Thursday, December 31, 2015

Weekly Learning Theme: Christmas

I continue to really enjoy all the ways I can take holiday activities and turn them into meaningful learning experiences. It's so much fun to think about things we would typically do for a holiday just for fun, look at our learning objectives, and think about how I can tweak the activity in a way that it strengthens some necessary skills. Our Christmas learning theme was a bit of a unique theme in that many of the activities were just for fun. It was a looser theme because I wanted to have opportunities to do things just for the fun of it.

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have updated our objectives a second time because I felt like we were ready to focus on something new.  I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually.  The highlighted objectives are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Continue to improve fine motor skills and drawing (specifically I'm looking for him to be able to copy a circle and a square as well as draw a person with 2-4 body parts).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors. 
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature).
  7. Count and understand what the numbers mean.  
  • Something we did through the entire month of December was an advent calendar and an advent chain. My parents got Carter an advent calendar with chocolate behind each door. We talked about what the date was and then I found the number for that day and pointed it out to Carter so he could open it. Our advent chain was made up of the thankful strips we made during our Thanksgiving learning theme. It was fun to read back over things we wrote we were thankful for.
    Carter loved his advent calendar complete with chocolates for each day!
  • Before we did the learning theme my brother asked what Carter wanted for Christmas so I had him create a wish list. I asked him what he would like as presents and he drew pictures. Then he pointed to the pictures and told me what they were. I had planned for him to make a wish list as part of this theme but didn't want to do the activity again, so we just used his original list.
  • We had a couple different sensory bins during this learning theme. The first one I put together was just random ornaments we don't use anymore that I had as filler ornaments before I married Ty and we combined all of our special ornaments. Elise loved playing with the ornaments and I even put them in an ice cube tray for her to practice reaching in to pull them out. Carter also enjoyed dumping the bin out, refilling it, and dumping it out again. He would also fill a Santa hat with ornaments and run around the house with it. We used these ornaments for a sorting and counting activity. I asked Carter how he wanted to group them and he said, ornaments with glitter and ornaments without glitter and then set about sorting about 5 before he lost interest. I was pretty impressed with his sorting idea though! We also counted how many ornaments we had of each color. We talked about how the ornaments were spheres because they were all ball ornaments. I would also pick up two at a time and ask Carter how they were the same and how they are different. It's cute because he's really picking up on talking about that and has started asking me things like, "How are grapes and broccoli the same? How are they different?" while he eats his lunch and looks at his food. Later he made a game with the ornaments, filling a bucket and then dumping it out. He would sing pop goes the weasel and then dump them out when he said, "Pop goes the weasel." It was too cute!
    Sorting into two piles: glitter and no glitter.
  • We did our Christmas with Ty's parents the weekend of Carter's birthday. After we had opened presents I put together a sensory bin for Elise with some ribbon, bows, and wrapping paper. She loved playing with it but I ended up having to take all the paper out because she kept trying to eat it!
  • I made another sensory bin with shredded paper as the base for snow. Then I added in some red, green, and white pom poms along with foam gingerbread men, bells, a couple bracelets with bells on them, some ornaments, a couple Christmas erasers, and some bows of different sizes. Elise absolutely loved playing in the bin but I had to watch her super closely because she would sneak paper into her mouth. Carter wasn't wild about this bin. It seems like he didn't enjoy playing with the last bin I made using shredded paper either. He much preferred playing with the bin full of ornaments. We did use the bows to talk some more about same and different.
  • One thing I had listed for us to do was write a letter to Santa. We went to Bass Pro to visit Santa and walked around the special area they had there. There were some tables set with crayons, coloring pages, and letter pages to write letters to Santa. So Carter wrote a letter to Santa which meant he drew a picture and then told me what to write. He asked Santa for a fish, I think because we had walked past a tank full of fish to get to Santa. They had a mailbox so you could put your letter right in the mail to Santa so we did that.
  • One day for fun I wanted to make an obstacle course down the hallway for Elise to crawl over. We used blankets and pillows, throwing ornaments out in the middle for fun. Carter really liked it and wanted to play so I turned it into a Christmas obstacle course for him. I put presents at the end of the hall and it was his job to race down the hall and load Santa's sack with presents, then run back down the hall with them. He tried that and didn't like it so he just ran up and down the hall jumping over the obstacles. Elise tried to crawl over the pillows but Carter would run over and move the pillows out of her way to help her, so she didn't really get a chance!
  • To practice drawing squares and circles we drew outside with sidewalk chalk. We made squares into presents and circles into Christmas ornaments. Carter still isn't very confident drawing any shapes other than circles, but he tries. He loved coloring in and decorating his circle ornaments.
    Attempting to make a square present.
    Coloring in one of his ornaments.

  • We took Carter shopping to pick out a present for Elise for Christmas. He did a pretty good job, knowing she likes to play with balls, he wanted to get her a ball. He insisted on getting her a Spiderman ball because "She likes Spiderman." I reminded him he needed to think about what she liked, not what he liked. He still thought she would want Spiderman and who really cares what is on the ball, so that's what he got her. I was super impressed when I took him shopping for Ty's present later. Initially when I asked him what he wanted to get Ty he had told me an airplanecopter. But after he met Santa he was curious and asked each of us what we wanted for Christmas. Ty told Carter he wanted some shirts like his that are thermals with a few buttons at the neck. When I took Carter to the store I expected him to say he wanted to get Ty an airplanecopter, but he said he wanted to get Ty a toy shirt. I think he was a little bit confused since Ty said he wanted a shirt like Carter's. Carter thought Ty wanted a shirt to play with. I took him to the men's shirts and showed him the type of shirt Ty was asking for and he picked out a bright teal with no buttons. I reminded him daddy had said he wanted buttons but he didn't care, he really wanted the teal shirt so that's what we got. Ty took Carter to shop for a present for me. He said when he told Carter they were getting me a hairbrush, Carter asked if I was going to use it to paint the house. So funny!
    Carter picking out a ball for Elise.
  • Carter got some great fine motor practice when he helped me wrap presents. He actually wrote letters on the first few gift tags before he wore out. He wrote a T for Uncie Taco and an O for Oma along with a C for from Carter. He also used scissors to cut paper and I showed him how to use the tape dispenser to rip tape. He then used the tape to fasten down sections of paper. He picked a bow for every single present which Elise was happy to crawl under the tree and rip off for us shortly after we put them under the tree. After we had finished wrapping presents he ran into his room and came out with a long piece of yarn which he spent a lot of time trying to wrap around Uncie J's present before allowing me to help him. Each time Elise would crawl under the tree and grab presents, Carter would go over, take it from her, and hand her the ball he picked out for her saying, "No sissy, that's not yours. Here, sissy, this one is for you." It was the cutest! He also helped me make name tags for his ornaments he made with sissy by adding stickers and coloring on small slips of paper.
    Writing on gift tags.
    Cutting paper to wrap presents.
    Adding a bow to a present.
    Putting yarn on Uncie J's present.
    Decorating name tags.
  • To teach Carter the story of Jesus' birth I read him The Christmas Story by Ruth J. Morehead and The First Night by B.G. Hennessy. Then we used the nativity figurine that was decorating his room to retell and discuss the story. I pointed at the people on the set and told him who they were. Then I had him tell me parts of the story.
    Carter holding the nativity ready to read our books on Christmas Eve.
  • One day we were coloring and I drew 2 Christmas trees and added stickers to them. We then looked at the trees and talked about how they were the same and how they were different.
  • We continued our tradition of making a handprint or footprint ornament for our family. Carter's first Christmas we made handprint and footprint salt dough ornaments. His second Christmas he made a reindeer fingerprint ornament at daycare and last year we made a Rudolph handprint ornament. This year I was really excited to include Elise. Carter put his handprint on one side of the ornament and Elise put her handprint on the other. Then I used permanet marker to decorate their fingers, making them look like snowmen. I wasn't prepared for how difficult it was to get Elise to make a handprint on an ornament. She kept trying to grab hold of the ornament while I had her hand on it and it would smear the paint all over! I'd say for the 9 ornaments we made I had to re-do her handprint at least 10 times. But we got it done!
    Carter's side of one of the ornaments.
    Elise's side of the same ornament.
  • The neat thing about going to different storytimes was that there were different crafts. At one we made a popsicle star ornament and a bell necklace, at another we made fingerprint Christmas lights and cotton ball snowmen, and at the last one we made Christmas mice and reindeer popsicle stick ornaments. They all turned out really cute! I loved the ones that Elise was able to make, with some help, like the fingerprint lights.
    Carter's fingerprint Christmas lights.
    Elise's fingerprint Christmas lights.

Special Snack:
  • On Christmas Eve we made cookies for Santa. We decided on peanut butter blossom cookies which are the peanut butter cookies with Hershey's kisses on top. I was impressed with what a great helper Carter was. He did insist on pouring the vanilla into the teaspoon all by himself so we probably ended up with multiple tablespoons of vanilla which made our batter runnier and more difficult to mold into balls but it still tasted delicious! I rolled the dough into balls and Carter rolled the balls in the sugar and placed them on the cookie sheet. He rolled a few balls too but decided that job wasn't as much fun. While the first batch was in the oven we took the wrappers off the kisses and Carter was so cute explaining to me that there was a white paper that made it easier to pull the wrapper off.
    Rolling the dough in sugar
    Pulling wrappers off the kisses.
Make Believe:
  • I write down ideas for pretend play with each theme but we typically don't do them because Carter comes up with better ideas on his own. We had lots of Santa hats around the house. One day Carter threw one on and started walking around talking in a deep voice, pretending he was Santa. He brought me an ornament and I pretended to be really excited. Then he told me the ornament had a button that if pushed, would make the house fly. Then he brought in a couple other ornaments saying they were wings and attached them to the house by sticking them places. I kept calling him Santa and acting really excited. After a while he pulled his hat off and said, "Surprise, it's just me, Carter!" like he thought I really believed he was Santa. It was hilarious!
  • One day we were playing in the backyard and Carter brought out a ribbon off a Christmas package we had opened early. He was running around the backyard with it blowing behind him. When he was done with it he set it down and I picked it up. I tied it around one of the posts in the backyard and told Carter to unwrap his present just goofing around. He very excitedly did and faked excitement and surprise over his big wood pole he unwrapped. He thought it was so much fun he continued to ask me to do it. He would close his eyes and put his hands over his eyes telling me he wasn't looking. Then when he unwrapped whatever it was I had tied the ribbon around he would shriek with excitement and talk about his present.
  • We sang lots of Christmas carols throughout the week. Most of them were sung while driving around in the car. We also went to a couple of sing along storytimes at the library. Carter really enjoyed Jingle Bells and started randomly singing it throughout the day which reminded me of last year when he really started singing and would belt out Jingle Bells at random times throughout the day.
Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • I was so excited to take both Carter and Elise to visit Santa! I could just picture all the cuteness that would be the two of them sitting with Santa. We ended up with multiple Santa visits through the library, playdates, and other fun and free activities in town. Our first Santa visit Carter sat on Santa's lap so he could get a better look at the girl behind us in line. Our next visit was at a park with a playground so Carter took off running for the playground after saying he didn't want to see Santa. The next trip Carter started to walk up to Santa but then turned and ran, clotheslining himself on the ribbon used to create the Santa line and knocked a bunch of stuff over. Our next encounter was during an evening storytime and Carter was much braver since his daddy was there. He even stood and talked with Santa, telling him what he wanted for Christmas. Our last time seeing Santa was at another storytime, but this time during the day, Carter didn't want to sit with Santa but when Santa came up to him, he talked to him. It was the same Santa we had seen at a different storytime and Carter cracked me up saying, "I already told you that!" when Santa asked what he wanted for Christmas.
    Our first Santa visit at Glow on the Green.
    Our next Santa visit at River Lights.
    Our 3rd Santa visit at Bass Pro.
    Our 4th Santa visit at an evening storytime.
    Carter talking with Santa at the evening storytime.
    Carter chatting with Santa during our fifth visit at a daytime storytime.
  • We went to a few different Christmas storytimes at the library. They varied in what the activities were. Some activities we did were sing carols, make crafts, meet Santa, and read Christmas books. It was a lot of fun! Two of the storytimes were pajama storytimes so the kids got to wear their jammies.
    Ready for a pajama storytime.
    Sitting together at another Christmas storytime.
  • One of Carter's favorite activities was going to see Christmas lights. His first trip was a special trip with daddy. The night Ty turned his car seat to forward facing Carter desperately wanted to drive somewhere to try it out so I suggested Ty drive him through some lights. They drove past a train with lights on it and went through a neighborhood. Carter had a blast! A different night we all went to a special drive through light display. We took Harper with us and made hot chocolate for the car. Carter loved it! The 23rd we went to a walk through light display which is the most impressive Christmas light display I've ever seen. Carter was bummed we couldn't take Harper, but we knew it would be way too crowded for her to go! Carter's favorite lights were of Santa and a train. Elise seemed to really like blue lights and stared at them more than any of the others. On Christmas Eve Carter asked to go see lights again so Ty, Jeremy, and my parents took him through the drive through lights again.
    Ty and Elise excited for the drive through lights!
    Driving through the lights display.
    Harper also enjoyed herself.
    Carter walking through the Christmas lights.
    Both kids loved the tunnel of lights.
    This was Elise's face pretty much the whole time she looked at lights!

  • Curious George Curious About Christmas by Anjali Pala
  • Get Ready Santa by Paul and Alice Sharp 
  • The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition by Carol V. Aebersold and Chandra A. Bell
  • Curious George Christmas Carols by H.A. Rey
  • Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk
  • Carl's Christmas by Alexandra Day
  • Little Blue Truck's Christmas by Alice Schertle
  • I Spy Little Christmas by Jean Marzollo
  • Arthur Decks the Hall by Marc Brown
  • Christmas Surprise by Priddy Books
  • The Very Snowy Christmas by Diana Hendry
  • Llama Llama Jingle Bells by Anna Dewdney
  • Angelina's Christmas by Katharine Holabird
  • The First Night by B.G. Hennessy
  • I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo
  • Garfield's Night Before Christmas by Jim Davis
  • There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell by Lucille Colandro
  • Toot and Puddle: Let It Snow by Holly Hobbie
  • Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star by Petr Horacek
  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
  • Puppy's First Christmas by Harriet ZiefertSteve Smallman and Alison Edgson
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz
  • Merry Christmas Mr. Mouse by Caralyn and Mark Buehner
  • The Christmas Song: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire by Mel Torme and Robert Wells
  • Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
  • Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells
  • Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton
  • Ten Gingerbread Men by Ruth Galloway
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seifold
  • Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don and Audrey Wood
  • Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton
  • The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas by Justine Korman
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
  • Santa's Noisy Night by Rosemary Julie Sykes
  • Arthur's Chirstmas by Marc Brown
  • When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho! by Laura Rader
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
  • Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Karma Wilson
  • The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer
  • The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • My Christmas Counting Book by Lee Hansen
  • Jingle All the Way by Tom Shay-Zapien
  • Christmas Tree by David Martin
  • Happy Christmas, Honey! by Laura Godwin
  • The Raffi Christmas Treasury: Fourteen Illustrated Songs and Musical Arrangements illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott 
  • Little Bunny Finds Christmas by Pirkko Vainio 
  • Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin 
  • The Christmas Story by Ruth J. Morehead