As I put my children's gifts under the tree last night I couldn't help but feel a little empty knowing there are parents who will not be able to share in this joyous occasion. As I end the 25 Days of Winter Activities I wanted to share an activity we did on Thanksgiving but seems perfect as we reflect on those we love and what we cherish. This would be a great New Years Eve activity for the whole family.
YOU WILL NEED: plain white cotton napkins, colored fabric markers
Cover a table with newspaper or butcher paper and lay out a variety of fabric markers. Give each person a white napkin. Talk to your children about what it means to be thankful. Each child should draw a picture of one thing they are thankful for. Label their pictures. "I'm thankful for my home". Each year add a new thing you are thankful for. What a great way to reflect on what is important!
For those of you who celebrate Christmas have a wonderful day. Hug your babies tight. Life is precious.
I'm thankful for three healthy children who enjoy making Dave and I laugh."
Friday, December 14, 2012 will forever be part of our lives. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School that stole the lives of children and teachers also stole a piece of each of our hearts. Not an hour has past since that day that I have not had those little souls on my mind. I made a promise to myself on that day that I would never forget the emotions I am currently feeling and would use sadness and fear to better myself and continue to learn and grow especially as a mom, wife and educator. I know all of us wish there was more we could do to help those directly effected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. One of my favorites blogs, MADE, wrote a post on a number of simple ways to help. We can't change what happened and we can't take away the pain these families will endure, but we can show that we care. We can show that each child and teacher lost too early affected our lives. We can show we will not forget.
One way to help is to make paper hearts and shower these little ones with love. Any colors, glittery or plain, just make sure not to write words. You can mail your hearts by 1/12 to:Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514Today Quinn and I took a break from baking and crafts to make our hearts. We have shielded Quinn from what happened at Sandy Hook so I simply told him that we were making hearts for when children feel sad and this will let them know we are thinking of them and love them. He liked this idea immediately.
Our hearts are with you, Newtown! We hope you feel how much you are supported and loved on the slow path towards healing.
One of my happiest childhood memories of the holidays is caroling with friends and family and opening our home's door to cheerful Christmas songs. I haven't caroled in 25 years, but after seeing it in books and on television my son was eager to sing for all! We spent the past week practicing our songs and shaking our bells. We settled on three songs "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman". The kids were so excited when I announced this morning that we were going caroling at Grandma and Grampa's house. Honestly, I haven't seen anyone carol in years so I thought we would set my kids up for success and head over to visit my parents. We put on our Santa hats, packed up our bells and a thermos of hot chocolate and were on our way!
My kids were so excited as we tiptoed up to the front door. With a huge smile on his face and giggling sisters in the background Quinn knocked on the door.
So much excitement as my surprised Mom answers the door!
My mom joins us as we sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".
After singing we shared our hot chocolate with my parents. If you are looking for a way to really get into the holiday spirit I highly recommend caroling. We all had the best time and my parents loved the surprise visit! I think we just started a new tradition.
I recently saw a recipe for extra large gingerbread people
that were the cutest things! While I plan on making them for the gingerbread party we are having next week with my family I thought it would be fun to do a twist on this idea and make jumbo snowman. YOU WILL NEED:
sugar cookie recipe (mine is here
), flour, rolling pin, parchment paper, cookie tray, buttercream frosting, candies for decorating (jellybeans, chocolate candies, yogurt pretzels, licorice sticks, etc. Make sugar cookie dough according to the recipe. Roll out on a floured surface. Draw the outline of a snowman on a piece of paper to use as your template. Place the piece of paper directly on rolled out cookie dough. Using a knife cut around the template.
Gently place the snowman cutouts on a cookie tray covered with parchment paper. I was able to fit two on each tray. You will be able to make about 12 jumbo snowmen. Bake for specified time and temperature. Let cool completely.
While the cookies cool make the buttercream frosting.
Cream together 1 stick softened butter, 1 3/4 C powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
Set up a table of individual dishes of frosting, bowls of candies and one snowman cookie for each person.
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Little hands kept nibbling!
Show children how to use the frosting as the "glue" to stick the candies on the snowman cookies.
It was fascinating to observe how each of my children approached this project. I was smiling to see the personalities, strengths and stages of development shine through their snowman cookies.
My sweet tooth, Lu, piled on as many candies as she could get her hands on. She knows how quickly treat food can be gobbled up in our home.
Charlotte was more methodical and not that into sweets so she spent most of the time using the frosting as paint and a sensory activity.
Quinn loved taking his time to plan out exactly how he was going to use the candies on his snowman. This truly was a piece of art!
The smell of gingerbread baking in the oven is one of those quintessential holiday scents. Baking this delicious gingerbread and spending an afternoon decorating houses with brightly colored candies. While my girls napped my son and I had a perfect day enjoying laughs, sticky fingers and a few nibbles of sweets. I hope these gingerbread houses bring joy to your home too! YOU WILL NEED: gingerbread cookie recipe and royal icing recipe (find mine here
), various candy decorations (licorice, jelly beans, chocolate candies, miniature candy canes, etc.), rolling pin, parchment paper, cookie tray
Make gingerbread according to recipe. Roll out on a floured surface and cut house shapes (make paper templates ahead of time and then cut with a knife). Exact sizes of shapes can be found here
. Bake cookie dough according to recipe and let cool.
Using the royal icing "glue" together the pieces of the house. You will need to hold the pieces together for a few minutes while they dry. Nibble a few of the pieces while you wait. It's research of course! Now for the fun part! Decorate your house by sticking the candy on with the royal icing.
Our gingerbread house may not win any awards, but this little guy and an afternoon of fun is all I need.
Every year when I visit my parents' house for the holidays one of the first things I do is look at the ornaments on their Christmas tree. The tree is a place of memories from my childhood. Ornaments made by me and my three brothers that instantly take me back to simple times. All of us sitting at a table together talking, painting and simply being a family. As a mom I am eager to fill my own tree with memories. Here is an easy recipe to share with your family.
YOU WILL NEED: 4 C flour, 1 C salt, 1.5 C lukewarm water
Mix together the three ingredients. Roll out on a floured surface. Create shapes using cookie cutters.
Place shapes on cookie trays covered with parchment paper. Using a toothpick or skewer make a small hole at the top of each ornament. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 1 hour or until ornaments are completely hard. Let cool.
Decorate the ornaments using paint and glitter. I gave each of my children a paper plate with small amounts of red, blue, yellow and white paint. Using only primary colors, plus white, gives children the opportunity to explore color mixing. Self-discovery of how different colors are created is a much more profound experience than simply saying to a child "red and blue makes purple".
Let the ornaments dry.
Thread a ribbon or fishing wire through the hole and hang on your Christmas tree.
Memories were made today.
One of my Christmas memories as a child is making stained glass cookies with my mom and then hanging them on our Christmas tree. Stained glass cookies look beautiful on a tree or hanging in a window, and, of course, they make a delicious treat. YOU WILL NEED: favorite sugar cookie dough (you can find mine here
), crushed hard candies (I used a variety of YummyEarth Organic Lollipops
), parchment paper, large cookie cutter (I used the circular top of a martini glass), smaller cookie cutter (I used a christmas tree), cookie tray
Crush up the hard candies. I put mine in a plastic bag and crushed them with a meat tenderizer.
Roll out sugar cookie dough on a floured surface and use the larger cookie cutter first, then use the smaller cookie cutter in the center. Place on a cookie tray covered in parchment paper (no need to grease the tray). Sprinkle a small amount of crushed candies in the center of each cookie. Make a small hole at the top of each cookie using a knife or skewer.
Bake for the specified amount of time in your cookie recipe. If you have an oven light this is the perfect opportunity to turn it on and let you kids watch the transformation of the candies. "Look, what's happening! The candies looked bumpy outside of the oven, but now they are smooth. Why is that happening?"
Take the cookies out of the oven and cool until the candy middle is hard. Thread a ribbon or fishing wire through the hole in each cookie and then hang at a sunny window or on your Christmas tree or... gobble them up!
With all the indoor craft activities we are doing lately it was time to head outside! Scavenger hunts are one of my go to activity choices no matter what time of year it is. They are cheap fun and the perfect way to get your whole family running around breathing in the fresh air.
YOU WILL NEED: paper, pen, individual bags
Create a scavenger hunt list for each child with a list of natural items found outside. Add pictures to each corresponding word to aid pre-reading skills.
Help your children read the scavenger list items one at a time and then search for each item. When a child finds an item on the list he can put it in his bag. Continue until all items are found.
One of the best parts of living in New England during Winter is the magic that happens when the snow falls in a forest. The snowflakes cling to the pine needles and branches creating a glistening wonderland that takes my breath away ever time I walk through a tunnel of bending snow-covered branches. Today we're bringing some of that winter magic inside. Begin by taking a walk with your children to collect sticks and branches.
In addition to the branches YOU WILL NEED: glue, brushes, glitter, rectangle or square pieces of styrofoam.
Give each child a piece of styrofoam, container of glue, brush and branches. Choose branches and stick into styrofoam. Because of the fine motor skills needed to make the sculptures this project is best for ages 2 and up.
Add glue to the branches using a paintbrush then sprinkle or spoon on glitter. We used silver and green.
Quinn loved creating his Winter Wonderland and added it to our Gingerbread House Village
. I love having a little winter time magic in our house.
Being a stay at home mom (read: minus one salary) I try to find creative ways to save money. One of the ways I consistently save while still creating fun art opportunities for my kids is through reusuable materials. Wrapping paper scraps, small pieces of ribbon and old cards are perfect materials for a holiday collage.
YOU WILL NEED: wrapping paper scraps, ribbons, bows, cards, etc., glue bottles, paper plates
Cut a hole in the middle of each paper plate.
Cut the wrapping paper and the ribbon into small pieces. Arrange on a paper plate.
Give each child a paper plate and a glue bottle. As with all art projects it is important to focus on the process of the art and not the end product. Children need the freedom to experience and experiment with different materials without the fear of failure. If we impose our adult views on children too early we will never empower them to view the world independently.
Give children the opportunity to decorate their wreaths with the art materials. If your child has had limited exposure to glue be prepared that this art project will probably be more about experimenting with glue than creating a collage. That is perfectly fine. Always honor where your child is developmentally.
Allow to dry, then hang with a ribbon.
Do you think my son is getting sick of having his photo taken? My silly boy.