a Christmas card for the mailman.
Read “A Letter to Santa” and write a Letter to Santa! (USPS Santa Letter Info here)
Bake cookies to share. (Daddy’s work, cookie exchange, and other friends)
Go to Target and select one new toy for the toy run.
Participate in the Christmas PJ Toy Run.
Read a Christmas book.
See what happens when we put candy canes in water.
Build a Gingerbread house.
Kid’s Christmas party for Daddy’s work!
Make a special Christmas card and mail to Grandma and Grandpa.
Make a music video singing a Christmas carol and send to Mamie and Pappy and Granny and PawPaw.
Help make cards/stuff baskets of food for hungry families with our MOPS friends.
 Make a Christmas card for her MOPS teacher
Deliver Christmas presents at MOPS!
Go visit Santa (as a whole family).
Make a bird feeder and put out for the birds. (Some great bird feeder ideas here)
Sing Christmas carols as loud as you can!
Take donuts to the nurses at the hospital.
Bake gingerbread men and decorate!
Go to Sea World and play in the snow!
Take breads and cookies out to the farm.
25th – MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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Obviously, you can chose any way to get the point across of what activity you’ll do when.  You can write activities on popsicle sticks and draw them out randomly.  You can use toilet paper rollers to do all kinds of super cute things (like I originally intended to do – check out my numerous pins here – but it takes a long time to collect 25 toilet paper rollers!!)  Or, you can do what I ended up doing – and put each paper slip in an envelope.  I had these kraft round labels already, so I went on the Avery website and designed some simple labels (Click HERE to download your FREE copy of these December labels! – print on Avery product number 22808, or print on plain paper and cut with a paper cutter in whatever shape you prefer).  I use PicMonkey regularly, and used their designs to create my slips.  Then I simply covered clothespins with Washi tape I already had to make a pattern.  I removed our artwork from our art wall and used the same wire to hang up the envelopes, and then simply placed a December calendar (artwork I also created on PicMonkey, free download available below) inside our frame where the Picasso quote normally hangs.  So when we pull from the envelope, we will also use a dry erase marker to mark off the date on the calendar – part of our math calendar time daily activity.
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