Day 24: O, Holy Night!

image from pinterest.com

It’s Christmas Eve! Wow…that went fast.

If you’re like me, now is the time to cuddle up with the kids and savor the silence. Gather your family around a fire or candle tonight and say a family prayer for peace tonight.

Give your kids each a new set of Christmas jammies (an important tradition in our home) and let them open one special gift. For us, this is the gift they have for each other — the sibling gift. We started this tradition when they were very young, and it has become one of most special events of the holiday season.

Whether you are on the road or opening doors to extended family members, try to dedicate this night to focus on what matters most: faith, family, and friends.

Merry Christmas!

j

Day 15: Homemade Ornaments

Image from homemadegrits.blogspot.com

Whether your kids are still young enough to make handprint ornaments or old enough to craft characters from the dough, you’ll enjoy this old stand-by recipe for making fabulous ornaments for your tree.

You’ll need:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Mix flour and salt well. Gradually add water, stirring with a large spoon. Finish mixing with hands. Knead until soft and pliable.
  3. Roll out on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets. With a toothpick or straw make a hole in the top of the ornament for threading string. Bake at 300 degrees F until hard (about 1 1/2 hours). (If opting for thicker dough, bake at 200 degrees for longer).

It’s fun to add cinnamon to the dough to make it smell yummy. You can also add cake food coloring before baking, or paint the ornaments once dry and cool. Before baking, try stamping your toddler’s handprint, your infant’s footprint, or your teen’s fingerprint into the dough and then cutting a circle around it. Or let kids create fun characters from their imagination. Use a garlic press to create hair, and paint as desired. If desired, add a coat of varnish to preserve the ornaments.

Image from realsimple.com

Need something simpler? Can’t get much easier than this great idea from Real Simple. The fun part is hunting for twigs. What kid doesn’t love to do that? Find some of similar width, trim to size, and secure with jute or twine into the shape of a star.

Image from realsimple.com

 
 
Here’s another fun idea from Real Simple: instead of tossing those old mittens and socks, save the tiniest ones and attach them to your tree or mantle. Better yet, attach them to ribbon with clothespins and create a sentimental advent calendar (Thanks, Martha Stewart!). Adorable!
image from marthastewart.com

 
 
Or…cut a few slits in a circle of cardboard (painted if desired), tape some colored string to the back and let your kids wind the string from slit to slit to create unique string art ornaments for your tree.

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 13: Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!

Image from giverslog.com

Pinecones are Mother Nature’s special way of decorating her living room. And if it’s good enough for Mother Nature, than it’s good enough! Not to mention…it’s the perfect size for little fingers and the options are endless. Try this one, for instance. Add colorful balls of wool or inexpensive craft balls from a discount store. Attach with glue and you’re done!
 
 
 
 
 
If pinecones are a little too prickly and glue a little too sticky for you, then try this great idea from familyfun for a cutie patootie pipe cleaner tree. Find instructions here.
 

Image from johnnyinadress.com

Still a little too much crafting? Try this mess free option for those of you who just don’t like the idea of cleaning up pine needles or glue or beads. Simply cut a tree from green felt and create all sorts of colorful decorations from felt. It works magically…felt sticks to felt! Attach the “tree” to a wall using temporary adhesive strips and give your toddlers a Christmas tree they can decorate again…and again…and again! (Thanks to johnnyinadress.com for this super idea. My kids are too old for this one, but I’m filing it for my classroom.)
 
For your teen/tween booklover, why not try this fabulous idea for a book tree? I shared this from a post on facebook and despite my best efforts, I can’t find the original source. If you happen to know who gets credit for this one…please share!
 

Image from mrsleeskinderkids.com

Want to include a little math with that tree crafting, or looking for an idea for the classroom? Try this idea from Mrs. Lee’s Kinderkids. Provide red construction paper and tree pieces. Help children organize the tree strips from longest to shortest before glueing on the paper. Last, dip q-tips in white paint and dot the entire piece with snow. See Mrs. Lee’s blog for many more great teaching ideas for little ones.

Hope you have fun celebrating the Christmas season with those you love. Be sure to check out previous blog posts and stay tuned for more December postings to find tons of ideas to connect with your family this holiday.

Cheers,

julie

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Day 11: Make Your Own Elf on the Shelf

How does Santa really keep an eye on kids? He has elves that do it, of course! That’s the idea behind the Elf on the Shelf. But if forty bucks seems like a bit much to spend on an Elf, you can save money and create memories by helping the kids make their own. Sprinkle magic dust on it, write its name on red or green “Pole Paper” that sends the message directly to Santa, and by the next morning … Voila! Your elf is alive and alert, keeping track of whether children have been “bad or good” and reminding your little ones to be “good for goodness sake!”

Image by Aimee Herring at Parents.com
With not much more than chenille stems, felt, and craft beads, you can create these adorable elf friends. Visit Parents.com for instructions.
 

Image from etsy.com

 
Some might enjoy the challenge of a crochet pattern. Check this one out on etsy.com where the pattern is available for less than five dollars and it includes a second pattern for a female elf!
 
If your kids are too old to believe the elf is really sneaking around in the night, causing mischief and reporting back to Santa, they might have fun helping you plan the set-up for your younger children. Find 101 Elf on the Shelf Ideas on Blossom Bunkhouse. You might wake to find your elf stuck upside down in the chocolate chip bag, or fishing for goldfish crackers, or driving the Barbie car. And believe me, even in the classroom, it works! Kids can’t wait to find where their elf is hiding each morning, and all you have to do is offer a gentle reminder that “Elvis” is watching, and attitudes adjust immediately.
 
Happy Elfing!
j

Day 9: Lovely Night for a Tour of Lights

It’s the ninth day of our Christmas countdown, and it’s time to get out and see the sparkle! Take your family on a tour of holiday lights. If weather permits, get out of the car and enjoy long, peaceful walks together to view the displays. If you need to bundle up instead, be sure to turn on the Christmas music and enjoy a fun family singalong while you drive.

From Millan.Net

It’s also a great idea to go carolling. While this tradition may sound old-fashioned, carollers roam our old neighborhood every year for an impromptu celebration. Who doesn’t enjoy opening the door to find happy singing visitors? And who doesn’t love to sing Christmas songs?

My kids and I all cracked up laughing this morning during our regular commute into school and work. A man was jogging in a full Santa suit, fake beard and all. He waved to cars as he passed and graciously delivered smiles to a cold Friday morning. I admire people like that…who have such a happy, joyful spirit that they aren’t afraid to just love life. Going for a morning jog? Why not wear that Santa suit? You might have more fun than you’ve had in years!

 

Cheers!
julie

Thankerchiefs? Birds and Beasts? Not Your Typical Thanskgiving Games!

 Need a little circle activity to prompt kids to count their blessings? It might be time to find your Thankerchief! Arrange children in a circle. Pass a “thankerchief” (handkerchief) around the circle, as everyone recites this poem:

Thankerchief, thankerchief, ‘round you go — 
Where you’ll stop, nobody knows.
But when you do, someone must say,
What they are thankful for today.

The player holding the “thankerchief” when the poem ends, must name one thing for which s/he is thankful. This continues until everyone has had a turn.

Or, try the old standby – Bird, Beast, or Fish. 

You have to think fast for this game, which makes it more appropriate for elementary aged kids than preschoolers. Everyone sits facing the leader. The leader points to one player and says either “BIRD,” “BEAST,” or “FISH.”  The chosen player must come up with the name of an animal that fits the category before the leader counts to ten. No repeating! If the player does not respond in time, s/he is out. The game continues until only one player remains.

After a few rounds, it becomes increasingly difficult to think of  an animal that has not already been mentioned!

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”  ~Johannes A. Gaertner