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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Paint Clean-Paint Messy: One Day, Two Very Different Painting Experiences

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Painting is an all senses on deck experience for my youngest son and lately he’s been asking to do it more and more often. Sometimes I’m up for the hose ’em down when they’re done style of backyard body painting, but other (most) times I’d rather not. Research suggests that the sensory simulation of finger painting is very beneficial for the brain development of little ones. So, finding time for that kind of immersive creation is important. There’s also strong  empirical evidence that my kids have no business finger painting while I’m trying to make breakfast at 8am. There’s a time for everything.

Clean “Painting”:
Paper towel or paper
Brush
Small amount of water in a cup (to minimize spillage)
This “painting” in quotes because…well there’s no paint. I was actually shocked at how content he was with this super clean painting substitute. Thinking about adding a paint brush to my arsenal of purse items as another tool for keeping the kids occupied at restaurants. “Why yes, I would like water and a paper towel.”

Messy Painting:
Non-toxic Paint
Brushes
Rolls of paper
Something on which to put mass quantities of paint. We used a baking pan.
This is Painting with a capital P because it is an all in experience. There’s no painting smock in the world that can handle the mess that ensues when I get my two boys outside for mural finger/face/body painting. After they’ve had a good time smearing with their hands I take the paper off of the wall and put it on the ground so their feet can have a turn. Then I get out the hose and towels.

Classroom in the Kitchen: Making Edible Legs

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We’ve been learning all about the body; our most recent topic has been muscles and bones. It’s hard for kids to understand that there are things inside of them since they can’t see it.  So, with the help of some simple ingredients we explored the most basic elements of the legs-bones, muscles, fat, and blood- in our kitchen, and ended the lesson with a tasty snack!

Materials:
Premade pizza dough (skin)
Marinara (blood)
Mozzarella cheese stick (bone)
Shredded cheddar cheese (fat)

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Objective: (for 3-5 year olds)
Child will be able to identify skin, fat, bone, and blood.
Child will be able to briefly explain the function of:
Skin-helps us feel
Blood-sends oxygen and nutrients around our body
Bone-helps us stand up and makes blood
Muscles-helps us move

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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“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 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 🙂

Cut-out Spider Web with Step-by-step Instructions

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If you have paper and scissors you can make Halloween decor or a web to accompany your reading of The Very Busy Spider.

1. Fold Rectangular Paper to form a triangle and long a rectangle
2. Cut off long rectangle
3. Cross outer corners of folded triangle across center point
4. Fold in half one more time
5. Cut a U-shape into the thickest part of the triangle.
6. Cut u-shapes along the fully folded edge of the triangle DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THRU
7. Unfold and VOILA!

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Your emerging scissor  user can even help on step 6 and a fully functioning scissor user could make a spider web of their very own! 

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 🙂