Day 14: Run, Run, Fast As You Can!

It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through our Advent activities, but it’s December 14 and time for GINGERBREAD! I admit, when it comes to gingerbread houses, we cheat. We do make homemade gingerbread cookies, but we use graham crackers to build our houses.

We make one each year, and it’s always a treat. First, we coat a cardboard soda bottle package with icing. Then we attach graham crackers as the walls and roof. Finally, we decorate with leftover Trick-or-Treat candy. This is all set on a thick, square piece of cardboard we cut from a large box. We coat that in icing too, and the sugar-coated landscaping is never anything less than divine.

But instead of boring you with our personal photos, I thought you might like to see some gingerbread houses from my elementary school this year (including the photo above). These were made by preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students who all enjoyed the activity.

Get messy, indulge your sweet tooth, and HAVE FUN!

 

 

Be sure to read The Gingerbread Man and then learn the following poem:

Oh where, oh where, is my gingerbread man? Oh where, oh where, can he be? He popped out of the oven and ran out the door. Oh where, oh where, can he be?

Now, bake some gingerbread cookies or make a gingerbread man out of paper. Then, set a trap and see if you can catch your gingerbread man! Here are some of the traps around our school this week.

 

 

Day 5: Top Christmas Flicks for Family Movie Night

There’s no better time than the holiday season to snuggle up for Family Movie Night. Pop some popcorn and light the fire, as you enjoy these can’t miss kid-friendly Christmas movies. 

For Kids of All Ages:

Winnie the Pooh – A Very Merry Pooh Year - I admit, I’m a sucker for Pooh. This is my favorite Christmas movie – a heartwarming tale reminds us all that friendship means more than presents.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol - Rated G and great for viewers of all ages!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - If your child hasn’t yet heard of the Island of Misfit Toys — now’s the time! A great vintage film sure to bring smiles to all.

Frosty the Snowman - There are tons of reasons to watch this fantastic film, but if for nothing else – the songs are fun to sing!
 
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Another fun-for-everyone family favorite. 
 
A Charlie Brown Christmas - This one delivers the message that there is value in everything — even the most misunderstood and scraggliest among us.
 
For Kids Age 6 and Older:
  
The Polar Express -  A  beautifully filmed modern rendition of the classic tale, but it can be a bit intense or even scary for kids under 6.
  
Miracle on 34th Street - The story can be a bit slow for young kids, but who doesn’t love this holiday favorite – is Santa real, or is he? 
 
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Personally, I think the 1966 animated version may be less-frightening (and more age-appropriate) than the Jim Carrey rendition; but whichever version you choose, your family won’t want to miss this fabulous Dr. Seuss Christmas message. It might just make your heart grow two sizes!
 
And while they may not be about Christmas, you just have to brew a batch of hot chocolate and snuggle up with Happy Feet (and perhaps take a family day to see the sequel currently in theaters).
  
 
For Older Kids:
 
Home Alone – Not really appropriate for kids under 8, but a hilarious adventure story about a kid left home alone for the holidays (some bad language and mild violence).
 
Of course you can’t forget A Christmas Story. Rated PG, this may not be the best choice for kids under 12. Still, for older children, Ralphie is a hilarious as he narrates this All-American holiday story set in the 1940s.
 
Ok, I wasn’t going to list it, because it’s really not a kid-friendly movie, but I have to say the movie Elf is absolutely hilarious for older children. Will Ferrell’s role as an orphan raised by Santa is just too unique (if not too corny) to miss.
 
Of course there’s a new batch of holiday films released every year, but I hope you can enjoy some serious snuggle time while watching a few of these favorite flicks.
 
j
 
 

Home Filled with Love

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The greatest compliment I ever received was when a new friend visited my home for the first time. She walked past our new dining room table without even a second glance. She never noticed that I had vacuumed the floors and dusted the furniture before her arrival. She was not impressed with the scrubbed bathrooms and spotless kitchen sink. The lit candles and freshly cut blooms from our gardens were practically ignored.

Instead, she took time to view our family photographs and to investigate the finger painted artwork displayed proudly on our walls. She didn’t even seem to mind joining us when my children and I habitually nestled ourselves on the living room floor instead of on the sofa.

As my children bounced about donning dress-up clothes, my guest offered the kindest words I’ve ever heard: “This house is filled with so much love.”

That’s when I knew we’d surely be friends. She seemed to understand that clean floors and expensive furniture only decorate the surface of our lives. The real stuff – the toys on the floor, the crayon marks on the wall, and the sound of laughter in our home – is more important than perfect appearances.

When I meet new friends, I welcome them to visit our home at anytime. Then, I offer a warning I learned from my grandmother: “Sometimes the house is clean. Sometimes it isn’t. If you’re coming to see us, come without warning. If you’re coming to see the house, call ahead.”

Like most people, I like my home to be clean and free of clutter. I prefer things to be sanitized and orderly. But more than that, I want my home to be a haven for happiness, for love, and for laughter.

I want my children and their friends to feel free here to be themselves. I want them to have unrestricted access to their inner joys and imaginations. I want them to understand, that while we do have some rules, we also have fun.

Our home rules are simple:

  1. Furniture is for resting (and for making camps).
  2. Walking feet are best (unless “Simon Says” otherwise).
  3. Inside voices are heard first.
  4. Please, use your manner words.
  5. Be kind and considerate.
  6. Use your imagination.
  7. Be happy and have fun!

Today, let’s try not to focus on the baseboards and bathtub rings. Instead, let’s make sure our homes are filled with love.

Turn Hot Lemons into Lemonade!

Lemonade Stand

So you think you’ll all melt away like the wicked witch of the west? Maybe it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned lemonade stand. Let your kids help mix the lemonade,  decorate signs, and set up a table in the shade. Add cookies or fresh fruit for snacks, or consider offering various flavors of lemonade (strawberry, blueberry, etc.)

Add cute children and voila! Who can resist stopping for a sip and a smile? If your children do collect a bit of change, consider taking a visit to a local humane society or food bank to donate the collection for a good cause. No better way to beat the heat than by doing something sweet.

Happy Summer!

j

Books Kids Will Love

If you’re struggling to find books your kids will love to read, check out these great resources.

Read Kiddo Read!  Author James Patterson hosts a website with great recommendations for children’s books. You can search age and genre to find the perfect picks for even your most timid readers: http://www.readkiddoread.com/home

Guys Read, Too! Here’s another one of my absolute favorite resource sites for books my son will like: http://www.guysread.com/ This site is geared for parents of boys who just can’t find anything they really want to read.

Or…They Listen! We all know some kids process auditory information better than visual. That’s one of the many reasons it helps children to hear us read aloud to them. But…even the best days don’t always allow as much time as we’d like to read aloud to our kids. That’s where this great site comes in: http://library.booksontape.com/guyslisten.cfm. Here,  you can listen to a huge collection of online library audiobooks for free!

Try letting your reluctant reader listen along as s/he turns pages of the book you’ve actually checked out from you own local library. Don’t let this replace quality family storytime, but it’s a great reinforcement activity to build your kids’ interest in literacy.

Cheers,

julie

*Photo Source: http://www.afprovidence.org/

Earth Day for Kids

Help little ones celebrate our beautiful home on Earth Day, April 22, and beyond.

  1.  Sing songs such as, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” or “Deep and Wide” and talk about God’s amazing creations.
  2. Let younger children act out different animals. One fun way to do this is to spread out a sheet on the ground and let them all stand on the sheet. Pretend you are in an elevator going up and down to different floors. When you reach the destination, announce “Elephant Floor!” Everyone gets off the elevator and acts like an elephant for a minute or two. Then call “All Aboard!” and move on to another floor. Try tigers, ants, puppy dogs, and monkeys. Tip: Before ending the game, transition by entering the whispering floor, the tiptoeing floor, and finally, the napping floor.
  3. Older children can spread a large sheet of paper and draw or paint the rain forest. Learn about endangered animals such as sea turtles, bald eagles, and manatees.
  4. Don’t forget to encourage your family to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” – Psalm 111.2  (NIV)

Quick and Easy Craft Fun

Out of money, time, and ideas to keep those little hands busy today? Grab a stash of pipe cleaners or a roll of aluminum foil and encourage your little ones to create balls, angels, monsters, animals, or any imaginary creature they can design.

Foil can be folded, crumpled, drawn on, etched into, or torn into a wide array of structures. With a few bends and twists, pipe cleaners are the ultimate art tool. Get creative. Have fun. And see what you can create as a family with these common, inexpensive household items.

Happy Creating!

j

Swifter, Higher, Stronger — Olympic Fun for Kids

 

Help children spread vanilla icing over five vanilla wafers. Then use colored sprinkles to make the five olympic rings: red, green, blue, yellow, and black. (Tip: Before adding the bling, place wafers in a cookie sheet for easy clean-up.  Also, make one cookie at a time…as the icing dries quickly and then sprinkles won’t stick.)

Show children pictures of the Olympic rings and talk about the Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”

Be sure to burn off all that sugar by running (swifter), jumping (higher), and playing tug of war or lifting weights (stronger). Use canned goods in the pantry if you don’t have small weights for kids.

If you prefer a sugar-free alternative, use the end of a cardboard tube (from paper towels) to stamp the Olympic rings on a white sheet of paper with the five colors of paint (red, green, blue, yellow, and black). Tape the paper to a straw or dowel for a child-sized Olympic flag.

 Happy Day!

j

101 Ways to Praise a Child

I’m not sure whom to cite as the original author of this great list…but I’ve seen various versions of it for years. Try serving a few of your favorite praise phrases to the little ones in your life each day — and don’t forget to give them a couple of extra hugs on Valentine’s Day.

WOW • WAY TO GO • SUPER • YOU’RE SPECIAL • OUTSTANDING • EXCELLENT • GREAT• GOOD • NEAT • COOL  • WELL DONE • REMARKABLE • I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT • I’M PROUD OF YOU • FANTASTIC • SUPER STAR • NICE WORK • LOOKING GOOD • YOU’RE ON TOP OF IT • BEAUTIFUL • NOW YOU’RE FLYING • YOU’RE CATCHING ON • NOW YOU’VE GOT IT • YOU’RE INCREDIBLE • BRAVO • YOU’RE FANTASTIC • HURRAY FOR YOU • YOU’RE ON TARGET • YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY • HOW NICE • HOW SMART • GOOD JOB • THAT’S INCREDIBLE • HOT DOG • DYNAMITE • YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL • YOU’RE UNIQUE • NOTHING CAN STOP YOU NOW • GOOD FOR YOU • I LIKE YOU  • YOU’RE A WINNER • REMARKABLE JOB • BEAUTIFUL WORK • SPECTACULAR • YOU’RE SPECTACULAR • YOU’RE DARLING • YOU’RE PRECIOUS • GREAT DISCOVERY • YOU’VE DISCOVERED THE SECRET • YOU FIGURED IT OUT • FANTASTIC JOB • HIP, HIP, HURRAY • BINGO • MAGNIFICENT • MARVELOUS • TERRIFIC • YOU’RE IMPORTANT • PHENOMENAL • YOU’RE SENSATIONAL • SUPER WORK • CREATIVE JOB • SUPER JOB • FANTASTIC JOB • EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE • YOU’RE A REAL TROOPER • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE • YOU ARE EXCITING • YOU LEARNED IT RIGHT • WHAT AN IMAGINATION •WHAT A GOOD LISTENER • YOU ARE FUN • YOU’RE GROWING UP • YOU TRIED HARD • YOU CARE • BEAUTIFUL SHARING • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE • YOU’RE A GOOD FRIEND • I TRUST YOU • YOU’RE IMPORTANT • YOU MEAN A LOT TO ME • YOU MAKE ME HAPPY • YOU BELONG • YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND • YOU MAKE ME LAUGH • YOU BRIGHTEN MY DAY • I RESPECT YOU • YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME • THAT’S CORRECT • YOU’RE A JOY • YOU’RE A TREASURE • YOU’RE WONDERFUL • YOU’RE PERFECT • AWESOME • A+ JOB • YOU’RE A-OK MY BUDDY • YOU MADE MY DAY • THAT’S THE BEST • I LOVE YOU!

Frozen Bubbles – Winter Wonders

With frigid temperatures across the nation, here’s a fabulous outdoor activity for kids of all ages.

Bundle up. Go outside. Blow bubbles. Watch what happens!

If temps are 10 degrees or below, the bubbles should freeze. When they break, they fall to the ground like eggshells. I remember doing this with my kids in Illinois, and they were always amazed to collect bubble pieces in their tiny gloves. When I tried it this weekend with the kids, it didn’t work…so I looked it up to find how cold it needed to be. That’s when I found this great post by Vicki Cobb — one of my favorite sources for family fun.