Friday, December 28, 2012

Advent Week 3

Here's our Advent wreath at week 3.  Our pine was starting to get dry and ugly, so it was a great excuse to take another hike to the woods to gather some more.  We also found a pinetree that had fallen, so we brought home pinecones that we placed around the edges.  Each night at dinner we've gotten into the habit of having Q tell us what each candle stands for and then the corresponding verse, then she gets to blow out that candle.  She loves it!  The smaller ones in the middle are for Little Brother to blow out, because he, of course, doesn't want to be left out!
Posted by Picasa

Play with natural materials

I think it's important to have a good stock of open-ended natural materials available for play in our areas.  There are several reasons--
*they are easily adaptable to play at the developmental level of each child--my 4 year old engages in pretend play with them--they may be cookies or nuts for she and her squirril children or she likes to use them to decorate the playroom for whatever scenario she's pretending at the moment.  My 16 month-old engages in a lot of gross and fine motor play, as well as sensory exploration.  He throws them, rolls them, dumps them, carries them around, puts them in other objects (jars, carts, etc.) and we've started showing him how to place them in a line on the tile (early math skills!). 

That's fun for a few minutes, then it's time to kick them! Gross motor!!

So many learning opportunities arise--science, math, motor, pretend play.....natural materials (rocks, sticks, nuts, leaves, etc.) make wonderful learning tools and are free!  And I can guarantee you that both of my kids have spent more time playing with this simple bowl of burr oak acorns (nice big ones!) than any "storebought" toy we have in the house. 

Wanna try it?  Get a nice bowl--wood or metal is best and gather up something from outside with your child's help.  Break up sticks into smaller pieces that fit into the bowl.  Gather nuts or pine needles or pinecones.  Then you might have to spend a few minutes modeling for your child ways to play with the materials.  There's no wrong way!!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cookie Shop Pretend Play Area

I usually use our little kitchen area to set the stage for some type of dramatic play area.  We had a great time with the farmer's market and were ready for something new and seasonal. 

We've been doing lots of baking to get ready for the holidays, so I thought a cookie shop would be just the thing! 

To start with, I always create my dramatic play areas with the general rule that I am only going to use things we already have.  This keeps them economical, of course, encourages me to be creative, and also gets good use out of things we already have.  I definitely scour our cupboards, drawers, closets when I am setting up a play area.  I usually decide on what I'll do and then spend a couple of weeks just thinking about it--pulling things I know I'll want to use when I come across them (which kinda leads to a bit of messiness as all the new stuff piles up on the counter....Matt doesn't love this stage of the process). 

I usually use the chalkboard somehow in each area.  It's a great way to encourage literacy and pre-reading skills. 

And we have this great pop up book that I couldn't resist adding to the top of the shelf.  I know we have other cookie books (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, etc.) around, so as I come across them I'll add them to the top shelf. 

I used scrap fabric and some washi paper a sweet friend brought us from Japan to make this banner.  It isn't anything fancy--I tore the fabric in strips and then cut the bottom.  I sewed the pieces onto a length of twine.  The whole thing could be done with paper, gluesticks, etc.  No sewing machine would be necessary....

I raided my linens (thanks, Aunt Karen!) for items to use.  I put a white doily on the top.

A mixing bowl is filled with batting (which I took out of a baby carseat headrest we no longer need!) and a whisk.  This is the batter.  Q loves stirring it!  We keep it on a higher shelf so Beck doesn't eat it.  Under that is a wire rack that she places the cookies on to put them in the "oven." 

I made these cookies from 2 pieces of felt and cookie cutters.  I sewed the felt pieces together around the outside, traced the cookie cutters, used a exacto knife and a small pair of scissors to cut them out.  Then I sewed around the opening and the edge of the "cookies" to hold everything together.  I ran a lighter around the edge of the cookies to seal the felt from pulling and looking yucky.  This could project could also be done using a hot glue gun or fabric glue--no sewing machine necessary. 

I made "icing" by putting each cookie on top of a piece of colored felt, tracing it, and then cutting a little smaller than the line.  I lighter-sealed the edges.  I cut little pieces of felt and hot-glued them for sprinkles. 

I made a little rack for the icing and the cookie cutters out of an Amazon box we had sitting around.  I really like having a spot for every component in the play area.  If items are displayed nicely they are more likely to be used AND more likely to be restored properly.  Also notice I only included 3 cookie cutters.  Remember that less is more.  I used two embroidered linens to line the bottoms of these little cardboard shelves. Cloth napkins, fabric, scrapbook paper would have also worked!

I put out a little spatula, some little measuring spoons and a small metal spatula to use as utensils (hanging from bottom shelf). 

I used felt and hot glue to make some felt "paper bags" (google searched for tutorial).  These are for "to-go" orders!  I also had a little Christmas box that was cookie-sized that I included.  The top compartment of this metal basket holds plates and napkins for "eat here" orders. 

I consolidated several jars of sprinkles to fill one big one.  I hot-glued the lid on so the kids can pretend with it and hopefully not decorate the house with sprinkles!  Cut paper would also work...or marbles, or any number of small colored items.  I also put out a basket of nuts. 

I changed the skirt on the bottom of our kitchen.  I used some of those clips that go onto curtain rods and a dresser scarf linen.  Under the knobs is the "oven" (just one of the shelves we've designated as oven) and also storage for other items--a small tea set and some milk.

On the end hangs potholders and a basket.  I also added a little apron, but after I took the photo.  We have a kid-sized rolling pin around, too, that I am on the lookout for, which will be added.  And a little kitchen timer that's around here somewhere.  :)

This little milk jug has cut-up pieces of Daddy's old tshirt in it.  They can be pulled out and stuffed in the mug to make "milk."  Cotton balls, white beans, white buttons,  etc. would be fun to put in and actually provide pouring practice.  We're doing the fabric since Beck would eat buttons or cotton balls right now. 

I also included a gingerbread pan.  It would be fun to trace the pattern onto felt and cut out the face parts to let the kids decorate him.  Next year!

And the "cash register."  I have had the hardest time finding a cash register I like.  The plasticy, huge, noise-making ones are not for me. I've never found a good, simple wooden one I like.  So we improvise with fancy boxes and jewelery boxes.  I dug this one out of the cupboard and put some pesos and other foreign bills we had around the house in it for a fun change. 

I put cookie displays on our little corner rack.  The top shelf always holds our cloth napkins for mealtimes, and then I use the bottom two for our play area. 

I used metal candlesticks and then some cardboard rounds that are for holding cakes.  I had them in my cupboard and thought they were perfect!  They have a doily printed on them.  I used sticky tack to adhere the candlestick to the cardboard. I had two little doilies that were just perfect to put under the pedestals.  Don't look at the dust on the shelf, okay?  I spent my time crafting and not cleaning, obviously.  :)

Here are the chocolate chip cookies on display.  I made them with Matt's old tshirt--sewed two circles together, left a gap for turning, turned right side out, stuffed with stuffing (from said headrest) and sewed them closed.  I used felt pieces and the hot glue gun for the chocolate chips.  Of course this could be done with felt, cardboard, paper, etc. 
Above are the "sugar cookies" with the icing stuck on.  The felt icing sticks to the felt cookie just perfectly!
You could even have a little tray of sprinkles, etc, cut from felt and let the kids decorate themselves!  I glued ours on to make them little-brother proof.  :)

So there you have it!  A fun cookie-play area that my kids are already enjoying!  Now go scour your cupboards and set up some type of fun pretend play area for your kids!

Posted by Picasa

Advent Week 2 Memory verse

Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 14, 2012

Angels are hung!


I showed you the angels we made earlier in the week.  We got them hung (plenty high so little brother doesn't pull them down--he has a bit of an angel obsession) above the shepherds to sing "glory to God in the highest...."  What a fun project!
Posted by Picasa

Peppermint Playdough for Christmas

Recipes are abundant on the internet.  We subbed peppermint oil (essential oil) for extract and it worked fine!  Just a few drops.  We also added glitter.  It smells wonderful, has a great texture, and is fun to use with all of our Christmas cookie cutters!  Of course playdough is great fine motor and encourages wonderful dramatic play!  You could put it out with a little cookie sheet (I often swipe the one from our toaster oven) and spatula for a mini baking play area!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2nd week of Advent

We added our second candle this week--the candle of preparation.  We talked about how we are getting our hearts ready to welcome Jesus--as Immanuel--God with us, and also to welcome Jesus at the second coming.  Quinn wrote "prepare" on her little chalkboard.  She is learning a lot about placement--how you have to think about how many letters are in a word and determine how big/small to print. 

Sidenote, this little jar of chalks is a great early writing tool.  Tiny writing implements force the writer to use the correct grasp, so it's great to offer crayon nibs, small chalk pieces, small pastels, little bitty colored pencils, etc.  We also use some little tiny sponge pieces that we moisten as erasers.  All of these items encourage great fine motor skills. 
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 10, 2012

Growing nativity (creche)

Here is our little nativity.  We have a wooden piano bench covered in burlap.  I used the wooden stable (made from scraps several years back) and each day we add something new.  We've added a path to the stable, a manger (Q calls it a feed box), shepherds and sheep (we made a hill by putting a wooden bowl under the burlap), a star (a gift from St. Nicholas to Quinn), and some hay.  We are also behind on adding swaddling clothes...we keep forgetting.  We also have angels made and ready for hanging.  We try to have a little talk about each of the elements and how they relate to the story.  I have a great little Christmas Novena book that breaks down each element that I am loosely using (my kids are a little too young for it but we are adapting some things) and I'll post about that soon. The kids are allowed to touch and play with the nativity. Beck hammers and rearranges the rocks and carries around the sheep.  :)
Posted by Picasa

Evergreen=God's faithfulness

We are placing lots of evergreen around our house to remind us of God's faithfulness.  Just like the trees stay green all year round, God is faithful....year in, year out. 
Posted by Picasa

Making Angels

Each day we are adding something to our nativity in the playroom.  We have a wooden set that a super sweet and thoughtful and wonderful (I could go on) friend gifted us with that we are using.  When it came time to add angels, we wanted to make some!  I let Q use the gluegun for the first time ever.  Of course she burned herself (minor...) and I knew she would, but she has to learn things for I watched closely and she did great.  We used scraps from the scrap bin and clothespins, glitter glue and gold beads. 

Here are the finished projects.  I am not a fan of the neon yellow halos (Q calls them "haybales") but that's what she chose. 

We'll hang them over the shepherds where they can glorify God!
Posted by Picasa

Advent Week 1

Matt sliced us a piece of trunk from a tree he'd taken down.  He drilled holes for our 4 Advent candles.  Quinn was so excited to put the first one in on Monday.  More on that further in the post. 

Monday night we used our pine pieces to make a wreath. 

We talked about the first candle--the candle of Hope.  We discussed the fact that we can have hope because God is faithful and always keeps His promises--such as his promise to send a savior!
Quinn practiced writing HOPE on her little chalkboard.  She wrote it so beautifully and then wanted to decorate, so you can't really see her writing, but she enjoyed the artistic process and I had to let go and be okay with that. :)  We also lit our candles from Advent spiral until they melted down to nothing. 

She erased later in the week and had another go at it.  She ran out of room on the E so she put the legs facing toward the left.  Love it.  She also likes to have a choice over how many legs E has.  Usually its way more than 3.  And that pretty much sums up the personality of our girl!

We're memorizing a verse together that goes along with the first candle of Hope.  Wow, that girl can memorize fast and she is keeping me on my toes.  We practice it in the car mostly, and give each other thumbs up if we do well.  I'll get it on video later today.  For some reason there is nothing more precious than my daughter quoting scripture from memory. 

We are really enjoying our Advent season.  I am trying hard to keep it focused on the process and not the product. 
Posted by Picasa