I provided some Christmas / winter themed activities for Sally at Treehugger Mums as part of her Christmas countdown series which she is posting on her blog each day in the run up to Christmas.
One of them is bird feeders and as it's started getting frosty we're going to make some this afternoon (plus wrap a few up for grandparent presents!).
You will need: Yoghurt pots and string Good quality birdseed, raisins, peanuts, grated cheese Suet or lard,
How to: Carefully make a small hole in the bottom of a yoghurt pot (if you are making them as gifts decorate the pot first). Thread string through the hole and tie a knot on the inside. Leave enough string so that you can tie the pot to a tree or your bird table. Cut up the lard into small pieces and put it in the mixing bowl. Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix them together with your fingertips. Keep adding the seed / raisin / cheese mixture and squashing it until the fat holds it all together. Fill the yoghurt pots with bird cake mixture and put them in the fridge to set for an hour or so. Hang your bird feeders from trees or your bird table and watch for birds.
Children can have fun identifying birds by matching what they look like to a picture book. Will a Christmas robin visit your garden?
We've just been decorating our tree and I've realised that even something as simple as this can offer endless possibilities for learning and generalising knowledge.
First, there is the waiting - that is the bit where the adults are putting on the lights! Our pre-schooler found this very difficult as he was very excited to be involved in decorating the tree.
Then the decorations, these hold several different learning opportunities, you can label the items - tinsel, baubles, beads and the ornaments - snowmen, angels, Father Christmas, reindeer. You can practice colours and shapes (depending on your decorations!). You can practice prepositions / adjectives / opposites - on the tree 'v' off the tree, high 'v' low, top 'v' bottom, put it next to the star / above the snowman / below the bauble / under the tree.
Lastly there is the big lesson of not touching the finished tree! Our toddler is still learning this one so I keep being presented with the baubles with him saying 'ball'.
We've been making paperchains and whilst threading, looping and sticking (and stapling!) I started to think of all the learning opportunities that this activity can create.
Firstly, if you aren't using a pack of precut strips (like we did) then there are lots of skills needed to prepare your paperchain strips and then the paper needs to be measured and lines drawn on using a ruler or folded to divide up the page, then the strips need to be cut practicing scissor skills.
Whilst making the paperchain, the repetitive threading is an excellent fine motor task. Incidental learning can also occur if you label the colours / pictures on your paper strips or make patterns with different colours to practice sequencing skills. Precut strips are often gummed so licking and sticking the ends is good for children who have oral-motor difficulties and need to practice sticking their tongue out. Fixing your chains with a dab of glue or sticky tape will help children co-ordination and using a small stapler is also great fine motor skill practice.
Did you know that at Littlesheep Learning we have a whole host of Christmas colouring sheets that are FREE to download? These simple picture outlines are great for young children who are just starting to colour in. There are currently five to choose from Christmas tree, Elf, Father Christmas, Robin and Snowman. There are also a range of activity sheets targetting matching skills, finding the 'odd one out' and wordsearches of varying difficulties. Look out for more worksheets being added soon.
If your children are anything like mine getting into a mess in the kitchen is a great way to keep them busy. Cooking is a great tool for incidental learning; you are making use of maths skills with the measuring, using literacy skills - reading and following the instructions and the mixing, rolling, cutting and icing are great to help develop motor skills.
Today I've promised the children that we'll make Christmas biscuits this afternoon. If you want to join us making Christmas Biscuits, you will need:
biscuit cutters (you can get some lovely ones from PinkFairyCake)
175g/6oz plain flour
50g/2oz caster sugar
5ml/1tsp vanilla essence
Icing / sprinkles to decorate
Heat the oven to 170˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3.
Grease the baking sheet with butter or margarine.
Weigh the flour and sugar and put them into a bowl.
Weigh the butter and cut into small pieces.
Add the butter to the flour and sugar. Mix together with a fork and rub everything together with your fingers. Rub the mixture together until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Measure the vanilla essence and add it to the mixture.
Gather all the mixture together and squeezing it gently to make a ball
Sprinkle flour on to a clean work surface and put your mixture on to it.
Knead it with your fingers until you have a smooth, firm ball.
Put some flour on the rolling pin and gently roll out the mixture until it is about half a centimetre thick.
Then cut out your shapes using your cutters (f you want to make tree decorations from your bicuits use a skewer to make a hole for your ribbon).
Gather up any spare bits of mixture and roll it out again to make more biscuits.
Carefully pick up the biscuits and put them on to greased baking sheets.
Put the baking trays into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the biscuits are a light golden colour.
Leave the biscuits to cool for 5 minutes before lifting them on to the wire cooling tray. (If you are making decorations poke the skewer into the holes to make sure they don’t close up as the biscuits cool).
As Christians, we are busy looking at the Nativity story, in the Littlesheep Learning household, as well as following the secular Christmas traditions for example the magic of Father Christmas from our childhoods.It is important though that children learn about other cultures / religions and their festivals. One thing that seems to be a common theme throughout the winter festivals is the use of lights - we have an Advent candle being lit each evening as a preparation for the Christmas season. The children celebrated the Hindu / Sikh festival Divali at nursery at the end of October / beginning of November by making lamps and sunset tonight marks the start of the Jewish festival of of Hannukah.
Hannukah celebrates the miracle of the oil for the menorah (the 6-branched candelabrum) that should have only lasted for one night but lasted for eight days. For more information about Hannukah some activities for you to share with your children see this article at Treehugger Mums.
Most children will be wanting to tell Father Christmas what they would like for Christmas and historically children will be writing letters to him and putting them up the chimney / posting them to the North Pole. The prospect of writing this important letter is a challenge for toddlers and children with fine motor difficulties so here are some ideas to make it easier for them and you.
Write the letter for your child and get them to decorate it by sprinkling glitter, sticking on Christmassy stickers and doodling borders, they could also add their own name.
Write the letter for your child to copy / trace
Let your child type their letter (I believe you can even email Santa these days!)
Get your child to 'cut and stick' their letter, help them select the things from Christmas catalogues and stick them to create a picture list.
December is now here so over the next month I'll be posting some suggestions of art and craft activities and other learning opportunities with a wintery and Christmas theme. From writing letters to Father Christmas to making Christmas cards and wrapping paper there will be ideas for everyone. I'll also share some of our favourite books from our Christmas story box which made their appearance by magic on 1st December.