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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Being Your Child’s First Teacher: 3 Practices That Will Help You Raise Lifelong Learners

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Being your child’s first teacher is less about doing specific educational activities a few times a day than it is about transforming your every day tasks into learning experiences.

Imagine that you’re time with your children is one big ongoing field trip.

Prior to staying home full time with my one and three year old boys I taught preschool and then middle school. Parents always asked me what they could do to help their young children succeed in school. Now that I have kids of my own, I understand why parents wanted suggestions beyond completing homework, reading nightly, and taking an active interest in their children’s learning. School is some kind of alchemical institution that transforms young minds into golden vessels of knowledge and skills, right? Whatever a mere parent could do to contribute must be special too, right? I’ve found myself asking these questions as well, since having children and still have to remind myself that they’re wrong in their very premise. Learning is not a series of magical lessons that add up to an educated child; learning is a way of looking at the world like every experience is an opportunity to deepen understanding and improve the way in which we act in that world. One of the greatest educational gifts we can give our children is to teach them to live like lifelong learners by exhibiting curiosity, modeling persistence, and celebrating creativity.

3 Simple Practices for Teaching Young Children
1. Narrate your life: You may feel crazy describing everything you do as you do it but doing this regularly will help build your child’s vocabulary unlike anything else-even if you don’t think they’re listening. “We’re going to buy 1,2,3,4 juicy red apples. I’m going up drop them into the brown bag. Ooh they smell so fresh. I bet they’re delicious!”

2. Think Out Loud: Teaching your child HOW to think is probably even more important than teaching them WHAT to think.”Ugh! This jar lid is stuck on tight! I can’t get it off. I won’t give up. I’ll need to try another way. Maybe heating the lid in hot water will help loosen the lid. Yes! It opened now that the metal is hotter.”

3. Ask Questions: Asking questions about what they see and what you’re doing is great for helping steer and enhance their observational skills. Go even deeper by asking questions back to them when they ask you a question and encourage experimentation. My son asks, “Why can’t I put my popsicle in the water? “. I respond, “Well, you can but the popsicle is cold and the water is warm. What do you think will happen?” Then I went and got another popsicle to avoid another meltdown.

Internalizing these practices and making them habit expands the time and geography of a child’s learning from inside a classroom for a limited amount of time, to the world at large for their entire life.

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 🙂