Friday, 27 November 2015

Christmas Tree Sensory Play

We are exploring Christmas at every level, what it feels like, smells like, looks like and sounds like.  This Christmas Tree sensory bin is the perfect way to play and explore some of the aspects of our favourite holiday.

To prepare this sensory bin I used a clear plastic box, red lentils, a Christmas tree shaped box, green lentils, pine cones, bells, a wooden star, tweezers and little wooden spoons.  I had Ethan help me to prepare it, so I placed the tree shaped box into the bin and he helped to pour the red lentils around it and then to scoop the green lentils into the tree box.  That gave us the Christmas colours, then we added some bells for sound, pine cones for the smell and the tweezers and spoons to move everything around.

Ethan couldn't wait to get in there and start decorating the tree.  I encouraged him to use the tweezers to pick up as many of the items as he could to work on his fine motor control and to place everything on the tree as he would like it to look.  

Some of the larger pieces he had to pick up with his fingers to put into place.  He enjoyed placing the bells in and making sure that they were fitted in snugly between the lentils.  He did pick them up and give them a little shake each time, just to hear them ring.

When it came to the pine cones I encouraged him to smell them and tell me what it reminded him of and to describe the smell for me.  This wasn't easy, so it's definitely something that we'll keep working on.

Once he had placed all of the large items in he used the tweezers and the little spoons to pick up a few of the red lentils to sprinkle all around the tree like twinkling lights.  He was so proud of himself when he stood back to look at his finished tree!

He absolutely loved the process from start to finish.  Next we'll let Ivy have a turn, I have a feeling that she won't be quite as careful, but she'll definitely have a lot of fun exploring and decorating her own little lentil Christmas tree!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Christmas Elf House

The countdown to Christmas has begun!  We've got our advent calendars ready and we've even made a little house for our Christmas Elf (in a drawer!) and shared it over on Wayfair.

We don't follow the exact rules of the 'Elf on a Shelf' but do things our own way, with our little elf leaving messages and gifts in this cute little home that we made for him.  Head over to Wayfair for more details of how we made it.

Our Favourite Advent Calendars

We love the countdown to Christmas, it's such an exciting time of year and the kids can hardly contain themselves.  We try to keep them occupied with these fabulous advent calendars so that they have something to look forward to each day and so that they can count down the days.

First thing in the morning the kids want to open something, so they get to have a toy from their WOW Toys Advent Calendar.  We absolutely love these advent calendars as it gives the kids something that they can play with throughout the day and collect a whole set during advent.  The calendar opens up to reveal a play area where you match up the toy from that day with the number shown, so it's great for number recognition.  Once Christmas arrives the kids will each have a full play set including animals, people, a vehicle and little buildings as well as a few Christmas themed pieces.  It's so much fun to open it up each day and see what they will get next!

Once the kids have had breakfast and are dressed (or after preschool, depending on the routine that day) we will go to our Eat Sleep Doodle Advent Calendar Bunting.  This has been our project over the past week and it's been so much fun to decorate it together.  These cute stockings are all numbered from 1 - 25 and come with a set of washable fabric pens, so we can decorate them each year and wash them and start all over again the next year.  We're having lots of fun colouring in the numbers, drawing Christmassy pictures and writing words on each of the stockings along the bunting.  In each of the stockings I will be putting a couple of healthy treats like raisins or Organix mini bars and a little note with a fun activity that we will be doing that day like baking cookies or putting up the Christmas tree.

Finally, after the kids have eaten all of their dinner they get to open up their chocolate advent calendars!  We've got these ones from Kinnerton with some of their favourite characters.  Ethan is going to love the Thomas one, Ivy is absolutely crazy for Peppa Pig and they are going to have to share the Frozen one because they're both going to love to watch it light up!  It is quite impressive for a simple chocolate advent calendar to have a button to press to them watch the snowflakes light up one at a time!

Then once the children are in bed, I get to sit down and open up my Cadbury's chocolate advent calendar, because all of this Christmas planning and organising deserves some sort of reward!

* This is a review post, we were sent the WOW Toys Advent Calendars and the Eat Sleep Doodle advent calendar bunting to use and write our honest opinions about.  We were also given the Kinnerton and Cadbury calendars at blogging events.*

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Christmas Play Dough

Christmas is such a fantastic time of year, there are so many possibilities of fun ways to play with a festive theme.  It can also be a really busy time of year, so I do love simple activities that I can set up for the children and get them started that they can play with for ages.  That is why we are turning to our favourite activity, play dough as it definitely suits our needs!

We started by making some Kool Aid play dough following our favourite recipe.  I made two batches, one that was red and one that was green (mixing blue and yellow Kool Aid) and added some glitter to each batch to make it extra festive.  

Then I set up a tray for each of the kids with red and green play dough as well as cookie cutters, rolling pins, cupcake cases, and little bits to stick into the dough as well. I just set each of their trays in front of them and let them explore as they wished to begin with.

After that I asked them to use the tools to make different Christmas related items and showed them some different techniques, starting with using a tool to cut out a large Christmas tree shape and decorating it.  Ethan rolled the red play dough into small balls to decorate the tree and Ivy used the side of her rolling pin to stamp circles into the tree.

We then rolled the play dough into long thin strands to weave into candy cane shapes and experimented with mixing the two colours of dough together for a swirly effect.  I also used some letter stampers to spell out Christmas and then Ethan matched up the stampers with the letters.  Ivy also made some lovely play dough cupcakes, that she enjoyed rolling into balls and taking in and out of the cupcake cases.

Then Ethan was just inspired from there and set off making all sorts of different Christmasy items, and Ivy happily squished her mixed play dough away.  The two of them were kept busy for a long time, and we've been able to save some red and green play dough to enjoy again another day.

This post is part of the 12 Days of Christmas series hosted by Emma Owl.  Take a look to see all of the fantastic festive ideas!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ice Grotto Advent-ture

We met Santa!!!  We've very lucky and got a sneak peak of Santa's Ice Grotto Advent-ture that begins at Squire's Garden Centre today.  

Image credit - Squires Garden Centres
The adventure started with one of Santa's elves speaking to Santa over a video call and finding out that Rudolph had lost his nose!  So it was our job to help find it in one of the 24 advent calendar style boxes in front of us.  The children had to use the clues to find out which box to look in next, including boxes that sprayed snow or bubbles all over them!

The children succeeded and found Rudolph's nose (I won't spoil the surprise by telling you which box it was in!) And then off we went to wait our turn to meet Father Christmas himself.  I loved the little touches in the corridor to keep the kids busy, there were things like funny mirrors to make the kids look like an elf or a candy cane, and mystery boxes to reach inside and guess what the Christmas item was.  It was really helpful as the kids were so excited to meet Santa that they needed something to distract them!

Then the moment arrived and they got to go into Santa's grotto to meet him, to see his lovely Christmas trees (which Ivy absolutely loved) to tell him what they would like for Christmas (Ethan wants Paw Patrol toys and Ivy wants a Frozen doll) and to get a little present to take home each.

They both loved the entire experience from start to finish.  Even though they were the youngest children there they were completely mesmorised through the whole adventure and so excited to meet Santa.  They loved their gifts (Ivy opened hers right there and then!) and now can't stop talking about the fun they had with Father Christmas and his elves!

* This is a review post, we were invited to the Ice Grotto Advent-ture in order to experience it and write our honest opinions.*

Friday, 20 November 2015

Writing Letters to Santa around the World

We write letters to Father Christmas every year here in the UK, and there are several different services that provide letters in return.  But the best one that we've discovered is from the Royal Mail and is absolutely free!  Which lead me to do a little research to see if this is offered in other countries, and the good news is that it is!

So if you're in the UK you can write to Father Christmas by December 6th and send a self addressed stamped envelope to get a reply back from Royal Mail.

In Canada you can write to Santa Claus by December 16th and Canada Post will send you a reply.

In the United States it seems a bit more complicated and I can only find last years details from USPS but it seems that you help Santa out a little bit by writing a reply for him, and then send it off and get an official North Pole postmark on the envelope that comes back.

In Australia you can send off your letters soon and there will be a reply written to you from Australia Post's own Santa Claus.

In France I believe that you write your letter to Pere Noel online on La Poste, and then get his response in the post.

Please let me know if there's other countries that I can add to the list!

Top Ten Christmas Games to Play

We love Christmas, and we absolutely love making everything we do a little bit more special at this time of year by putting a Christmas spin on it.  Educational games that we play differently for the rest of the year now get a bit of mistletoe and holly to jazz them up.  Here's a list of our Top Ten Christmas Games to Play:

There are some fantastic games for improving literacy and writing skills, I love the simplicity of this Guess the Word game from Teach Mama.

For memory and descriptive skills this What's in the Bag game from Gift of Curiosity sounds perfect.  We've been having fun with our Christmas Stocking Matching Activity which is also great for improving memory skills.

There are a few fantastic games for physical development, this Pom Pom Drop game from LalyMom is great for fine motor development.

If you're looking to work on your little ones observation skills then you've got to try this I Spy Game from Little Bins for Little Hands.

We love math games and have been playing our Christmas Pudding Counting Game quite a bit to work on identifying numerals.

Music games are always fun, and this Christmas Rhythm Game from Let's Play Kids Music seems like a fun way to teach rhythm to young children.

For artsy drawing games I am loving the sound of this Listening and Drawing Game from Picklebums, I think that we could have a lot of fun with this!  This Colour the Christmas Ornaments game from Buggy and Buddy also seems a lot of fun for younger children and great for learning colours.

And last but not least, is this very fun sounding Candy Cane Hunt from Dirt and Boogers that I will definitely be doing with my two this year!

This post is part of a blog hop of all sorts of Top Ten Lists of Christmas and Holiday Ideas for Kids, there's so many fantastic activities that could keep you busy for the whole holiday season!

Top 10 MUST DO Christmas Crafts from Powerful Mothering
Top 10 Christmas Games to Play from Play & Learn Everyday
Top 10 Nativity Crafts for Kids from Something 2 Offer
Top 10 Christmas Cards for Kids  from Crafty Kids at Home
Top 10 Reindeer Kid Crafts from The Resourceful Mama
Top 10 Kid-Made Christmas Ornaments from Rhythms of Play
Top 10 Must Read Christmas Books from School Time Snippets
Top 10 Gingerbread Themed Crafts for Kids from Artsy Momma
Top 10 Preschool Printables for Christmas from Living Life and Learning
Top 10 Best Holiday Slimes | Little Bins for Little Hands