Day 4’s book was Merry Christmas, A Victorian Verse by Mary Teichman. We previously did this book on our countdown in 2011 but thought we would revisit it now that everyone is 2 years older.
We read the book together and then I gave each child a different task. Kaitlyn (age 7) loves to write poetry. Her task was open-ended, she was to write a Christmas poem:
Eileen (age 5) had to come up with a word for each letter of the word CHRISTMAS. She was determined to do this all on her own.
I wasn’t going to have Michael (age 3) do anything this night but he was determine, and also very pre-occupied with the fact that ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ starts with the letter M. He is convinced that this letter belongs solely to him as it is ‘his letter’. I decided to embrace this and I printed him a large uppercase M to decorate.
To pick a book for day three I searched through my collection for a book on Santa because we need to do our letters to Santa early in the month. I ended up with Hurry Santa by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes.
I had left over paper from when my class did their letters to Santa last week so I let each of my own three pick their favourite paper. Michael dictated his letter to me and I printed it out for him. Eileen and Kaitlyn wrote their letters themselves. From year to year this is always a very interesting experience to see how their writing has improved – I am always so very impressed. Check out my post from last year to see the changes for yourself.
Our book for day 2 of our countdown was Reindeer’s First Christmas.
This is a cute tale of a reindeer who visits The Cat in the Hat’s Christmas Party but then has quite the adventure on his way home for Christmas. It is no literary masterpiece but it has a good rhyme and cadence to it as a read aloud and fans of the television series will enjoy. Throughout the story the reindeer is feeling very hungry because he can not find any ‘Reindeer Moss’ to munch on, so we decided to make a treat of our own: Reindeer Nuggets. This is an easy recipe we found on the Elf on a Shelf website and adapted for our needs. We substituted Honey Nut Chex for the Golden Grahams and chocolate chips for the morsels but we managed to find everything else. The best part was that I could use gluten free granola so that I can enjoys this snack with the kids.
It has started again, for the 3rd year! Our 24 books of Christmas Countdown. This year I am really trying to keep it simple as my kids already have a pretty hectic life. I considered not doing it this year but they love it so much and started asking about it mid November. I have compiled the list, collected most materials and we hit the ground running today.
As always our first book was “The Elf on the Shelf”. You can check out what we did in 2011 and 2012, but we have to do this book the first of December every year as our elf Frankie comes back to visit. My girls in particular have been very much looking forward to his return. Kaitlyn was even invited to have a sleep-over at a friend’s last night but came home before sleep time because she wanted to wake up here in the morning to see Frankie. In our house it is almost the excitement of Christmas morning.
To keep it ‘kid friendly’ and in the spirit of ELK Kindergarten I invited the kids to work together to make a house for Frankie. I showed them a picture of an idea on spoonful.com and told them they could use whatever they wanted to make Frankie’s house. I had been saving the boxes from all our winter boots so they picked their favourite and from there I let them use anything they could find in our craft centre and introduced them to the Christmas craft bin where I had put a collection of random Christmas craft supplies.
The most amazing part was how well they worked together. For almost 1 hour my three children (aged 3, 5, and 7) work quietly together to build this house. No one yelled, no one told someone they were doing it wrong, they were even complimenting each other – it was pretty amazing. I gave no guidance and the only thing they asked me to do was glue the boxes together at the end.
Their finished project:
With Day 5 the craft came before the book. I was scouring pinterest one night, procrastinating of course, and came across a cute reindeer craft that I thought would be a good ‘weeknight’ craft. I then went through our books to find a reindeer book. In my school box I found Rudolph Shines Again. I think it was from a scholastic package I got last Christmas.
The book is not is no award winner but it is cute. The illustrations are very well done (except for some reason Michael kept trying to find ‘the mouse’), and it is written entirely in rhyme. After Christmas Rudolph returns to be mocked by the other reindeer and this leaves him feeling very sorry for himself and his nose loses it’s shine.
After reading the book we got right down to the craft. You can get complete instructions by following the links here. I found all of the things we needed at Michael’s and in our craft bins. If you want to try it make sure you have very small pom poms for the nose. This was one of those crafts that is was great to have a stocked craft centre. I brought out the bin of misc. google eyes and bells and they picked their favourite. Grandma is a knitter so we raided her stash of wool. The only thing I really had to buy was the plastic candy canes.
This was a perfect craft for Eileen. Easy enough for her to do most of it herself and quick enough to keep her attention. Michael even was able to do some of the wrapping himself.
The finished result. They are super cute and all unique!
Day 4 was all about Christmas carols. Last year we started a tradition where the kids gather around the piano and sing a Christmas carol while Daddy plays the piano, and Mommy tapes it as our Christmas message. This year we have decided to extend it a bit – both of the girls will play their Christmas pieces on the piano and then we will sing a carol. I picked up Curious George Christmas Carols to offer them some inspiration. Tonight we read through the book and sang a bit of each of the carols. The book also came with a CD so I have added it to my iPhone and showed them how to play the songs whenever they want.
And the winner is … Deck the Halls. Fortunately it was unanimous. Later this month, after lots of practice, we will record our message.
Last night’s book was Merry Christmas Splat.
In the story Splat writes his letter to Santa and then worries that he has not been good enough. We used this as an opportunity to write our letters to Santa. You can find many different templates online for letters to Santa. I let the girls pick one out and printed 3 copies. We talked about what you write in a good Santa letter. Kaitlyn wrote hers independently, I wrote for Eileen as she dictated to me, and we tried to get something out of Michael (without too many suggestions).
I wanted to start something a bit different this year so I combined two ideas on interest. I picked up some large clear plastic Christmas balls at Michaels and each child put their handprint on a ball. I then wrote their name on the ball and the year 2012. If you are doing this make sure to use permanent marker or it will wipe off (my scrapbooking markers wiped off too easily). Next was the tricky part. I folded and rolled up a copy of their letters to Santa and put it in each of their balls. Of course we made a copy to mail to Santa as well. All that was left was to add some ribbon so we can hang them on the tree. I am having trouble getting a good picture of them so these will have to do for now. Once our tree is up I will try and take better pictures with them hanging on the tree.
The Book for Day 2 was Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Christmas by Melanie Watt.
I was very excited to see that there is a Scaredy Squirrel christmas book so I had to pick it up. It is a bit advanced for Eileen and Michael but Kaitlyn loved it. It is quite a bit longer than the usual Scaredy Squirrel books so we didn’t read it all in one sitting.
It is divided into 8 ‘chapters’ and Chapter 1 is called “Christmas is Coming”. Scaredy has a list of 12 things to do do before Christmas so we decided to make our own list (well Kaitlyn did – the other two weren’t interested). She wanted boxes just like Scaredy’s list so I drew the lines for her but she did the rest herself. She did an awesome job!!
Our 24 books of Christmas was such a hit last year that it has become a must-do for our family this year. This year I feel it is even more important because it make me stop and do something fun with my children every day. Since I have gone back to teaching full time and my kids have such busy schedules our life has become a bit chaotic. All of our books and activities are strategically planned and scheduled this year – with larger more time consuming crafts on slower evenings and weekends.
We of course started off the countdown with The Elf on the Shelf. When the kids woke up on December 1st it didn’t take them long to find that Frankie (our elf) had returned for the holiday season. To celebrate his return our actvities for the day were all elf based. We re-read the book (well Grandma actually read it to them because I had an eye infection and reading was challenging). I was searching for elf related crafts and ended up on the official Elf on the Shelf website. If you go to “North Pole” and “Reindeer Stables” you will find a number of elf crafts. I have also pinned them on my Pinterest Page.
We started with the Elf Clock. I wanted to start the season off with a craft that we would add to our collection and would come out every year. We took a trip to Michael’s Arts and Crafts where we found the Clock Movement Package. It didn’t call for a specific size but we used 3/8″. Grandpa also helped out by making us a box out of plywood. This makes it more durable and more sturdy for saving for future years. The girls started by painting it with red acrylic paint and colouring the elf template (we used pencil crayons, markers and silver glitter).
We gave Granpa the job of attaching the clock parts – I didn’t want to mess it up!
After it was all done it was the first item put on our mantel for the holiday season.
For fun we also made the Elf table. This was pretty easy, but I did all the gluing with the hot glue gun. The instructions are very clear but make sure you get large tongue depressors for the large stick and mini sticks (smaller than popsicle sticks) for the small sticks.
Our elf table took it’s place on the mantel beside the clock – maybe Frankie will decide to sit on it one day!!
I mentioned in a previous post that the Show and Tell in my Kindergarten class for the month of December was to bring in a family holiday tradition. My teaching partner did the same thing and for her show and tell Kaitlyn took in Perogies. You may not think that Perogies are a Christmas tradition but in Gord’s family they definitely are. Every year on Christmas Eve morning all the grand-daughters (and great-granddaughters) go over to Baba’s house (Gord’s grandmother) to make perogies. My kids don’t get to see everyone that often as they are all living around North America finishing up university and staring jobs so it is great when everyone gets together! We make perogies all morning – potato, sauerkraut, and prune, and then at the big Christmas Eve dinner we eat them. The are suppose to be just a side dish but they are definitely what everyone looks forward to the most. It was quite the adventure for Kaitlyn and I to make them for her class but we managed. They tasted good but still not as good at Baba’s.
The other tradition that we have had in our house since Kaitlyn was book is book #24 – The Night Before Christmas.
This was the first Christmas Eve that we didn’t go to church. It is just too crazy to take three little kids to church at 7:00 at night when they are already exhausted -last year it ended up being a complete circus. Instead we stayed longer at the Malo Family Christmas and then we came home to do our Christmas Eve Traditions.
First the kids opened their Christmas Eve presents – matching Christmas pajamas. Every year I make them matching pyjamas and while I am frantically trying to get them done in time I wonder if it worth it – by when I see them all together in them it is totally worth the effort! After they get changed they hang their stockings, get Santa’s cookies ready and I read them The Night Before Christmas. Some years when they are little it seems like it is more for me than them but we have done it every year since Kaitlyn was born!
We read the traditional version but there was a great post at Reading Confetti on a number of other versions of The Night Before Christmas. I am considering using this as our theme next year at school but first have to build my library of different version. What is your favourite version?