Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Sensory Activities

While it is not always the most natural for me, I really believe play and sensory activities are so important for learning and development, and let's be honest--they are just fun!  Sometimes I have a hard time letting go of control and just rolling with this kind of open-ended activity and exploration, and it often gets pretty messy (another challenge for me to let go and enjoy).  But, I see how much they love it!  Zeke can play with his sensory bins or materials for a shockingly long time, over and over again.  
What has surprised me even more, in some ways, is how much Isaiah still enjoys them!  I expected Ezekiel to have fun with them, but I had anticipated using them largely for him while Isaiah was working on other "big kid" stuff, but Isaiah so badly wants to do them as well, that I've had to set aside time, at least when I introduce them, for both boys to enjoy them.  Then I can pull them out again and again for Ezekiel to enjoy for his "school" time.
This is also one of the areas that requires notably more creativity here, as we don't have craft stores or dollar stores or things like that, so I find ideas and adapt to what we have here.  It is also hard for me at times to let them just play with food items when we are in a place where so many people don't have enough, so I am trying to stretch things and reuse things as often as we can.  I also am learning to view this as some of our "treats" or splurges.  There is much more to be said for stewarding our resources in a place that the poverty is much more visible and to learn how to live generous lives and walk in grace and joy and allow that to minister to lives around us rather than feeling guilty and denying all pleasures, as that does very little good to anyone...but that is for another discussion!

For now, here is our Christmas sensory bin:
Rice is plentiful here, so we dyed some green and then tossed in some pom poms my mom had sent in a care package, a couple small stocking ornaments purchased from a local shop, and a couple of tiny jingle bells I had brought along.  Ezekiel just loves scooping stuff right now!

We also made some gingerbread cloud dough, which was a HUGE hit with both boys!

We mixed it up and gave it a try for the first time inside at the dining room table...about 30 minutes before we needed to leave to meet friends for dinner.  I do NOT recommend that! :)

Future play times with it were kept outside!  The boys played with the same batch of it over and over and over.  The neighbor boy (who is 6 years old) came by once when we were playing with it, and when he came by a few days later, he told Isaiah to ask his mom if they could play with that cloud stuff again!  So fun to see other kids come and enjoy it as well.

Another day, we mixed up some Christmas Swirls.  This wasn't one that could really be reused, but the materials for this were super cheap (other than the food coloring, which I always keep around anyway and used a pretty minimal amount for this).

Christmas Season

I LOVE Christmas!  I love the fun and the wonder and treats, and I love being able to celebrate it now with kids!  We kept school time pretty flexible this month and tried to make time for some special things, and for me, I wanted to really make sure our focus was on the birth of Jesus and trying not to cram the time full of too many activities to distract us from that!  I also wanted to make sure that we enjoyed the time and had fun with it!

We tried to play quite a few games.  The boys enjoyed doing some roll and color games.  Isaiah takes them very seriously, and Ezekiel imitates what he thinks is happening.  It took him awhile to actually ROLL the die.  Mostly, he would just bang it on the table and few times and then let go and smile.

It wasn't specifically Christmas-focused, but I pulled out the shower curtain I had brought along on which I had written all the letters of the alphabet, and we tossed bean bags.  Sometimes I called out a letter, and Isaiah tried to hit that letter with a beanbag; sometimes we just tossed the beanbags and then called out the letters they hit.

Eventually, it turned into wrestling, as do many, many things in a boy house! :)

I cut out light bulb shapes in a variety of colors and asked Isaiah to tell me the letters of his name, which I then wrote, one on each paper.  Then, I mixed them up and asked him to arrange them in order to string together and hang on the wall.

Ezekiel contributed to his letters as well.

Isaiah worked on this coloring book from  It had a shepherd on each page and a direction with a color word.  It took several days because he took it very seriously to make his nice book, so we just did a few each day, and he was really pleased once he finished it.

Actually, one of the first things we did was to hang up these ABC ornaments from 1+1+1=1.  I cut them apart, and then Isaiah hung them on the wall in order, while Zeke kept pointing to them and starting to sing, so we sang the ABC's quite a few times.  We also used several other of the Christmas printables from this site.

I am learning to be more flexible and allow moments like these to just happen, as they are so incredible when they do.  They just started "reading" books and laughing together!  Love these times! 

The boys have been begging to start some school time again since we've taken a break for a couple weeks from anything structured over Christmas!  I can't even express how much I love their enthusiasm for all of this!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


So, we are obviously well past Thanksgiving, but it has been a busy stretch for us around here, and I'm just now getting to putting up a few things from our Thanksgiving activities.
Isaiah has been really interested in math lately.  (Not going to lie, that makes this former math teacher pretty excited!)  We got a few worksheets online (super shame on me for not remembering the source!), and he used some plain red tiles to match up the problem with the sum.
Isaiah also really enjoyed doing a color by number turkey, as it matched up coloring and math, both of which he's been really enjoying lately.

We really enjoyed having a little Charlie Brown Thanksgiving party with some good friends we have here.  We had a Charlie Brown thanksgiving "feast" of toast, pretzels, popcorn, and gummy bears (can't find jelly beans here) to go along with watching the movie.

I saw this idea online at No Time for Flashcards for an Indian Corn Craft using bubble wrap.  I thought it seemed like fun and pretty simple (which is never entirely true when you pull out paint with young boys, in my opinion), and we had some bubble wrap left from our move here.  


Isaiah turned his bubble wrap into a paint brush, so it sort of lost the effect, and Ezekiel's take on what I modeled turned into slapping the paper with a paint-filled piece of bubble wrap, which he thoroughly enjoyed but turned messy really quickly!  Still fun.

For our calendar time this month, I wrote a variety of verses from the Bible that talk about giving thanks on popsicle sticks and put them in a container, and each day we pulled one out to read.  The boys actually got really excited about it, mostly because they both wanted to pull out sticks and have *theirs* read, so we usually ended up doing a few each day.  Fine by me!!!

This is not actually my creation, but my good friend Lizzy (check out her Foodies in a Foreign Land blog!) made these for her kids and brought them along to our Thanksgiving dinner, and I just had to include it because I think it is amazing!  Button-on feather turkeys!  Adorable, right?  

This wasn't really a school activity, per se, but it was a fun Thanksgiving treat for my boys and their friends.  I got the idea from FunMom and adapted it based on what we can find here.  If you're wondering why the turkeys are all pink, the marshmallows that we have available here come in packs of pink and white together.  It was actually Isaiah's idea to attach an Oreo cookie for the head.  I had brought some sugar eyes along with us from the States, and we used some local candies we could find to decorate them.

This may not seem like a super exciting picture, but it has been difficult to get Ezekiel interested in books.  He has not been interested in even sitting through a short board book, so to look over at one point during our Thanksgiving celebration and see him looking at a book all on his own...SUPER exciting!

One of my family of origin traditions was to make a "Thankful List" every year during Novemeber.  Each family member added things we were thankful for, and my mom saved them.  It was always neat to look back at what we said during different phases and seasons of life.  I have kept that tradition up with my family now, but this year, I decided to do something a bit more colorful with the boys.  I combined some ideas I have seen and made a tree trunk and branches from a bag, and then I wrapped clear contact paper (brought along from the States) around this column we have.  I cut out leaves, and each day, I would write down something Isaiah said, something I was thankful for, and something we imagined Ezekiel was thankful for :), and the boys would stick them on the tree.  Isaiah usually felt the need to supervise and often "correct" the leaf arrangement.