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Monday, 22 December 2014

Snowflake Christmas Cards

Snowflakes seem to be our thing this year thanks to our Hobbycraft snowflake cutter.  It came in handy again today as we had a couple of Christmas cards still to make.

I had some leftover coffee filter paper art (click here to find out how to dye coffee filter paper) from a craft that Wugs and Dooey did a few weeks ago and (as these cards were rushed) I cut out the snowflakes myself.  I folded over an A4 sheet of card and on one side stuck the snowflakes to it. Then I drew the window frame on black card, cut it out using a knife and stuck in over the snowflakes.  As the Christmas cards were for cat lovers, I had the idea to add a silhouette of a cat sitting in the windowsill.

What we used:
Coffee filter paper
Washable felt-tip pens
Squirty bottle of water
Snowflake cutter
Coloured A4 card
Metallic pen

Friday, 19 December 2014

Cheap Colourful Snowflakes

One of our favourite ways of producing colour in our crafts involves squirting water onto felt tip pen markings and watching the colours separate and dry on coffee filter paper.  Here are a few links showing crafts we have made using this method:
Butterfly coffee filter paper art
Coffee filter paper hand wreath

I wanted to see whether it would be possible to do the same using wet wipes to produce snowflakes (I initially experimented with coffee filter paper, but it is the wrong shape and too small to be able to fold multiple times to create a snowflake).  Snowflakes require a square sheet of paper and thankfully I was able to find a packet of wet wipes that are already cut to a square shape:

I started by drying out a few of the wet wipes by placing them on the radiator for a few hours and then treating them like coffee filter paper.  Wugs and Dooey drew markings on the wipes using felt tip pens and Do-A-Dot stampers.  One they had finished, they sprayed the wipes using a squirty bottle of water.

Dooey in this picture is drenched in water from the squirty bottle because he thought it was hilarious to squirt himself instead of the wipe (something that my mum also found hilarious and so let him do it!)

Once the boys had finished, we left the wipes to dry.

Once they had dried,  I followed this video on you tube to make the snowflakes.

It was a bit of an experiment and I lost some of the wipes in the process.  I had hoped to create really intricate designs with the wipes, but they are quite thick so a simple design works better or perhaps using an iron to flatten the wipe on each fold when making the snowflake would have worked well.

What we used:
Pampers sensitive wet wipes
Felt tip pens
Do-A-Dot stampers
Squirty bottle of water

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Angel Craft

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)

Today's activity was all about angels and the protection they offer us.  Angel crafts are also popular at this time of year as we remember the angel Gabriel who prophesied the birth of Jesus.  

For this craft, I painted two paper plates (one gold and one silver).  I used the underneath (paper side) of the plate as I found the paint dried better on this side (than the plastic side).   Then I asked the boys to decorate each plate.  They used glitter glue, stars and sequins.  

Once the plates were dry, I drew a line to separate one half of the plate from the other.  On the part of the plate that had the least decoration, I drew a pair of wings.  The other half I cut out and fixed the two edges with a staple to form the angel's body.  I cut out the wings and drew a face and long neck for the angel.  I secured the face to the body by sticking the neck inside the hole in the top of the angel's body and gluing it on the inside.    

I gave the angels' wings to the boys and they decorated them with small feathers.  I glued the wings to the back of the angel's body.  I had some glitter pipe cleaners in my craft cupboard so I asked the boys to choose their colours.  Wugs chose two colours, so we twisted the pipe cleaners together to form a halo around the angel's head. 

What we used:
Paper plates
Gold and silver paint
Glitter glue
Black pen
Glitter pipe cleaners

There you go - a colourful angel craft to hang on the Christmas tree!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Simple and Cheap Christmas Tree Sponge Cards

This week we have been working on finishing our Christmas cards and to my delight I found that Sainsbury's had made the job easier with their festive sponges (50p for a packet of 3).  

I diluted some green paint with water, mixed it up and then asked Wugs to dip the sponge into the paint, making sure the paint had fully covered the sponge.  I laid out some A5 sheets of white paper and he pressed the sponge on to each one.  We left the Christmas trees to dry and then both Wugs and Dooey decorated them with glitter, stickers, felt-tip pens and markers.  Then I mounted them on to card.

What we used:
Sainsbury's festive sponge/scourers
Green paint (diluted with a couple of tablespoons of water)

Here are the links to other Christmas cards we have made:

Advent Calendar 2014 Activity - Day 12: God Is With Us When We Are Sick

Sadly today's planned activity didn't materialise because Dooey kept me awake since 2.30 this morning, so the boys experienced a couple of hours without their mum as she was resting in bed! Hopefully there will be time to catch up on this activity later in the month.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Asking and Receiving

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." 
(Matthew 7:7)

For today's advent calendar activity we focused on the promise that Jesus gives to those that seek God: that He will be found.  The word that sticks out for me in this verse is the word "door".  Every day I seem to have a door shut in my face by one or more of my children - not in the stroppy teenager sense, but in the playful 'peekaboo' sense.  It's a game that Wugs and Dooey play among themselves as well, so I thought they would enjoy playing with a door - knocking on it, hiding behind it or opening it to surprise somebody.

Last month when we were unpacking, I held on to some moving boxes anticipating that they would come in handy for a craft or activity.  I used a long, thin box to make the play door and painted the front and top in dark brown paint.  As the box itself would be flimsy if just left standing alone, I wedged it in between two cabinets, which I pulled out from the wall to create a hidden space behind the door.  The idea was for the play door itself to be bland, but when opened it would lead to a multi-sensory experience of sparkly tinsel, mood lights, draping gold voiles, stars and images of the nativity.

What we used:
Cardboard box, long and thin
Dark brown paint
Cotton reels (for door knobs)
LED mood lights
Gold voile
Star decoration
Images of the nativity

The boys loved the door more than I expected.  Unfortunately they yanked on it so hard that the door knobs fell off, but the door was easy to open without this feature. We've decided to keep it assembled so they can continue to enjoy over the next few days.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Free Elsa - Locks and Keys Activity

My son is currently obsessed with locks and keys.  In this activity I wanted to combine his fascination with unlocking things with his interest in Frozen.  

I searched the internet for images of Princess Elsa and printed one off, laminating it to make sure the image didn't tear easily.  I used an A4 sheet of cardboard (the backing to an A4 paper pad) and placed the image of Elsa in the middle and made a total of 10 holes in the cardboard or on the edge of Elsa's picture by using either a hole punch (if it would reach) or a metal skewer.  I cut off 5 pieces of jewellery chain and fed one end of each chain through one of the holes and around the back of the card, before pulling each chain through the second hole.  I gathered both ends of each chain and locked them with a padlock.  Once I positioned Elsa correctly, I unlocked all of her chains and created the background.

What we used:
A4 sheet of cardboard
Image of Princess Elsa
5 Locks and keys
Black marker pen

I introduced the game to Wugs this morning, showing him how the keys fit into the locks and how the lock releases the chains.  He matched up the red key with the red lock and the pink key with the pink lock and even managed to undo the red lock, which wasn't all that easy (some of the locks were pretty fiddly).  Where the keys and their matching locks were of different colours, he wasn't able to match them, so the game might take a few weeks or months for him to master.  It certainly helped him stay focused and work on fine motor skills such as precision, as well as matching and problem-solving (including the patience that goes with that).

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Making a Prayer Box

"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" 
(Matthew 18:20)

This evening we reflected on God being with us through prayer.  Wugs and I have prayed together for as long as I can remember and now both boys shout out a loud "Amen!" when I've finished.  With our big move to the UK, there have been so many things to pray about (a car, a house, a job, a preschool for Wugs, sickness, sleeplessness and worry) that sometimes it feels like a shopping list that I reel off each night.  I thought it would be interesting and faith-building to record our prayers so we can look back on this time and see how God has been guiding us.

A while ago, I read about a Christian family that introduced a "prayer box" and each child would write a need and place it in the box for everybody to pray about.  With a 3 year old and an 18 month old, this works a bit differently as neither of my boys can write, but I thought it was time to create something special around prayer.  Tonight I wrote down two specific areas that we will be praying about over the next couple of weeks and asked Wugs and Dooey to place them in the box.  Then, over the course of a month or a year we can review and give thanks.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Stewardship and Multiplication of our Gifts

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10)  

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much..." (Luke 16:10a)

Today's activity was about recognising the gifts we have and how our faithful stewardship of those gifts can lead to them being multiplied.  I needed a visual hands-on material to demonstrate this principle, so I experimented with aqua beads (they are made of polymers that absorb and release water - frequently used as an attractive soil substitute for plants and flowers).

I thought about the strengths that Wugs and Dooey demonstrate at this early stage in their lives. Wugs is very good at gross motor skills such as control over speed on a ride-on car, steering action etc and he is compassionate (Often I find him soothing his younger brother with the words "Don't worry" or a hug).  Dooey is perceptive.  He watches everything that is going on in the room and gauges which toys are of pre-eminent worth (to his brother) and the moment they are put aside, he is there in a flash, picking them up or carting them off.  Dooey is also very funny.  He usually starts the unruly behaviour at the dinner table, blowing raspberries or bellowing out a chant that his older brother takes up.  I live in hope that these gifts will lead to something positive in the end!

In four small bottles, I added different-coloured aqua beads to represent their different gifts (I had only 3 colours (red, blue and white) so I doubled up on the white) and I placed them in a gift box. Then I asked Wugs and Dooey to add their beads to a glass and pour in some water (water symbolising faithfulness).  We watched the aqua beads expand as they soaked up the water.  About 10 minutes later, our tiny rock-like beads had become magnificent, glistening, crystal-like beads with a jelly-like texture. The boys played with the blue and white beads first, before adding the red and white ones (which had combined and turned orange).

What we used:
Gift boxes
Mini bottles
Aqua beads (sometimes referred to as Aqua gems)
Bowls and Glasses

The principle behind this activity was very mature for their ages, so we finished the activity with a gift bag each with a toy that represented their respective gifts.  For Wugs, he had a mini magnetic ball game and some plasters (he keeps asking me for plasters!) and for Dooey, a kaleidoscope and a whoopee cushion - which finished things off nicely!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Parable of the Lost Sheep Small World

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’."  (Luke 15:4-5)

Today I put together a completely edible small world play based on The Parable of the Lost Sheep. The parable is about the lengths that God will go to to find us if we are lost.  The edible element was inspired by Dooey (my 18 month old) who puts everything in his mouth. (*Edible meaning not toxic, but obviously most things are not good for you if over-consumed*)  Almost every activity we have done has required my careful supervision that Dooey doesn't choke or swallow anything harmful.   I want him to enjoy his play without me constantly pulling things out of his mouth and telling him "Don't eat it!"  So I headed off to the shops yesterday in search of food that could represent the landscape of the small world play.

What we used:
Twiglets (crushed and whole)
Desiccated coconut    
White Marshmallows, chopped (whole marshmallows can be a choking hazard)
Scoops and small containers

I cut up the broccoli to use as trees (although it was tricky getting them to stand upright without some careful cutting and propping).  The twiglets were chosen to look like logs (whole) or the ground (crushed).  I sprinkled some coconut over the landscape to represent frost.  (Yesterday the children saw frost for the first time!)  The sheep (yes they are sheep!) were each a quarter of a marshmallow. I drew the markings on the sheep using an icing pen.    


I only had enough resources for one small world play so I had the children play with it separately. Dooey's small world didn't involve all the numbered sheep (just 4 sheep) as he doesn't appreciate numbers yet.  Wugs' small world had the sheep numbered in units of 10 (so I tried to include a bit of Maths into the activity).  In his scene, I hid the sheep for him to find and place into the pen.  

Dooey did what Dooey does...eat!  Once the novelty of the food wore off, he started pouring and manipulating the items in the tub.  When he had finished I brought Wugs down and they played together happily, serving each other containers of crushed twiglets.  Wugs discovered all the sheep, placed them into the pen, read out some of the numbers and learned a few others.  I explained to them The Parable of the Lost Sheep which led to a lot of baaaing!  All in all a good activity and at least one full stomach! 

Christmas Art

Today's activity was all about celebrating creativity.  The children love crafting and naturally pull out crayons and paper and start drawing even outside of their home environment.  Today I wanted them to choose which supplies we would use to create a craft, without having the constraints of a particular project or theme in mind.  Wugs chose the paints and Dooey chose the colours pink and blue.  This was the first time Dooey was painting on an easel and it was very cute to see Wugs on the other side of that easel with some ink stampers thumping big yellow circles into his sheet of paper.  After Dooey had finished I swapped them around and gave Dooey a paper plate to use with the stampers.  (I find paper plates really handy with small children because they are small and tough, so easy to hold in place and the ridged piece at the edge of the plate can create a nice border if the art work is to be displayed).

Unfortunately Dooey puts everything in his mouth - the paint brush dripping with pink paint, the stampers and even the plate!  He hasn't been very well for over a week so he became easily agitated (I include this just so people know that although we do a lot of crafting, it isn't always easy - we have tantrums over paint brushes and mess all over the floor - all the things you can possibly dread when doing a craft with a little one).  Wugs continued with his painting and started working on a paper plate as well.

I hadn't planned to continue the craft for the rest of the day, but in the evening Wugs pulled up a chair and took down his paper plate and carried on.  (I was inspecting some glitter glue and a snowflake cutter I had purchased at the weekend which Wugs wanted to try out).  We decided to try out the snowflake cutter on their painting which was now dry and Wugs cut out loads of snowflakes.  (Later I used their cut-up painting to make some Christmas cards to send to family and friends).  Afterwards they tried out the glitter glue on their paper plates.  We decided that the paper plates looked like baubles and hung them in their playroom.

Just when I thought stage two of our crafting day was over, Wugs took down another paper plate, folded it in two and made a mouth with it.  He started stamping green circles on to it and took a wet wipe and smudged the green over the surface of the plate, chatting away while he was doing it.  (Wugs likes to imitate Mr Mister Maker from CBBCs).  I asked what he was making and he said "a crocodile" and then I looked closer at the plate and realised that the green circles were the scales and smudged green was his skin.  Unfortunately the glitter glue that Wugs applied to the plate to create eyes, mouth, nose and ears came out so fast that the different features intermingled into one big glittery blob.  Nevertheless, the process of watching Wugs experimenting with effects, colours and different mediums for crafting was fascinating!

What we used:
Do-A-Dot ink stampers
Paper plates
Glitter glue
Hobbycraft snowflake cutter
Kitchen foil

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

God's Provision - Baking Bread

"Give Us Today Our Daily Bread" (Matthew 6:11)

Today's activity was all about giving thanks for the ways in which God provides for our every day needs, like food.  One of Wugs' favourite activities (and one of my least favourite) is cooking. I had a close friend in Singapore who used to send over her culinary delights every fortnight and she would talk about food with such passion and detail.  I admired her and would nod unknowingly, wondering what it must be like to experience such satisfaction at having spent ages cooking something and for it to taste so delicious.  Well, today God was clearly with us because a miracle happened - we baked bread (something I have never tried before) and it came out brilliantly!  It wasn't burnt, under-cooked, congealed, lumpy, flat (I'm trying to think of all the cooking disasters I've had of late).  It was actually edible and took just 30 minutes to bake.

What we used:
Allinson Easy Bake Yeast (the recipe is on the side of the tin)
Allinson Strong White Bread Flour
Warm water

I involved Wugs in measuring out the ingredients and Dooey in kneading the dough.  (I gave them a ball of dough to play with as they wished so that they could still enjoy the experience without me worrying that the entire batch would get ruined - given that usually these things get ruined anyway when I'm in the kitchen!)  It was very cute watching them both stand on the play tower.  I remember justifying our need to buy that play tower when I was pregnant with Dooey, on the grounds that it was big enough to hold two children.  Two years later and it was nice to see it being used by both of them, as intended, for the first time.  


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Creating a Nature Table

"See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these" (Matthew 6:28-29)

Today's activity was almost cancelled as Dooey woke up multiple times last night with a high temperature and I anticipated that he would be too ill to engage with the activities.

I had planned a visit to the winter walk at The Royal Horticultural Society Garden Wisley today as it is very near to where we live and looks stunning.  Then I stepped outside and it was so cold that I knew the little one couldn't take it.  (Click on the link above to see pictures of the beautiful gardens there anyway).

Following on from our walk, I planned to set up a nature table that celebrates the sights, smells, tastes and textures of the festive season and we managed this, taking some of the items for the nature table from our garden.

Our table consisted of:
Pine cones
Reindeer moss (which is actually a lichen and is patterned just like a deer's antlers- not to be consumed)
A wreath
A cutting from a bush in our garden (which looks just like holly - it's prickly, green and shaped like holly, but turns out to be an "osmanthus" , a shrub - commonly called "Variegated false holly")
Some red berries from a bush in our front garden
Cinnamon Sticks
Twiglets (something I've often associated with Christmas and they suited the nature table as they look like mini twigs)
LED tea lights (a candle would have looked nice, but Wugs and Dooey love playing with LED lights)
Warm spiced drink

The nature table went down well with the boys - the consummables (although not all of them were specific to the season) were a nice addition as Wugs and Dooey were eating and drinking while playing with the pine cones and smelling the cinnamon sticks which made the table a truly multi-sensory experience.

I'm considering keeping the nature table as a permanent feature in our house (at least throughout December) as a place to collect interesting finds.  And hopefully we will get a chance to visit Wisley Gardens and I can update this post with some amazing pictures.

Wisley Garden pictures from our outing on 9th December:

Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent Calendar 2014 Activity – Day 1: God Is With Us Through Creation

Today is the start of this year’s advent calendar activities which are based around the theme “Immanuel – ‘God is with us’”.  (The name given to Jesus by the angel Gabriel when he appears in a dream to Joseph to prophesy Christ’s birth (Matthew 1:23)).  Each day we will be doing an activity that celebrates the ways in which God is present with us.

“…all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17) 

I love the holistic spirit of this passage - Jesus is not simply a baby in a manger or a man dying on a cross, but a Person through whom everything finds its purpose and connection with everything else.

My favourite room in our house is the conservatory.  It is full of light and enables us to have a close-up encounter with the animals and plants in the garden without actually being out there and suffering the cold.  This morning I arranged for Wugs to put out some bird seed and nuts to entice more wildlife into the garden.  This simple activity taught him a couple of things: hand control when pouring the food into the containers and an appreciation for animals, who are worthy of our care and attention. 

We went back into the conservatory expecting to see a garden full of squirrels and birds, but all morning we observed only two magpies and a robin in a tree.  This could have something to do with the fact that whenever a bird flew anywhere near the conservatory, Wugs and Dooey would rush to the window and holler “BIRD!!” at the top of their voices so the birds ran away!  I tried to make a game out of being quiet and walking slowly, but this inevitably failed.


Well, as the birds wouldn't come to us, we created our own.  I opened up some air-drying clay and a couple of packets of feathers (new sensory materials for Wugs and Dooey) and helped mould their birds’ bodies and faces with Wugs adding the eyes and feathers (strengthening his fine motor skills).  The birds didn’t look quite like the birds I’ve seen in our garden or seen anywhere else for that matter, but the boys recognised them as such. 

What we used:
Bird feeder
Bird seed and nuts
Air-drying clay
Peppercorns (eyes)   

It seems the lonely robin in the tree made quite an impression on Wugs.  This evening, he was asking about the robin, so we looked up a couple of videos on You Tube of robins singing before he went to sleep.  Hopefully the robin will be back in the garden tomorrow so he can see the real thing.