Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sugar Cookie Math Bath

So, my daughter got some Frozen Sugar Cookie bubble bath for her birthday and it inspired me to create a math bath with a sugar cookie theme. 

All I did for prep was cut out two gingerbread cookie people from brown craft foam, a few sugar cookies from light brown craft foam, and some little squares for chocolate chips for the sugar cookies from dark brown craft foam. 

In the bath I added the sugar cookie bubble bath for scent and then stuck the cookies to the wall and left the chocolate chips floating in the water. My daughter had to count how many she put on each cookie, and then add each cookie's chips up together.

Hositng the Perfect Christmas Cookie Decorating Party

So, I know Christmas is over but this could still be really helpful for next year or for anyone who wants to have a cookie decorating party anytime of the year, these ideas could be tweaked a bit to fit their individual needs.

We had a Christmas cookie decorating party that included craft time, bingo, and a visit from Santa himself! See how below.

The first step to having any great party is keeping track of what you'll be serving, doing, and what still needs to be done. So I had my list going and then the other important part is letting your child help with the prepping for the party so they really feel like the little hosts/hostesses that they are since the party is for their friends/classmates/cousins/etc. 

So, some things my daughter helped me with in preparation for the party were putting the cupcake wrappers in the pan, and whisking the homemade eggnog. Which, I'll share here the awesome recipe I found for dairy free homemade eggnog.

So we had our party at 11am, which would also be a great time to do a "north pole brunch" theme, which I thought about doing. We just did some sweet treats. We had Santa cupcakes (which I'll share how I made), some peppermint chocolate chip cookies, the eggnog, and this vegan hot chocolate. For the vegan hot chocolate I also gave some candy canes, marshmallows, and organ whipped cream. 

Now, I saw some Santa cupcakes on Pinterest that looked pretty similar to this, but I'm just going to share how I made these ones. I had my daughter put the Christmas cupcake liners in the baking pan, and then poured some yellow cake mix into each one and baked them according to the directions on the box. Once they cooled I iced them with some vanilla icing. Then it was time to turn them into Santa's. What you'll need:
- organic coconut flakes
- gluten free dairy free mini chocolate chips
- marshmallows
- red sprinkles
- red m&m's
- a sharp knife
- two paper plates

So I first cut up a bunch of marshmallows in half so they'd be able to be stuck on and look right for the Santa hat's. You can follow how it looks in the picture. The sprinkles made the hat, the chocolate chips for the eyes, and the m&m for the nose, coconut flakes for the beard. I say you'll need two paper plates, one for slicing the marshmallows in half and one for putting on the sprinkles and the coconut flakes. 

We also had water bottles that I put these printables on to make them say "melted snowman" with a picture of Olaf. 

Now, I don't know what a Christmas party would be without a Santa coming! Luckily we have a family friend who dresses up as Santa every year and takes pictures with children and does parties and what not. So, we had him come to the party. 

 He stood outside and jingled his sleigh bells while the kids were doing their craft. Their craft by the way was a big pack I got from Hobby Lobby of a craft foam gingerbread house and lots of sparkly stickers and things to add to it. Toddlers and preschoolers love stickers and since that was the age group I decided that would be good. There was also a lot in the pack, so Charlie was able to make some as Christmas gifts for other family members too. To make them purposeful I also gave them magnet stickers to put on the backs of them so they'd be able to use them as Christmas magnets on their fridge. 
Anyway, Santa came in and surprised the kids. They were so excited! He had a sack with him in which he had gifts for each child (a small treat, a big chocolate candy cane). He also had a list that he looked at while he asked each child their name and told them they were on the good list. Then he took pictures with each child and we got one of all the cousins together with Santa.

After Santa left, we decorated the cookies. I gave each child two sugar cookies along with their own tube of gel icing, and then had some red and some green sprinkles sitting out on the table for them to share. The cookies and icings were grouped together in small cups so they were easily passed out to each child. They decorated and ate them.

After that, we played this Christmas bingo that I printed out. We used red and green m&m's to play it with and the prize for the winner was a Santa tic-tac-toe set from Dollar Tree.

As you may have noticed there is a Little People Nativity set out on the table above as decor and something the kids could play with if they wanted. The counter with the cookies and cupcakes was also decorated a bit.

I had out the Little People Christmas village set, a couple Christmas trees made of tinsel that I got at Dollar Tree last year, the cookies, the cupcakes, and the water bottles. I also had my ipod doc going with a Christmas play list I made.

It really was a great party!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Favorite Christmas Activities for Kids

Here's a post where I'm going to share some of my favorite holiday/Christmas activities to do with my daughter. Just thought I'd compile one list. I do apologize that I haven't been posting much lately, we've been busy with all the holiday seasons.

1. This is probably the absolute easiest to set up, and requires very little. You probably already have all or most of what is needed. Christmas Cookie Cutter Prints. 
To set this up all you need to do is put some washable tempera paint (preferably red or green) on a paper plate and then put out a piece of paper and a Christmas cookie cutter. We decided to use a Christmas tree shaped one. It really made a cute piece of Christmas decor.

2. Christmas Play Dough Mats. 
 This is a really good activity for when you're busy making the Christmas meal or addressing your Christmas cards or whatever. It's also good to do with your kids too. I found a few different printables for play dough mats with Christmas themes, and then laminated them with contact paper. Then gave them to my daughter with some homemade play dough.

3. Christmas Movies with Matching Stuffed Animals.
My daughter loves to watch Christmas movies with matching stuffed animals! The best way to make this happen is to go shopping on the sales after Christmas and get some Christmas stuffed animals for a low price. We've done Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas with Christmas Mickey and Minnie's, Rudolph with Rudolph and Abominable Snowman stuffed animals, and Frosty with a Frosty stuffed animal!

4. Advent. 
This is the first year my daughter has been really into doing the advent thing, and I'm so glad that her aunt gifted this to her. It's really nice quality, wooden, and has magnetic pieces that are so cute. You can buy one here.

5. Make a Christmas Necklace.
All you need to make a Christmas necklace is dry pasta (penne works well), two ziploc bags, red food coloring, green food coloring, some string that looks Christmas (I had red and white), rubbing alcohol, and tin foil. So all you need to do is put some pieces of pasta in one bag and some in another bag, and then you add just a little bit of rubbing alcohol into each bag (enough to coat the noodles, it helps the color stick). Then you put a few drops of each color into their bags and shake the bags up to coat all the noodles in color. Pour them onto some tin foil so they can dry and get rid of the alcohol smell. Have your little one string them onto the string in alternating order (this is a good fine motor activity). And then tie it around their neck!

6. Decorating Christmas Trees with Grandparents.
If you're able to take your child to their grandparents houses so they can help them decorate their Christmas trees I'm sure they would absolutely love it. Great bonding moments between grandchildren and grandparents.

7. Cinnamon Bear Craft

Now, this was something that Charlie got to do at a craft time at our library. I thought it was cool so I'm going to share a little bit about it. It reminded me of a gingerbread man. You cut out the shape of a teddy bear on tan cardstock and then have them draw on a face and glue on different buttons and Christmas ribbons. What made them cinnamon bears was how they cut out pieces of sandpaper for their bears hands and rubbed a cinnamon stick on the sandpaper.

8. Fine Motor Sticker Ornaments
This was another craft they did at the library. They just had them cut out an ornament shape onto construction paper and stick on craft foam stickers of various shapes. My daughter chose really little stars and when she was peeling the backs off she was definitely honing those fine motor skills.

10. Reindeer Play Dough.
Whip up a batch of chocolate play dough and give it to your little one with some googly eyes, brown pipe cleaners and red pom poms.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best Preschooler Christmas Gift Ideas

Since Christmas is right around the corner I thought I'd make a post of some of the best children's toys right now.
1. The Calico Critters Town Home Gift Set is one of the presents that I got for my daughter for her birthday. She was very excited to see it. I think it's a great gift set since it comes with 50 pieces and two critters so it's ready to be played with after only a little bit of set up. The town home itself is also great with the lights that turn on and off and movable staircase.

2. Disney Sofia the First Royal Talking Enchanted Vanity. My little girl loves Sofia and I'm betting a lot of other little girls do too. This vanity has animal characters from Sofia the First that can pop in and out of the vanity, and Sofia talks when you press her amulet. It comes with some jewelry and pretend makeup. It's easy to put together and makes for hours of pretend play!

3.  Candy Construction Building Set. I think this building set is just so adorable, and it's perfect for developing STEM skills in preschoolers. Perfecting fine motor skills and using their imagination to build things are important things to happen in preschool. Kids will love it because it looks like candy and they can create.

4. My Little Pony Equestria Girls Radical Hair (Rainbow Dash). I think these new My Little Pony dolls are so cute! My daughter got one for her birthday and though they say for ages 5 and up and she just turned 3 she loves it. It's good for her fine motor skills putting the hair clips in the dolls hair. 
5. Melissa & Doug Felt Food - Pizza Set. My daughter got the pizza/sandwich combination felt food set and she loves it. They come with a lot of pieces to make different sandwiches and pizzas. This provides lots of opportunities for dramatic play with a bit of your help. You can pretend to have a pizza parlor and call your child on pretend phones and tell them what kind of pizza you want. Or pretend to have a deli, etc.

6. Radio Flyer Classic Pink Dual Deck Tricycle. I picked this tricycle out for my daughters wishlist and her great aunt bought it for her! I think it's so much better than the character kind and cheap made ones. It's not too pricey that it's unreasonable to buy either. It's very well made and sturdy and super cute with the tassels and bell. My daughter loves ringing that bell and she really took to riding this tricycle when ones we've been on at other places didn't go as well. Maybe it's just her age and her ability level now, but the style of tricycle may have something to do with it too.

7. Melissa & Doug Flip and Serve Pancake Set. Is this not the cutest? I'm all about providing my daughter with pretend play opportunities so I had to buy this. I got a great deal on it on sale at Toys R Us. She'll be able to use it to pretend she's making different kinds of pancakes. She'll be able to make pretend pancakes for her baby dolls while I make real ones for her, which is always good.

8. Maxell Safe Soundz Head Phones. I'm super excited for my daughter to open these on Christmas because she'll be able to use them with her Leappad Ultra that she's also getting! I was really weary about her using headphones, so I was excited to find some marketed towards her age group and said to be safe for the ears and don't go above a certain volume. I'll be testing them out first to make sure though. I sure hope they work good because it will give her a way to listen to her games, shows, or even music without everyone else having to hear it in the car or airplane or situations like that. 

9. Brain Quest flash cards and books are great, and I got some preschool questions with lots of flashcards for a stocking stuffer for her for Christmas. They are so useful for on the go learning!

10. Sofia the First MP3 Sing Along Boombox with Microphone. This will be so great for my daughters budding singing skills and self esteem. It has one of her favorite characters on it so I know it will get her excited, and I'll be able to play any music she'd like to sing along to on it.

11. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Game. Daniel Tiger is one of my daughters favorite shows and this game also, like the boombox helps her develop a strong self esteem which is very important to me. The cards in the game require the players to act things out, it's like charades for kids. I use it for family game nights and it's silly fun that brings the whole family together. She was apprehensive to act things out at first, so we got to assure her how wonderful she is, and then it was great to see her start really trying.

12. I was able to get this at a pretty decent sale price from Toys R Us as part of my daughters Christmas presents. It'll be especially great for her because her grandma is a hair dresser so she'll feel like she's being like grandma, as well as having pretend play and developing imagination. She loves Rapunzel so it's encouraging with a character. 

13. BOB Books. Set 1 for beginning readers is the level we're at right now, but all of the BOB Books are amazing tools for kids learning to read. They introduce letter sounds and have just a few words on each page with those few letters. Really helps with the concept of sounding out words and reading.

14. Melissa & Doug My First Daily Magnetic Calendar. This will be so great for starting home school preschool in January. She'll be able to learn the days of the week and months a little bit better than she does now, although she already references days of the week and such. I also like that it'll be a circle time beginning of the day type of thing to get things started.

15. Barbie Sisters Safari Cruiser. Got this for part of the Christmas presents because my daughter has recently gotten into Barbies and doesn't have a vehicle for them yet, and this one has a special part in the back for the kid dolls to sit, which are her favorite to play with as I assume other kids do as well.

16. Barbie and The Secret Door Princess Alexa Singing Doll. Any Barbie and The Secret Door toys are really hot right now! Kids love this movie I guess, we just have the book which is pretty good and the toys are all cute. I got the doll for my daughter for Christmas.

Melissa & Doug Jigsaw Puzzle 48-Piece - Mermaid Fantasea -  Melissa & Doug - Toys"R"Us
17. Melissa & Doug 48 piece jigsaw puzzles are so great! They are only $9.99 and that's an unbeatable price. My favorite thing about these puzzles are that they come with the wooden board to do them on when many other brands do not, which is inconvenient for when there's no table around.

18. Animal Babies Deluxe Electronic Plush. These are too cute and my daughter specifically asked for one when we were at the store. I can't find the one I bought for her online, but this one is adorable too. I think they're fantastic for pretend play and different than the typical baby doll.

19. Bell Sports Minnie Mouse 3D Child Bike Helmet. My daughter absolutely loves riding her tricycle in this. I could not recommend it more for any little girl who loves Minnie!

20. Candy Land Game. This is a classic. Along with Don't Break The Ice. Perfect for family game nights with toddlers. Both of these will be under the Christmas tree!

21. Laptop Lunch Bento Box. I love bento style meals for kids and this is the best bento box I've seen. Can't wait to get it and start making my daughter all her lunches in it. They're a great way to make visually appealing and make kids more eager to eat them. They also help with portion control and reminding parents to add all the food groups.
Click for larger image.

22. Lincoln Logs Building Set - Little Prairie Farmhouse. Yet another thing for the STEM, fine motor, and building skills. I think it's important to have varying things for this area of development in a home school preschool setting, just like a mainstream preschool would have.
Lincoln Logs Building Set - Little Prairie Farmhouse -  K'NEX - Toys"R"Us

23. LeapFrog Leap TV Educational Active Video Gaming System. I'm kind of really hoping that Charlie's grandpa gets this for her for Christmas. I'm normally kind of anti video games and a lot of tv watching, but I like that this involves games with characters kids love and encourages them to get up and be active. The best part is all the while they are learning with the educational games!
LeapFrog LeapTV Educational Active Video Game System - White -  LeapFrog - Toys"R"Us

24. Vet Transport Crate with Dog. Yet another thing for pretend play opportunities. So important for preschool development. 

25. Melissa & Doug Wooden Stamp Set Deluxe Happy Handles. Any crafty kids would be thrilled with this. They can make some beautiful things with these and learn another fine motor skill.
Deluxe Happy Handle Stamp Set

26. Learning Resources Handy Scoopers. These will be so great for sensory bins! Fine motor skills improving and making sensory bins even more fun.

27. Learning Resources Beads and Pattern Cards Set. These again help improve fine motor skills and also teach kids to follow directions in a new way. They should lace the beads the way the card tells them too, making a great tot tray activity for home schooled preschoolers.

28. Minnie Mouse Remote Control Car. This is perfect for little kids who like Minnie, and I'm sure there's other varieties for kids who like other characters or colors. It's a new experience for controlling something from a remote. How fun!

29. Vtech Kidizoom Camera. This would be so great if my daughter got it for Christmas, it's definitely on her wishlist. She could take all her own pictures of things she wanted to and possibly develop an interest in photography! 

30. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Animals. This, along with the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why are on the wishlist. Very educational books for preschoolers who are learning all about everything.

31. Calico Critters Ice Cream Truck Play Set. This, and the Calico Critters Burger Cafe Play Set are on the wish list. They're good additions to the town home, so the critters have other things to do. These play sets have little pieces of food to put together which is good for fine motor and pretend play.

32. Playdough Tools Set. Very important for the homemade play dough for home school.
Dough Tools Starter Set - 21 Pieces

33. Barbie Chelsea Doll and Clubhouse Set. My daughter loves this play set because as I've said she's just getting into barbies and prefers the ones that are closer to her age than the big ones sometimes. This play set provides her a little space just for the small dolls. They can bake cupcakes and go up the elevator which all requires fine motor skills.

34. Step2 Light It Up Junior Basketball Set. This is the one of the number one things on our wish list. Step2 products are so wonderfully made and this one is supposed to be be easy to assemble, and able to adjust the heights of it as the child grows. My favorite part about it is how encouraging it is with the cheering sounds and rainbow noises that come on every time they make a basket.

35. Kinetic Sand - Sandbox & Molds. I like this set because it comes with a box to kepe it in, and molds to use it with. It's just another sensory material for my daughter to experience and play with.

36. Glitz and Glam Role Play Melissa & Doug Collection. All of the Melissa & Doug role play clothes are so great. They're a bit pricey but they are well made and come with so many parts to them so they are definitely worth it. There's always several accessories. I chose this one for my daughter's wish list because as I've said I'm trying to really encourage my daughters singing.

37. Melissa & Doug Wooden Sushi Slicing Play Set. This is especially perfect for my daughter because she LOVES going out for sushi, but even if a child didn't normally go out for sushi it doesn't mean they wouldn't enjoy this toy. They get to pretend to slice the sushi and the sushi makes realistic noises when sliced. The box they come in provides a storage opportunity.