Saturday, December 29, 2012

{Virtual Book Club for Kids} Move, Eat, Draw, Learn with Trolls!

We really loved discovering Jan Brett through the Virtual Book Club for Kids in December. While we liked many of her books that we checked out from the library, the one that Wild Thing (3 years old) kept asking me to read over and over was The Trouble with Trolls. He absolutely loves it. So, this is the book we decided to Move, Eat, Draw and Learn with this month! (For each book club post, I try to do four activities for the book we select that involve movement, creative snacks/meals, art and a learning activity unique to the book).

1. Move - In the story, Treva (the lead character) has to trick the trolls she encounters as treks up the mountain. She does this by giving them her mittens, hat, sweater and boots and then reclaims all of her items when she tricks them one last time and flies down the mountain on her skis. Wild Thing had lots of fun reenacting the book with me carrying his stuffed animal dog and then taking on and off different clothing items just like Treva. 
Wild Thing in his Treva outfit.
We did this in a race fashion to make it more fun and to encourage more movement. This would be a great playdate relay activity too. It is also a fun way to engage kids in practicing real life skills, such as taking boots or socks on and off, putting gloves/mittens on and taking jackets/sweaters on and off. 

He also balanced jingle bells in teaspoons as part of our fun movement play. The teaspoon-jingle bells represented the skis that Treva has (since her skis have bells on them). This would be another fun play date or winter party activity - a jingle bell teaspoon race in lieu of an egg race where you do a relay and have to balance the jingle bell in the teaspoon. 

2. Eat - Instead of gingerbread cookies, we decided to make troll cookies! I used the sugar cookie recipe that Cookie Monster shares in the Sesame Street cookbook, but used whole wheat flour and raw cane sugar, and then used a Santa cookie cutter to create the troll look. It worked out really well and was an activity that got the whole family involved (in fact, I think Daddy ended up doing most of the cookie work). We had a blast!

3. Draw - Our art/craft activity for the book involved making skis from twisty ties (the kind that come on produce/bread or with garbage bags). We painted them and added jingle bells (I bought 12 for $1 at the Dollar Store for our Christmas Sensory Bin). We decided to add them to our tree as ornaments.     

4. Learn - Wild Thing is very interested in letters and spelling, so I took advantage of the many Tr words in the book to create some letter cards and pictures and to do some learning about blending sounds. We focused on several words from the book: Treva, Troll, Trouble, Tree, Trick, but also added in some other familiar (and favorite) words: Train, Tray, Track, etc.

We also did a simple sequencing activity with index cards. I wrote and drew pictures for each of the items Treva uses to trick the trolls and Wild Thing puts them in order. It amazed me how well he remembered the story, even getting the sequence mostly correct even if it had been quite a few days since we read the story. (Of course, the role play/pretend play movement activity also reinforces the sequencing aspect of this wonderful book too!) 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Weekly Kid's Co-Op: Faves from 2012

It would take much too long to give you the best from the Kid's Co-Op in 2012, given that well over 100 activities are linked up each week (often nearly 200 activities will be linked up from great bloggers). So, instead for my last Kid's Co-Op of 2012, I decided to share the most clicked, pinned/re-pinned, favorite/popular of the items I have featured on my blog from the Kid's Co-Op throughout the year -- just in case some of these great ones are things you might have missed! 

The Kid's Co-Op in which I shared some of my favorite Fire Safety Activities, such as the hand print firefighter art piece above, has been a favorite of many, and my most popular post of the year is my Ten for Tuesday: Fire Safety Activities, even though it only posted in October.  

This Elephant and Piggie DIY Play Box from Twiddle Twaddle was another favorite Kid's Co-Op post. We discovered Elephant and Piggie through the Virtual Book Club for Kids and also love them -- our Snake Sock Puppet to go with Can I Play Too? was a huge hit!

In general, my Baby Play posts are quite popular and a couple were featured as Kid's Co-Op posts: Ice Play for Babies Through Pre-K and Baby Play from Common Household Items.

Finally, I just had to share our quiet book because it is one of my favorites from 2012, since this special book was hand-made by my mom for Wild Thing and is now also enjoyed by Caterpillar. 

I absolutely love the Co-Op with so many great ideas shared every week - so peruse this week (and past weeks) and find some fun, inspiring activities for your family. (Because of the holiday, this week is building slowly in terms of the number of posts linked up, so it is a good week to look back and see what you might have missed from past link-ups).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Bethlehem

I am glad to be participating in Christmas Around the World from Living Life Intentionally, and I am pleased to get to share about Christmas in Bethlehem. As you might imagine, being able to spend Christmas in Bethlehem is a very unique and special experience. In 1999, I found myself on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity, along with thousands of other individuals, literally, from around the world.

This is one of the many things that makes Christmas in Bethlehem so unique: people from around the world flock to Bethlehem for Christmas. I celebrated Christmas Eve alongside Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Israeli Jews, an Australian man, and a couple of British women. Then there was me (a Texan who came there from Egypt where she was studying abroad from her New York College) and my (future) husband (a Bostonian who was also studying abroad in Egypt) -- all talking and getting to know each other as we enjoyed the magical night. On stage, we watched an African children’s choir perform, followed by a European adult choir.

To top it all off, later that evening, there were actually some snowflakes in the area, which is extremely rare for that part of the world. Another bonus of that year, 1999, was that it was a year of optimism and positive feelings and hope for peace in the region, which has since, unfortunately, has changed. I find myself every year hoping to see that optimism and possibility for peace shine through again. It seems at Christmas it often does peak through, as you will se.

As special as my Bethlehem experience was to me, I realize now that because our trip was so quick, that besides the performances and mass at the Church of the Nativity, I did not really get a chance to see or learn much about what Christmas was like for Palestinians living in Bethlehem. 

Luckily, having studied in the Middle East and received an MA in Middle Eastern Studies means I know people who can share the details with me first-hand, which I am happy to share with you. 

A major tradition in Bethlehem (and many other Palestinian villages) at Christmas time entail Christmas parades to the town center for the lighting of Christmas trees. Of course, in Bethlehem, the parade ends at the Church of the Nativity. Kids participate in these parades as part of their scout activities, which are very popular with heavy emphasis on their marching bands.

The scouts there are similar to the Boy Scouts here, but are co-ed and have the marching band emphasis. Also, Santa is a quite popular part of the Christmas celebrations for Palestinians, particularly involving kids dressing up as Santa, which is completely adorable!

A young woman who has lived and taught in Bethlehem explains the magic of Christmas there in this way (she also sent me the photos of Christmas in Bethlehem that I am using here):

Something that really struck me was how it seemed as though the holiday is loved by both Christians and Muslims.  I think the people of Bethlehem realize how blessed they are to live in such an important city during this time and hopes are high.  I wish the world would recognize that Bethlehem is a place in Palestine, a place that some don't necessarily view with the highest regard.   But I do think the Christmas time brings about great hope for the Palestinian people...Christmas in Bethlehem is simply unforgettable.  The time brings together so many people who are both similar and very different and the spirit of love and hope is very present, both on the smiles of the children who get a visit from santa and those who get to spend their Christmas in the very place where Jesus was born. 
As for food, lunch is the big meal of the day and varies according to family, but two popular dishes include Maqloobeh (which translates to upside down) and is a rice and chicken dish and Musakhkahan, a traditional Palestinian dish made with chicken and onions and bread, as well as stuffed grape leaves. Because of a very sick baby this last week, we did not have a chance to take a turn at making any of these dishes, but I think Maqloobeh would be fun to try since you make it in a pan and flip it upside down to serve - how fun!

So, to bring some Bethlehem to your Christmas, try out a new dish, dress your little ones up as Santa or create a parade in front of your nativity -- line  up the stuffed animals, lego men or whatever other items you have and recreate your own Bethlehem parade! (We still need to do this at our house - we have had sick kiddos, which have us behind with lots of things! Hoping everyone will be well by Christmas!) 

Oh - and I found this fun Alphabet book, about the original Christmas in Bethlehem: B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner. It is a precious book. We hope you are enjoying learning about Christmas Around the World through so many wonderful bloggers and that you have a wonderful Christmas in your own little corner of the world! 

P.S. I hope these photos also remind us all of how much we have in common and of the joy the holidays bring to so many around the world!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Simple Ideas for Baby Play At Home (#5): Winter-themed Just in Time for Winter Solstice

When I wrote my first baby play post a few months back, I did not realize it would be so popular, but since it was, I made it a regular monthly series. Here is #5, and it is all about simple Winter-themed baby play ideas. 

I realize, however, that time is ticking away. I expect to share 2 more baby play posts, since my baby will by then by 18 months old, and I will have to admit that he is a toddler, even though there is a part of me that wants him to stay baby. Everyday he says a new word, illustrating more and more his moves away from baby and into toddler. 

However, when I select items for Baby Play, I share activities that are very similar to things I did with him when he was a much younger baby that I believe will work as baby play ideas for babies in various stages and ages (mostly 9-18 months). 

Today, I am sharing some fun winter-themed baby play we have been doing. Egg cartons seem to often be in use with my baby (and have been since he was 6 months old), and this week I made him a fun snow sensory bin in an egg carton featuring (left to right) salt, mini marshmallows, leftover flour-oat-lavender mix, powdered sugar, a measuring spoon and two small green straws. Plus, you have the spool snowman on a stick and then the cotton balls and pine cone in the back part of the egg carton. 

I first discovered the stacking spool fun 3 or 4 months ago and shared it in my second baby play post. Remembering how much fun he had gave me the idea of creating a snowman out of the spools simply through some basic drawing and coloring with a Sharpie. He loved exploring this sensory bin, especially the mini marshmallows, which of course he ate -- I loved that everything was okay for him to explore with all of his senses since he still does put a lot of things in his mouth!

He had fun transferring items and loved the spool play so much that I made another snowman and did a set up on a different day that only involved the spools and sticks.

I also froze some water that had been dyed with blue food coloring in big chunks (using a plastic serving platter I bought at the dollar store) and added the chunks to a soapy container for some simple iceberg play. 

While a bit on the messy side, he had so much fun - he especially liked to pick up the iceberg and drop it back into the bin to make a big splash (hence a big mess). 
This was an activity that I was glad I did while his brother was napping because I think the mess of two of them splashing around would have been a bit too much.
My next fun winter play idea grew out of Caterpillar having a huge affinity for throwing and catching and thinking that any circular object is a ball - getting through the produce department with him is a challenge! Our recent problem is that he wants to take the round ornaments off the Christmas tree and toss them around, so I decided to make him a toilet paper roll Christmas tree with practice golf balls that he was allowed to play with, but he developed the activity into so much more than that. (I got a bag of these practice golf balls in the dollar section at Target!) 

It started simply enough. Then came the paintball experiment. 

The baggie kept the mess contained, but he actually got bored of this pretty quickly. (I think other little ones might absolutely love rolling the ping pong balls around in paint.) So, I continued to let the activity evolve moving him to his high chair and was glad that I did.

I was surprised at how much fun he had taking the balls in and out of the toilet paper roll rings. Sometimes they would get stuck, but that seemed to only increase the fun. He seriously sat in his chair and played with these for quite some time, possibly even an hour. I was glad that I had followed his interest with the activity and that I added the element of the toilet paper roll rings, otherwise, he would have just been throwing the ping pong balls all over the place - fun for him, but not so much for me. 

Finally, our simplest winter play of all is not really winter-inspired at all, but relates since it involves shiny tissue paper, which we only have on hand because of the holidays. You guessed it, the entire activity is shaking the wrapping paper. Who knew? 

What have you and your baby been up to lately?

Sharing this at Tuesday Tots! Pop over for lots of fun baby and toddler play ideas!

More Baby Play Ideas from the Blog:

Baby Play at Home (#1)
Baby Play Round-Up
Simple Baby Play w/Household Items

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Team No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon

Through my work running and teaching at after-school programs and as an independent filmmaker in the middle of a documentary about a successful low-income public school, I have become all too aware of the unfortunate, challenging reality facing far too many children (16 million) in the U.S. as they struggle with hunger.

As I have learned first hand, many children get their main meals and snacks (and for some their only meals and snacks) while at school through free breakfast, lunch and snack programs, like the snack program that I used to supervise when I ran an after-school program. Many of the 100 students at my program would leave at 6 pm unsure of whether or not they would have anything to eat for dinner that night. Needless to say, extra snacks were a hot commodity.

I believe that no child should be excited about going to school simply because it means they will have food to eat or should grab up an extra snack the second it becomes available so that they can stash it in their backpack for a younger sibling at home that will not have anything else to eat that night.

I often take for granted my ability to provide healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for my kids, but realize I should not and cannot. So, I am giving back and I hope you will join me.

Join me, all day on December 20th for the Team No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon. Our goal is to raise awareness and funds for No Kid Hungry, hopefully with over 2,500 bloggers and tweeters participating. We challenge ourselves to raise $10,000 in one day, although our great sexy thinker Amanda Hite thinks we can blow that away and hit $30,000 or event $50,000 in one day. I am up to the challenge, are you? To reach these goals, we definitely need your help!

If you have a blog, we encourage you to share a post asking your network to join us for the Team No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon. Here are the details:

Overeating this holiday season? Overwhelmed by holiday parties and shopping? Take a break and do something this holiday season to help others! Tweet for No Kid Hungry as part of the No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon. Think of it as a holiday party you can look forward to - you can attend it in your pajamas and know that you are making a difference and helping kids in need from the comfort of your own home - that sounds like my kind of holiday party.

When: Thursday, December 20, 2012  9 am - 11 pm EST

How to Participate:

On Twitter:
Follow: @NoKidHungry
Retweet messages from @NoKidHungry Use the hashtag #NoKidHungry  

On Facebook:
Like No Kid Hungry and share No Kid Hungry status updates 

Or you can donate right now to support the Team No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{Perspective} When Things Fall Apart

Today, as our family worked its way through the morning routine, which this morning happened to include me reading books to Wild Thing and Caterpillar on the couch after breakfast and then settling them down with a video so Wild Thing, who is sick, would rest, and I could get some last things ready to take to a school party and the post office. My husband was going through his morning work routine in our bedroom (AKA his office), but in the background, instead of listening to the radio, he was listening to President Obama speaking at Newtown. 

When I went into the bedroom to hang up some clothes and get dressed to go out, I paused and listened too - I have still not processed fully the events of Friday and doubt that I ever will. 

What I do know is that yesterday I had 2 nearly complete blog posts, one that I wanted to post yesterday - my Virtual Book Club for Kids post, and the other that I planned to post today, my Ten for Tuesday: Airplanes and Kites post as a continuation of my Ten for Tuesday: Things That Go! series, which I am really enjoying -- and which readers seem to be enjoying too. 

However, yesterday Wild Thing woke up from his nap quite sick. Plus, it was our first official night of Operation Christmas Presence, and my husband and I had spoken over the weekend about the value of slowing down even more, of pushing other things aside in those quiet moments in the evening when the boys are asleep and we are still up and using that time to be present/awake/focused on each other, rather than each of us going and sitting in front of our respective technological devices. 

So, yesterday I chose to focus on my sick child and to let him pull an activity out of our Santa bag and to bundle the boys up and go out as a family and look at Christmas lights and then to sit in bed and read (after the boys were asleep). It was the right choice. I am behind, so to speak, with what I had scheduled for my blog, but I am ahead when it comes to my family, which is the whole point anyway...

And then this: Today I noticed that the book that I am using to prop up my computer happens to be When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, author and teacher.

How appropriate since thinking of Newtown feels a little bit (okay it feels a lot) like things are falling apart. As I reread through the opening pages of the book, the following passage stuck out to me: 
 ...the only time we ever know what is really going on is when the rug has been pulled out and we can't find anywhere to land. We use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep. Right now--in the very instant of groundlessness--is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.
In the wake of Newtown, I see this seed being planted, the seed of goodness, the seed of compassion. The #26actsofkindness movement is one example and there are so many more. Wake Up. Plant Seeds. Look around and see who needs our care. 

Yesterday, Awesomely Awake shared A Millions Candles for Newtown and the link for the Sandy Hook Support Fund, Mama Smiles shared her commitment to #26actsofkindness and this link to the Connecticut PTSA, and a few days ago the Buzz Feed 26 Moments that Restored Our Faith in Humanity This Year made the rounds on social media. All of these things, and more, demonstrate to me that some people have chosen to be awake and will not go back asleep, even in the midst of the darkest moments. I am one of them. I am awake. I am committed. I will foster goodness in the world, how about you? 

Today, we left candy canes at the counter at the coffee shop and dropped goodies at our community center. It is a start. I am hoping that 26 acts will become a way of life for all of us, habits so entrenched that everyday is a day full of kindness, goodness and compassion in the world. #26actsofkindness #26Acts

You might also like: 14 Days of Compassion 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dollar Store Christmas Sensory Bin

With our Christmas Sensory Bin, Wild Thing explored how Christmas sounds, feels, tastes, smells and looks, and we made it for basically $4 using items we already had as well as few things from the dollar store. 

I rarely introduce food into play in non-edible ways, for various reasons, but did select to use colored pasta in this bin to represent pine needles.

With our Fall Sensory Bins (when I made 3 for $5), I discovered how fun it was to include Wild Thing in the process of making the bin, so I had him help this time, too, particularly with making the colored pasta.

Our 50 cent bag of pasta, food coloring and some peppermint soap I happened to have.
Wild Thing put several drops of food coloring and soap in this container and shook it.

Then he spread the pasta out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
He did not get every piece of pasta turned green, but he did have lots of fun and actually liked seeing the different shades - yellow, light green and a darker green of the pasta. Using soap is not common when dying pasta, but I wanted our bin to have the peppermint smell, so I decided to add it as the binder rather than vinegar or hand sanitizer or some of the other items typically used. Love Play and Learn and Nurture Store both have useful details on coloring pasta and ended up with better results than we did. 

To explore all five senses our bin included: 
  • Scented Cinnamon Candles to represent the smell and lights (look) of Christmas (I got a packet of four of these candles for $1 at the dollar store). 
  • Peppermint-Scented Pasta to represent pine needles for the look and smell of Christmas (The bag of cut angel hair pasta was 50 cents at the dollar store. The soap I happened to have I could not resist it when it was on clearance at my local grocery store for $2. It has so many uses.)
  • Cotton Balls and super-mini marshmallows to represent snow - the soft feel of Christmas with the cotton balls and the mini marshmallows were great for a tweezer transferring exercise for fine motor skills (and in decorating the cookie cutter tree that I switched with my initial foam tree because I realized it could be filled for decorating).  
  • Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter to representing the look of Christmas as well
  • Jingle Bells (I got a packet of 12 at the dollar store) to represent the sound of  Christmas
  • Candy Canes to represent the taste of Christmas, along with a gingerbread cookie I added in at the last minute (I got 30 little candy canes at the dollar store for $1)
  • A small Christmas mitten we happened to have also for the soft feel of Christmas
  • Rosemary Sprigs another item added to represent the look and smell of Christmas, since they look a bit like pine trees.
  • A Painted Pine Cone leftover from a previous painting activity to also represent the unique look, smell and feel of Christmas as pine cones have a look, feel and smell all their own and have been major decorations in our house this Christmas.
Wild Thing had lots of fun exploring this bin - moving around the pine needles, having me light the candles for him to blow out over and over, tasting the candy canes (he had never had one before), decorating the tree, seeing how many snowballs (Cotton Balls) would fit in the mitten (9 is the answer by the way), shaking the jingle bells and singing songs, having a snowball fight with the Cotton Balls (which does not hurt at all), and ultimately making a mountain. 

The snowball fight and mountain were inspired by two books we have been reading lately that Wild Thing absolutely loves: Snowmen at Night and Trouble with Trolls. In Snowmen at Night, the snowmen have a big snowball fight. Trouble with Trolls we discovered through the Virtual Book Club for Kids with Jan Brett being the author for December. In this fun book, the lead character travels up a mountain, so Wild Thing wanted to create the mountain that all of the adventure happens on -- we will be sharing more activities inspired by this great book on the blog later today! 

Sharing at:  Montessori Monday

You might also like:
Truck Sensory Bin + Play
Autumn Sensory Bin

Montessori Ornament Making