Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

My little readers and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Polar Express Lantern Craft

We attended our local Parents as Teachers arts and crafts night with Santa this year. They had several cute and easy Christmas crafts for kids. The theme was The Polar Express.  They had a train table with the polar express train. The kids got to make a polar express ticket craft and a snowman print and (my favorite) a conductor's lantern. The kids also got to make a gingerbread house and visit with Santa. Santa came around to all of the tables and admired the kids crafts, which made the boys feel so proud!
the polar express activities, the polar express train, polarexpress,, ready set read, book activity

The Conductor's lanterns were super easy to put together and came with a great take home activity as well.
All you need for these lanterns are a dome shaped plastic cup (like the McCafe cups at McDonalds), a battery operated candle-- tea light size, pipe cleaners (chenille stem), and a decorative piece of ribbon . Decorate the tea light candle with some pipe cleaners and drop into the plastic cup. Put the lid on the cup. Fahion the pipe cleaners into a handle. Tie the ribbon on the handle. You do have to take the lid off every time you want to turn the lantern on and off. 
The parent educators had also created a wonderful take home activity to go with this craft. They had printed out a ticket for each parent to give their child. It promised each kid an opportunity to stay up late and go out for a car ride in the dark with his lantern. The family was supposed to drive around and look at lights together and come home for a special snack.
Christmas activities for kids, Christmas Crafts for Kids, the polar express activities, the polar express train, polarexpress,, ready set read, book activity
The boys enjoyed their night out with their lanterns. They even wore their pajamas like the kids on the Polar Express.
the polar express activities, the polar express train, polarexpress,, ready set read, book activity
The Polar Express is a favorite Christmas book around here. In this story, a little boy rides a train, the Polar Express, to the North pole where he meets Santa and discovers his belief in Santa Claus
Each year I share this book with the boys in the days leading up to the holiday and we share fun activities to go with it. Last year we invited some friends to join us on The Polar Express with our Polar Express playdate.
If you are looking for more Christmas books for kids or Christmas activities for kids, check out my page of Books and Activities by Holiday.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gingerbread Baby Book Activities and Free Printable

This month the Virtual Book Club for kids is celebrating books by author Jan Brett. We have many favorite Jan Brett books and several that have a Christmas theme. This month, I decided to choose the book Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. I created some book activities to go with this book. We made real and paper bag gingerbread houses in order to retell the story and work on story comprehension. We also did word work activities with gingerbread houses. In order to run off a little pre-Christmas energy, we played a gingerbread hide and seek game. You can find all of these activities in my free printable gingerbread theme for preK. This book is especially fun at Christmas when planning your Christmas stories and Christmas activities for kids.

Gingerbread Baby
In this story based on the classic tale, The Gingerbread Boy, a young boy named Matti works to make a gingerbread boy. Matti, however, peeks in the oven door before the allotted cooking time is completed. The cookie baby escapes and the chase begins. This book is a nice twist to the unhappy demise of the original Gingerbread boy.
Jan Brett is as widely known for her mad skills of illustrating as she is known for her wonderful children's tales. This book is no exception. The illustrations are very detailed and Brett uses framed borders to weave parts of the story in a wordless fashion while the story is being read. The details of her books make her work a good choice for older preschoolers through early readers.

Book Activities for Gingerbread Baby
After reading Gingerbread Baby, we made crafts, practiced our retelling skills, played games to hone our word work skills, and even did a little discussion and journaling.
The boys had opportunities to make messy gingerbread houses this year. We've made gingerbread brownies and gingerbread houses made from milk cartons cover with graham crackers, icing and candy. Sometimes, though, it's great to have a less mess option for gingerbread houses.
Christmas Activities, Gingerbread Baby

Paper bag gingerbread houses are a good "less mess" option. I have a free gingerbread printable with directions for making these little houses.
Christmas Activities, Gingerbread Baby

We used our paper bag gingerbread houses when we reread and retold the story. I gave Logan  (my four year old) picture cards to help retell the story. We worked together to sequence the cards in the order of the story. We taped them to a licorice rope  ribbon and stuffed it into the house. Now, he can pull the cards out in order and retell the story. The picture cards are available in my free gingerbread packet.
Christmas Activities, Gingerbread Baby

Since we were working on "houses" we also focused some energy on sorting word families into the correct word house. Of course, our word houses had to be gingerbread houses! We used the words man and cat as anchor words and we did a picture sort of word cards. These are all in the free gingerbread printable as well.
Christmas Activities, Gingerbread Baby

The packet also contains free gingerbread babies which you can hide around your house and "catch" the gingerbread baby as you run, run, run as fast as you can. There are also writing prompts that can be used for written or drawn responses to the reading.
Christmas Activities, Gingerbread Baby

Since gingerbread is often enjoyed in the holiday season, this book activity is a great choice for the month of December. The book also works well because it doesn't make a mention of a specific winter holiday, which allows Gingerbread Baby to be used in a more general setting.
Christmas Activities, Gingerbread Baby

You can download this packet for free in my Teachers pay Teachers or Teachers Notebook Stores. I'd love if you'd follow while you are there.
Jan Brett is a wonderful author to fill your winter months, so I'm super excited to be co-hosting the Virtual Book Club with a group of bloggers. If you have a book activity to share for a Jan Brett book and you have a blog, here's how you can participate. If you don't have a blog, I'd still love to hear how you are celebrating Jan Brett. Leave a comment on this post.

Now it is your chance to share your ideas. Here are the rules for linking up.
  1. Link up only posts inspired by Jan Brett that share children's book inspired crafts, activities, recipes, etc. Any other posts will be deleted.
  2. Visit other blog posts on the linky and comment on or share the ones you love!
  3. Grab the button and share it on your post if you'd like.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Teacher Gift Idea

I was planning to post today with a gift for teachers. My sister shared this idea for a small gift and a sweet way to say "thank you" to your child's teacher. It's a super simple gift and not very expensive, but I thought it was cute. As I was preparing this blog post, the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut were unfolding yesterday. It reminded me that there is no way to adequately thank the teachers who work long hours educating and caring for our children. While we could buy a more expensive gift for a teacher this year, we could also just take time to tell the educators in our child's life "thank you" whether in a handwritten note or verbally. This simple gift does not convey how much we appreciate our teachers, it is just a small gift given to help a teacher relax over the holiday break. I've created a free printable that you can use to make this teacher gift.

Teacher gift with free printable

To make this super simple gift for a teacher, find some cute holiday paper products-- plates, napkins, even cups could be cute.
free printable, christmas crafts, gift for teachers

Wrap these up with a bow and attach a note that say,
"This Christmas gift comes with a simple wish, that you won't have to wash a single dish." Here's a free printable with the gift tags. You can get it by clicking on the picture below.

Free printable, free pdf, christmas crafts, teacher gift

I also attached a gift card to a restaurant that I knew the teacher enjoyed.

Yesterday I posted a quote from Mr. Rodgers on my facebook page.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world."

Many of the helpers that I saw in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday were educators. Our hearts are with that community as we say thank you to all who helped, both educators and so many people who serve and protect every day. We pray for the families who have lost so much.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Countdown Activities for Kids

We have begun counting down the days to Christmas at our house. In order to keep two rambunctious boys a little calm about the upcoming festivities, we've been keeping busy with Christmas activities. Each day we are reading Christmas stories and doing Christmas crafts and activities. Each night we are opening our advent calendar as a family and reading one part of the Christmas story from the Bible. Some of our Christmas activities are from previous years and some are new. I've been working hard to create a page that archives all of our previous Christmas stories and Christmas activities for kids.

Christmas Countdown Activities for Kids

Christmas Countdown Activity: Read "Wild Christmas Reindeer" by Jan Brett

We began our Christmas countdown this year by reading "The Wild Christmas Reindeer" by Jan Brett. This is the perfect first book for beginning a Christmas countdown. Each page in Brett's book is framed by a detailed border that depicts the month of December. Each day is show with a calendar page as well as with an illustration of activities at the North Pole.

Christmas Countdown Activity: Create an Advent Calendar

I used this book to introduce our own advent calendar. This year I used  free printables from Mr. Printables. I rolled them up with the verses and gift ideas from Sweeter Than Sweets. On some, I tucked the "prize" right inside. For others with large gifts, I wrapped them and set the gifts above the calendar. As we open each day, the leftover paper makes a cute Christmas bunting.

While the frames of the book form an "advent calendar", the book also tells a story. The story is of Teeka, a girl who lives "in the shadow of Santa's winter farm". Teeka has the job of rounding up wild reindeer and training them for Christmas. This is a hard job for Teeka and she becomes frustrated and often angry with the reindeer. In the end, she learns that she will not be able to train the reindeer by yelling at them. She apologizes and continues her work with a kinder attitude toward the animals.

Side note: This book was inspiring to me. As a mom, I could relate to Teeka. While I don't have wild reindeer at my house, my two boys resemble wild animals more than little boys right now. They are just so excited about Christmas, I guess. Teeka inspires me to "train" with kindness. I need remember Teeka's words, "no yelling, no screaming, and no bossing, I promise."

Christmas Countdown Activity: Show Kindness to Others

While I found a good lesson in the book, I tried to think about a lesson the boys could learn. I decided to help the boys think about being kind to animals during the winter season. While I also want them to be kind to each other, it's easy for kids to learn lessons of kindness with animals. Most kids naturally love animals and want to be kind to them. 

Tallking about how we could be kind to animals led us to the book, Night Tree by Eve Bunting. In this story a family visits the forest every year. Instead of chopping down a Christmas tree, they fill the tree with popcorn chains, apples, and other goodies for the forest animals to enjoy. 

We live on a wooded lot but it is a deciduous "forest" and not one evergreen tree grows on our entire lot. Our trees are all massively large and not good for decorating. Because our lot is steep and somewhat dangerous for small boys, we have a fence separating our "yard" from our "forest". We decorated our fence for the forest animals.
christmas activities for kids, book activities, ready set read,

We made ornaments of stale bagels with peanut butter and sunflower seeds. We hung apples from strings. We made popcorn chains and scattered nuts, bread crumbs, and apple pieces for the small animals. We were able to use up a lot of leftovers and help feed hungry animals.

After finishing our work, Tyson stood at the edge of the forest and yelled, "Come and get it!" Then he went inside and ate his own "animal snack".

Hopefully we can spread Christmas kindness to all creatures great and small this year!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Tree Crafts for Kids

Christmas crafts for kids, Christmas activities for kids, book activities, ready set read,, photos

I love  when it is time to trim the tree and deck the halls. Our tree wouldn't make it onto the hallowed walls of Pinterest as it isn't showroom perfect. Instead, our tree is filled with Christmas crafts made by special hands. Some of the ornaments were crafted by my husband or myself when we were kids. Others were crafted by our boys. Our home is also bustling with Christmas tree crafts at this time of year!
Last year we made a serrated rectangle puzzle that when ordered from largest to smallest created a Christmas tree. We also made a no-fuss lid Christmas tree, a footprint Christmas tree, and  a colors of faith tree. You can find all of these crafts on my Book and Activities by Holidays page.

This year we based our Christmas tree craft on a wonderful book, Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree came by special delivery. The problem with his special tree? It was too tall for Mr. Willowby's mansion. Mr. Willowby ordered the Butler to cut off the top of the tree and make it fit. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good tree top, the Butler passed the tree top along to Miss Adalaide the upstairs maid. Miss Adalaide fashioned the tree in her tiny maid's quarters only to discover that the tiny tree top was too tall for her house. She chopped off the top and threw it out. The top (of the top) was rescued by the gardener who took it home to his wife. Guess what? Yep, the top (of the top of the top) was too big for the gardener's house. He threw it out and it was rescued by Barnaby Bear. The story continues as the tree top , getting tinier and tinier, is passed to tinier and tinier families. Finally it finds a special home back near Mr. Willowby's big tree.
This is a sweet story that you might remember from your own childhood. It was published in 1963. It was originally published with illustrations in ink and green wash. Now it is available in full color. It is a well told circular story. It is great for sequencing and story retelling. It is also good for teaching concepts such as ordering objects by size.
Christmas Crafts for kids, Christmas activities for kids, book activities, ready set read,

After reading the book, we created Mr. Willowby's Christmas trees.  I gave the boys 3 waffle cones that I had sawed into three different sizes. We saved the extra cone for another use. The boys were able to stack the trees and then take the tops off to make separate trees. We iced and decorated each one. We let them dry but they didn't last long. Although they would make cute decorations, the boys wanted to eat them right away!
Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree will be a staple in our Christmas reading selections for many years to come. Did you read this book as a kid? Is this a Christmas favorite at your house?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December Virtual Book Club for kids

I'm excited to announce that the December Virtual Book Club for Kids featured author is Jan Brett. If you haven't participated before, you can join in any month. Each month a group of bloggers picks an author to feature. We share ideas to use with the author's books and we host a linky party in case you have an idea you'd like to share.
activities for kids, crafts for kids, book activity, Jan Brett, the mitten by jan brett

December is the perfect month to study Jan Brett books as she has so many Christmas and Winter themed books. Of course, she has books for every season and you can find a complete list on Brett's website. There are also over 5,000 free coloring, video, and activity sheets. This could be a great jumpstart in finding a project for the Virtual Book Club!

Choose a book and join us on December 17th. Here's how:
1. Comment below and let me know you'll be joining us for the book club this month.
2. Choose a book by Jan Brett and read it to your class or children at home.
3. Create a book activity to go with the book (craft, activity, cooking project, etc)
4. Come back and link it up on December 17th. The linky will be live for 3 weeks so feel free to add more than one project or link up later.

Here are some of the blogs that will be sharing book activities for Jan Brett books this month.

Toddler Approved, Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, Rainy Day Mum, Reading Confetti, Inspiration Laboratories, Play Dr. Mom, Mommy and Me Book Club, Kitchen Counter Chronicles, Two Big Two Little, Creative Connections for Kids, The Golden Gleam, Juggling with Kids, Taming the Goblin, Crafty Moms Share, Ready Set Read 2 Me, Famiglia and Seoul, The Good Long Road, The Educator's Spin On It, Imagination Soup, 3 Dinosaurs, Royal Baloo, Being A ConsciousParent, No Twiddle Twaddle, Crayon Freckles, The Pleasantest Thing, Adventures in Reading with Kids, Smile, Play, Learn, Creekside Learning, Our Feminist Playschool, and Teach Preschool

I hope you join us on December 17th.