Our First Advent Calendar: 24 Days of Yuletide Fun

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After days of trolling Pintrest for Advent Calendar ideas, followed by more days of collecting materials and a very late night setting up, our first family advent calendar is up and creating christmas magic.

Instead of 24 Days of candy (and candy crazed kids) I opted for 24  of activities (with some candy here and there).

The whole kit and caboodle cost $100 including all materials, gifts, and activities (could be cheaper if you already have supplies).
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Materials:
Gift bags
String
Command Strip Hooks
Clothespins
Tags numbered 1-25 (25 if you want to include your xmas tree for the big day)
24 cheap craft items, books, gifts, and treats

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“Grow Your Own” Graphing Activity: Our Spooky Skeleton Graph

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A $1 grow your own skeleton, our October Body Unit, some chart paper, and a couple of makers made for a weeks worth of morning math and science learning. Oh, and a magical end of week skeleton surprise.

Graphing of one kind or another is a common fixture of the circle time routine in many preschool classrooms. Our three person classroom had been graphing the weather, but a wild little brother put an end to that by ripping down as many posters as he could before I could stop him. Instead of mourning our lost weather chart I took the opportunity to explore the other ways I could integrate math and scienc.

Materials:
A “grow your own” toy– You know, the things you put in water and they grow. We used a skeleton, but you could just as easily use an animal, person, or whatever. Wish We’d Bought One of These Bigger Ones
A large bowl of water in a place the kids can’t easily get to and mess with in between measurements
Chart paper
Markers

Objective:
Child will be able identify and name basic body parts (head, neck, ribs, arms, legs, skull, hips, legs, feet)
Child will be able to recognize and record change over time
Child will compare objects by size
Child will be able to make logical predictions

A note on objectives: these are variations on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and are likely very similar to objectives for prek in most states. The expectation is not that the child will master the objective after just one lesson, but rather that they are simply working towards mastery over time

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Monster Eggs: Seasonal Fine Motor Activity

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We’ve been learning all about our body this October. These silly little monster egg faces were a great way to bring the fun of Halloween together with our months theme. Plus, peeling the eggs was an accidentally awesome fine motor skill for the boys. We may have lost half of the eggs in the process, but they really worked those tiny finger muscles.

If you can make hard boiled eggs you can make these monster eggs.
Just hard boil some eggs, lightly tap eggs to create cracks all over, and then soak in dyed water for at least a couple of hours. Peel and voila, you’ve got monster/dragon/dinosaur eggs.

If you’ve got some Mr. Potato head pieces you can then make the little faces too!

Monster Slime: Marvelously Messy Sensory Play

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Sensory Play is an essential part of early childhood learning and getting messy is one great way to involve all of the senses-enter EDIBLE MONSTER SLIME!

Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively.

PBS Parents Website

There a tons of Edible Slime Recipes online, but really it just needs to be green and goopy. The edible part is pretty important here because my 20 month old will be joining in the fun and he can’t help but use his sense of taste!  I had planned on making the Chia Slime recipe on the link above, but when I got to the store and realized that Xantham Gum was $13 for a small container I decided a less slime like recipe with cornstarch would be just fine.

On Chia Seeds:
I feel like the Chia Seeds I’ve been using in my cookies, oatmeal, and cereal have been keeping a secret from me. In addition to having manifold health benefits, these tiny seeds turn into fabulously slimy little tapioca-esque beads.

No-Cook Edible Chia Seed Slime Recipe:
Baby Spiders
1/2 cup Chia Seeds mixed with 1 cup of warm water and allowed to “grow” for at least an hour
Monster Boogers
1/2 cup corn starch mixed with green food coloring and between 2 tbsp and 1/4 cup of water. Just play with the ratio until the mixture is thick enough to pick.

I had the boys “pick the monster boogers” and put them into the baby spider brew –classy I know.

Then I went to the kitchen and pulled out anything edible that looked remotely ewwy, gooey, creepy, or crawly.

Add-ins:
-Frozen Peas “Frozen Bugs”-these are so great for sensory contrast of hot/cold
-Green sprinkles
-Karo Syrup –this really invited their sense of taste
-Lentils

Utensils:
Having an assortment of cups, bowls, spoons, and whisks allows little ones to experiment with moving the slime from one place to another.

¡WARNING!
Do not do this inside unless you want a seriously impossible mess to clean up.
I recommend any location where you can clean up by simply hosing everything-including the kids-down after you’re all done. The food coloring I used even stained their hands a bit and took some scrubbing to get off, but we had fun 🙂

Paper Towel Tube Ramp: When Accumulated Trash Turns Into Science

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Paper towel and toilet paper roll tubes have been accumulating at our house for awhile now despite much eye rolling from my husband when I would tell him I’d think of something to do with them. I finally turned my words into action with this ramp building activity.

Materials:
Tubes
Tape
Wall

Activity:
It’s obvious enough that the objective here is to get something round to roll down the tube ramp. The educational value comes in the planful experimentation to make it work. Have several sizes of objects to test which one will fit through the tubes best. We tried a ping pong ball, a football, and grapes. Encourage your little one to make suggestions about what they think will/won’t work.

Asking questions, experimenting, and problem solving are the essential components of this activity.

This is an exercise in engineering. It would be easy enough for me to just tape up a ramp and say “look things go down” and this is fine for little kids, but the 3+ crowd should help with the process.

We tested the angle and position of each tube placement by dropping our grape through and then adding another tube.

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Eventually little brother ripped the whole thing down, but the learning is in the fixing. So, no worries 🙂

Introducing: The SCARECROW in the Yard

imageYou may have heard of The Elf on the Shelf but I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of The Scarecrow in the a Yard. Why haven’t you heard of it?  Probably because I made it up three days ago when I saw a 5ft scarecrow for sale at the craft store for $7.

Who is this mysterious straw stuffed friend?
He was inspired by the character No Noggin from the special Curious George: Halloween Boofest (also on Netflix)-a scarecrow who looses his pumpkin head. Maxwell loooooves this show. So, I knew he’d be totally bumped if we had a scarecrow of our very own. Our Fall Friend Scarecrows(very important to market him as a friendly-not scary – scarecrow) was waiting to meet Maxwell and Patrick right outside their playroom window one morning after I’d told Maxwell I thought I heard a scarecrow outside the night before.

The Scarecrow stays outside all day scaring away crows, but at night when all of the birds are asleep he can come down from his stick!

What can scarecrow do?
1) He watches kids play all day and has fun watching them clean up, share,  and learn.
2) If any toys are left inside at the end of the day he likes to sneak inside at night and take them!
3) When he sees children make happy choices he will get them surprises.
4) He loves Fall and likes to surprise people by decorating their house at night.

Why a Fall Friend Scarecrow?
1) It’s fun.
2) Apparently, the good opinion of a straw stuffed piece of felt holds greater sway over my sons’ actions than does mine. They really wanna impress this guy.
3) He helps me keep the playroom clean by stealing toys.
4) There are so few ways to meaningfully observe Fall in Texas since the two seasons here are Summer (April – September) and slightly less hot summer (October-March).
5) It’s super cheap.
6) It probably creeps out our neighbors to see a scarecrow facing into our house and periodically moving it’s position around our yard. This just makes me chuckle 🙂

I will continue to make updates on new ways Scarecrow interacts with us throughout the Fall. Goodness I love how kids make MY imagination come alive 🙂

Updates:
Scarecrow Decorates for Fall

Great Website with Lots of Songs About Fall and Scarecrows
http://www.preschooleducation.com/sfall.shtml
Before revealing scarecrow each day we sing one of our scarecrow songs.

The Floppy Scarecrow
Sung to: The Itsy Bitsy Spider

The Floppy, floppy scarecrow
Guards his fields all day.
He waves his floppy, floppy hands
To scare the crows away!
Repeat and replace Hands with arms, toes, head, legs, etc…

Scarecrow
Sung to: “Teddy Bear, Teddy bear turn around”

Scarecrow, Scarecrow, turn around.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, jump up and down
Scarecrow, scarecrow, arms up high
Scarecrow, Scarecrow, wink one eye
Scarecrow, scarecrow, bend your knee
Scarecrow, scarecrow, flap in the breeze
Scarecrow, scarecrow, climb into bed
Scarecrow, scarecrow, rest your head

I’m a little Scarecrow
Sung to: “I’m a little teapot”

I’m a little scarecrow stuffed with hay.
Here I stand in a field all day.
When I see the crows,
I like to shout
“Hey! You crows, you better get out!”

Hidden Message Writing Activity

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Paper, matching crayons, and watercolor paints-bam you’ve got a hidden message writing activity.

My good friend Kristin shared this idea and I had to try it out. Both boys loved it and it was simple/fun enough that my husband was able to step in and be the teacher for the activity.

Tips:
-Lighter colors work best like white paper and white crayons or yellow paper and yellow crayons and use darker contrasting paint colors.
-To really focus on fine motor development try to have your kiddos only paint on the areas with crayon. Helps them prepare to write the letters themselves.
-Draw pictures and shapes for littler kiddos