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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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 🙂

Learning is Messy Business: Valuing Effort Over Perfection

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Beautiful calendars are nice, clean weather charts are easier to read, and I could have set up our new September calendar by myself on August 31st, but I’d rather Maxwell learn how to draw numbers, shapes, and patterns; color in his own graph; and take ownership over creating our new month. Messy= Maxwell actively learning.

I won’t get on my soap box very often on this blog, but I want to encourage everyone with little ones to actively demonstrate an appreciation for effort over outcome. It’s still important to value accuracy, but when a child feels like trying and failing is okay they’re more likely to take risks and recover more readily from failures. By contrast, when they feel like things need to be perfect and they fear their capabilities may fall short they may not try at all.

I’ve seen this in all ages as a teacher. Students in my preschool classroom would cry the first time they tried to use scissors and say the phrase that I eventually banned “I can’t do it.” I gointo this a little more in my post While Little Brother Was Napping… the Scissors Came Out

The stakes were much higher than whether or not a heart could be cut out of folded paper in my middle school classroom. Repeating 8th grade was a very real risk for one of my students who could discuss complex historical events in private , but was too afraid of seeming stupid or not cool to complete challenging assignments or participate in class.

It’s not just kids who benefit from having a growth mindset. I think we all probably know someone who is worried “they won’t do it right” or “don’t know where to start” when it comes to teaching their child. As a result they don’t start, and they and their child miss out on the fleeting opportunity to learn and create together.

Don’t get me wrong, I can get hung up on getting things “just right”. I want my boys to abide by the old adage “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”, but more importantly I want them to see that getting things right doesn’t happen on the first try and hardwork and persistence are inextricably linked to all real success.

So, get messy, make mistakes, and laugh as you learn with your little ones. Our time with them is too precious to worry about perfect.

Here are some useful resources if you’d like to learn more about the growth mindset, malleable intelligence, and persistence in learning:

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

HINT: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “process”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life
By Carol S. Dweck | Jan 1, 2015

The Growth Mindset

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True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach It

11 tips on how to teach persistence/grit

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