Light table play – our new toy

 

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We have been blessed this week to acquire a new  light table through our local secondhand buy, sell and trade list – for free!! It does have a crack along one edge of the glass (thus the piece of wood we clamped along one side), but other than that, all it needed was to have the legs cut shorter and a new fluorescent light fitted to make it a working entity (thanks Dad 🙂 )

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We added a couple of different materials for the children to experiment with to get them started and it was a hit. These magnetic construction tiles glow beautifully and pretty much anything plastic or acrylic looks attractive with the light behind it. Of course the boys had a car involved within the first 5 minutes and a Duplo man or two soon joined the mix.

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We tried a few different materials just to see what looked good and my 2 year old spent some time sorting out all the pink items; her “best ones” as she called them.

I wasn’t sure we would use it that much, but after searching through Pinterest I now have enough ideas to keep us going for a very long time. I’ll be posting some more of these as we change what’s available.

If you don’t have a light table but would like to make one, there are several simple “light table hacks” as they are usually termed on Pinterest. They range from altering an Ikea children’s table to putting strings of LED Christmas lights inside crates. They would all make a serviceable light box without too much fuss or cost, depending on your level of handyman ability.

We love it so far and it is just the thing to keep little people productively occupied while I am feeding my twin babies. When we get sick of it I’ll send it off for a vacation at one of my homeschooling friend’s houses.

 

 

 

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A simple Christian Easter idea

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Usually we are well into our Jesus tree count-down in the lead-up to Easter, along with other special Easter traditions. This year, with the recent arrival of our precious twins, we have been somewhat disorganised and needed something quick and easy. I put together this discussion tray using a bunch of symbols representing parts of the Easter story and over a couple of meals we passed it around the table. The children took turns choosing one symbol and explaining to each other the bible events represented by each.

We usually read an Easter book each day, taking turns to unwrap one every evening after dinner. (We do the same at Christmas.) This year, the special Easter book collection is simply out in a box on the coffee table for the children to read through when we have a few spare moments.

We always try to have a bunny free Easter and this year is no exception, we have just scaled everything back and are keeping it very low key. Still fun and hopefully adding some more special family times to our children’s memories.

Outdoor activities – Mud kitchens

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Outdoor time has not being going as well as it could lately so it was time to spend a little bit of thought on setting up some structured play opportunities to help the children use their time wisely. Not wanting to spend a lot of money, I perused my Pinterest board for outdoor activities and decided that it was time we had a mud kitchen.

Despite the fact that we have a very good sandpit, the little boys are continuously drawn to digging in the dirt, so after our recent weeding spree which resulted in a veggie garden with no actual plants in it we decided to dedicate one shady corner to the project.

IMG_3114Everything we set out we have had for a long time. Simply moving it all to a new location and adding dirt and water resulted in a whole new activity which was received with great excitement. The plastic oven above hasn’t been touched for months but was immediately put to use. 10 minutes to set up, a zero dollar outlay and the mud kitchen was ready for action.

IMG_3122It would have been a good idea to get all the children to put on painting shirts (Dad’s old work shirts) before they had at it but I naively thought they wouldn’t get quite so dirty as they did! Much fun was had and some (mostly) harmonious play was a nice change to the recent conflict we have been experiencing.

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Just don’t forget to set aside 20 minutes for the cleanup afterwards 🙂

 

 

 

 

Jesse Tree Symbols; Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

We use a Jesse tree of some sort to count down to Christmas each year. Every day there is a section of the bible to read and a corresponding symbol to add to our tree, beginning with the creation of the world and moving on through some of the main events of the bible to finish on Christmas day with the birth of Jesus.

We started with traditional Jesse tree symbols (ideas for symbols here) to go with scrolls of bible verses, reading from the scroll each day and unwrapping the corresponding symbol. Another year we used clear glass jewels with Jesse tree symbol pictures behind them to make a magnetic Jesse tree (free printable here) and another year we counted down throughout December with the names of Jesus as our symbols. Other times we have used books like “The Jesse Tree” by Geraldine McCaughrean and “Grandpa’s Box” by Starr Meade.

This year we are reading a section a day from Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” and using her free printable symbols as well as our own that we have collected from previous years. I usually wrap the symbols because this makes it all the more exciting and the children take turns to open each one. This time I have sewed up some drawstring bags because wrapping them takes ages and from now on I’ll never have to do it again!

Here are our symbols to match the readings in Ann’s book:

  1. Jesse tree – stump of Jesse prophesy (Place where love grows)
  2. The world/planets/solar system – creation of the world (Created by love)
  3. Apple – snake in the Garden of Eden (God is looking for you)
  4. 3 birds that Noah sent out from the ark – Noah’s Ark (God’s tears)
  5. Tent – Abraham follows God’s call (Count the stars)
  6. As many descendants as the stars – Elizabeth’s baby (The gift of laughter)
  7. Ram – Sacrifice of Isaac (Here I am)
  8. Ladder – Jacob’s ladder dream (Climbing up)
  9. Joseph’s coat (Surprise gifts)
  10. Mini photo frames with the 10 commandments (Ten love rules)
  11. Red rope – Rahab (The red rope)
  12. Wheat – Ruth (The little things)
  13. Crown – Samuel (Looking at things inside out)
  14. Candle – Isaiah predicts a light in the darkness (A candle in the darkness)
  15. Fire – Elijah calls down fire (Bowing down)
  16. Whale – Jonah (Turning around)
  17. Cottage – Bethlehem prophesy (A true fairy tale)
  18. Shoe and “E” keyring – Esther (A bridge to the king)
  19. Tower – Habakkuk (Watch and wait)
  20. Angel & heart – Zechariah & Elizabeth (God remembers)
  21. Fish – John the Baptist (Thunder in the dessert)
  22. Heart with wedding rings – Mary (Wide-awake dreams)
  23. Tools – Joseph (He can’t stay away)
  24. Mary holding a baby – birth of Jesus (Kneel at the manger)
  25. Star – leading to the manger (Never-ending Christmas)

Why our children stay in “big church” with us.

Our church has a huge Sunday School programme. Many dedicated and passionate people give up their time to serve there and seek to teach the children who attend about God in the best way they can. We however choose to keep our 7 children in the adult church service with us. This is a controversial decision and not one we came to quickly or lightly. I came across an article by John Piper and his wife today at desiringgod.org that summarises some of the reasons we have for doing so. I would encourage you to head over and take a look.

 

 

Hands-on maths; skip counting

I like to keep much of our early mathematical skills as hands-on as possible. If an area will need to be drilled over and over again until mastery is achieved, then it is far more interesting for my children to do that using Montessori style tray activities rather than repetitive book work. Learning addition and subtraction facts, multiplication tables and the like are great examples of this. Lots of work is necessary, but it need not be all written bookwork.

This week my 6-year-old son needed to polish up on his skip counting. I pulled out some plastic Easter eggs and wrote the 2, 5 and 10’s on each hump of the caterpillar, poking a pipecleaner through the first one to make the caterpillar’s head. He placed each in order and recited them to me once finished. Next time I will remove a couple and get him to say them (including the missing numbers) until he can eventually say them all without any numbers as prompting.

Epsom salt snowscape mini-world

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Our latest mini-world invitation to play has been a hit with the children 6 and under. As is usually the case, the older children love setting it up but don’t actually sit and play with it.

IMG_1077Epsom salts spread onto a mirror gives the impression of snow and the mirror showing through appears to be ice. I purchased a selection of miniatures that are actually terrarium decorations very cheaply on eBay and added brushes and some jewels and rocks. I later added a small sweeping brush to keep the salt off the edges of the mirror.

Epsom salts can also be added to a sensory tub for imaginative play or tipping, pouring and filling activities.

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As interest wanes I’ll add a couple of extra items I’ve kept in reserve for further exploration.

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The folding mirror is a new ($10 secondhand!) addition to our school area. The moment it was on the table my two daughters were found seated side-by-side in front of it drawing self-portraits as they observed themselves in it.

Children just love to watch themselves in mirrors and including one behind pretend play areas adds another dimension. There are also lots of ways to use them for symmetry activities, multiplication and art projects where being able to see behind what they are manipulating  is an added stimulus. The Reggio educational approach includes mirrors in many of their classroom activities and I have a host of ideas pinned to try in the future.

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We later added the bulldozer to the snow mini-world which the little boys loved, plus a Lego slide and matchbox sled made by one of the children for the rabbits to pull. I filled a salt shaker with epsom salts which allowed the children to make it snow and a variety of jewels and rocks to build onto the scene. This has probably been one of our longest lasting mini-worlds and the children are still using it most days after having had access to it for more than 3 weeks.