How to keep Joy alive during the Holidays

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Finding Joy during the holidays is sometimes a daunting task for young children. Every day activities are magnified as their senses are on overload from all of the excitement surrounding the holidays. Not that this in itself is negative , the problem arises when children become too over stimulated and are unable to cope with the day to day tasks such as brushing their teeth or following simple directions that they normally would not have any trouble with.  As mothers and teachers we can choose to let our children’s behaviour get the better of us or we can remind ourselves that a cranky child is usually on overload and remember to tone down the holiday festivities if it seems to be too much for the little ones to handle at this time.  Too much of anything can have a negative effect on us all. For example, I love chocolate, but too much chocolate can make me sick..so I have to really watch that I don’t over eat around the holidays. The same can go for children. Too many gifts, lights, parties, shopping trips, etc can have a negative effect on a child. I remember one Christmas in particular when my middle daughter was two years old. She had so many Christmas presents to open from both sides of relatives that by the time she got to the last few she started crying and saying “ No more Christmas!”    I think at that moment we all realized that we had lost the Joy of the season by buying into the commercialism of the holiday. So the question is: How to keep Joy in the holidays for the young child?  Balance and moderation are the key!  Little ones can only sit through so many Christmas events. So pick and choose the few that you want to participate in. Gift giving does not have to be extravagant.  In my many years of working with young children I have found that they are usually just as excited about the box and wrapping paper as they are the gift itself.  Educational and home- made gifts are always appreciated and so much more meaningful that the latest fads.

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Also playing soft music during the holidays tends to work as a subconscious calming tool.

Serge Mazerand’s beautiful piano music is my go to for background music when needing to calm a cranky preschooler (or parent!). You can download his music here:

https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/SergeMazerand

Another wonderful element in finding Joy during this busy time is to stop and take time to read and cuddle with your child. This will allow them an opportunity to calm down and focus on the story rather than the chaos going on in the world around them. Here are some of my favourite books for the Holidays that young children love to be read to over and over;  “Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear” by Don & Audrey Wood, “You Are Special” by Max Lucado, “Dream Snow” by Eric Carle, and “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg.

For those children that need to be more active taking quiet walks together works wonders as well as having a time to allow them to explore and create their own holiday cards and gifts.  Keeping scraps of wrapping paper, stickers, empty boxes and ribbon on hand for children to use as pretend play can keep them busy for hours!

One particular activity that my preschoolers have always loved is making salt dough ornaments and pretend cookies from home made Christmas play dough and cook cutters.  Don’t forget to add in a generous amount of peppermint extract for a wonderful holiday aroma!

peppermint-play-dough-1Peppermint Play-Dough

1 Cup of Flour

1 Tablespoon Oil

1 Cup Water

½ Cup of Salt

2 Teaspoons of Cream of Tartar

2 Teaspoons of peppermint extract

Food colouring

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan with a whisk to remove lumps.
  2. Cook over low heat stirring with a wooden spoon.  The mixture will thicken and become a big blob.
  3. Take play dough off of the heat and place on floured surface.
  4. Knead until smooth.
  5. Play with your child and watch the joy happen!

Christmas can be such a wonderful time for children as long as we take the initiative to keep the Joy alive by spending quality time with them during this busy season.  I hope these suggestions will help to keep your holidays a little more stress free and enjoyable.
Wishing you and yours a Joyful and Merry Christmas!

The Literacy Connection

Did you know that 90% of children’s critical brain development occurs by the age of five!

Right from birth a child’s brain begins forming connections rapidly. These connections form the foundation for all of the learning he or she will do later in life.  Studies show that babies and young children who are read to and sung to on a regular basis develop bigger vocabularies and become better readers later in life.

Reading books to children, telling stories, acting out finger plays and singing songs are all crucial in the early years for healthy brain development.  Allowing young children to  become familiar with books, magazines and other print materials also helps to stimulate the brain.

Board books are great for helping toddlers to develop a love for reading. That is because the books are sturdy enough to be used and abused and read over and over again. When my children were young they would carry around their favourite board books until they were practically falling apart. I usually keep a basket of board books in my preschool classrooms as well.  This way the children can use these books in all sorts of play without worrying whether or not they will rip up. Playing house or school is always fun with a book in hand. I love to see my preschoolers pretend to read to one another. They don’t realize it but by engaging in this activity they are building up their dendrites for healthy brain growth.

Another fun activity for young children is to give them old magazines. If they are old enough to use scissors they can cut out pictures, letters and words and glue them onto construction paper for a collage. Younger children might enjoy tearing the pages out or just looking at the pictures like mom or dad.  Having the tangible item to hold, touch and see helps to stimulate the brain.

In the age of technology one might ask, “What about  tablets and e-readers, etc?”  Yes, computers and e-readers are also another way for children to become excited about reading. However I would use this in moderation.  Without the actual physical interaction one loses part of the necessary steps in healthy brain development for the young mind. The computer should never replace the actual interaction between a child and his or her caregiver. Hearing a story read out loud also aids in oral skills and helps to develop a higher vocabulary in young children.

So keep reading and singing aloud to your child. And remember that by allowing young children to hold, touch and feel books you are helping to stimulate healthy brain growth!

Thank you to our adorable model Teagan and to mom Jodi for submitting this cute photo!teagan-reading

Creative Easter Eggs for Kids

With Easter coming up, I thought I would share with you some of the fun Easter egg decorating ideas I did with my kids last year. Would be fun to use in a classroom also!
minions
The first egg decorating idea is for Minion Eggs. I thought we were being quite original but after doing the project we found several blogs with the same concept. If your children like the Despicable Me movies then this is the craft for them. Using blue and yellow easter eggs, we simple switched tops with bottoms added electrical tape and google eyes for glasses and used sharpie to draw on faces. For fun I filled them with dried beans and hot glued them shut so kids could use them as musical shakers. This way we get to enjoy them all year!  I’ve also included a few pics of some easy Ninja turtle eggs  and some painted craft eggs we did in my preschool classroom.  The ideas for these crafts came form North Texas Kids Crafts. For how twos log onto their website at http://northtexaskids.com

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Music and Movement

musicMusic paired with creative movement engages the young mind and allows the young child an opportunity to develop early literacy skills.  Music and movement benefits a child’s development in so many ways. It builds social skills, helps children express emotions, enhances self awareness, develops large motor skills, and improves balance and coordination. Here are some fun ideas for integrating music and movement into your classroom or home.

Musical Hoola Hoops- Instead of musical chairs, use hoola hoops! Children dance around the hoola hoops and when the music stops they jump in the middle. (I have also used this game with teens and they had a blast!)

Musical Hugs- Children dance around until the music stops. When the music stops they find a friend to hug.

Mario Lava- Place carpet squares around the room. Play the Mario theme song while children jump from one carpet square to another.

Fireworks-Place large bubble wrap sheets on the floor and let the children dance on them to various styles of music. Perfect game for Canada Day, Fourth of July or Chinese New Year!

Name Game- Another variation of musical chairs: Place children’s names around room. When the music stops they find their name. Great game to teach letter recognition.

 

20 Best Ever Books for Preschoolers

 

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Over the many years of teaching and raising kids I have come across hundreds of picture books for young children. Some are fads of the day while others last for years and can be enjoyed over and over again.  This list of books are from my own collection of favourites. These books can be adapted  for classroom use with units galore and have a magnetic appeal to young children and adults alike. Some of the books I can even remember reading as a child myself! I’m sure you will have your own favourites but these by far have proven time and time again to be some of the best picture books for engaging young children.  Here they are in no particular order.

  1. Brown Bear Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr.
  2. Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
  3. The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  4. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  5. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
  6. Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
  7. Cordurory by Don Freeman
  8. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  9. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  10. Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
  11. Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
  12. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  13. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
  14. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  15. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  16. The Mitten by Jan Brett
  17. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  18. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  19. One Fish Two Fish by Dr. Suess
  20. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

The Literacy Connection

teagan-readingDid you know that 90% of children’s critical brain development occurs by the age of five!

Right from birth a child’s brain begins forming connections rapidly. These connections form the foundation for all of the learning he or she will do later in life.  Studies show that babies and young children who are read to and sung to on a regular basis develop bigger vocabularies and become better readers later in life.

Reading books to children, telling stories, acting out finger plays and singing songs are all crucial in the early years for healthy brain development.  Allowing young children to  become familiar with books, magazines and other print materials also helps to stimulate the brain.

Board books are great for helping toddlers to develop a love for reading. That is because the books are sturdy enough to be used and abused and read over and over again. When my children were young they would carry around their favourite board books until they were practically falling apart. I usually keep a basket of board books in my preschool classrooms as well.  This way the children can use these books in all sorts of play without worrying whether or not they will rip up. Playing house or school is always fun with a book in hand. I love to see my preschoolers pretend to read to one another. They don’t realize it but by engaging in this activity they are building up their dendrites for healthy brain growth.

Another fun activity for young children is to give them old magazines. If they are old enough to use scissors they can cut out pictures, letters and words and glue them onto construction paper for a collage. Younger children might enjoy tearing the pages out or just looking at the pictures like mom or dad.  Having the tangible item to hold, touch and see helps to stimulate the brain.

In the age of technology one might ask, “What about  tablets and e-readers, etc?”  Yes, computers and e-readers are also another way for children to become excited about reading. However I would use this in moderation.  Without the actual physical interaction one loses part of the necessary steps in healthy brain development for the young mind. The computer should never replace the actual interaction between a child and his or her caregiver. Hearing a story read out loud also aids in oral skills and helps to develop a higher vocabulary in young children.

So keep reading and singing aloud to your child. And remember that by allowing young children to hold, touch and feel books you are helping to stimulate healthy brain growth!

Thank you to our adorable model Teagan and to mom Jodi for submitting this cute photo!

Valentine Math

Here’s a simple yet fun math activity to do for Valentine’s Day. Cut out heart shapes and write numbers on them. Laminate if you are using them for a classroom. Have children count out heart candies and place the correct number onto the heart shape cut-out.meganhearts

Valentines for Kids

With Valentine’s Day just a few short weeks away I thought it would be fun to repost these cute ideas for quick and easy Valentine’s Day cards.

Short on time and cash? No problem!  Here are some quick and inexpensive valentines for you and your child to make. These make perfect classroom valentines or just a special valentine for a special little someone in your life. Image

We made these King and Queen Valentines by cutting out crown shapes and letting the children glue on hearts and jewels. Two holes were punched in the side for the lollipop.

ImageThese simple cards were made by placing a box of smarties and reeses pieces on a piece of card stock. For the smarties, we cut out a pocket shape of blue card stock and taped onto the smartie box to look like it was coming out of a pants pocket. So cute!

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Another simple candy card to make is the lifesaver card pictured above. Simply cut out a strip of card stock and fold to make an envelope. Place candy and saying inside, fold and tie with a ribbon. Children love these! Another variation could be to use tootsie rolls , gum or other candy for the cards. Get creative and make up silly sayings to go with the candy you are using!

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If you prefer not to use candy you can opt for the following valentines. Image

Wrap mini packages of microwavable popcorn in red paper.  Add caption and hearts for a cute classroom valentine. Or dress up a package of nuts for a special treat with the caption “I’m nuts for you!”  Just make sure there are no nut allergies before handing out these.

Hope that these ideas have inspired you to get creative and remember it isn’t the gift, it is the thought that counts! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Polar Bear Prints

What could be more fun on a cold winter day than to create a painting of a polar bear!

The process is fun and the outcome is frame worthy. To make the prints, simply trace a bear shape onto a piece of cardboard and cut out. The outer layer of the shape is what we used for the stencil. Using white paint, fill in the shape. When the painting is dry you can add details, glitter and snowflakes. This method of stencil painting can be used for many other shapes and seasons. Use your imagination and have fun!