Happy December! This is our favorite month of the year since it is filled with joy, the anticipation of holidays and goodwill. It is also a time of giving, a time of cheering and a time of sharing many special moments with the family. Don't you just love the smell of hot cocoa, the sight of roaring fireplaces and wrapping paper all over the house; and of course: glitter, scissors, glue and all other goodies that bring crafts with your kiddos to life!
So, we commence on December 1st with Christmas Countdown. We usually have a Christmas Tree with little envelopes hanged on it, but this year we did something different ...
Inspired by HappyTotShelf DIY paper plate Countdown⛄️Snowmen, we made ours with some modifications. We also added glitter to its nose, and our Advent Snowman got a pair of arms (brown cardstock).
This Snowmen Calendar can be a great counting activity for younger children or a backward counting exercise for older ones. I have seen a lot of countdowns starting with number "25" counting backward (e.g. 25 days left till Christmas), but I did it as a Calendar check since Adrian is only four years old, so children would move the "carrot" to the date we are currently in. (So, "11" would stand for December 11th.) There are no set rules here, and you can choose whatever method works for you: Calendar Date counting or backwards counting the days left till Christmas. Also, growing up in Europe, our "Christmas" was celebrated on the eve of December 31st, so our Advent Calendar has two red dates (Dec 25th and Dec 31st), but feel free to end yours on December 25th.
A fun holiday for us in December is St. Nicholas Day, a special Advent family tradition celebrated on December 6th, which is especially exciting for children as they count down the days on their Advent calendars in anticipation of a Christmas Day. Many will put out their shoes or stockings on December 5 in hopes that St. Nicholas will leave them a little something for his December 6 feast day. Leave hay and carrots for St. Nick's donkey and place shoes by the door overnight on the eve of December 5th, so that St. Nick can fill them with candies and little gifts. Read a blog post about the tradition here "St. 🎅🏻 Nicholas Day 🎁Custom of 👞Shoes."
To continue with the Holiday spirit, below you will find Christmas-inspired activities we have done during the month of December arranged by the area of study, rather than chronologically. Do leave a comment if you liked any and whether you will consider implementing any one of our activities in your home.
See here a summary post "🎄Christmas 🎅🏻 Inspired 📚Books" we have been enjoying reading as well as links to blog posts where we brought books to life through small world play.
ADVENT Books Christmas Countdown Tree
This year (2018), we were inspired by LittleTinyLearner to start an ADVENT Books Countdown Tree to add a little magic to our holiday reading. These special books have either been purchased or gifted since Julia was born, and I do not keep them out the entire year. They only appear during the month of December and are kept away for the rest of the year, so they are as good as "new" to my children. This is a very special tradition, and I am glad we are starting it. The precious moments of reading together are something both my children and I are looking forward to. (We try to read every night, but unwrapping a special "gift" adds a little holiday magic to our everyday reading.) See details and links about books here. Some of the new additions that I am very excited for are:
- Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury (Hardcover) is an absolute must Christmas book! It includes seven of Jan Brett's most beloved Yuletide titles: The Night Before Christmas, Trouble with Trolls, Christmas Trolls, The Mitten, The Hat, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and The Wild Christmas Reindeer. And Jan Brett's illustrations, borders, and style make children beg "one more page Mommy!"
- Wonderful Winter: All Kinds of Winter Facts and Fun (We have the Awesome Autumn book from this collection and we loved it!) I am sure this one will be much enjoyed as well.
I have heard that some choose to wrap less than 24/25 books because of the "pressure" of reading every day, but hey! if you cannot find five minutes a day to cuddle up and read a holiday favorite, what is this season stands for? Granted, there will be days that you might not get to it, but just double up the next day! Some books are small and take less than five minutes to read and with big books, just pick one story a day! So, I have wrapped twenty-five books, numbering each since some books are meant to be read early ~ like The Legend of St. Nicholas ~ which we read on December 5th, about a boy Nick who, after inheriting large money, decides anonymously help his friends and those in need. (See details here.)
I then arranged the books by size rather than numerically to resemble the pine tree's shape ~ largest books on the bottom ~ smaller on the top. This is also a great opportunity to discuss a calendar, history and time, as children will have to figure out what date it is and choose that number book: for example, they will start with the book #1 on December 1st, book #2 on December 2nd and so forth. Moreover, sneak in a numeracy lesson by playing a game: "Can you find a number _?" as numbers are in sporadic order and your child would have to find the number corresponding to today's date.
Also, this year we used Jumbo Circular Washable Pads to make our own DIY wrapping paper from a white recycled craft paper roll paper (40 lb, 48 Inches x 200 Feet for $18). To make a "print" I traced with a pen and then cut out a tree shape out of the dishwashing sponge. The craft paper is a little transparent, but decorating it with ink prints helps to obscure the contents. (We also used this paper to make hand-print DIY birthday wrapping paper.)
This was a very special process where children helped me wrap all the twenty-five books (25th being The Story of Christmas Board book, which we will read on Christmas Day). We also had fun making prints while listening and humming to holiday favorite music! What are your Advent traditions?
Some of the other great books that did not make this Advent Book Tree, but will be in the next year's are:
- Jan Brett's illustrations ~ The Night Before Christmas ~ comes with a DVD
- another absolute classic favorite book that we create a sensory bin with is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Lift-the-Tab which we pair with these figurines and children love watching the Christmass classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer DVD
- board book Twas The Night Before Christmas (we absolutely love the festive rhymes, many of which children know by heart!)
Have a magical Book Advent reading!
♻️TPR ADVENT Calendar
This year, I did something different ~ a recycled ♻️TPR ADVENT Calendar. You would simply cover each of the 24 toilet paper rolls with a cupcake liner on one side and secure it with a thin rubber band (leave the other side as is). Then glue all to each other! I was inspired to do this after seeing this Tree TPR Calendar. And, since we are not much into sweets, I put inside 24 Christmas in Copenhagen poems inspired by @im_the_simon ADVENT calendar ~ @fabelabdk is kindly offering those poems for free.
In addition, I made 24 Christmas prompts to follow each day! They are numbered 1-24 and children would open each on a corresponding date (so we are counting UP till Christmas). If you would like a PDF, please go to my blog and subscribe and sent me a quick 📧email: I included in those 24 prompts some of the activities from my blog (like making homemade play dough) as well as fun family stuff (like have a matching PJ Christmas party) as well as acts of kindness!
🎅🏻Flour ✍🏻️Tracing Tray
Montessori tracing tray consists of a medium which the child can practice tracing in. We are also using a Montessori movable alphabet to practice spelling "santa" since it is the most requested word at the moment. You can easily make this "touch and trace" sensory writing tray with materials readily available in your home. You will need:
- a large tray where you would pour the filler in (we are actually using a top from the floor table or you can use a tray),
- a filler such as flour (what Adrian is using); you can also use sand, polenta, amaranth, salt, or sugar,
- a small rake or a fork to smooth out the filler (we are using a rake from this Zen Garden),
- colored cardstock (I used red here) to give the activity a color-pop (buy here).
See here details on how to make this tray ~ 💐Mother's Day 📽Montessori Touch & Trace Sensory ✍🏻️Writing Tray.
Also, see here 🌎Geography 📖Theory Curriculum Lesson 3: 🗺Mapping ~ Cartographer(Making the Earth 🎈Flat).
Roll 🎲 & 🌲 Count
Roll the dice 🎲 and count 🌲 pine cones! Math can be mundane, especially for little ones, so I am trying to make counting hands-on and fun! This presentation is also a very concrete way to reinforce 🌲🌲🌲quantity to 3️⃣numeral association. And, offer a tray filled with DIY 💚🍚 rice to practice fine motor tracing skills! (To make colored rice, simply add few drops of vinegar to dried rice in a ziplock along with desired food coloring ~ shake ~ and lay flat to dry.) To make the tree, I simply cut green felt to resemble the tree's shape, and a ♻️recycled champagne cork made a perfect trunk. (If you don't have felt, use green paper instead. If you don't have green cardstock, use cardboard and color it green!)
💯Hundred Board Skip Counting
See here Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer 💯Hundred Board Skip Counting by 2️⃣
🎄Christmas Odd & Even
See here 🎄Christmas Odd & Even Math lesson (Numerals and Counters)
Sticky TreeSticky tape can be an amazing medium for creating crafts and today we are using this adhesive tape to create a tree. Simply, cut a square and secure it with another tape to a smooth surface (sticky part face up). Then, draw a Tree shape and offer your child pom poms to fill in the tree and decorate with colorful ornaments (pom poms). This activity is perfect for hand-eye coordination and for fine motor control. Also, your child gets to express creativity while coming up with a color combination and the design.
A child would simply follow the drawn outline and thereafter fill the middle. Adrian also placed white pom poms around: "Its snowing Mommy!" We are planning to secure it to white cardboard and frame it to display in our learning space.
🍝 Panty Food 🎄Tree
Holiday crafts are an amazing way to connect with your children and to express creativity. And using everyday natural materials is a great way to help the environment while reducing your monthly Amazon credit card expense! Today, we are making a Christmas Tree from recycled cardboard and dried pantry food, in particular: pasta, cereal, and Irish oats. To color your pasta, simply place dry un-cooked pasta in a ziplock and add a few squirts of vinegar along with the desired food coloring ~ shake it well ~ lay flat to dry. You would do a batch for each color. (Note: I do not cook pasta since once cooked, it tends to spoil quickly. Dry pasta, on the other hand, can be used and reused for a long time.) Similarly, I colored the oats. p.s. I tried coloring Cheerios, but they became soggy and disformed, so I opted for the frosted Froot Loops instead (they come colored already). I used a serrated knife to cut the cardboard to resemble a pine tree's shape, and I used a recycled champagne bottle cork (cut in half) as a trunk. To "decorate" your tree, simply apply glue horizontally line by line (I started from the bottom) and press pasta firmly, creating a pattern. Please, supervise your children as hot glue gun gets extremely hot, and with smaller children, try Elmer's glue or a glue stick. This activity is perfect for hand-eye coordination and for the development of fine motor control. Also, this craft can be used as a sensory tactile board, offering smaller children to stimulate the sense of touch by running fingers over pasta, cereal, and oats! Happy crafting!
Have you heard of Oobleck ~also known as "Goop" ~ is an inexpensive, non-toxic example of a non-Newtonian fluid which is a suspension of starch (e.g. cornstarch) in water, where the resulting substance ~ also called "ooze" or "magic mud" ~ is both a solid and a liquid. The name "oobleck" is derived from the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. The recipe is one of the easiest of any slime, but is also one of the most amazing! Trust me! Your child (and you) will be mesmerized as your slime turns from a solid to a liquid and back again in seconds! One second you grab a solid handful of this magic gooey, the next second it drips through your hands like a liquid! What you will need to make this gloopy, gooey "magic mud" is 1 part of water to 1.5–2 parts of cornstarch (food coloring is optional/may stain). The set up is less than five minutes and is very easy to make. Please, note, this slime is NOT edible! DK The Slime Book: All You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Slime is a perfect resource to make all kinds of smiles, oobleck in particular.
To make this Oobleck invitation to play festive, I added some wrapping bows, pine cones, pom poms, and tongs to retrieve those pom poms while exercising fine motor control. You can add any water-resist festive objects you have at hand and offer your little one to explore and be amazed!
Frozen Pom Poms
This is an absolute favorite sensorial/science activity where I simply froze red, green and white pom poms in an ice-tray and presented on a Kmart metal tray along with some warm water, droppers, beakers, and salt!
Adrian loved using a turkey baster and he kept transferring warm water and salt until all the pom poms were defrosted. And the best part, you can refreeze them and start all over again! For more frozen fun ~ we also froze ballon "dino eggs" ~ See here Dino Frozen 🎈Balloon Eggs Kids ⚗️Science Sensory 💦Water Play.
This is a modified version of frozen pom poms where you cover the baking tray with thin plastic or we are using a food wrap. This adds a new dimension to this sensory play and it's not as cold for little hands. Ages 6month +
🎄Montessori Numbers Rods & Cylinders
See here 🎄Christmas Tree from Montessori Number Rods and Knobless Cylinders
Fill The Ornament 🎄Sensory Bin
Rice is an amazing natural medium to use for sensory play! And when you add plastic ornaments to fill and make decorations, the activity is also purposeful! Offer your child a funnel, tongs, and various scoopers. Adrian also loves using chopsticks to push through pom poms that get stuck. And, offer pipe cleaners to practice fine motor threading, creating embellished beaded patterned "hooks" for your ornaments! Ages 3Y + Yes! It is a third-year this SENSORY BIN is going strong! Adrian does not seem to get tired of it, and did I mention Julia joins after school too! I am using a medium size Ikea Trofast Toy Storage Box, which is amazing for these types of sensory play since everything remains contained and the clean up is minimal! (The tray is part of this sensory table which is used every single day!)
See here 🎅🏻Christmas Inspired • Fill The Ornament 🎄Sensory Bin
"Ornaments are ready, but where to hang them?"
Rainbow Rice Cookie Cutters
I knew cookie cutters are not just for baking! So, fill them with rainbow rice (or any other small grain or natural material you have) and advise your child to spill the least possible! (To make DIY colored rice: add a squirt of vinegar to dry rice in a ziplock plus the desired food coloring ~ shake well ~ lay flat to dry). It's a super fun game to practice scoping, transferring, and pinching while developing hand-eye coordination and precision! Present on a tray to contain the mess.
Olfactory Magnetic Transferring Sensory Bin
I used natural shredded paper (do use it for gift's stuffing after your kiddo is done) and a variety of smelling goodness such as cinnamon sticks, cedar balls, dried fruits, and leaves etc. Also, I added a little science twist to this glorified jingle bell magnetic transferring activity (see below) by including bells and a magnet. Also, take this opportunity to practice numeracy, counting, simple addition or subtraction: How many bells have you transferred? How many bells are left? If you lost one, how many are left? I am using a medium size Ikea Trofast Toy Storage Box, which is amazing for these types of sensory play since everything remains contained and the clean up is minimal! (The tray is part of this sensory table which is used every single day!)
⛄️Shredded Paper 🙌🏻Sensory Bin
See here 🎅🏻Christmas Inspired ⛄️Shredded Paper 🙌🏻Sensory Bin with 🔢Math Twist
🎅🏻Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ❤️💚Sensory Bin
See here 🎅🏻Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ❤️💚Sensory Bin
Holiday Inspired SPACE
What is 🔍 on our 🎅🏻 Christmas-Inspired Shelf:
- The Christmas Wish book inspired small world play (buy a book here),
- Holiday Smelling activity,
- Little 💙Blue Truck's 🎄Christmas (buy a book here); see a📎 link to a blog post here,
- ♻️ Recycled Holiday Cards ✂️ puzzle (see details👇below),
- Magnet 🔔Bell Transferring (see a📎 link to a post👇below or here),
- Invitation to decorate a pinecone (see👇below).
See here 🎄Christmas Inspired Magnet 🔔Bell Transferring.
Not sure what to do📮with a 💯🎄Holiday 📩 cards you receive❓
Leave just the front (picture) part of the card and ✂️cut according to your child's level (either in halves or 1/4 or smaller). Invite your child to assemble. (Above, Adrian at 3 yo enjoyed assembling quarters and halves.)
Cut into smaller pieces for an older child (above Adrian enjoyed it at 4 yo) or cut diagonally to add a fun aspect to a puzzle.
What is 🔍 on our🎄Holiday-Inspired Shelf:
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Sensory Bin activity (read here),
- Mystery bag (see a📎 link to a post👇below or here),
- Invitation to create with DIY homemade play dough; see here "No-Cook Homemade Play Dough 🎄Christmas Tree DIY Craft."
- The Mitten Book is our absolute Winter favorite! (buy here); see a📎 link to a blog post here.
See here 🎄Holiday Inspired Montessori Mystery Bag.
See here "No-Cook Homemade Play Dough 🎄Christmas Tree DIY Craft."
Playdough is an amazing sensory tool! You can also add some glitter and a dash of peppermint essence to give your Christmas green playdough a heavenly smell (Well if you are into the peppermint!) And, once you are done rolling it out and making little Christmas trees using Christmas tree cookie cutters, decorate them with loose parts like beads, buttons or sequins! Please, use common sense as these are a choking hazard, and will not be suitable for children who are still mouthing objects.
This is a fun play-dough craft Adrian made when he was three years old. We are using this green play dough along with various beads and embellishments. As a result, I had thirty minutes to tidy up in the morning, while he was busy molding and decorating his Christmas trees.
- Abominable Snowland and Rudolph 💯Hundred Board Skip Counting by 2️⃣; 📎 link to a post👇below or here,
- LEGO Subtraction work,
- Dot stickers Addition work: see here "DIY 🍡Pop-Sticks, Clothespins & Dot Stickers 🔴 ➕🔵 Addition Activity (Montessori 🔢 Math 🎥 Lesson)."
- Alligator Less/More.
See here Toothpick 🌟Star 💦Trick Science Experiment For Kids (🔬⚗️⚖️ 101 🎥Series 🎇).
See here 🎅🏻 Santa ❤️ Red Slime DIY Jar (Science 🔬⚗️⚖️ 101 🎥Series 🎇).
See here Rainbow 🌈Colorful Skittles Fun💧 Water Science Experiment for Kids •🔬⚗️⚖️ 101 🎥 Series.
See here "🎅🏻Christmas Inspired Candy Cane Pipe Cleaner DIY Craft."
OUR LEARNING SPACE
- Christmas Inspired Candy Canes Pipe Cleaner Craft (read here),
- Mystery Bag (see a📎 link to a post here),
- Smelling activity,
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Activity (read here),
- Christmas Tree sewing buttons activity,
- The Mitten Book Activity (read here).
An invitation to sew a button on a felt Christmas Tree.
More about our Learning Space in 2016 here.
See here "Picking up a 🎄Christmas Tree at 🎅🏻 Santa's Workshop."
See here "🎅🏻 Santa Caught on 📸 Camera!"
I hope you are having a wonderful Holiday Season!