Last night we had a family dinner at my grandparents' house for Hanukkah. I started the "Hanukkah dinner" tradition last year with Zel because I wanted him to learn about different cultures and ways to celebrate. Now that we're living back home near family, we got to involve everyone in our new tradition. My grandmother was thrilled because she was raised in a Jewish family and was so happy that we wanted to incorporate this part of our heritage into our lives. We ate latkes, pot roast, and desserts and all (except Zel) partook in some wine (even my non-wine drinking husband). Saturday night was the official start of Hanukkah, so last night we lit 5 candles. At first, Zel thought that it was a birthday party and kept singing happy birthday to Zel and Papa (whose birthday is coming up soon). Zel was very concerned once the candles went out and made sure to bring it to our attention several times.
Before Hanukkah started, Zel and I made a menorah out of an egg carton, paint, and popsicle sticks. We don't actually have a real menorah so we have been using this one at home. It is very simple to make. Cut an egg carton in half, then cut one side in half so that you have a piece with 6 and a piece with 3. You can tape them together if desired. I had some colored popsicle sticks and used 8 yellows and one blue (for the shamash). I had Zel paint the egg cartons and popsicle sticks with blue paint, then I numbered the yellow sticks from 1-8. Cut a slit in the top of each spot with a knife. Each night we place the corresponding popsicle stick in the carton.
Here is what it would look like with all the sticks in.
Finger painting is a great sensory activity for kids. You can also use it as an opportunity to talk about colors too! Zel received some finger paints for his birthday a few weeks ago and we decided to use them with our Christmas Countdown project of painting leaves. Adding something new (like leaves) to an old activity (like painting) can really refresh your child's interest in it.
At first, Zel was hesitant to use the finger paints because normally our painting rule is "only paint on the paper." So he started off using a paint brush to paint on the leaves. He thought it was funny that the leaves would stick to the brush, so he experimented with that a little bit. After a few minutes of explaining that this was special paint that is okay to paint on your body, he started using the paint brush to paint on his fingers. It is "finger paint" after all!
Then he got bold and started rubbing the paint all over his chest and belly. After he was covered he felt confident enough to stick his hand in the paint and use it to paint on the leaves and paper. Once he was finished, we went straight to the bathtub and Zel helped scrub off the paint. He played for so long that I had time to give myself a pedicure!
One of our Christmas Countdown activities was to play a letter game using chalk in our driveway. Today was a great day to play this game because Zel had two friends over. The set up is extremely easy. Just write all the letters using chalk on your driveway in one area. I put about a foot or two of space between them and made sure to jumble them up. I used all capital letters, but adding lowercase would be great letter recognition practice as well. I put numbers 1-10 and a few shapes in the too. I only had four different colors of chalk, but I made sure to use them pretty evenly. The kids had so much fun with this. They even enjoyed watching me set it up. They would yell out the letters or numbers they knew as I was writing them.
Once I wrote everything I wanted to use, I would call one out and say the color. I made it more of a game by telling them to try to get there first. Of course, I praised all of them regardless of whether they got there first or not. I'm hoping it doesn't rain so we can play again tomorrow without having to set it up again!
When I was a preschool teacher, whenever a new child joined our class they made their own placemat for lunch and snack time. I don't know why it has taken me this long to have Zel make one, but it has finally happened. I printed a coloring worksheet with his name on it from this site and put it on his easel. I had him use watercolor so that it would dry quickly and also because tempera can get kind of lumpy. Zel was pretty excited to paint a snowman and to use the watercolor. As soon as it dried I used contact paper to laminate it and put it at his place at the dinner table. Zel wanted to do more snowman stuff so we watched Frosty the Snowman too!
I've seen a lot of advent calenders going around Pinterest and decided that it would be fun to do one with Zel this year. I made it a countdown because that seemed more exciting and to me, the word advent makes it too religious.
The countdown from little eco footprints is the first calendar that got my attention. I loved that it was nature themed rather than all Christmas or religious. During our outdoor playtime, we searched for the best leaves of all different colors. Once we started setting up the calendar, I realized that I didn't have enough clothespins. I decided that it would be much easier to just write the calender on the window with window markers and use the leaves for one of our activities.
I didn't want to just have a list of activities since that wouldn't be very exciting for Zel. I came across the advent jar from mess for less and knew this would work for us. I had recently purchased a pack of colored popsicle sticks and my mom always has a million extra glass jars around the house. I picked activities that I knew Zel would enjoy and would take little preparation. I used some Christmas projects and activities, some Hanukkah stuff, and a few projects and outings that are fun anytime of the year.
Unfortunately as I was writing this post, Google told me that I reached my photo limit. So please check out the blogs that inspired me to do this project and go to the Z is for Zel facebook page to check out our photos from Christmas countdown activities until I solve this photo dilemma. I will also be posting Zel's activity choice each day on facebook and I will write up blog posts on our favorites...Stay tuned!
Update: Thanks to my fellow KBN bloggers I figured out how to add more pictures!