Category Archives: Childhood (5+ years)

Conversation Card

The outside of the card might not seem like much, but it’s the inside that counts the most! For Father’s Day this year, I’m starting a new tradition.  I asked J a few questions about his dad and wrote down his responses.  When he made  his Father’s Day card (this year was just construction paper, stickers and markers), I made sure he left space for me to include his responses.  The plan is to do this every year.  Hopefully posting this here will help me remember to keep it up!

We also did this for his Grandpa’s card. 

My questions were basically geared towards getting a 3 year old to share his thoughts on dad/grandpa. Here’s how one of our conversations went…

What’s your favorite thing about ___?
     “His toys.”
What do you like to do with ____?
     “I like to play with him.”
How would you describe ____?
     “He has a head. He has some eyes. He has a nose and a mouth.”
What do you want to say to ____?
     “I love you!” and then he says to me, “Thank you!” And then I say to him, “You’re welcome!” And then he says to me, “I love you.” and I say to him, “Thank you!” And then he say to me, “You’re welcome.”

I personally would love to get a card with my son’s thoughts about me, however simple.  I’m hoping dad and grandpa love it too.

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Valentine Necklace

This necklace was a Valentine treat I actually made for my niece.  It’s really too intricate for J to do on his own.  An older child could manage this activity just fine.  I think it would be a cute party favor for a tea party or Valentine’s party.

Of course, I made the necklace too short.  I really underestimated the length.  The instructions (here) said to make it 36″ long.  I guess I should’ve measured!  It will have to be a necklace for her baby dolls.  I also made a bracelet that should fit her though.  And she can always enjoy eating both, even if she can’t actually wear them.

Snowflake Bentley, Story and Activities

Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a book I happened upon at the library.  It’s a non-fiction book actually, but told in story-book fashion about a boy named Willie Bentley who was fascinated with snowflakes.  As a child he would catch the snowflakes and attempt to draw them on paper before they melted.  Eventually his parents bought him a microscope camera to photograph the snowflakes.  Can you imagine trying to photograph a snowflake using an 1882 camera!?!  I’m sure we’d all have trouble with our modern DSLRs! Amazingly, he stuck to his goal.  He held slideshows for townspeople to come see his photographs which were eventually published in a book called Snow Crystals that is used by colleges and universities. His fascination led to the discovery that all snowflakes are unique. 

Throughout the book there are sidebars with extra facts about snow, William Bentley and his work.  I’m so glad I came across this book.   We used it to kick-start a discussion about snowflakes, photography, persistence, dedication and a job well-done.

Here’s a couple activities we did to go along with the book:

1. Snowflake matching –  I googled Snowflake Bentley photographs and printed out two copies of the same photos.  At first I presented 3-4 to match at a time since you have to really examine some to find the differences.  As he got better, he could match more at a time. 

2. Snowflake puzzle – I cut some of Bentley’s photos in half, mixed them all up and J found the two symmetrical sides to join together and create a snowflake.  This was a great way to emphasize the meaning of symmetrical.  These 2 activities really met J’s current ability level since I could easily make the level of difficulty was just right for him by picking and choosing the snowflakes to match.

Age attempted: 33 months; you could go into so much more detail for older kids and increase the difficulty of the activities by using snowflakes that are more similar in comparison

If you DON’T like traditional shape cookies, try these!

I never posted about our Christmas cookie baking, but we sure did A LOT of it.  I think baking is one of those activities where they can learn a lot (if we slow down enough to let them) and where they see a great reward for their efforts. 

Of course it’s easier, cleaner and faster to mix up the cookie dough on your own, but I’ve found that the majority of learning comes from allowing J to help mix the dough.  He “reads” the recipe, gathers the ingredients and then measures them, allowing him to practice tons of skills. 

We of course made the traditional sugar cookies where we rolled the dough out, J cut them into fun shapes and then decorated to his hearts content.  This is NOT my favorite type of baking!  J loved it, but it’s honestly quite stressful to me.  I try to stay calm, but I’d just rather not deal with the rolling and the cutting.  I think J would have as much fun with playdough and mom wouldn’t have the mess afterwards. (And I don’t even like the taste of this these cookies either!)

We honestly might stick to playdough in the future. BUT all cookie baking is not lost.  We did have lots of fun baking other types of cookies (or I should say we BOTH had fun with other cookies).

My favorite type of cookies to make with J this year were those with a “surprise” inside.  Once I realized how perfect these were for J’s age and ability level, this is mostly what we made to give away to neighbors and teachers. 

I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet and J pressed each ball with the back of a teaspoon, creating a small hole.  He could then “bury” a surprise inside each cookie and I helped him cover it up with the dough.  This was right at his ability level and he loved it.  We buried Rolos, Reeces Pieces, Reeces PB Cups, Chocolate Kisses, and M&Ms (not all in the same cookie!).  I also let him sprinkle crushed toffee and confectionary sugar on top of some which he liked. 

And the good news is they taste great afterwards.  You can hide them in basically any type of cookie dough and it will taste good. 

Age attempted: J first helped with Christmas baking when he was 20 months; this year at 32 months he could do A LOT more

So here are some of the recipes we tried for Christmas:

Million Dollar Caramel Cookies (These were by far my favorite!)

Snowball Surprises

PB Surprise Cookies (basically chocolate chip cookie dough but hide PB cup, M&Ms, Rolos, whatever candy you want inside)

Molten Lava Cookies

**I hope these are the same recipes I used; I just did a online search for the names of each, but the pictures looked very similar in all cases… that should count for something right!**

Great Read: The Jesus Storybook Bible

“The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every story whispers His name”

…exactly the purpose of the Bible, presented in a kid-friendly way.

This is BY FAR my favorite children’s Bible.  Most children’s Bibles tell a simple story of Noah building the ark or Jesus healing the blind man and leave it at that.  They give no attempt as explaining WHY these stories are important for us.  They miss the meat of the message God has for us in the Bible.

“There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.”

The Jesus Storybook Bible goes above and beyond others by giving the big picture.   Starting with God creating us to “share his Forever Happiness” to God remaining firm in His “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” even after Adam and Eve’s sin to His promise to come back for us, to rescue us, and finally to His arrival on earth, putting His resuce plan into action.  “He was going to get His people back.”  Each story foreshadows the coming of Christ, explains the reasons for His coming and  the purpose for this time we live in today, between His ascension and His final return.

Honestly, that’s a deep message.  Amazingly the author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, explains this message in a way a child can understand. 

“The Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes.

The Bible is most of all… an adventure story about

a brave Prince who leaves his palace…

to rescue the one he loves.

The best thing about this Story is – it’s true.” 

I am confident you will adore this children’s Bible as much as I do and as much as J does.  Oh and they also have an audio version if you purchase the deluxe edition.  I don’t have this yet, so no personal experience with that portion.  It’s on order though, so stay tuned for my thoughts on that too!

My Little Chef: No Bake Holly Cookies

J and his grandma made these cute no-bake Holly Cookies for Christmas.  They turned out really cute and created minimal mess (my favorite, especially during the busyness of Christmas). 

INGREDIENTS

  • 30 Large Marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 4-4.5 cup cornflakes
  • 2.5 tsp green food coloring
  • 1 package of Red Hots
  • 

WHAT YOU DO:  

  1. Melt marshmallows, vanilla and butter in bowl together in the microwave (or in double broiler).
  2. Stir in food coloring and then add cornflakes, covering all with the green marshmallow mixture.
  3. Scoop individual servings on wax paper. 
  4. Add 3 red hots to each scoop.
  5. Let them set before serving.

Reindeer Sandwich

This is a fun addition to lunchtime.  It’s so easy and your toddler will enjoy it.  Simply add two antlers (pretzles), two eyes (raisins or chocolate chips) and a red nose (red M&M) to a sandwich.  Of course as soon as J saw his sandwich he requested mom to sing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer again and again and again… so be prepared!

Homemade Toy: Audio Books

When I was little my grandmother used to record stories on tape for us.  We still have some of them!  She also sent some to my cousins who were overseas at the time.  I think this is an awesome gift for little ones that live far away.  They get to hear your voice on a consistent basis, acting out your love from thousands of miles away by reading stories to them!

A few years ago I took the same concept and made a set of books on CD for my nephews (age 2 and 3 at the time).  I chose some favorite books from childhood and recorded myself (and my husband) reading them using my computer. 

I used a free recording software called Audacity.  It worked well.  Their software was easy to use and easy to edit.  I later went in and added a little chime sound for when the page should be turned.  The software made it easy to dub the chime to my saved recording.  Just Google “free sound effects” to find a wide array of choices.  Finally I burned all the stories onto a cd, made a cute little cover for it and packaged cd and books together for my nephews. 

We also recorded some fun family stories and songs and I added a few stories from my grandma and grandpa (using the tapes they gave us as kids).  

I should add that I am not a technological expert by any means.  I have trouble with Facebook! 🙂  I guarantee that if I could do this, anyone could. 

It really wasn’t a difficult project to complete and I think it’s a great gift.  I recently burned all those same stories onto a cd for J so it’s become a gift that keeps on giving!  It’s been great to use on road trips and plane trips.  It also works great while cooking dinner.

If you’re still deciding on a Christmas gift for a little one in your family, you should try this out! 

Age attempted: 2 and 3 (for nephews and for J)

A Soft Manger for Jesus

I saw my friend Kelle doing this with her kids years ago, before J was ever born.  I logged the idea away in my head for the future and was excited this year to include it in our own family’s Christmas traditions.

What you need:  A manger (the actual manger was most likely a stone troft, but we’re just using a basket); a baby doll to represent Jesus, and something to represent hay (rafia, shredded paper, cotton balls,…) 

The goal is to create a soft manger by the time baby Jesus is born.  They do this by adding hay to the manger each time they do a good deed.  I’ve incorporated this activity with our memory verse, Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  J gets to add hay into the manger whenever he shines his light.  It took a few days for the concept to grab hold, but it has.  J now takes note whenever he sees others shine their light too.  This makes for the perfect opportunity to put in practice the second half of the verse and praise God for that person’s light. 

In most cases, I’ve seen baby Jesus held from the manger until Christmas morning.  This year, I actually have our baby lying in the manger daily.  It just helps my 2 year old grasp the purpose of the manger that much more.  It’s also kinda nice to see our baby Jesus included under the tree, next to all our wrapped packages.  I like that it’s a simple visual that keeps the purpose of Christmas in the forefront of minds.  

Age attempted: 32 months

Teaching our kids Jesus is the Light of the World

I’ve been focusing a lot this season on teaching J that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and why a little baby born long ago is so important. 

Our first memory verse on this topic is John 8:12, “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

We did an activity that helped to reinforce the scripture. 

Activity: After nap one day, I took a flashlight up to J’s room.  His room is pretty much pitch black without lights on, especially if the sun is down.  We talked about the purpose of a flashlight.  He loves flashlights, so he was thrilled to teach me all that he knew!  I pointed out that when the room was dark we couldn’t see anything.  I couldn’t find J and he couldn’t find mommy.  We could get lost easily in the darkness.  But the light helps us see (he turned the flashlight on).  The light helps us know where we’re going.  It helps us find the things we need.  It helps us know whether it’s safe to go a certain direction. 

Then I called out things for him to find in the dark.  Of course in the pitch black he couldn’t find them (and didn’t want to venture out to find them).  When he had the light, he could find them easily.  He had lots of fun pointing the flashlight to hit the exact thing I called out (unexpected practice in motor skills since they have to hold the flashlight steady and have good hand-eye coordination).  We also played some hide and seek in the dark, I hid while the flashlight was off and he used it to find me.  He just laughed and laughed everytime he found me and could shine that light on my face.

I emphasized how the light helped him and how he couldn’t do it on his own.  Then I brought out John 8:12.  We talked about how Jesus came into the world as a baby so that He could save us.  He is our light.  When we’re having trouble, lonely, scared or when we did something wrong, Jesus iss the light to help us.  If we don’t have Jesus, it’s hard to live the way we’re supposed to.  Just like trying to find the teddy bear in the dark on our own, it’s too hard.  But with the light, we could do it.   With the light he could find mommy and we laughed everytime the light hit mommy.  With the light we could laugh and have joy.  In the darkness we didn’t laugh, we were just lost and confused.  Because Jesus is our light, we can laugh and have joy inside all the time. 

I’m completley paraphrasing here.  I don’t remember everything I said, but you get the gist.  I didn’t preach a long sermon to my 2 year old because he wouldn’t have focused so long on one deep topic.  I certainly didn’t say everything I typed here in one long message.  We went back and forth between playing and me emphasizing the lesson.  If I saw questioning eyes, I would break it down in a simpler way.  If he had a question, I would stop and answer it. If he made a remark during the game that could be applied to the overall lesson, I commented on it quickly and we kept playing our game.   I saw this lesson as a stepping stone for many discussions in the future. I don’t have to teach him everything at once.  In fact, J has already brought up the topic on his own since this initial lesson.  I see it as slowly building a foundation that he can later stand on himself. 

We have since been working on the  memory verse.  Feel free to use the printable for John 8:12 (in pdf) that I made to help J visualize the scripture.  As always we have it hanging near the dinner table. 

There’s so many opportunities to remind J of this verse.  When we’re driving around and see lights on houses, repeat the verse.  When turning our tree lights on in the morning, repeat the verse.  When the light on his Little People Nativity set turns on, when he places the stars on our Advent calendar,…  We’ll do it when we light the candles on our birthday cake for Jesus. 

All of this also goes hand in hand with the Bible readings we’re doing through Advent (we’re pretty much following this list, using the Jesus Storybook Bible).  I love this children’s Bible, by the way.  I’ll probably have to do a post on it just to share all the reasons why it is so awesome!  And it leads you perfectly into teaching how Jesus is the Light of the World.

Age attempted:  31 months