Blessing Buddies and “What’s in the Box?” for holiday routines

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Our little one is enjoying the new and exciting Christmas tray activities that have been arriving each day with the Blessing Buddies. Even during the holiday period, a flexible routine is essential for toddlers. While we break out of our usual day-to-day activities, I still try to make sure that my 2-year-old has some structure to her day and she enjoys doing her table activities after breakfast while her siblings work on their crafts and gifts throughout December.

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This tinker tray of loose parts was a hit today as she used it to decorate the felt Christmas tree. After decorating our actual Christmas tree recently she understood exactly what this concept was all about. Of course they don’t all end up back in the tray quite the same way at the end!

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Gingerbread men “cookies” to decorate plus a Christmas tree ice block sorting tray to use with the oversized tweezers or spoon. We will make gingerbread biscuits some time soon so this will make more sense to her after that experience.

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While not too Christmassy, she loves these mini erasers so I have made them available for decorating the coloured rice Christmas tree, again with oversized tweezers to help with hand strength for pencil grip later on.img_2209

The Blessing Buddies have decided it’s too difficult to bring a new activity each day with so many nighttime commitments at the moment so for today’s blessing they set up a “What’s in the Box?” cupboard instead. They will add some new activities to it during December but  it gives the children more time to play with and enjoy the special Christmas activities (plus it takes the pressure off me to remember to hide a new one each night!) The other children like to use some of the same activities for table time as well.

So “What’s in the Cupboard?”

img_2228The craft at the moment is hand-sewing designs onto plain red tea-towels from Ikea which we will use as gifts. Even our 4 year old is managing a decent running stitch.

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Blessing Buddies and “What’s in the Box?” continues

The Blessing Buddies have continued to focus on blessing some of the ladies from our church who are coming for a special Christmas high tea tomorrow. They have had the children making craft gifts, decorating and setting up the room and making the house look presentable for the coming visitors.

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Our 3rd “What’s in the Box?” toddler activity for this year is some rainbow coloured metal jingle bells that combine beautifully with these magnetic construction tiles for a new dimension to the children’s play. My 2 year old is just getting the hang of constructing with these blocks so I think she will like this one.

 

 

 

The Blessing Buddies have arrived

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The first of December is an exciting day in our house as so many special Christmas traditions get started. The Blessing Buddies arrived with their daily act of kindness to help us focus on blessing others throughout the Christmas season, we began our Jesse Tree readings and started our sugar-free advent calendar jigsaw puzzle.

The children come out first thing each morning and hunt through the house to locate the Buddies and read the little note that will tell them what blessing we will work on for the day. Today we are working on a craft gift to give to the ladies from our church who are coming over for a Christmas high tea on the weekend. The whole event is about blessing others so it fits right in.

We choose not to do Santa (see why here) so we are careful not to replace one lot of pretend with another – the children all understand that they do not really move around by themselves but enjoy the experience nonetheless. This year the Buddies abseiled down from the roof vent instead of arriving in their usual suitcase on the doorstep.

The Buddies bought some epsom salt snow and special Blessing Buddy Christmas trees (LED light-up plastic trees) for the children to play with since we don’t get real snow here in Australia and left them where our nativity pieces can be easily added to the play.

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Our first “What’s in the box?” activity also arrived and although it wasn’t in the official red sparkly box due to it’s size, this Christmas sensory play tub was a hit with the younger ones.

What did you start with your family today that adds to their store of special memories each year? I’d love to hear your ideas.

What’s in the box? Christmas toddler tray activities; sensory tub

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Each day throughout December our older children work on a gift or craft of their choice, however these are often not toddler friendly, so we started this “What’s in the box?” tradition a couple of years ago. Each day the younger children search the house for the sparkly red box that houses an activity for them to play with during highchair/table time while their brothers and sisters are happily wielding needles or hot glue guns and crafting away.

I will post new ideas for these as I present them, but here is one to get you started. (Last year’s ideas start here.) The young ones simply love sensory tubs and I find of all the activities I prepare for them, these are the ones that keep them occupied for the longest times and for day after day. Include something to tip and pour and manipulate with lots of containers to open, shut and fill. Objects to search for and sort and a variety of scoops and utensils for tonging, spooning, scooping and pouring go down a treat. I will add couple of these to this tub once the initial interest has worn off somewhat.

I have many ideas for sensory tubs on this blog so simply type the term “sensory tub” into the search bar to find them. Once you get the idea of how these are put together it doesn’t take too much imagination to create a Christmas version for your little ones.

img_1772With rice and other messy fillers it is a good idea to spread a sheet or mat under the play area to catch the spills. At the end of play time it can be lifted up and simply poured back into the container without a lengthy pack-up, which will quickly dampen enthusiasm for sensory play in the future. I also find that the children always want to take the materials out of the main tub and work next to it rather than in it. Instead of fighting this continuously I now place a large shallow tray (or lid from the tub itself) next to the main tub so that they can set out the material as they please without creating a horrendous mess outside of the box itself.

I also use sensory tubs for mat time rather than in the highchair as the children need to be able to move around and see what is inside the tub without dropping items they are playing with out of reach. Be wary of choking hazards and perhaps hold off introducing sensory tubs to children too young to resist putting items into their mouth.

 

What’s in the box? Christmas activities for preschoolers – part 4

Today is the fourth instalment of our “What’s in the box?” Christmas activities for toddlers and preschoolers. My 2 1/2 year old searches each morning to find his sparkly Christmas box filled with a new Christmas themed activity. He works on these after breakfast while his older siblings are preparing their Blessing Buddy acts of kindness for the day. Combined with room time, this highchair time gives me 1 1/2 to 2 hours of time to either homeschool the older children or in this case, complete some more complicated crafts that need me to be available. As each box is opened it is added to his “school” shelves and can be rotated with the other Christmas activities to extend the time.

If you have trouble getting your little one to sit and concentrate, have a read through this post for some tips on the practicalities of getting started. While some children are naturally better at sitting for longer lengths of time and focussing on a given task, all children can be taught to do this and will improve with consistency and training. I now have 6 children who are (or have been) old enough for highchair activities and I can assure you that they were not all on board with the idea of highchair time from the beginning!

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Day 16

Tweezer star transfer. Practising pincer grip is important for young children who will need the finger strength and dexterity this develops later as they begin to write and draw. The card stars will be presented in a small container that holds them upright to make it easier to grasp the edges with the tweezers as they are transferred into the ice block tray segments.

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Day 17

These oversized popsicle sticks, pompoms and stars have magnets on the back so that they will stick to the baking tray.

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Day 18

All the children have quiet time books filled with dot-to-dots, colouring pages, puzzles and assorted activities. This is a toddler version of the same with stickers, stamps and texts for free creating.

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Day 19 

Even though this is day 19 of my activities, I actually introduced it right at the beginning of December when we decorated our large Christmas tree. Little children love to decorate without having to do it a certain way so we have this little tree set aside with a bunch of assorted decorations for the children to add on and take off as often as they like.

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Day 20

Poking toothpicks into the foam tree and adding large beads to decorate the tree will allow latitude for fine motor skills, colour sorting and matching and one-to-one correspondence.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in the box? Christmas activities for preschoolers – part 3

Our first “What’s in the box?” Christmas highchair time activity was revealed today to our 2 1/2 year old who was excited to search for his hidden sparkly Christmas box. He enjoyed his Christmas sensory tub activity and will be keen to see what tomorrow’s box reveals. He played with his new activity while his older siblings worked on their act of kindness for the day, which came with the much anticipated arrival of our Blessing Buddies.

Here are 5 more of the Christmas activity trays for toddlers and preschoolers that I have prepared, ready to be revealed one at a time each morning in the special sparkly Christmas box.

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Day 11

These cookies are simply 2 circles of cardboard from a nappy box glued together (picture side in) with a variety of felt shapes to add as icing.

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The older children saw what I was doing and begged pestered asked me to let them have a go. They did such a good job that I handed the project over to them and went on to prep some other activities. Other than the flowers and a couple of bits and pieces, the designs in the photo above are all theirs. They can’t wait to play with them!

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 Day 12

A sensory tub filled with macaroni pasta and a variety of interesting bits and pieces to sort, scoop, tong, tip, pour and transfer.

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Day 13

One of our Christmas traditions is to purchase a new nativity set each year. This one we purchased a few years ago and has been well used. I will be putting a different new wooden set into the sparkly box but as the older kids are about while I am photographing I didn’t want to spoil the surprise!

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Day 14

Do-a-dot printables with stickers to place inside each circle. Great for fine motor skills and one-to-one correspondence. I will need to get some larger stickers though as these are too small for very little fingers to manipulate easily. You could add some stamps and drawing items to this box.

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Day 15

Pretend food play and colour sort tonging activity. A muffin tray filled with coloured silicone pattipan wrappers with pompoms and jewels etc. to manipulate and “cook.”

 

What’s in the box – bonus toddler Christmas activity trays from Gail

My friend Gail has been creating her own Montessori inspired Christmas activity trays for her preschoolers and has kindly given me permission to share them with you all. So here’s a bonus collection for you in addition to my own 24 that I am currently in the process of sharing during my “What’s in the box?” series.

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Jingle bell two colour sorting and tong transfer

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2 colour bead threading and pattern making

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Pretend cooking tray and colour sort

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Bingo dotter do-a-dot pages

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Christmas sensory tub

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Linking chain patterns. Gail is thinking of making some pattern cards to copy and extend.

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Playdough gingerbread man and star cutting and decorating

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Geoboard elastic band shapes. You could add some picture cards to copy as well.

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Read and green Duplo with base board

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Lacing or sewing cards

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Posting matchsticks into a spice jar

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Threading coloured beads onto chenille pipe cleaners

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Gluing Christmas shapes and wool

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Blank book for drawing, stamping and stickers

 

Thanks Gail, love your work!

Has anyone else been inspired to make their own trays? We’d love for you to share.