Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Number Sensory Tub

I didn't have any plans for the week after Christmas.  I knew there would be cleaning and decluttering.  My plan was to rest and just play with our new toys, puzzles and games.  However, when you have a 2 year old and a 5 year old, plans don't always go the way you expect.

Elliott asked what "school" work we would be doing for the New Year's Holiday.  Because of their ages, we don't do formal lessons for school; instead we've just been doing fun activities based around the seasons and the last few holidays, so he just naturally picked the next holiday and wanted to know what I had planned.  Planned?  Nothing!

Then I saw this cute little New Year's Countdown Sensory Bin from What's Fun Today? and I knew it would satisfy Elliott, and it would appeal to Emory's interest in numbers too.

I used number puzzles like she suggested, as well as a magnetic board and a set of magnetic numbers.  Emory enjoyed naming the numbers and finding the correct spaces.

They are too easy for Elliott, but we talked about the year changing from 2011 to 2012 and we counted down backwards to blast off Happy New Years!

I also added two sets of number tiles (1-10) from Rummikub so we could order them, match them, and play memory with them.

I didn't use balloons (if the boys carried them off, the puppy would be at risk), but to add in a fun/party element, I included some colorful ribbons, sequins, glitter poppers, and a few glittery pompoms.  Emory enjoyed playing with the glitter poppers--here he is lining them up to make a snake!

This one is so much fun for mom because it serves two purposes--it centered around a holiday, but it sneaks in some number learning too!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh the Smiles!

What a fun weekend!!  Family, friends, food and celebration!  The Christmas season has been full of smiles!
Spreading the Message in the children's Christmas Play!

Baking cookies with daddy!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve--wearing the new pajamas that Nick brought, smiling big for the camera!

This is what brought me joy this weekend.  Seeing the smiles, the magic and the happiness of my 2 year old and my 5 year old. 

A few of their gifts...

I'm most excited about the many "educational" books, games, puzzles and toys the boys received.  So far the Geotrax seem to be one of the biggest hits!  Emory received Cars 2 and Elliott received Batman, so I have a huge Gotham City Cars Racetrack in my living room right now!  :)

Emory is 28.5 months old.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Elf Says Farewell and Merry Christmas!

Nick has been rather quiet lately, but I suppose the last few days before Christmas he needed to cause some giggles in the house.

On Friday morning we found he had invaded the candy stash!  He used a mini paint palette to make himself a dish of sweets...chocolate sprinkles, red and green M&M's, marshmallows, and a lick-a-stick packet!  Not only did he make a mess, he ate so much he was all sprawled out with a bellyache!

I happened to hear someone stirring around tonight and found Nick returning from the North Pole for his last night with us.  In the morning, the boys will find Nick with a special treat.  He has some little Santa suckers, as well as a new pair of winter pajamas for each of them, which is a Christmas Eve tradition in our house.

Iron Man will be receiving Spiderman pajamas, and Hulk's have a cute little guy that looks like the 'abominable snowman' from Rudolph that he loves so dearly.

Nick returns to the North Pole on Christmas Eve, and he won't be back until next Christmas season, so from Nick and our family, we hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and enjoys the holiday season with their families and loved ones!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa's Christmas Duck - book review

Yesterday I shared our Christmas Scavenger Hunt, and how the boys went on a fun hunt to find a surprise at the end!  Both boys received a new Christmas book to add to our Christmas book collection.

Elliott's new book was Santa's Christmas Duck by Sarah Carlson-Ditmyer.

The book is about a little duck that got lost during migration and somehow ended up in the North Pole.  Santa and Mrs. Claus named the duck Woodrow after finding him in a woodpile, and the story tells the adventures of Woodrow as Santa prepares to send him to a new home with two children requesting a duck for the pond behind their new house.

Kids will enjoy Santa's funny sayings, such as "Oh reindeer hooves!" and the mischief Woodrow creates and troubles he encounters on his way to finding where he really belongs.  Parents will appreciate the message that just one person can make a difference, as well as the gentle reminder of protecting wildlife and their natural habitats. 

The description of the book states it is 80 pages, which is not quite accurate as that count includes the title pages and a few blank pages at the end.  The story and the whimsical illustrations account for 71 of those pages, and the illustrations are on almost every other page spread, so it is long, but not too long for a strong reader to enjoy.  The book is also divided into three chapters, which makes it easy to separate into three shorter readings for younger children.

Although this is not the typical book I would pick out for my children, it is cute and one I don't mind keeping around.

I received a complimentary copy of Santa's Christmas Duck by Sarah Carlson-Ditmyer as a member of the Dorrance Book Review team, in exchange for my honest review. Visit the Dorrance Bookstore to learn how to become a member of the Book Review Team.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

The cold weather is here to stay!  That means we will be spending much more time indoors, and with two boys who are 2 and 5 years old, it also means I have to come up with some interesting games and activities to keep the little minds and hands busy and out of trouble!

Today I want to share a fun Christmas Scavenger Hunt!  The best thing about scavenger hunts is that there are so many ways you can create them to suit every child in your family!

This activity was created with my 5 year old in mind, so instead of a traditional scavenger hunt with a list of items to collect, I added a slight educational twist to it.

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

To prepare the activity, I created a tracing Task Sheet for my writing-resistant 5 year old.  I laminated it so he could use dry erase markers (which are always more fun than pens or pencils of course!) but then I cut it into strips so he could focus on one task at a time.

I knew my 2 year old would wander in and out of our activity, so I created a Task Sheet for him.  It was simply a sheet of pictures, and I printed out a duplicate set for matching.

These erasers were only $1 and I purchased them with a few different activities in mind for my two year old, but for this activity they served as our clues!  We used 5 of the 6 sets.

I hid one half of each match throughout the house with a "real" version.  Here is our reindeer match hiding out by the fireplace.

I explained to the boys that we would be going on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt and that I would give them a clue.  Their job was to find the matching clue and then I would give them a special task to complete before they received the next clue.

My 2 year old's task was to match and glue a picture to his task sheet.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well my 5 year old focused on tracing his words so he could earn his next clue.  Nothing like a fun game to sneak in a little handwriting practice!

After they completed their tasks, I gave them a small red envelope with their last clue.  Inside was a very simple and easy homemade puzzle.  It was just the front of a Christmas card that had been cut into six pieces.  (Inspired by Joyfully Weary.)

Once they completed the puzzle, they saw a picture of a Christmas tree.  They quickly headed to the family Christmas tree, but had to go to their own tree to find their surprise!

There were two new books to add to our Christmas collection!  I did consider wrapping them, but I thought my two year old might take that as an invitation to all presents under Christmas trees!

My 5 year old enjoyed the activity so much that he created his own version for me to play!

Indoor scavenger hunts are so simple and require very few supplies.  They can be changed up for holidays or rainy day activities, and they are very easy to adapt to various ages and skill levels.  It's also very easy to sneak in educational activities, so be creative!

This was originally written for a guest post at Mess for Less!  A big thanks to Vicky for all of her fun, creative ideas for kids (and mommas too) and for having me over!

Mess For Less

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Week Before Christmas

The best thing about not being "in school" is that when traditional holidays and breaks arrive, I don't have to worry about our schedule being completely thrown out the window.  I know it's the week before Christmas, but since it's looking to be a yucky-weather week, and in an effort to keep the boys on a semi-routine, still provide them with their one-on-one "school" time and to keep them occupied while I'm finishing up last-minute things, I still wanted to have some fun little activities ready throughout the week...especially on Christmas Eve as they will most certainly be anticipating the family get-together that evening.

Emory is 28 months old and Elliott is Pre-K

Some activities are for both of them, and some are for their individual skill levels.

Christmas Card Narration
The kids love looking at Christmas cards, so I used some that we had received, and I made two versions of this activity.  For Emory I just picked several different cards, both pretty and whimsical, with different textures and designs that would appeal to him.  The idea is to talk about the pictures, colors, etc.

For Elliott, all of his cards are different "scenes" that he can use to narrate the birth of Christ after we read the story.

Gingerbread Lacing
I bought the foam gingerbread shapes at Target (10 pack in the $1 spot) and we have decorated a few, but we hole punched this one for a lacing card.

Coloring and Activity Books
Both boys received one of these activity Happy Birthday Jesus (Oriental Trading) books in their goody bags from church.

Emory will color sometimes, but Elliott enjoys the activity parts of these types of books like dot-to-dot, shadow matching, and identifying the picture that is the same/different.

Christmas Play-Doh
I finally broke down and made homemade play-doh for the first time (with this recipe) and it has been a HUGE hit with the kids.  Elliott said he likes it better than the old (store bought) play-doh, and Emory actually plays with it, so that's a good sign.

Ornament Graphing
This was for Elliott--the idea was to count the number of each Christmas ornament, then graph it on the generic graph I printed out.  (Yes, I'm aware that the squares are too small for the stickers, but it was late, and turns out he didn't care.)

This activity was adapted from the I Spy Christmas Tree from Our Country Road

Ribbon Cutting
This is a sensory and scissor activity.  The boys love getting into my ribbons, so I figured this would satisfy that desire.

This was inspired by Teach Preschool's Ribbon and Lace Sensory Play in Preschool

Santa Potato Head
Something fun to do when they get bored.  Everybody in our house loves Potato Head!  Of course the extra pieces will be accessible too.

Christmas Tree Ornament Matching
The shape tree in the middle was designed for Emory who is loving shapes right now.  The tree on the left had ornaments that were made with paper of similar patterns and colors, to see how well they could distinguish the slight differences.  While I was making those two, I was inspired to make a symmetry tree for Elliott too.

Original inspiration from Ornament Matching from Tons of Fun

Christmas Pattern Blocks
We have done these once before, but they were a big hit with both boys so I figured we would set them out again.

The printables are from PreKinders.

Transferring Activity
The erasers (12 pack), tongs (4 pack), and polar bear bowls (2 pack) are all from Dollar Tree, and all were purchased with various activities in mind, but this activity is for fine motor skills.  Emory also likes matching up the pairs.

Christmas Sensory Tub
We haven't had our Christmas Sensory Tub out lately, so we'll probably get it out again before I switch it out for January-winter theme.

Christmas Games on the Computer and iPad
I don't give them a lot of computer time, but sometimes I need five minutes of uninterrupted quiet that can be accomplished by putting Elliott on the computer and Emory on the iPad. has a Gingerbread Man and a Snowman activity.

Snowman Kit is a snowman building app, and the Santa hair salon app has been a huge hit with both boys!

We will continue reading great Christmas books, and we also like listening to stories on

Tomorrow I'll be sharing a Christmas Scavenger Hunt that we did last week.  You can now check out the Christmas Scavenger Hunt.  It was so easy to throw together, and Elliott loved it!

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