Christmas Countdown Week 3 (and a bit)

I guess I am a bit late with this blog post as the big day is now over, but I thought I’d share anyway, in case you want to try any of the activities in that strange limbo land between Christmas and New Year, and to look back at next year.

glass candle holder Xmas sensory tub magic key

Glass jar candle holder

A very simple craft to make, and achievable for toddlers and preschoolers from about 2 yrs and up, but looks surprisingly good!  All you need is a clean glass jar big enough to hold a tealight candle (we used a small nutella jar because it doesn’t have a screw top so it looks nicer), craft glue, tissue paper, sequins and glitter.  Tear or cut the tissue paper into smallish pieces.  Paint the jar all over with craft glue and stick the tissue paper.  Try to cover the whole jar with one layer of tissue (more than one layer makes it harder to see the candle light).  Paint again over the top of the tissue paper with craft glue, this sticks down any loose corners.  Then add sequins and glitter as desired.  I’ll be honest, K enjoyed tearing up the tissue paper and sprinkling on the glitter, but was less interested in the rest so this was a team effort!  Our is a present for grandma, along with a nice scented candle to go inside.  They also make a nice table decoration for Christmas or for the winter solstice.

Christmas themed sensory play tub

I am a huge fan of sensory tubs, as is my little girl, and so I decided to put together a Christmas themed tub using bits and bobs from around the house.  I had some blue coloured rice that I made in the summer so I started with that, and then added lots of blue, white and silver accessories to make it very wintery!  I added: tinsel, bows, mini baubles, lolly sticks, pompoms, snowflake sequins, glass pebbles and a snowflake tree decoration.  I also included some different sizes and shapes of plastic pots (yogurt pots etc) and a scoop.  The tub in the picture was not quite big enough for sensory play, so I’ve now transferred everything into an under-bed storage tub which is perfect, and added some pudding rice that had been hiding in the back of the kitchen cupboard and was well past its use-by date. Sensory play is brilliant for young children because it is completely open ended, so they can take whatever they need from it.  Some of the things K likes to do include: scooping and pouring games (great for maths and learning about capacity), pretend cooking, putting her feet in for a full sensory experience, adding small toys like dolls or diggers and making up stories with them.

Magic key

As we don’t have a chimney I thought it would be fun to make our own ‘magic’ key for Santa to let himself in on Christmas Eve.  I cut out a key shape from a cardboard box, which we then painted with gold acrylic paint and decorated with, you guessed it, sequins and glitter.  We hung it on the front door on Christmas Eve before K went to bed and it is now a tree decoration.

Other non-crafty, Christmassy things we have done in the run-up to Christmas include:

  • Making homemade mince pies
  • 2 Christmas parties, preschool and our local natural parenting group.
  • Going to see a children’s show at our local theatre called Penguin, which was billed as a Christmas show but I’m not convinced!  Still K enjoyed it which is the main thing, she also loves the book and even had us all acting it out today!
  • Christmas lunches with friends
  • Christmas face paints
  • Snuggling up in our PJs to watch Polar Express on Christmas Eve with hot chocolate and popcorn.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and your little ones had a magical time!

Christmas Countdown Week 2

Christmas Countdown Week 2

3D Christmas Tree – simply cut out two Christmas tree shapes from a cardboard box, paint both sides green or cover with green paper, and then decorate! We used sparkly pompoms, Christmassy sequins and glitter, you could also use tin foil, milk bottle tops, tissue paper (screwed into balls to make baubles), sweet wrappers etc.  K loved this activity and it took us 2 days to complete (as we had to allow time for the paint to dry before painting the other side, and then wait for the glue to dry on each side) and it now has pride of place in her bedroom.

Customising Christmas Baubles (inspired by Learn with Play at Home) – I set up an invitation to create with baubles, sequins and other sparkly bits, glitter glue, and glue with a cotton bud.  We placed the bauble in a cup to stop it rolling around while K decorated it.  It’s a very open ended activity and K particularly liked putting glitter glue on the baubles (she has a slight obsession with putting glitter on things, but who can blame her!).  Squeezing tubes of glitter glue is great for strengthening muscles in the hands and fingers, and putting on the dots of glue and placing the sequins helps to develop fine motor skills.  K has asked to do it again 3 times so far this week – our Christmas tree is looking a bit full now!

Christmas Present Wrapping Game (inspired by Montessori Mischief) – I filled a shoe box with some offcuts of wrapping paper, scissors, a small sellotape dispenser, ribbon, bows, gift tags and a pencil.  Then we played a game of wrapping toys, putting them under the tree and opening them.  K thought this was great fun and decided she was an elf, she spent a good hour playing with it.  It’s the first time she’s used a sellotape dispenser so I had to teach her how to use it properly.  It’s also a good way to learn about and practise social skills as we talked about giving presents to others and saying thank you as we received presents.

Christmas Gingerbread Biscuits

Making Gingerbread Biscuits – a traditional Christmas activity but one that I was excited to try this year as I recently discovered you can make a reindeer by turning a gingerbread man upside down!  I have to be honest, I find cooking with K a bit stressful sometimes as I tend to be quite precise measuring ingredients which is difficult with an enthusiastic 3-year-old.  It’s also quite messy and I get frustrated when she tries to eat all the ingredients as we go along.  This is something I need to work on as cooking is a fantastic activity for young children, because not only is it fun and you get to eat something tasty at the end, but it also covers so many different areas of learning including maths, science, health and so on.  Decorating the biscuits was really fun, K helped me put the eyes (raisins) and buttons/nose (smarties) on the gingerbread men and reindeer, and I let her have free rein with the stars and some silver balls to keep her occupied while I piped on the other details.

I think the best thing about all the craft activities we have done this week was that it was all done using bits and bobs that we had around the house anyway.  We used some things that would otherwise have gone to waste, like leftover pieces of wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, and extra baubles that we hadn’t put on the tree.  I love doing crafts (can’t help it, used to be a primary school teacher!) and so I always tend to pick up crafty bits like pompoms and glitter glue whenever I see them.  And I always make sure I have some tubes of writing icing and decorations in the kitchen cupboard for a rainy day.  So all of this fun hasn’t really cost us anything this week.

We also had our playgroup Christmas party this week with another visit from Santa (that’s 3 presents from Santa already!) and K’s first preschool nativity.  She was an angel and was a total superstar, normally when there are lots of people around she’s quite reserved but she joined in with all the singing and dancing, and even worked her way to the front! When she spotted us she waved at us with a big grin on her face, and just carried on dancing!  We were very proud parents.  We’ve also had the Christmas themed playdough we made last week out again several times, listened to lots of Christmas music and done some Christmas colouring in sheets.

Christmas Countdown Week 1

I have a confession to make: I LOVE Christmas!  I’m not religious (I’d describe myself as a secular humanist with a touch of Buddhist) but for me it really is the most wonderful time of the year.  I find it cheers me up at a time of year that would otherwise be dark and gloomy.  I like all the traditions, the decorations, Christmas lights, roast turkey with all the trimmings, mince pies… and I love all the make believe with Santa, reindeer and elves.  My little girl is 3 now and is beginning to understand about Christmas this year, and I want to make it a magical experience for her.  So every day in December, we are doing something Christmassy to get us in the festive spirit.  Some people have made advent activity trees which look amazing but at 32 weeks pregnant that’s a bit too much commitment for me (not to mention forward planning) so we’re making it up as we go along.

Here’s what we’ve been up to this week:

Christmas Countdown Week 1

Salt dough Christmas tree decorations (via The Imagination Tree) – this was spread over three days.  The first day we made the dough and dried out the shapes in the oven, the second day we painted them with some metallic acrylic paints, and the third day we added glitter for extra sparkle.  We had loads to put on the tree and we’ve also saved a few to give to relatives as gifts, as a way to encourage K to think of others.

Christmas fine motor playdough (via Racheous) – we made some red and green playdough using The Imagination Tree’s 4-minute no-cook recipe, with added glitter and peppermint extract for a multi sensory experience.  We made the dough together and I provided a craft box filled with items like tiny stars, beads, buttons, feathers, lolly sticks, pipe cleaners and goggly eyes, mostly red and green coloured.  K LOVED this activity because it was completely open ended.  First she made a ‘monster’ using the red playdough, then she stuck all the lolly sticks into the green playdough for ‘traffic lights’, and finally she had to go and get some of her Peppa Pig characters to join in the fun! From start to finish this kept her independently entertained for a full hour (apart from making the playdough which we did together) and I really enjoyed seeing where her imagination took her.  Manipulating the dough and all the little pieces is great for strengthening muscles in the hand and fingers as well as developing fine motor skills, which is all important for writing and lots of other life skills.

Christmas bath puzzles – I cut out some shapes from craft foam to make a reindeer and a Christmas tree.  Craft foam will stick to shiny surfaces like bath tiles when wet (you could also do this on a window).  I stuck all the pieces onto the wall randomly as an invitation to play and K couldn’t wait to get in the bath.  I think she spent about half an hour in the bath putting all the pieces on the wall and rearranging them – she loves Christmas trees so she had great fun putting all the tinsel and baubles on the tree, pretending the wind was ‘blowing them away’ and then putting them back on again!  You could also do this with a Santa or elf face or a snowman.

Meeting Santa – I took K to Bluewater to meet up with a relative as it is about halfway between where we both live.  We went to the Winter Wonderland to meet Santa in his grotto.  K was very excited until we got to the door and then got really scared, as many young children do.  She refused to talk to Santa but I had a lovely chat with him, he has asked us to leave a mince pie and a glass of milk on Christmas Eve out for him (no alcohol this year as last year he had an incident with a tree), plus some carrots and water for the reindeer.  When we got home we had to reenact this several times, right down to saying ‘cheese’ for the photo!

Spotting Christmas lights – the day after we went to Bluewater I was feeling pretty tired so I went for a lazy option of driving through a housing estate to see what Christmas lights we could spot, on our way to pick daddy up from work.  No picture as I was driving!

We’ve also put up our tree this week and decorated it (I’ll admit it, we put it up on 1st December!) which was great fun to do together as a family.  K has also had her advent calendar to open each morning (just a bog standard chocolate one, although I’m eyeing up a Playmobil one for next year).  She also has a Disney Christmas CD which we have listened to approximately 752 times this week as well as reading a few Christmas story books she has.  And today we went to our local NCT Christmas party which was great fun with face painting, crafts, toys, and an appearance from Santa to hand out presents.

Next week some highlights include our local playgroup Christmas party and K’s first ever nativity play at preschool (tissues at the ready!), and to get a sneaky peek at some of the crafts we might be doing check out my Christmas activities Pinterest board.

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