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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Counting Activity

My two-year old is massively into playdough at the moment and his older brother is interested in counting, so I created this activity with both of their interests in mind.

The Christmas tree is made of playdough, which I rolled out and then cut into shape using a cookie cutter.  In one bowl I placed some numbers and in the other a handful of sequins.  I demonstrated the activity to the children, selecting a number from the bowl and placing it above the tree and then counting out the sequins to match the number above the tree.  Wugs (4) did this a few times on his own, the largest number he created was 30 before screwing up the Christmas tree and playing with it to create various shapes.  Dooey (2) didn't engage with the numbers, but enjoyed pressing the sequins into the playdough and then pulling them out again.

An easy activity to set up and engaged the boys for some time - we've pulled it out numerous times over the Christmas holidays!

What we used:
- Green Playdough
- Cookie Cutter
- Plastic Numbers
- Sequins

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Activity

This year we brought the nativity story alive by experiencing the gifts that the wise men brought the baby Jesus.  As a child I remember wondering what the gifts of frankincense and myrrh were like and this year, I ordered a bottle of the oils.  I emptied a drop or two of each oil onto a cotton wool ball and placed the cotton wool balls into these beautifully crafted pill boxes from India.  In the third box, I added a little gold cross.

Once the children had smelled the frankincense and myrrh, I added one of the oils to a burner to see whether they could guess which oil was burning.  This was quite difficult as frankincense and myrrh do not smell that different.  Frankincense was, in my view, a slightly heavier smell than myrrh.

What we used:
- Essential oils of frankincense and myrrh
- Gold cross
- Small pill boxes
- Small tray
- Oil burner

Advent Calendar Maths Game

This Christmas we found ourselves in the awkward position of having three advent calendars and just two children to open them. The generous act of a mum at Wugs' preschool of giving each child an advent calendar meant that I had to decide whether to consume the chocolates in the third advent calendar myself or ask the children to take turns in having the chocolates in addition to the ones they had from their own calendars. Given the huge amount of chocolate that is generally consumed at Christmas, I thought I'd do something different with this advent calendar.

I decided to create a treasure hunt where the clues behind each door of the calendar are Maths puzzles, which lead to the next door and so on.

To make this game, I emptied all the chocolates from the advent calendar and put them in a bowl in the fridge. Then I measured the inner doors of the advent calendar and created 24 paper squares which would cover the picture that was already on the inner door. On the squares I wrote the puzzles. I used four different types of puzzle:
- subtraction (e.g. 5-3)
- addition (e.g. 10+3)
- counting (e.g. pictures of trees or snowballs)
- sequences (e.g. 62, 63, 64, 65, __?)

Once I wrote out all the puzzles on the paper squares, I cut out 24 small stickers and wrote the answers to the puzzles on them.  The only sticker that is not the answer to a puzzle is the first and I labelled this 100 as Wugs is interested in that number at the moment. I stuck the stickers over the numbers on the advent calendar doors and then starting with door 100, I stuck the puzzles to the inside of the calendar doors. The answer to the first puzzle is the number of the next door to be opened. For example, door 100 has the puzzle "Count the stars" followed by a drawing of 9 stars. The child then opens the door with 9 on it to reveal another puzzle and so on until all the doors are opened. The last door says a simple "well done!". If any doors remain closed then an error will have been made along the way and the child might wish to go back and double-check his/her answers.

Once I finished making the calendar, I added a chocolate to a couple of the doors, so that Wugs gets a surprise every now and then as he works through it. The second time he does it, a different door will have the chocolate and so on.

My Advent Calendar Maths Game was created for a four year old, with the puzzles ranging from very easy to difficult and I offered Wugs a hundred board and 20 stones to help him with the addition and subtraction puzzles.  The game could be adapted for any age range.

What we used:

- Advent calendar (with/without chocolates)
- White paper
- Stickers
- Pen
- A hundred board and 20 stones

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Prayer Advent Calendar

For the last couple of years I have created advent calendars which contain a craft or activity to do with the children.  This year I decided to go for something a little different...

 I've often thought that the greatest thing I could teach my children is how to pray.  To be able to show them how they can speak to God, to share their happiness and their troubles with Him is really a gift that can be taken for granted.  Our advent calendar this year will contain a heart in each pocket which represents a person or a country that we will pray for on that day.  Hopefully we will do this with our Advent Candle lit and blow the candle out after we have prayed.

In putting together the advent calendar I asked the boys who they would like to pray for and then I added some of my own.

I'm hoping that throughout advent the boys will begin to lead us in prayer and grow spiritually.

In our church the children are asked if they would like to pray for the children's ministry and a child always offers to come out the front and say the prayer.  Not only does it encourage children to talk to God, but also it acknowledges that children are equally important to God and to the church and enables them to gain confidence in public speaking.