Thankfulness and Thanksgiving

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My favorite holiday as a kid growing up wasn’t Christmas.  Maybe that makes me an odd kid.  But for me, it was always Thanksgiving.  The traditions our family had were precious to me, and that ritual was something I came to love, and to long for.  To this day, I don’t even have to close my eyes to be transported back to Grandma’s kitchen the morning of Thanksgiving.  It was the same every year.  Year after year, after year.

It’s those memories that make me want to establish special traditions with our own kids related to Thanksgiving.  Not just about Thanksgiving itself, but about thankfulness.  Thats why when my friend Ashley wrote this post about creating a super cute little fall prayer journal, I jumped on the idea and decided to make a similar one using Becca’s handwriting journals and turn it into a Thankfulness Journal.  (Step by step directions on how I made mine can be found at the bottom of this post.)

I think something kids today really struggle with is entitlement.  With very little to no effort on their parts, stuff just shows up.  And I started realizing recently that our kids have no idea what they have.  They have no idea what half of this city doesn’t have… and that’s where my idea for the Thankfulness Journal was born.  Each day of November, Becca will sit down and think about one THING (NOT a person!) she is thankful for.  She can draw a picture, and we’ll work together on sounding out the words, and writing what she is thankful for.  This is a great activity for your kids to work on handwriting, spelling, and phonics!  In the back half of the journal, we will talk about our family traditions (not just from Thanksgiving) we are thankful for and write and illustrate those, as well.  And to keep myself on the right mental path, I’ve downloaded Ashley’s grown up version of a Thankfulness Journal, which you can get free here!

Another activity we’ll do before Thanksgiving to talk about thankfulness is thinking about all the foods that we eat – not just at Thanksgiving, but also other times.  I will give her food magazines to cut pictures from (fine motor practice!) and she can glue them onto poster paper and work on writing labels for the foods she finds.  I will also challenge her to pick foods that she doesn’t like, that she knows other family members DO like.  Maybe she’ll find a picture of scrambled eggs.  Or a picture of bacon.  Or a picture of (Heaven forbid!) broccoli.  I want to encourage her to think about others, and what our preferences are.  This is a great way to think outside the box… and stop the spread of selfishness!!  She also needs practice thinking about balanced meals, so she can use the pictures to make posters of balanced meals… and pick a few of the foods she’d like to try someday!  (Hey, this Mommy can dream, right??)

img_3421Fall is a fabulous time to get outside and remember the beauty that God has blessed us with on this Earth.  Maybe it’s something as simple as a seed collecting and sorting activity.  Or maybe it’s getting out and doing a photo challenge in nature to find certain small creatures or plants – then print those pictures and place them into a little journal that your child can look back at to remember to thank God for the little things in nature that He has placed in our lives to remind us of his majesty.  Even if you don’t think there is much to explore in your front yard, you’d be amazed what you can find when you get down on all fours and pretend you are a beetle!

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I would challenge you to have your children write thank you notes to their friends who give them treats for Halloween.  Encourage them to list out not just what the friend gave, but WHY they are thankful that child is their friend.  “I love it that you make me laugh.”  “I like how you help me when I can’t tie my shoe.”  “Thank you for always smiling at me and helping me be happy when I’m sad.”  Even if your kids are used to writing thank you notes, I bet they are probably used to saying “thanks for the _xyz toy_.” And that’s it.  Mix it up this November.  Get them thinking about WHY they are thankful for that friendship they have.  Let them use fun stickers and special pens or markers to make those friends feel really special, and to add some fun to what can seem very serious for your kids.

Now is the perfect time to plan what activities you’re going to do this November – to not let Thanksgiving get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas.  It’s a great time to think about what new family traditions you want to start, and to really center your own mind on thankfulness.  We often focus so much on the costumes we’ll wear and the gifts that we’ll buy, or even on the turkey we’ll cook… that the actual purpose of giving thanks is lost.  Hopefully these ideas will help everyone in your family remember to be thankful for the objects, foods, nature, and people around them, because Thanksgiving is so much more than just a day we eat a lot of food and hang out with family to watch a parade and some football.  This year, focus on the things and the people they are thankful for, and WHY they are thankful for them.  Let’s raise a generation that isn’t the ME generation, but the YOU generation… the THANK YOU generation.
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Make your own Thankfulness Journal!

Check out how Ashley made hers here.

I don’t have any Modge Podge, and wanted to cover the book entirely… so I took 4 sheets of scrapbook paper and here’s what I came up with!  You can do the same in just about 5 minutes!

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I also cut pieces to cover the insides so that the print on the front cover was not distracting.  You wouldn’t have to do that – in which case, you would only need 2 sheets of 12×12 paper.front-cover-of-journal


There are more posts in this series!  Check them out here:

Saying Thank You with a Handmade Card

Thankfulness and Thanksgiving – For Your Toddler

Writing About Thankfulness

Busy Hands, Happy Heart

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This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting my blog!

Most of my posts here are about homeschooling Becca, but this one is all about what to do with the little ones… and highlights what I do to keep Gray occupied so Sis can learn.  (And SHHHH! he’s learning, too!)  Keeping your toddler occupied while your older child does homeschool is NOT easy!  But hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you and be helpful on your journey!

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One thing we really struggle with with Gray is that he still likes to put things in his mouth – a lot.  I can’t just give him an activity and pay total attention to Sis.  So, I have to very carefully select what he does when I’m busy with her.  He loves our pop beads set – so when I’m teaching her, I pull out only the large beads on a tray and let him sit on the bench right next to me in our family room (which doubles as our homeschool room).

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If we are doing something downstairs at the dining room table, he gets to do play dough next to me, and loves to make prints in the dough.  We have little stackers, dominoes, construction trucks, and dinosaurs that all make awesome dough stamps, not to mention our fabulous cookie cutter set.  He can stay occupied with play dough for almost an hour!  (Plus, I make my own dough, so I can make it any color I want, and he loves to take two different colors of dough and squish them together… which works on those fine AND gross motor skills all at the same time!)

Back upstairs in the family room, we have a little Duplo table (this is the one I’d like to get once we move up to only Legos) and some diaper boxes full of Duplos that Gray loves to build with.  Then we also have big wooden blocks (that my dad made for me when I was little!) with which he can build larger-scale items.  We also keep crayons and coloring books readily available so that he can color when Sis is illustrating – because nothing is more exciting and makes you feel big and important like coloring when Sis is coloring.  And he has been enjoying playing with window clings that I got from Dollar Tree!

There are so many fabulous things you can get your little ones excited about that are going to stretch them and help them grow their fine AND gross motor skills.

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Pretend play is so important for little ones, and Gray is all about pretending.  He is fairly quiet with his pretend play, so he doesn’t distract Sis too much.  If you have a louder child who likes to play really loudly, you might want to skip this section and move on down to the academic ideas, leaving the pretend play for non-school times.

Gray loves our new set of felt dinosaurs.  He likes to tell little stories with the dinosaurs, and can either use the portable board with which they came, or can use the larger cork board that I covered with felt that is up in our family room.  I love that both kids can stand together at the easel and play, or he can play alone right next to me while she works.  He also loves to drive his cars and trains on the activity rug that sits on the floor next to me, and cook “meals” for us in their kitchen, which is across the room. (This link is to a similar set – ours is no longer sold.)

He also loves to grab a reusable shopping bag and pretend he’s shopping, play dress up, and play with Little People figures.  The beauty of doing school in our family room is the multiplicity of options to keep him entertained.  We do not choose to have the tv on during school time.  That is far too distracting for Becca.

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Sometimes there is just no other way than to teach her with him sitting in my lap or standing right next to me.  (His love language is touch.)  For those times, I have some little academic activities that aren’t distracting to her that I can do with him while she is working independently.  We have number puzzles matching the numerals 1-10 to their values, and he can sometimes do 1-5 alone.  Sometimes he gets frustrated when they don’t fit exactly together (fine motor work!), but I can help him.

He also loves our pattern block shapes that I made out of thick colored card stock and laminated.  I use them with Sis as math manipulatives, and he also loves to sort them out and try to count them.  You can print your own here for free!

I have also laminated some little basic puzzles that have come out of magazines the kids get – he loves to put the three pieces together to make the trucks, and can put them together wrong to be silly and it’s ok, so he feels very successful with those.

I love the Target dollar section.  Sometimes I get surprised and find a $3 item that I love and just have to have, but normally I stick to the $1 stuff.  I got some really neat felt sticker numbers there (for $1), and placed one each on a set of 10 index cards so that he can actually FEEL the number, and attempts to put them in order.

He loves so much the big bin of Scrabble letter tiles at the DoSeum, so I finally bought this set so that he can play with the letters at home – and Sis can use them for spelling practice!  They are both so excited to have their own letter tiles at home now!  Sis also enjoys playing Scrabble Jr, so this now gives him letter tiles to play with, without messing up the board while we are playing!

I hope that you find these ideas helpful, and I so appreciate you purchasing via my affiliate links!  What helpful hints do you have to share?  What do you like to do with your toddler?  And which of these ideas that I’ve shared are you ready to try this week?  Let me know!  I love to hear from you!  Send me comments, and please be sure to head over to my Facebook Page to get involved in the discussion!

Giraffes, giraffes, and more… giraffes!

You know that moment?  The one when your child blows your mind, again… and you think, “Really, God?  Am I REALLY the right one for this job?”

This weekend Cody took me on a fabulous two-night stay to Las Vegas.  It was our first getaway together since before we had kids.  (No, a “babymoon” when super pregnant with each child does NOT count as a true vacation with my sweetheart!)  And we had a wonderful time.  We did Vegas right.  We went to our favorite History Channel reality show stops (Gold & Silver Pawn and Count’s Kustoms), we spent time at various resorts along the Strip, went to do the Freemont Street Experience, spent a about $20 in some slot machines, and yes, we even renewed our vows in a service performed by none other than Elvis himself.  It was a wonderful weekend.  And then we came home.  Which was wonderful, too.  The kids were happy to see us, and it was great to sleep in our own bed again (although that bed at the MGM Grand was as close to perfect as I have slept in at a hotel in a very long time).

But then this morning came.  And reality dawned.  The two hour time difference smacked me in the face and coffee just wasn’t enough.  After dragging the kids through a grocery shopping trip that was simply exhausting for all three of us (each in different ways and for different reasons), we finally checked out and got into the car.  And that’s when it happened.  That moment came.

Becca opened her mouth.

And out flowed the most amazingly long run-on sentence with no breath taken in between that I had ever heard.  Basically, she wanted to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about giraffes IMMEDIATELY upon arrival to the house.  I convinced her that we could wait until after nap time, and Mommy would be more prepared.  (Aka – Mommy could be prepared at all because I have ZERO clue where this sudden interest in knowing EVERYTHING about giraffes came from, and of course had nothing printed about giraffes.)  So, instead of slamming my head repeatedly on the steering wheel (as I wanted to do), I calmly drove home, wondering, as mentioned above, how I could possibly be the right parent for this amazing child.

So, I somehow got the groceries unloaded, kids into rooms for play time, groceries put away, and then sat down to my computer to do a little work… and to find something, ANYTHING on giraffes.  Because with Becca, there is no hoping that she’ll forget.  Nope, I said I’d have it after nap time, so I’d better have it after nap time or I’ll have a sad scientist on my hands.

This is where Teachers Pay Teachers came in handy once again, for the bazillionth time.  I swear, I can always find just what I need on there – and this time each of the activities I got was free.  So I’m linking to them below for you – the creators have information about his/her products inside the files themselves.  And then I felt like I needed one more activity that would be a little bit more hands-on, so I created a cut and paste alphabetical order worksheet, which I’m also attaching below (for free!).

As soon as she got up, the first question she asked was “when can we start learning about giraffes?”  So I got her some lunch and when she was done, we sat down to begin.  She read the information sheets and answered the questions (I write her answers for her as she dictates them to me), and then she did the alphabetical order sheet, which she loved… and anytime I can get her to practice cutting it’s a good thing!  When we finished (about ten minutes later), I set her up to watch the Wild Kratts episode about giraffes, and she was super content.  When her daddy came home, she showed him her work sheets and told him everything she had learned about giraffes, and was so proud of all she had learned.

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Whew.  Mommy saved the day.  Again.  Barely.  So, if you have a child who is super into giraffes, there are some fun (and FREE) activities here.  Or, if you have a child who spontaneously spouts out things they want to learn about, check out Teachers Pay Teachers and search under the free stuff – you never know what treasures you’ll find!  🙂

Links to FREE printables about giraffes:
Graphic Organizers – with non-fiction Giraffe text IMG_8426

Giraffe Alphabetical Order cut and paste worksheetIMG_8423

Reading Comprehension Giraffes worksheetIMG_8425

Safari Literacy PacketIMG_8424

Calendar Art… It’s Time!!

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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!!

Printable Pattern Blocks

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Topic: MATH

This post today is super simple, and it started from a super simple need.  I really wanted Becca to have pattern blocks.  But I’m also really trying to cut my online spending… so I decided, why buy her pattern blocks when I could make some and laminate them MUCH cheaper… and then they could be whatever colors I wanted and whatever size I wanted… and in whatever quantity I wanted!!

pattern blocks(Be sure to pin this! Thanks!)

SO – HERE’S YOUR LINK FOR THE PRINTABLE

Just select what colors of card stock you want to use, print, laminate, cut, and PLAY!

Don’t want to go to the effort of making your own, and prefer to buy them online?
Here’s a fabulous set from an affiliate link for you. 🙂