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“I Spy” – Montessori Style

Sweet Pea was about 3 years old.
 
Eye Spy

 

From:  “I Spy” is a well known children’s game, but in this version, the clues are sounds instead of colors.  This is a classic Montessori activity that helps children begin to recognize phonetic sounds.  I first read about it in David Gettman’s book Basic Montessori Learning Activities for Under-Fives.

 Material: 

  • 3-10 common household objects that have different starting sounds.  Make sure they are simple objects that your tot will clearly be able to identify.  (For example ball, cup, fork, hat, sock, pencil, etc.)  Start with 3 objects if your tot is new to the game and then gradually add more as he gets more comfortable.  

I Spy - Montessori Style

 Procedure:

  • Make sure that you know the phonetic sound of each letter of the alphabet.  (For example during this game, “B” should be pronounced <Buh> and not “Bee”.  See this page from Montessori Mom for a fantastic explanation and a list of how each letter is pronounced phonetically.)
  • Put your chosen object on the table or floor and sit near your tot.  
  • Tell your tot that you want to play a guessing game.   Explain that you are going to choose one object on the table and then you will give him a hint about which object it is.  He should then try to guess which object you are thinking about.
  • Choose an object (For the sake of this example, I will pretend to have chosen a ball) and say out loud, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with <buh>.  Do you know what it is?”
  • Wait for your child to guess.   When your child says the correct object, repeat the sound and object back.  “Yes, ball starts with “buh.”  However, if your child guesses the wrong object, tell him what sound that object starts with and ask him to choose again.  “Sock starts with <Sss>.  Can you find something that starts with starts with <buh>?

Observations:   Sweet Pea always loved this game.  After the first few times we played, I no longer had to set out a specific collection of objects and we could play it anywhere.  We often would play it at dinner with whatever was on the table at the time, but it is also a great “waiting room” game.    The game can even be changed to use ending sounds as your child gets older (“I spy with my little eye, something that ends with the sound <duh>.”)

This is a really great language game and I highly recommend it for all children who are pre-readers, starting around 2.5 years old.   It is so simple, fun and educational.  Sweet Pea has outgrown it now, but I know I have a lot of readers with younger children so I wanted to make sure I wrote a post about it.

Notes from the Trenches:  If your tot has trouble with this game or is very new to letter sounds, you can start with only 1 object.  Hold the object  (For example, a hat) in your hand so he can see it and say, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with <Huh>.”    Wait for him to say, “Hat”.  Play this way, with only 1 object for a few days before presenting him with 2 objects.  When you try with 2 objects, if he makes an incorrect selection, try not to say “No.”  Instead tell him what sound his chosen object starts with and ask him to choose again (“Pencil starts with <Puh>.  Which one begins with <Huh>?”)

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)

 


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Exploding Ivory (Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material”).

Sweet Pea is 6 years old.
 
Exploding Ivory /  Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material” ;)

 From: This quick little activity is from Our Best Bites.

Material:

  • A brand spanking new bar of Ivory soap. 
  • A plate.
  • A microwave.

Exploding Ivory /  Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material” ;)

 

Procedure:

  • Put the bar of Ivory soap on the plate and put the plate in the microwave.
  • Set the timer for 2 minutes and watch.

Exploding Ivory /  Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material” ;) 

  • When the bar of soap quits growing, stop the microwave and take the bar of soap out.
  • Let the soap cool until it is safe to touch.
  • Allow your tot to poke and prod the puffed up bar.

Exploding Ivory /  Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material” ;)

  • Invite your tot go break up the flaky pieces of soap.

Exploding Ivory /  Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material” ;)

  • Water + Soap = Suds.  So use a dry cloth to wipe away the majority of soap dust first and then finish with a wet cloth or you will have a huge (albeitsqueaky clean) mess.
  • Make sure your tot washes her hands.  (They will be covered in soap dust that will sting if it gets in her eyes.)

 Observations: Sweet Pea was extremely interested, although the whole thing probably took us less than 10 minutes from start to finish.

Exploding Ivory /  Bonus: “How to Make PlaySnot® – A New Sensory Material” ;)

While our soap did grow in an interesting way, I don’t think that it got nearly as big as some of the other pictures I had seen.  I think this is because the bar of Ivory we used was at least a year old.  Since then, I have read in several places that the bar of soap should be fresh for the best results.   I would guess that moisture trapped in the bar of soap turns to steam and expands when it is heated in the microwave.   In an older bar of soap, the moisture has probably mostly dried up and thus, the bar doesn’t grow as big.

 

Notes from the Trenches: 

So after we had finished this activity, I didn’t want to just throw away a bar of soap.  After a little brainstorming, I remembered a pin that showed how to turn a bar of soap into a gallon of liquid soap.  I had never done it partly because it required grating an entire bar of soap, and who has time for that?  But now, I had a bunch of soap dust just ready to be made useful.  Oh, I was sooo excited.  My quick little tot school activity could include money-saving DIY home economics post too!  I took a bunch of photos of the process:


Crush the soap into bits.

Add 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.

Heat on medium heat until totally dissolved.

Remove the mixture from the heat.

Let stand 10-12 hours.

It will be very firm, like thick jello.

Use a blender to re-liquefy it.

Pour the soap into a container.

Store the rest.

I set my new bottle of DIY liquid soap in the bathroom and tried to wash my hands, which ended up being quite a disgusting experience. 

When I pushed the pump, a nice little dime size amount did NOT get deposited in my hand.  No, a slimy stream of snot-like material slid from the pump, but didn’t even break off.  The trail of soap just hung there, exactly as though from a small child’s sickly nose.   I had to use my fingers to get it off of the pump.  When I scrubbed my hands together, the soap did create suds, but frankly the slimy feeling was unbearable.  I rinsed my hands  and vowed never to use the snot soap again. 

Sweet Pea didn’t have the same revulsion to the soap that I did, so I thought, “Well, maybe Sweet Pea can use this stuff…” and left the (refilled Method brand) bottle next to the sink in the hall bathroom.  This lasted about 4 days until my unsuspecting aunt came for a visit.  After a trip to the bathroom, she emerged and in a strange tone asked, “That soap bottle in the bathroom didn’t come with the soap that is in there now, did it?”   No.  No, it didn’t.

I resigned myself to buying a new bottle of soap for the bathroom and plan to give the remaining gallon(!) of slime to Sweet Pea to play with in the bathtub.  Maybe I’ll even use some food coloring to dye it yellow or green.  ;)

 Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)

Carnivals:  This post is linked up to It’s Playtime! @ Kid’s Activities Blog.


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Edible Marbled Easter Eggs

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 From:  Many people have asked me if my original Marbled Easter Eggs are edible.  I always respond by saying that I don’t recommend eating them.  Since the egg shells are porous enough for dye to leak through and stain the egg whites, I imagine that the shaving cream seeps into them too.   

However, a few months ago, someone named Vicki left me a comment suggesting that I should try cool whip instead of shaving cream.  What a brilliant idea!    I experimented a little bit and finally have a method for creating marbled eggs that can be eaten (after peeling them, of course)!

 Material:

  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • White vinegar.
  • Cool whip.
  • Large moderately shallow container.  (I used GladWare, but I think a plastic or foil  8×8 disposable baking pan would be perfect.  Larger pans require too much Cool Whip.)
  • 2-3 different colors of liquid food coloring.  (We used the “Neon” variety.)
  • Chopstick or paint brush end for swirling the colors.
  • Large serving spoon.
  • Spatula (optional).
  • Paper plates.
  • Enough space in the refrigerator to store the eggs for several hours.
  • Paper towels.
  • Smock or bib for your tot.

 Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

  

Procedure:

  • Add a 2-3 TBS of white vinegar to the eggs, turning them to make sure that all sides get coated. 

 Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

  • Scoop enough Cool Whip into the container to coat the bottom by 2-3 inches.  Smooth down the Cool Whip with a spatula or the serving spoon.
  • Put about 10 drops of food coloring onto the Cool Whip.  Repeat with 10 more drops of each remaining color.

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 

  • Let your tot use the end of a paint brush or chopstick to slowly swirl the colors together.  (Generally the less swirling the better.  If the dye becomes too incorporated into the Cool Whip, it will not be bright enough on the eggs.)

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 

  • Allow your tot to gently place an egg onto the top of the Cool Whip.

 Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

  •  Show your tot how to carefully roll the egg along the top of the Cool Whip with the large spoon until it is entirely coated with dye.

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 

  •  Place the egg on a paper plate and set aside.
  • Add a few more drops of food coloring to the Cool Whip and then repeat the procedure with the remaining eggs, adding more food coloring each time.
  • Put the eggs in the fridge and allow them to sit undisturbed for about 8 hours. (You should not allow the eggs to sit at room temperature if you plan on eating them.)    See “Notes from the Trenches” for more details on timing.

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 

  • After 8 hours, remove the eggs from the fridge and gently rub the Cool Whip off of the eggs with a paper towel.  This part is very messy and also requires a delicate hand.  Rub until the eggs are totally dry and free of Cool Whip, but do not press too hard on the eggs!  I pressed too hard and broke a couple of the eggs this way.  (Despite Play at Home Mom’s  admonishments to say “yes” more often, all I could envision was a head-to-toe stained Sweet Pea, ruined clothing, and an entire dozen dropped and broken eggs.  I just couldn’t bring myself to let Sweet Pea do this part, but she probably would have loved it.)    

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 

 

 Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 

Observations: We had a lot of fun with this and we tried it several times to find the best method.   We started out using tongs to turn the eggs, but that didn’t work nearly as well as a large serving spoon.

 Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 As I mentioned, this is very messy, but it was a lot of fun  With modifications, I think it could be enjoyed by all ages.  I recommend it for anyone looking for a new twist on the normal Easter Egg dying tradition.

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

Notes from the Trenches:  We found that the green food coloring didn’t show up very well, but that might have been because we always added it after we’d already done several eggs with other colors first.

8-12 hours is the optimal amount of time to leave the eggs covered in the Cool Whip and dye.  As you can see in the picture below, if you don’t leave the dye on the eggs for long enough, it doesn’t set.

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

 Alternatively, if you leave the Cool Whip on the eggs for too long, it dries and becomes very difficult to remove.   Note the gummy stain on the egg shown below.  

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

The only way that I could get the dried Cool Whip off of the egg was to rub it with a damp cloth.  However, this caused much of the dye to come off in those spots.

 

Beautiful Edible Marbled Eggs (Shannon's Tot School)

Along the same lines, please be aware that these eggs are not colorfast.  Every time I handled the eggs, some (not a lot, but a bit) of food coloring would stain my finger tips if they were the slightest bit damp.    I can imagine that taking the eggs from the fridge and leaving them out would cause some condensation and make the situation worse.   I’ve had this happen with regular store-bought Paas egg dye kits too, but thought I should mention it.  Be careful if you intend to hide these eggs because I definitely think they would stain fabric.

 Rating: 2 Stars * (Fun, Easy)

 Carnivals:  This post is linked up to It’s Playtime! @ Kid’s Activities Blog.

Help Me Help You:  If you really enjoyed this post or any of my other free ideas and printables, consider doing a little shopping at Amazon.com through any of the links on my website (which gives me a few cents to help offset my web hosting costs):  Amazon.com

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Origami for Kids: Simple Cat

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.

 

 Prerequisite:  Your child must be able to fold a sheet of paper and make a crease in it, which can be tricky for a for a small child.   If your tot struggles with this, then start with something like Kumon Let’s Fold book.

 Material:

 Procedure:

  • As usual, make sure you practice this so you are comfortable making it before you show your tot how to do it.

 

 

Observations:  I love origami and am excited that Sweet Pea has taken an interest in it too. 

 

  It took a few tries, but she can make the cat (and the dog) without any help from me now.  

 

This activity is highly recommended for kindergartners and older children.

Notes from the Trenches:  The most difficult part of this model is creating the ears in step #3.   Fold each of them up from the center triangle, making sure to leave some space between them.

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)

 


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Glue Paint and Chalk Pastels

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.
   

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

 

From: I found this cool idea on Mommy Labs.

Material: 

  • A bottle of white school glue.
  • One color of Liquid watercolor or food coloring.
  • A chopstick or thin paintbrush handle to stir the glue.
  • Paper or card stock.

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

  • Chalk Pastels

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

  • Damp cloth for wiping off dirty fingers. (Optional)
  • Smock or bib. (Optional)

Procedure:

  • Remove the cap from the glue bottle and add about 10 drops of the liquid watercolor.  The exact number of drops will change depending on how saturated you want the color of the glue paint to be.
  • Use the chopstick to stir the color into the glue.  It will take quite a bit of stirring to create a uniform color.  
  • If you want the glue paint to be darker, add more liquid water color and stir again.

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

  • Once you are happy with the color, recap the glue bottle.
  • Allow your tot to draw shapes on a piece of paper with the colored glue.   (Even though the photo below shows Sweet Pea drawing line segments, we later found the closed shapes worked better because they could be entirely colored-in with the pastels.)

 Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

  • Set the paper aside to let the glue dry overnight
  • When the glue is dry, let your tot use the chalk pastels to color in the shapes.

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

  • Show your tot how to smudge the chalk pastels to create a more uniform color inside each of the shapes if she wants.

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

 

Observations: Sweet Pea likes almost all of our art projects and this was no exception.    She liked squeezing the colored glue to make a drawing and she especially loved rubbing her fingers in the chalk pastels to smudge them.

 Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

When we first put the glue on the paper, it looked really puffy and 3-D.

 Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

I was surprised, and somewhat disappointing, to discover that the glue had flattened out after it dried overnight.  However, it still held enough of a “ridge” to help contain the chalk pastels.

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

This was lots of fun.  It was a great art project.  My only reservation is that squeezing the glue paint out of the bottle requires some hand strength, so I would only recommend this for older preschoolers and up.  

Notes from the Trenches:  It was difficult to get the liquid water colors mixed into the glue.  At first we tried shaking the glue, but when that didn’t work, we moved on to stirring with the chopstick.

Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

I had a hard time finding chalk pastels, but eventually located them at Hobby Lobby.  They are NOT the same thing as oil pastels.  I don’t think oil pastels would work quite as well for this activity, but let me know how it turns out if you do end up using them.

 Glue Paint and Chalk Pastel Art (Shannon's Tot School)

Rating: 2 Stars * (Fun, Easy)

 


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Do-a-Dot Numbers

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.
 

 

From:  Here are the Do-A-Dot number pages!    A long time ago, I created a set of uppercase Do-A-Dot letters and since then, many people have asked me to also create number ones.   These Do-A-Dot sheets are tedious to make so it took me a while to get them finished, but I am finally done!

 Material:

  • Do-A-Dot Markers.  (We have the, slightly more interesting, Brilliant color set.) 
  • Do-A-Dot Number Worksheets.
  • A plastic tablecloth, tray or at least some extra papers (to prevent the Do-A-Dot  ink from staining your table).
  • A smock or bib (optional).

   Procedure:

  • Print of a few of the Do-A-Dot Number Pages.
  • For younger tots, you may have to remove the screw cap on the markers.
  • If your tot has not worked with a Do-A-Dot marker before, select one sheet and show how him how to press straight down with the marker to make a colored dot inside one of the circles.
  • Give your tot a few of the number sheets and allow him to fill in the dots on his own.

  Do-A-Dot_BestPics-1

Observations: Sweet Pea was excited to see the return of Do-A-Dot sheets.  After a couple of sheets, she decided to make things a little more interesting, and used all of the Do-A-Dot markers to create a colorful pattern.

Do-A-Dot_BestPics-7

 

In the picture below, Sweet Pea was upset because the green marker had gotten contaminated with some pink ink.  :)

Free Do-A-Dot Numbers (Shannon's Tot School)

 

As I anticipated, this activity didn’t hold Sweet Pea’s attention as long as it did the last time.  She only did about about 5 of the pages before she was was ready to move on to something else.  I think these are just bit too simple for her now, but she still had fun with them.

Do-A-Dot_BestPics-4

I don’t know what it is about these types of worksheets, but little kids seem to love filling them in the  Do-A-Dot markers.  I highly recommended it for all little kids.

Notes from the Trenches:   Sweet Pea loves Do-A-Dot markers, but they will seep through the Do-A-Dot page and stain whatever is below.  Make sure you put down a plastic table cloth or another piece of paper.  This is a picture of the paper that we kept below the sheets that Sweet Pea stamped.  They will stain skin too, and despite what the packaging says, I have not found them to be 100% washable.

Do-A-Dot_BestPics-9

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Independent) 

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Using a Gravy Separator (and an Introduction to Density)

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.
Gravy Separator (and introduction to the density of liquids) via Shannon's Tot School

Intro:   This is a super easy practical life lesson with a good dose of science.  During the holidays, Sweet Pea saw my gravy separator and wanted to know what it was, so I set up this quick little activity for her on the spot.

Prerequisite:  Your tot should be good at pouring liquid.  Younger tots should practice with beans before trying to pour liquids!

Material:

 GravySeparator-1

 
 Procedure:

  • Fill the gravy separator about half full with water.
  • Add a few drops of coloring to the water and mix until a uniform color.
    GravySeparator-2
  • Pour 2-3 TBS of oil on top of the colored water.
    GravySeparator-3
  • Allow your tot to try to stir the oil and water together.  Ask your tot if she thinks she can get them completely combined.
    GravySeparator-4
  • When your tot tires of stirring, wait a few minutes for the water and oil to settle.  Ask your tot to look at the separator and describe what has happened to the oil.
  • Depending on your tot’s level of interest, you may be able to explain that the water is more dense than the oil.  Very roughly, density is how much something weighs divided by how much room it takes up.    Or, even more roughly, you could say that the “stuff” (matter) that makes up the water is packed together more tightly than the “stuff” that makes up the oil.  

    GravySeparator-6

  • Point out the way that the gravy separator is constructed allows  you to pour the more dense water from the bottom while the less dense oil stays floating on top.  Demonstrate slowly pouring the water out of the gravy separator into the mixing bowl, making sure to stop before the oil comes out.
  • Let your tot try.
    GravySeparator-7
  •  Your tot can do this as many times as she would like.  Just pour the water back into the gravy separator and allow it to settle for a few minutes before trying again.

Observations: Sweet Pea had a surprising amount of fun with this.  I think it falls under that category of all those things that adults take for granted, but are fascinating to children.

GravySeparator-8

Sweet Pea worked with this for quite a while, pouring the liquid out of the separator, mixing everything together and starting over again several times before she was ready to clean up.

I would recommend this for preschoolers and up.  Also Bird and Little Bird has an extension on this activity that creates an entire column of different colored liquids, which looks super fun too!

Notes from the Trenches:   The pouring requires a steady hand for little ones.  Expect some spills.  :) 

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)

Carnivals:  This post is linked up to It’s Playtime @ Kids Activities Blog.

 


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Annual New Year’s Interview – 2013

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.   

Do an annual interview with your kids on New Year's.

From:  A few years ago I saw this great idea at Teach Mama and now we do one every year.  Amy revamped some of her interview questions so they are more geared towards older children now, but mine are still aimed for younger ones.

Material:

 

Procedure:

  • Print out the interview questions or just jot your own questions down on a sheet of paper.
  • Ask your tot the questions and write down her answers.
  • If your tot is old enough, request that she write her name and draw a picture of herself.
  • Store the interviews somewhere safe so you’ll be able to find them next year.  (I keep small hanging file folder boxes. for each member of the family that contain important documents.)

Observations:  I know I say this every year, but this is really one of my favorite activities.  It is so fun to hear both what has changed and what has stayed the same.    Here is our interview for 2013.  Everything in blue is a direct quote.

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU
What is your name?   <Sweet Pea.>  You know my name is <Sweet Pea>, don’t you?

If you could change your name, what new name would you choose?  Snowflake

How old are you?  5.

When is your birthday?  April 25th.

What is your favorite color?  Blue and Pink.  The question says, “What is your favorite color?”, but it doesn’t mean just one color.

What is your favorite song?  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

What is your favorite food?  Pasta.

What food do you dislike the most?  I don’t like some salmon, but I do like the Alaska ones.  [She means that she doesn’t like smoked salmon, but she does like fresh.]

What is your favorite place to eat?  What’s that place with the color changing walls?  “Bo Lings?”  Yes.  Bo Lings. [It’s a Chinese restaurant.]

Who is your best friend?  I’ve got lots of friends.  My best, best, best friend is Kate.  

What is your favorite book?  Muddy Pup.  I can read all of it to you guys.

What is your favorite toy?   I don’t really have a favorite toy.  Well, what is something that you like to play with?  Oh!  My big dolphin!

What is your favorite movie?   Dolphin Tale

How do you like to spend your time?   With Family.

 

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR FAMILY
What is your Mommy’s name?   Shannon.

How old is Mommy?  35. 

What does Mommy do during the day?  You usually run.  And take Shiraz [our collie] to the groomer.

What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? When we go out to Starbucks and both get a drink.  [I usually get her a double expresso. ;) ]

What is your Daddy’s name?  Ross.

How old is Daddy?  36

What does Daddy do during the day?  Fixes problems and works on the computer.

What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?  I like to play family.

 

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE

What is your favorite thing that happened last year?  Going to the corn maze.

What are you looking forward to doing this year?  Carve pumpkins.

Where would you like to go on vacation this year?  To Grandma Trudy’s.

What will your job be when you grow up?  A cook.

Where do you want to live when you grow up?  North America.  Where in North America?  Where we live now.

Do you want to get married someday?   Yes.

Who would you like to marry? George. [A friend who was in her class last year.]

Notes from the Trenches:   We broke our interview up into 2 sessions this time.  I find that if I ask too many at once, she runs out of steam and her answers start getting a bit terse.  Now, don’t wait to do this with your kids.  Grab a pen and paper and start asking!

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)  

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20 Frugal Holiday Crafts

I was recently asked for some good frugal Christmas craft ideas, so I created this list.   You should be able to make most of these crafts with things you have around the house.  Even if you don’t have the exact supplies, I think all of these activities lend themselves well to improvising.

I am assuming you have plain paper, a pen or pencil, markers or crayons, scissors, tape and white glue.  I have listed any additional items you will need next to each craft.

 
  • Puffy Snowflakes (Inner Child Fun) – Heavy card stock (a cut up a cereal box will work for this), water,  self rising flour (You can substitute 1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 tsp baking powder), an empty dish soap bottle or similar container.
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Last Minute Advent Activity Calendar

Sweet Pea is 5 years old.


 
From: A couple of years ago, I saw several ideas for advent calenders that contained activities instead of candy or toys.  I loved the concept, but found it overwhelming to get the entire thing organized, especially considering how busy the holidays usually are.   I found tons of idea to include in this sort of calender, but not many specifics about how to actually set it up.  I wanted to share the details of how exactly I put mine together so you would be able to create one quickly.   You should be able to make one of these in about an hour, plus some shopping time for your chosen activities supplies (which doesn’t even have to get the done until after your advent calendar is completed).  I especially like the way this calender is designed (with the activity ideas writen on paper and put in bags) because it is easy to change things around afterwards (even in the middle of December).

Material:

  • Blank December Calender  (.pdf file requires Foxit or Adobe Acrobat)
  • Pen
  • Several Pieces of Paper
  • Scissors
  • 25 paper lunch sacks.  If you don’t have them already, Target sells a package of red ones for $2.  You may also want a few larger Christmas gift bags to contain larger craft kits.  
  • Marker
  • 5-10 Cheap Christmas craft kits, candy or toy trinkets.  (Optional, but it will make things a lot easier for you.  Micheal’s Craft Store sells a ton of little $1-2 craft kits that work perfect for this.   You can find the same sort of thing at Hobby Lobby or Target, but I have always found the most variety for craft kits at Micheal’s.  You don’t need these until your advent calender is set up, and you probably won’t even need them before Dec 1st.)  

 

Procedure:

  • Review your schedule for December  and fill in the corresponding squares on your blank advent calender with your holiday appointments.   You also might want to put an X on any day that will require a very quick activity. For example, if Sweet Pea has swimming lessons on Wednesday,  I would put an X on every Wednesday to remind myself we will need a quick activity.  (Since I don’t feel like revealing exactly when we will be out during the holidays, all of these dates and events are made up.)

     
  • On scrap paper, make a up a quick list of all the activities that your family traditionally does during the holiday season.  
     
  • Assign each of your normal holiday activities to a day on the calendar. You do not have to be 100% accurate here, because you will be able to shuffle things around later. Just make your best guess and pick a day that looks good.

     
  • Now use scrap paper, MS Word, or pinterest to create a list of 10-20 additional crafts or activities that you want to do this year.  (You can find some great ideas at Meet Penny,  Code Name Mama, Confessions of a Homeschooler and Monkeyin Around Times Two.)   Don’t forget to either print or make a note of where to find recipes and craft instructions later if you need them.  Pinterest is great for inspiration, but don’t get lost there.  This is supposed to be superfast, remember?   Here are a few of my favorites:
    1. Make snow dough.
    2. Go ice skating.
    3. Make a gumdrop tree.
    4. Create cinnamon ornaments.
    5. Create salt dough ornaments.
    6. Cut out paper snowflakes.
    7. Watch a Christmas movie. (How the Grinch Stole Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas)
    8. Drink hot cocoa and read a new Christmas book.  (Dream Snow by Eric Carle or Snowmen at Christmas by Caroline Buehner)
    9. Bake a new type of Christmas cookie or treat. (Meringue Mushrooms)
    10. Learn a new Christmas Carol. (Martha Stewart has a printable song book here.)
    11. Create a handmade Christmas card for the grandparents and mail it.
    12. Decorate a gingerbread house.
  • Write down each of the new crafts or activities that you want to do on your calendar. Again, you are not looking for perfection.  You may discover that you don’t have enough time to do them all or you may have a few blank days left over.   If you have blank spaces, that is where you will use the cheap craft kits.  
  • In notepad or another word processing program, type the numbers 1-25.
  • Use your calender to copy each activity to the corresponding day on your typed list.
     
  • Print 2 copies of your typed list.
  • Take one of the copies and cut it up so each activity is listed on its own strip of paper.  
     
  • Using your calendar to help you, put each strip of paper into its appropriately dated bag.
  • Put the cheap Christmas craft kits into the remaining empty bags.  
     
  • Place your bags on a shelf or table.  I like to mix up the numbers and have Sweet Pea search for the correct one each day, but you might want to put them in order instead.
  • Don’t forget to go shopping for any supplies you need for the activities you have scheduled!  As you buy or print the needed items, stick them in the bags so you be able to find them when you need them.
  • Each night before you go to bed, review your typed list.  Make sure that your schedule still allows time for the assigned activity.  The best part of this advent calendar is that you can switch things around.  If something comes up (as it often does during the holidays) and you don’t have time for the scheduled activity, then just move the strip of paper to another day and replace it with an easy craft kit, candy or small toy.  

Observations:  We  had a lot of fun with our advent activity calendar last year.  I always like to have Sweet Pea make a paper chain on the 1st day of December.

We had a great time making cinnamon ornaments and they turned out beautifully.  


Sweet Pea’s favorite event was probably decorating the gingerbread house.


Notes from the Trenches:

Keep a good sense of humor about the activites.   I always have to remind myself that the point is to have fun and not to produce great works of art.  In particular  we had some spectacularly bad pinterest fails last year.  Don’t try the seed bead ornaments.  Half of our beads fell off within a week.  What a mess!

 

 

 

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