Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 14 Christmas Fun

Theme: Christmas - Fun

Note: We are few letters behind in our real life toddler preschool, so for the month of December, I will be putting letter work on hold on this blog as we attempt to catch up here at home.  Letter work will pick back up on the blog in January. 
Objective: To have fun in celebrating Christmas.
Special Items Needed:
·         Green Finger Paint

·         Baking Supplies

·         Printable Mini-Books

Christmas Activities
I skipped last week because, honestly, I had nothing ready to be written up.  I had promised myself at the start of this blog that I would not just do activities with my son for the sole purpose of getting it on the blog.  When last Tuesday rolled around, I had to hold myself to that promise…since I had done nothing with my son that week in the “preschool” realm, nothing would appear on the blog.  Amazingly, as soon as I followed through on my promise to myself (by not trying to rush through five activities Tuesday morning just so I could post something Tuesday afternoon), a ton of time opened up later in the week for my son and I to do all sorts of Christmas projects together. 
My hope is that you’ll find at least one or two fun Christmas projects to do with your little guys (or gals) this week in expectancy and celebration of Christmas.
Finger Painted Christmas Tree
One of my favorite things to do with holidays is incorporate a holiday theme into everyday art projects.  I wanted to have both boys (1 and 2 ½ years old) do some finger painting, so I cut two large Christmas trees from butcher paper and squirted green finger paint all over the trees.  I let the boys paint until they started to lose interest.
Christmas Lights Display
In our town there is an incredible Christmas lights’ display that is truly surpasses anything I’ve ever seen.  As long as we live here, I’d like to try to take my boys to see it.  This year, we packed the four of us up   and drove across town to see the lights.  The display is so huge that we parked and walked through the display.  I honestly don’t know who had more fun: the kids or us, the parents.  Depending on what your town has to offer, you could either go view a light display or simply drive through a neighborhood that makes an effort to decorate for Christmas. 
I have discovered my favorite Christmas mini-book, “Reindeer, Reindeer, What do you see?”  This book mimics Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” which just so happens to be one of our favorite books!  Click here to print off this free mini book (and other free Christmas mini books).  My son and I read this book together first and then went through each page reading it and coloring the picture the appropriate color.  I was so amazed at my son’s ability to choose the correct color as I read!  You can find other educational Christmas-themed mini books by clicking here.
Baking Christmas Cookies for the Neighbors
I will admit that I got in over my head with this project and lost my patience just a bit, for which I had to apologize later to my son.  Quite fittingly, upon my apology, he likened me to the cranky little cook on the movie "Ratatouille." That said, may I suggest (in learning from my own errors!) that if you take on baking Christmas cookies with your toddler you also take on a large dose of patience J.  If I had slowed down a bit, I might not have lost my patience like I did. 
That said, this turned out to be a great experience.  My son and I baked a couple different kinds of cookies (I choose recipes based on what I already had in the house to keep the cost down).  I had him help me with the pouring and mixing and stirring.  After our baking extravaganza and while he was napping, I divided the cookies up among six plates (one for each of the neighbors we had already met in our new neighborhood).   Later when my husband got home, the “guys” delivered the cookies to the neighbors.  In our experience, a plate of homemade Christmas cookies turns out to be a great way to build relationships with neighbors!
Coloring Page/Following Directions
If you’re looking for something really simple, print off a few Christmas coloring pages to have on hand for those moments this week when your little person just needs something to do.  I’ve started letting my one year old color with us, too, when we do coloring pages.  It is turning out to be a fun time-filler when we just need a calm activity.  Also, to make those plain coloring pages a little more special, every once in a while choose one to mount on construction paper.  Then post it somewhere in your home where you toddler will know that you are proud of the artwork he does!  Click here to find some fun coloring pages. 
I wanted to experiment a bit with having my son follow directions, so taking a simple coloring page, I gave him directions to color certain parts specific colors.  I had the identical coloring page and colored right along with him, following the same directions.  I was really quite amazed with how well he was able to follow directions.  Learning to follow directions is an important learning skill and can easily be incorporated into basic coloring activities. 
Note: I’ll be taking the next few weeks off as we spend time with family and friends celebrating the holidays.  I plan to be back in January to spend some time focusing on learning activities related to winter!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Week 13 Christmas: Nativity

Theme: Christmas - Nativity

Note: We are few letters behind in our real life toddler preschool, so for the month of December, I will be putting letter work on hold on this blog as we attempt to catch up here at home.  Letter work will pick back up on the blog in January. 
Objective: To learn the Nativity story through play.
Special Items Needed:
·         Felt
·         Coloring Pages
Christmas – Nativity
Telling the Story
While I fully enjoy our current cultural elements of Christmas (decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings, setting out cookies for Santa), I want to focus with my boys on the true meaning of Christmas: the coming of Jesus.  This year, I will focus on a simple telling of the Christmas story through using various nativity scenes.  The story will go something like this each time I tell it:
·         An angel came to Mary to tell her that she would have the Son of God and that the baby she would have would be the Rescue for the whole world.

·         Mary and Joseph were travelling when it was time for Jesus to be born.

·         Mary had baby Jesus in a cave (or stable) and placed him in a wooden box (or manger).

·         Angels came to nearby shepherds prompting them to come worship Jesus.

·         A star settled above Jesus birthplace.

·         Some kings (or wise men or magi) saw the star and came to offer gifts to Jesus.

·         Jesus came to earth to live with people so that He could be the Rescuer of all.
I encourage you to read Luke 2 for yourself to prepare your own paraphrase of the Christmas story.  If you have older children, you may even want to read the Luke 2 passage to (or with) them and have them paraphrase the story for your toddler.
Felt Nativity Set
In an effort to have a nativity set that my children could play with, I made a simple felt nativity set.  Because my boys are 1 and 2 1/2, I did not want anything that took too much work to make…or that I would be disappointed if it only lasted this year.  So, I simply cut out the basic characters from felt.  I also bought one blue “stiffened” felt piece to act as our backdrop. 
As I tell the various parts of the story, I have been positioning the characters to go along with that part of the story.  Once we go through the whole story, I have then just been letting my boys play with the felt characters and backdrop.  I want them to have access to the story.  I want them to touch the nativity pieces. 
Of course, at this point, they are simply playing with the characters.  This to me is building a base knowledge of the Christmas story.  I do not want their experience of learning the stories of God to be stiff, religious, and formal; rather, I want them to engage with the stories and internalize them.  This will not be the year that they grasp the Christmas story.  This will simply be the year that they are introduced to it. 

Nativity Coloring Pages
I have found a few Nativity coloring pages by searching Google images.  One in particular is my favorite.  Click here to access my favorite Nativity coloring page.  I plan to cut out each character prior to my “preschool time” with my son.  Then we will sit down together, color each character and glue them to a piece of construction paper.  As we glue, I will again be telling the story.
Other Nativity Activities
To see other types of nativity sets you can make, clickhere. 
For a variety of “kid-friendly” nativity activities, clickhere.