Thursday, December 27, 2012

The After Christmas Glow

I hope that you and your family had a truly wonderful Christmas!  

I know that we did.  It's been colder here, but we were spared the snow that our northern neighbors got.  I personally missed the white Christmas!  But we were able to enjoy an afternoon at the park today without snow boots and winter coats, so that's something!

As much as I try to make Christmas not about the gifts, after a morning spent with family opening said gifts, I can't help but encourage the boys to enjoy those gifts and all the love they were wrapped in.  And this was a good year for gifts.  Lots of games, books, crafts, and things to be enjoyed outside as a family.

From under this year's tree, here are a few of our favorite outdoor gifts:

  1. skateboards, helmets, and pads
  2. street hockey goal, sticks, and balls
  3. walkie talkies that have the boys tromping all through the yard just to find each other again
  4. a mini trampoline
  5. lots of tools
  6. and a tent big enough for our family
What was under your tree this year and how have you enjoyed Christmas outside?

Monday, December 24, 2012


Family Activities
We're making Christmas cookies as a family today to share with a few neighbors.  The boys love to be involved in the kitchen so I enlisted their help selecting recipes, gathering ingredients, stirring, and of course cleaning up!

After baking and delivering cookies, we changed into warm pjs and lit a fire where we'll spend the rest of the evening reading stories and listening to Christmas music.

Service Activities
In addition to the treats we took to our neighbors, we made a few special treats for our puppy and theirs.  I love this simple recipe I found on Pinterest for peanut butter dog treats.

Enjoy some Christmas cookies and hot cocoa while reading Twas the Night Before Christmas as a family.

Christmas Cookies
Marshmallow World
The Great Christmas Eve Cookie Calamity

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Psalm 98:4

Preschool Activities
We went to our Christmas Eve service at church last night as a family (the kids usually go to their own age appropriate program).  Much to the delight of my middle child who just started drum lessons, the very first song played was Little Drummer Boy.  As we left church, we enjoyed our very favorite version of that song again by TobyMac.

There were lots of other percussion instruments in last night's worship band: jingle bells and xylophones among them.  I wanted to continue that theme of worship today by making music at home.  So we decided to try to make some instruments at home using recycled items we already have around the house.

I filled four glasses with different volumes of water and dyed the water green and red.  Then I let the boys softly strike the side of the glass with a pencil to listen to the different sounds made by our homemade xylophone.
We turned an old oatmeal container into a drum, using unsharpened pencils as drum sticks.
The boys made some maracas by filling small plastic food storage containers with beads.
We pulled out our jingle sticks (jingle bells on pipe cleaners) from J is Jingle Bells.
Our toilet paper roll horns didn't last more than a few days, so we pulled out some kazoos.
I stretched several rubber bands over the open end of a small shoe box to make a small guitar.
I tried to teach them to play the spoons, but they all found it a little difficult and lost interest very quickly!

Service Activities
Go caroling at a nursing home.  It's best to call ahead and find out the best time of day to stop by.  Right before or after lunch, there is often a congregation of people in the common or dining areas.

Mixed nuts in a metal can.  After pouring snack portions into individual cups, I left the metal cans on the table and allowed the kids to shake and drum on them along to our Christmas music!

The Little Drummer Boy, by Ezra Jack Keats

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Preschool Activities
I wanted to do one last fun crafty activity with the kids before the craziness of Christmas Eve services started.  After today's activities, we'll spend every evening at church serving and attending services.

So I pulled out paper plates and red and green bingo stampers.  The older kids cut out the middle circle leaving a wreath of paper around the edges of the plates.  Then the kids decorated with their stampers.  My oldest filled in almost every space with green before strategically placing red berries on his wreath.  My middle child alternated colors until his wreathed was filled in rather randomly.  And my littlest grabbed both stampers, stamped his wreath a few times, the table, his leg and called it done.  I just love to sit back and watch the process.

Family Activities
We've received so many Christmas cards already from wonderful family members and friends.  I had the boys help me attach our cards to an old foam wreath form with a few straight pins.  As we pinned each card, we read the message aloud and prayed for the family that sent it.

Service Activities
Find someone who is feeling sad today and give them a hug - circle them in love.
Don't forget to invite someone to the Christmas Eve service at your church.

Bagel wreaths:
Mix green food coloring into plain cream cheese.  Spread cream cheese onto half of a mini bagel.  Top with dried cranberries. 

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
The Holy and the Ivy
On Christmas Night

Mama's Wreaths, by Julia Taylor Ebel (to read aloud with the older ones)

Friday, December 21, 2012


But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2 (ESV)

Preschool Activities
Today is our first day of Christmas break with all the kids home!  I wanted to maintain Little Man's routine as much as possible while allowing the bigger boys to relax and have fun on their vacation from school.  Lego's are a perennial favorite at our house, and with three boys, we have blocks in every size, shape and color.  So I pulled out the bin of traditional sized Legos for the older boys to build with and the big Duplo blocks for little brother to enjoy.  I asked them first to build villages, small cities, with roads connecting them.  Then I handed my middle and my most artistic child Popsicle stick nativity story puppets that I'd made, but never used.  They had a good time acting out the story of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and then reenacted some aspects of the nativity story.  When they were done, I didn't push the issue.  They built all afternoon with their blocks, playing side-by-side.

Family Activities
Since we talked a little bit about the village of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, earlier in the day, I thought it would be great to head downtown together and enjoy the Christmas decorations.  The storefronts are all decked out for Christmas and every Friday there are carolers, treats, and horse drawn carriage rides.  Little Man especially was enthralled with the horses - they were huge standing next to my toddler!  We also had a lot of fun riding through town, singing Christmas songs, and seeing the lights.

Service Activities
Today is a great day to emphasize that little people can do big things!  We're making snowflakes (again), but this time we're sending them to the new Sandy Hook building to open on January 12.  We have answered any questions the kids had from overhearing conversations or news stories, but we didn't delve into deep conversations about what had happened in Connecticut.  In our service project today, I just wanted them to know that they were really helping kids at another school who were scared and sad to go back. 

If you would like to participate with your family as well, here is the information I received about the project:

"When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers want to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonederland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible.  So, please help the students of Sandy Hook have a winter wonterland at their new school! 

Please send your snowflakes to the Connecticut PTSA no later than Jan 12, 2013:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connoly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514"

We had a humble snack today, but a family favorite: apple and cheese slices with crackers

O Little Town of Bethlehem
How Far is it to Bethlehem
In this Town

B is for Bethlehem, by Isabel Wilner

Thursday, December 20, 2012


For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given; 
And the government will be upon His shoulder. 
And His name will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 (NKJ)

Preschool Activities
It's getting busy around here.  We're just a few days from Christmas which means presents need to be wrapped, meals need to be planned, and the house needs to be cleaned to prepare for guests.  So today I needed something that could occupy my little man while I accomplished a few things on my own.  He loves to put together puzzles, but I don't have anything Christmas themed.  Since we've also been working on basic number and letter recognition, I decided to make a magnetic popsicle stick number puzzle for him to work on at the fridge.  

I lined up eight popsicle sticks and taped them together before drawing the baby Jesus in a manger (thank goodness for Activity Village's tutorial!).  I wrote the numbers 1-8 on each popsicle stick and attached magnets to the back.  Then I let him get to work sorting out the puzzle pieces while I mopped the kitchen floor.  When he was done, we counted together while I pointed to each number.  Then I asked him who was on the puzzle.  Baby Jesus is always the right answer at Christmas-time!  

Then I explained that Baby Jesus was a gift given to us by God.  Jesus was born to live on this earth so that we would have an example of how to live without sin.  And since sometimes we do still struggle with sin, Jesus died so that all of our sins would be taken away and we can live with him forever in heaven.  

While I don't expect my three-year old to fully understand this truth in his heart until he's older, it's my hope that he will grow up with a certain vocabulary that will make it easier for him to accept Jesus.

Family Activities
Baby Jesus, the greatest gift ever given, was born unto us. We have a set of the Names of Jesus ornaments.  In scrawling letters, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, decorate Christmas globes.

I have not set a strong enough example for my children in my own prayer life.  If I were praying unceasingly, my children should see that, and not just before meals and bed.  So I asked them to all come together for a quick family prayer.  First, I asked them what name do they use when they pray to God.  I heard Father in Heaven and Jesus as I expected.  I read to them the names on our ornaments and a few others found throughout scripture.  The point that I want my kids to understand, is that it doesn't matter what we call Him.  The important thing is that we talk to God throughout our day and know that he listens.  I encouraged them to pray when they wake up, before they eat lunch at school, and every time they see someone sad or needing help.  I know that this is the type of lesson that won't sink in until I practice what I preach.  Isn't it amazing how parenting becomes this process that makes us better as our kids grow?

Service Activities
Today is the last day of school before Christmas break for the boys.  So we put together sweet little snowman gift bags for their teachers filled with oranges, Hershey's kisses, hand sanitizer, tissues, and individually wrapped tea bags.

The snowmen are made from white paper bags.  For each, I cut out two black circles and one orange triangle.  The boys glued them in place for eyes and a nose.  The smile is just drawn on with a Sharpie marker.
For snack, we enjoyed some left over oranges and Hershey kisses.  The kisses because God so loved the world that he sent his only son, born unto us - John 3:16.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Isaiah 11:1 (ESV)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matthew 2:9-10 (ESV)

Preschool Activities

Regardless of who puts gifts under tree, even my little man knows that the star on top is the star of Bethlehem pointing all of our Christmas activities toward Jesus.

Way back at the beginning of our countdown alphabet, we had so much fun making playdough to explore the role of angels in our nativity story. So today, we made another batch of playdough. After making the dough, we added in some yellow food coloring and gold glitter. When the dough cooled we rolled it out and stamped it with a star-shaped cookie cutter.

At the last minute, I also put together a star-themed letter game.  I pulled out our ABC bottle tops and wrote STAR on a piece of scrap paper.  Then little man went on a hunt for the letters to build the word.

Family Activities
The Star of Bethlehem pointed shepherds and wise men to the baby Jesus. The star indicated the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy. The appearance of that star marked the birth of a King. But inquiring minds wonder just where that star came from. Answers in Genesis has another great video, What Was the Christmas Star, that addresses just that question. 

It's been a little cloudy here lately, but tonight, if the sky is clear, we'll head outside before bedtime to look at the stars. We'll look for some winter constellations and the North Star. I'll explain to my kids how the stars can help travelers to navigate by identifying cardinal directions. 

Service Activities
Visit with someone who cannot see and read to them the Christmas story. Stay to help them complete small tasks around the house such as cleaning or cooking meals that will be easy to reheat and serve. 

Build a star with pretzel sticks and marshmallows.

I'm a Little Star
Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Only a Star, by Margery Facklam
Follow the Star, by Andy Mansfield
A Star for Jesus, by Crystal Bowman

Monday, December 17, 2012


Preschool Activities
We've dealt with Santa three different ways with three different children. I don't think my oldest ever believed. He's very literal, very smart. I don't think he would have believed us if we'd told him his Christmas presents came from a troop of elves in the North Pole. My middle son whole heartily believed in everything magic about Christmas despite the fact that we tried hard to never acknowledge or perpetuate the myth of Santa. Then one day, we bluntly told him the whole truth at the tender age of five. With my youngest, we've tried to limit his exposure to Santa and redirect when asked the inevitable "Are you ready for Santa?" questions. But overall, our strategy has been avoid and don't lie.

Despite our efforts, or lack there of, he loves Santa. Loves Frosty the Snowman.  And loves Rudolph. So, for at least this year again, we're keeping quiet and avoiding the issue. We're not pushing the Santa myth, but we're also not correcting or discouraging his excitement.

And since today is just a fun day, we're reading lots of books, coloring, and painting our noses red.

Family Activities
When the older boys get home from school, we decided that we'll play some reindeer games - like Monopoly!

Whenever possible, I do try to redeem secular Christmas traditions. Flying reindeer may only exist in books and movies, but I love to teach my kids about interesting animals and Answers in Genesis provides an informative page about reindeer that the older boys especially enjoyed.

Service Activities
Learn about therapeutic horse riding for children with special needs.  Make a donation to a location center - they often need supplies or volunteers.

"Reindeer food" aka trail mix:
Use whatever ingredients you have on hand, including some of the following:
pretzel squares
Chex cereal
red and green M&Ms
chocolate chips

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Up on the Housetop  

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett
Olive, the Other Reindeer, by Vivian Walsh 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Preschool Activities
I love to save old Christmas cards for crafts.  I usually use last year's cards to make Christmas tree ornaments or gift tags.  I pulled a few old cards out for today's craft.  With safety scissors, I allowed my little man to cut a few cards into large pieces.  Then I had him piece together the shapes on contact paper.  The result was adorable an Christmas quilt placemat.

( adorable Christmas quilt placemat that fell apart - I assume because the cards were too thick.  So, if you want to make this craft, I recommend laminating your placemat before it gets too much use)

Family Activities
We have a big old Bradford Pear Tree in our backyard that I love to sit under and read with the boys.  It's not particularly cold here yet, but it has been rather overcast.  So we went outside with lots of blankets and lots of books.  One thick quilt was laid on the ground, we hung two sheets over a clothes line and wrapped up in the rest.

Of course, if the weather prohibited outdoor story time, you could always build a blanket fort inside or wrap up in a quilt to read stories and drink hot chocolate by the fireplace.

Service Activities
Donate warm blankets to the homeless shelter
Using a few different flavors and colors of fruit leathers, cut small squares.  Have each child create a pattern, piecing together the squares into their own quilt.  

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

The Christmas Memory Quilt, by Kimberly Webb (out of print)

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17(ESV)

Preschool Activities
Just say the word presents and my kids get visibly excited this time of year.  But I'm trying very hard to combat the mentality that Christmas is all about the presents that "I" get.  To that end, today we're going to make homemade wrapping paper to wrap presents for others.

Just start with a roll of white craft paper, or you could even use newspaper.  Stamps can be made from potatoes or with foam stickers and bottle caps.  You can also just decorate your wrapping paper with handprints and finger paints.

When we were done painting, we left the paper outside to dry in the sun until a little later in the day.

Family Activities
Once our wrapping paper was dry, we sat down as a family to wrap presents for teachers and family members.  I'm not a fantastic present wrapper myself and the craft paper we painted earlier is thicker than regular wrapping paper, so it was easy to not worry about how all the presents looked wrapped.  I gave the kids some basic instructions, lots of tape, and pretty much let them wrap.

Next I wanted to teach them a little bit about traditional presents around the world.  I found a travel blog that provides a brief list of traditional Christmas gifts in other parts of the world (it's not a kid's site, so I read from the laptop, they listened).  The kids were really interested in the Mexican tradition of Christmas pinatas.  I also challenged them to see if they could come up with a rhyme to go with their present to their siblings like the Sweedish tradition listed.

Service Activities
Volunteer at a wrapping station for charity.
Peanut butter cup stuffed brownies:
Make brownies according to the box directions.  Half way through cooking, remove the brownies from the oven and push peanut butter cups down into the batter.  Return to the oven to finish cooking.
When the brownies are done, each brownie will have a surprise peanut butter cup center.
The 12 Days of Christmas
All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
What God Wants for Christmas, by Barbara Rainey
Christmas Gifts, by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
A Gift for the Christ Child, by Tina Jahnert

Friday, December 14, 2012


Preschool Activities
The kids have been excited about the Christmas tree since it went up.  They've loved hanging and rearranging ornaments .  Maybe your tree looks like mine with all of the ornaments  together in small clumbs, each as tall as one of my children.

I wanted to give my youngest his own Christmas tree to decorate.  So I cut a triangle out of green felt.  Then I cut a variety of shapes out of whatever felt scraps I could find.  Decorating and undecorating his tree kept little man occupied for quite a while

Family Activities
I love making homemade ornaments with the kids to decorate the family Christmas Tree and creating keepsakes for years to come.  We made simple cardboard ornaments this year.  I cut shapes out of a cardboard box waiting to be recycled.  The kids painted their shapes with red and green washable paint.  Then we decorated ornaments with glitter glue, sequins, and stickers.  I had some gold embroidery floss that we wrapped around the ornaments leaving a loop to hang them on the tree.

Salt dough ornaments are also a lot of fun to make with little ones (here's a link to my recipe for salt dough).

Service Activities
Give ornaments to your neighbors.  Hang a tag on each ornament hook with an invitation to your church's Christmas Eve service.  Be sure to include service dates and times as well as directions to your church.

I would have loved to make these adorable apple ornament snacks, but I didn't have time.  So we just had sliced apples with peanut butter.
Deck the Halls
Let's Decorate the Christmas Tree

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas, by Jane O'Connor
The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

Thursday, December 13, 2012


While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:6-7

Preschool Activities
I love to hear my little man try to say the word nativity.  Generally when he uses the word, he's referring to our nativity scene - the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Magi, and animals all sitting on our bookcase at little boy eye level.  Our family nativity is fairly precious to me so we also have a Little People nativity that allow hands on time for little ones.  My goal through our play with the nativity today was just to name all the characters of the nativityCharacter play will help with story comprehension as we continue to read the nativity story leading up to Christmas.

Then, as I prepared lunch, little man worked on a coloring page.

Family Activities

Later that day, we went as a family to visit a live nativity. This particular production was quite impressive. We were led through a marketplace where merchants retold the story of Mary and Joseph's travels to Bethlehem. We were then introduced to some shepherds and their live animals in the fields when an angel appeared, directing our attention to a small stable. There we met the baby, sleeping in the hay. Seeing and even participating in the story really brought it to life for all the kids. Spending time outside, walking through the marketplace, and meeting the nativity animals was a fun addition to our experience.

If you can't visit a live nativity near your home, watch this video from Answers in Genesis with your older children exploring the truth ad the myths in the traditional nativity story.

Service Activities
Make room in your house.  Invite someone who lives alone to have dinner with your family tonight. Send them home with left overs. 
Melt one package of chocolate chips with 1/2 cup peanut butter in the microwave or over a double boiler, checking and stirring frequently. Pour over 4 cups broken chow mein noodles. Scoop the noodles onto wax paper into little haystacks. Allow to cool before eating.

Away in a Manger
No Room at the Inn
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale, by Martin Waddell
This is the Stable, by Cynthia Cotten

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)

Preschool Activities
We started today with a coloring page.  When I asked my little man who the men in the picture might be, he immediately answered Jesus.  I think sometimes that we condition our kids to answer our questions in certain ways.  So I was glad that today we would focus on a very different part of the Christmas story.

We read the chapter in his Storybook Bible about the wise men visiting Jesus.  Then I pointed out to him the three wise men and the camel off to one side of our nativity.  After that, we headed outside for a little scavenger hunt.  

In our backyard I had hidden six presents with shiny red bows on top.  He had to find the three presents fit for a king.  Inside three of the boxes were big red X marks - these were not presents for Jesus.  Inside the other three boxes he found a shiny rock (gold), a small container of oil (myrrh), and a cotton ball soaked in perfume (frankincense).

Family Activities
The story of the Magi is one of those stories that we don't teach as often and every time the boys hear the story, it's a little different.  Did the Magi visit a baby Jesus or a few years later?  Were there three wise men or more?  Were the wise men kings  or magicians or scholars?  I don't know the answers to these questions, so I decided to tackle with my boys instead just the basic details of the story.

What does Magi mean? Most likely, the Magi were astrologers, men who studied the stars.  So wise men is a great way to describe the Magi who came to visit the Jesus.

Why did the Magi visit Jesus? They studied the skies and saw the star of Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  Then they studied the ancient prophesies and realized that the star meant the Messiah had been born.  The Magi wanted to pay homage to the King; that means to bring him gifts and recognize his importance.

What gifts did the Magi bring Jesus?  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  We pulled out the presents we had hunted for earlier.  The shiny rock was to look like gold.  Frankincense is the perfume.  And Myrrh is the oil.  So as to not delve too deep into the interpretation of these gifts, I just explained that they were very expensive gifts reserved for someone very important.

I asked the boys if they'd like to receive these types of gifts for Christmas.  My all-to-practical oldest son pointed out that although he wouldn't enjoy these gifts, they were valuable and he could sell them to buy something he'd really like.  I think this got my point across ... the gifts given to Jesus were different because he was different.  He wasn't just a normal kid who would really like an iPod touch and unlimited access to the app store.  He was a King!

Service Activities
Take a tray of cookies to the fire station that services your home.Thank the fire fighters there for all they do to keep us safe. 

For snack, we're dressing up some plain crackers with peanut butter and a ribbon of jelly to look just like the presents under our tree.  

We Three Kings

Three Presents for Baby Jesus, by Joanne Bader
The Legend of Saint Nicholas, by Dandi Daley Mackall

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
John 12:46 (ESV)

Preschool Activities
I mentioned a few days ago (I is for Ice Skating) the outdoor ice rink at the Charlotte Motor Speedway this time of year. The real star of the Speedway Christmas however is the lightshow - 3 million twinkling Christmas lights in the shape of race cars and snowflakes and American flags. You just can't decorate for Christmas without a string of lights or two.

Little man and I were feeling particularly festive and crafty today, so I decided we'd to try to recreate a Christmas lights craft I'd seen on Pinterest (what did we do before Pinterest). I provided some construction paper and the ink pad. At first he didn't want to touch the ink. But I showed him how to leave his fingerprints on the paper and he was excited to go from there. I didn't provide any instruction on where the fingerprints should go, so we ended up with this tangle of lights and that feels pretty authentic to me. 

Family Activities
There are so many times when decorating for Christmas that we exclude the kids. Hanging the lights, placing fragile nativity pieces, climbing up into the attic just to find everything, and when that one light in the strand goes out and the whole middle of the tree is dark, I don't always feel so joyous about letting little hands help.

At the same time, I know how happy I feel sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree. So today, I went out of my way to make the decorations accessible to the kids. We hung lights in their bedroom. I let them play with the nativity window clings and snowman fridge magnets without feeling the need to rearrange everything when they were done. Then after dinner we went for a stroll through our neighborhood to see all our neighbor's Christmas decorations. Beautiful!

Service Activities
Light up someone's whole day.  Smile at everyone you pass today.

Popcorn with yellow M&Ms or sprinkles.

Deck the Halls
Shine on Us
The Christmas Candle, by Richard Paul Evans
Lights of Christmas, by Kimberly Souther
Christmas Lights, by Marion Dane Bauer

Monday, December 10, 2012


He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

Luke 1:32-33 (NIV)

Preschool Activities
This whole advent season is about waiting for and preparing our hearts for the King of Kings. Yet as Christmas draws closer, all we talk about is this baby in a manger. I want to make sure that my children understand why we celebrate on Christmas morning. I want to help them make the connection between the Baby Jesus in a manger and the Jesus we teach about the rest of the year. 

To that end, out came the family pictures again. This time I wanted to share with my little guy pictures of myself and my husband when we were kids. Then I showed him pictures of us now at work. We were babies and then we grew up. Just like us, Jesus was a baby.  When Jesus grew up he became a carpenter and a teacher.

Jesus was also the King of Kings, which we talked about more when everyone was home.  But I did pull out some paper crowns that I had left-over from a knight-themed birthday party a few years ago.  Paper crowns would also be an easy craft to make with construction paper or even newspapers.  Be sure to decorate them up with sequins, glitter, or stickers!

Family Activities
Jesus is known by  many names, but He is specifically regarded as a king throughout all of scripture.  Click each name for the scripture reference and discuss:

Little man had been wearing his crown all day and big brothers were anxious to join in on the fun.  I saw these Glitter Crown ornaments on Pinterest and I was anxious to see if we could replicate them.  In my opinion, glitter crafts are best done outside!  And while moving outside will minimize the mess, I'm still expect to be amazed at where I will find glitter for days to come.

Service Activities
Treat someone like king for the day!  Share lots of compliments with them.  Find ways to be helpful to them.  Write a letter or draw a picture just for them.

Serve applesauce with cinnamon and sugar in a fancy glass.
Birthday of a King
A King is Coming to Town  

The Cobbler, the Princess, and the Newborn King, by Daniel Foote
The Newborn King, by Lori Froeb

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jingle Bells

Preschool Activities
Jingle Bells happens to be one of my little man's favorite Christmas songs.  For today's activity, I set out a few pipe cleaners and lots of little bells.  At first he just wanted to shake the bells along with our Christmas music.  Then I showed him how to thread the bells onto the pipe cleaners to make "jingle sticks".   As he filled a few pipe cleaners with bells, I twisted them into a little wreath shape.  At least one of these wreaths ended up on the tree.  The others, he has proudly carried around, making music all afternoon.  This activity turned out to be great fine motor practice and occupied his attention for quite some time.  

Instead of a coloring page, I printed a few pages from 3 Dinosaurs' Christmas Pack.  We read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell and then little man did the two piece puzzles.  I also printed the memory cards; maybe we'll talk big brothers into a game of memory later.

Family Activities
My school aged boys simply could not participate in a Jingle Bells activity without singing Jingle Bells, Batman smells...  So I challenged them to write out a few variations to the usual lyrics, and reminded them to keep it appropriate.  Here's what they came up with:

Jingle Bells, I like to yell,
And run outside each day!

Jingle Bells, Ace likes to eat, 
Lets give him a treat!
(Ace is our dog)

Jingle Bells, I play drums,
I'm learning every day.

This video is just fun and gave us a chance to talk about different kinds of service (raising money for charity and making someone smile):


Service Activities
Volunteer to be a bell ringer for charity this season.  Or add your spare change to the bucket.

Red and green bell peppers with some babybel cheese wheels.

Before preparing today's snack, I held up the green pepper and asked the kids how they thought it got its name.  They guessed it had to do with the shape of the pepper (which is correct) and the seeds inside that were like little ringers (which is incorrect, but I liked their thoughtful idea).

Jingle Bells
Silver Bells
Bells Will be Ringing
Carol of the Bells
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
The Bells of Christmas, by Virginia Hamilton
The Christmas Bell, by Rolf Krenzer
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell, by Lucille Colandro

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ice Skating

Preschool Activities
Doesn't snow and ice just make everything feel like Christmas?

Since our move to the South, I wonder sometimes if my youngest will remember the deep Central Pennsylvania snow we enjoyed (yes enjoyed!) every winter.  For him, I'll look forward to recreating those wintry scenes with coffee filter snowflakes and white pom pom snowballs. 

I can imagine the fun he'll have with a laundry basket filled with these fluffy pom poms, when I get to making a few more that is.  In the meantime, I'll let him enjoy a skating video:

BOZ, Drew, Gracie, Marcus and Bria have fun slipping and sliding in "It's Great To Skate"

Family Activities
With three boys, we watch and participate in a lot of sporting events. I believe that participation in team sports teaches kids discipline and provides a necessary outlet for physical energy in an increasingly sedentary world.

Unfortunately, the world of professional sports is not always filled with excellent role models for impressionable children.  Whenever I can, I try to focus my kids' attention toward the exceptions.  So we headed over to Wikipedia (supervised of course) and I asked my oldest to find one interesting fact about the following hockey players. Here is what we found:
  • Jarome Iginla: donates $2,000 to charity for every goal he scores
  • Joe Sakic: won 2 Stanley Cups and played in 13 All Star Games
  • Mike Fisher: is married to Carrie Underwood
  • Shane Doan: has Romans 8:28 written on all his hockey sticks
  • Bob Froese, John Blue, Adam Burt: all retired and are now pastors
There are outdoor ice rinks to be enjoyed even here in North Carolina where it was 70* earlier this week.  If you get a chance, go enjoy some ice skating with the whole family tonight near your home or at the Speedway Christmas!

Service Activities
Make a donation of hats and mittens to a homeless shelter.
Sit in front of the fireplace and enjoy popsicles or snow cones together.
Frosty the Snowman
Let it Snow
Winter Wonderland
A is for Axel: An Ice Skating Alphabet, by Kurt Browning
Angelina Ice Skates, by Katharine Holabird
Charles and the Christmas Skates, by Charles Macnamara