How to keep Joy alive during the Holidays

children make joy xmas_88
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

Mutant-Ninja-Easter-Eggs1

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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!

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!

JOY!

riaangel-copy

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

Holiday Art Projects for Preschoolers

Christmas time is filed with excitement and wonderment.  Young children love to create and explore all of the senses during the holidays. Children love cooking and creating during the holidays. Involve your children in as much of the planning and preparations as possible. This helps to foster a sense of ownership in the festivities and builds independence and pride within your child. I have posted some of my favourite Christmas crafts that I have done in my classrooms and at home with my children. It just takes some time and a few simple supplies to complete these holiday art projects. May you enjoy the holidays and always keep the wonder and magic of Christmas alive in your hearts!

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A cute reindeer made by tracing your child’s feet and hands!

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Paper plate Santas or elves are made by glueing on packing peanuts for the beard , google eyes and construction paper triangles for the hats.

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Construction paper trees are fun to decorate with foam shapes, buttons, sequins an glitter!

“Lest We Forget”

remembrance day

In honour of those who have served in the armed forces I thought it would be nice to post a Remembrance Day craft. The poppies are simple to make so even preschoolers can make them yet still elegant enough for older children to enjoy them as well. To make the poppy, cut four even heart shapes out of red paper. Glue the hearts onto white paper to form a poppy. Add a black circle and/or small black hearts to the centre for the middle of the flower. Poppies can be embellished with glitter, seeds or other decorative items to make them unique.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

Rememberance Day Poppy #1

Halloween Art

As the autumn air begins to roll it’s way into town, I begin to feel a
sense of excitment rising up inside me. The school year is well underway and the lazy
days of summer are long gone..but with each falling leaf, my toes
begin to tingle..it’s Halloween time!
Ghosts and goblins begin popping up all over town. Displayed in
storefront windows and on the neighbor’s doorsteps.  The fallen leaves
serve as a backdrop for this magical time of year.
Taking my children shopping at the local thrift store to pick out their costume is so much fun and I find that I always spend way too much time working on my own costume. I suppose it is the one time of year I can pretend to be a child again and play dress up!

Being a teacher has advantages as there are so many fun activities to do for Halloween. Here are a few examples of some easy Halloween themed art projects I have done in my classrooms.

For Preschool, we cut out various shapes from construction paper and let the children glue on paper scraps and google eyes. The kids loved putting lots of eyes on their spiders! Another fun fall art project was placing fall eaves onto a tree trunk. I used silk leaves found at the dollar store but have also used real leaves collected on nature walks .

For older children we made spider webs by weaving yarn between popsicle sticks and adding spiders  we made from pom pons and pipe cleaners.  Another fun paper craft for older children is to create witch legs and monster faces using construction paper shapes and crayons. This was a simple activity but really got the creative juices flowing as each child is so unique.  Hope these art projects will inspire you to create some fun and spooky masterpieces with your own children!  Happy Halloween!