Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advent Adventures

It's almost December, which means it's almost time for our family to begin our advent activities for the second year.  Since last year, I have discovered pinterest - meaning I have been gathering ideas all year!  That helped with the initial planning, but now that the time is upon us, I'm realizing if I want this to go smoother than last year, it's time to pull out my teacher's skills and PLAN PLAN PLAN.  There were quite a few days that I threw together at the last minute last year.  I don't like doing activities with the kids that way.  It makes them too stressful.

So, this year I have lists of the activity for each day, complete with all directions and supply lists.  My plan is to organize each day into it's own hanging folder in a file box tomorrow - go ahead and do all the cutting, sorting, etc that goes with some of the crafts.  But, I also have three tier baby shower cake to decorate, a million things to do to get our house ready to sell (yes, we are selling the house - I will blog more about that soon), and two kids to love on.  There's a good chance, this is as far as I will get with the ahead of time planning...but I can always hope.

Several friends and family have asked for ideas and what we're doing.  Here it is, complete with links to pintrest when applicable.
1 - Decorate large paper trees.  Today the kids used green water colors on a large sheet of watercolor paper.  I will cut each sheet into a tree shape and let them go crazy with markers, glitter, sequins, etc.  I think buttons would look better, but I haven't created a large button collection for them to create with at this point.
2 - Salt Dough Ornaments.  I'm using this recipe for the dough, but we're cutting out a variety of shapes and let the kids paint with acrylic paint after they are baked.
3 - Christmas movie and/or hot chocolate
4 - Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments for Christmas Mobile.  Here's the recipe.  I'm not following all of Martha's directions...we're just cutting out Christmas shapes and hanging them on the mobiles we used last year for our gingerbread ornaments.
5 - Angel Tree gift shopping.  Pick up a tag, shop for a kid.
6 - St. Nicholas Celebration.  I picked this idea up from a friend.  Here is a link to what she did last year.  I also found more info here and here.  I also purchased a few books on St. Nicholas that we have begun reading so the kids are familiar with him and his story.  We will make cookies using the recipe in one of the books, read a story, leave letters and gifts for him, and the kids will put their shoes outside (or maybe just in a window).  I'll fill the shoes with something special, but I don't know what it will be yet - maybe something crafty.
7 - Pinecone Christmas Trees.  Easy enough.
8 - Wool Felt Garland.  My ideas came from here.  We might make our own felt balls for the experience of learning felting, but there's a good chance we will just restring a bowl of felt balls I have which used to hang from the reading nook ceiling.
9 - Christmas pancakes.  Add green and red sprinkles to the batter for fun-fetti pancakes and pour into metal cookie cutters (i.e. cheap pancake molds) when cooking. 
10 - Snowflake ornamentsPopsicle sticks, glitter, and decorations.  Should be a huge mess that resembles snowflakes in no way.
11 - Handprint Christmas tree cards.  Cute.
12 - Local Festival of Lights.  I'm assuming teachers still get a free pass.
13 - Waffle cone Christmas Trees.  I'm planning to make a gingerbread house.  They get to make a forest to surround it.  Good and messy.
14 - Handprint hand towels.  Hoping for the best on this one.
15 - Reindeer thumbprint cards.   So cute.
16 - Make soap for gifts.  This was a huge hit with Mannchen last year.  The soap came in the mail the other day and he's asked everyday since to make it.  This year we adding scents and herbs to both goat's milk soap and castile soap.  Link to the article my friend wrote on how and where to get supplies.
17 - Decorate gift bags.  I have stamps, stickers, and markers for the kids to decorate plain white bags with and we will put homemade gifts in them for friends and family.
18 - Write a letter to Santa.  Good time to remind them about the spirit of Christmas and to remind them of St. Nicholas.  I want to set the tone now that you only ask Santa for one thing.  This isn't a time to be greedy.  It's a time to be thankful for all we do have and to share our love and blessings with others. 
19 - Visit Santa at Bass Pro Shop.  There's a ton of activities for the kids to do - games, crafts, and of course see Santa.  This will be our kids' first visit to Santa.  We tried last year, but he was on his dinner break.  It was probably for the better.
20 - Make pinecone birdfeeders.  We collected large pine cones at the Noland trail awhile ago.  We coat them in crisco and roll them in a large pan of birdseed.  You can also use peanut butter, but we don't due to Mannchen's allergies.  Tie a ribbon to them and hang them from an easily visible tree.
21 - Watch a Christmas movie and/or hot chocolate.
22 - Decorate Sugar Cookies.  I make the cookies ahead of time.  The kids get to have a blast with icing and sprinkles.  We may make a few other types of cookies, but time will tell.
23 - Take a night walk to look at lights.  Load the kids up in the double jogger and walk or run the neighborhood after dark.
24 - Open an early gift!  The gift will be special mugs, hot chocolate, Christmas PJs (maybe...if I get the chance to make them), and a new Christmas book (The Polar Express).  Enjoy a quiet family evening together.
 Then it's CHRISTMAS!!!!

We are really trying to play on the spirit of Christmas and the true meaning of the holiday and minimize the Santa/gifts part of the season.  Our kids are each getting only one gift from "Santa" this year in addition to their stockings - this is something I intend to keep up for years to come.  We feel that Christmas has become too focused on "getting" and we want this to be a special time of year because of what we do together and with/for others.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they start to pick up more from outside influences, but for now that is our hope.

Please let me know if any of the links don't work.  What are some special activities you do to celebrate?  Please share!

Merry Christmas!!!