Tag Archives: Christmas

Counting Down to Christmas

calendarWhen my oldest child was little, I found an advent calendar in a catalog that I really liked. It had 25 pockets with a number on each one; inside the pockets were hidden characters to include in a nativity scene: shepherds, wise men, sheep, camels, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Every day in December, the child pulls out one of the characters from the corresponding pocket and sticks it onto a background. Of course, baby Jesus would be in Pocket 25.

At the time, we didn’t have much extra money to spend, so I made my own calendar using felt for the background, pockets, and characters; fabric paint for the numbers; and Velcro pieces to make the characters adhere to the stable scene. And we’ve been using that calendar ever since. Though I’ve had to replace a few pieces along the way, it’s been one of our favorite traditions for counting down to Christmas.

A friend of mine recently told me of one of their traditions: they make paper chains from construction paper with the days numbered on them, then tape one on each child’s door where they can reach them. Every day, then, the children get to remove one link of the chain. A variation of this would be to put a verse from the Christmas story in the Bible on each link; then, when the children remove the link, they can work on memorizing the verse.

One family we know counted down the days by setting up a nativity scene with all of the pieces except the wise men and their camels. They would set them far away from the display, perhaps on a windowsill or bookshelf. Then, every morning, they would move them a little closer to the scene, until finally, on Christmas Eve, the wise men would arrive at the manger.

Does your family have a favorite way of counting down to Christmas?

Organized Christmas.com

pinkballThis fall has flown by. Thanksgiving was here before I knew it, and now Christmas is on its way. Many people we know already have their trees up and decorations out, but we haven’t even brought out the boxes from the attic. Once we do, it usually takes us a couple of days to get everything set up — a couple of days of chaos, that is.

And then there are the gifts. I have much of my holiday shopping already completed (whew!), but we plan to take treats to our neighbors this year. And what about Christmas cards? It’s been nice keeping up with friends on Facebook, but there are others who haven’t joined that I need to get in contact with.

How to do it all, and without much stress? I’m finding help at OrganizedChristmas.com. If I had started back in August, I could have worked the Holiday Grand Plan — an 18-week schedule for organizing and cleaning your home in time for the holidays. There’s also a 6-week Christmas Countdown beginning the first of October so your holiday preparations are done by December 1. Though I missed those dates, it’s okay — there are still a lot of resources on the site for a late-comer like me.

Under the section entitled “Simplify Holidays”, you’ll find links to articles and free printables for just about any aspect of the season that’s overwhelming you. You’ll find tips and resources for creating a holiday budget, setting up a Christmas calendar, writing Christmas letters, and cutting down on clutter. These pages also include ideas for frugal gift giving, holiday cooking, decorating, and simplifying traditions. There’s even a section about teaching children how to give.

So if you (like me) are feeling a bit behind these days, don’t. Visit Organized Christmas, find some good ideas, and enjoy the season!

Working With Polymer Clay

sculpeyIn my art classes the past couple of weeks and for one of our recent co-op classes, I’ve had the students work with sculpey. Sculpey is a brand of colored polymer clay that becomes hard when baked in the oven — and the kids have been so creative with it.

I purchased a variety of colors for both classes. The clay comes in 2 oz. blocks, and you can sometimes find it on sale at your local hobby or arts and crafts store. You could also purchase the plain white sculpey, which comes in a larger size; after you mold and bake it, you can paint the sculpture with acrylic craft paints.

Before class began, I did an Internet search for “polymer clay” images and printed off a few to give the students some ideas. You can also find ideas in polymer clay craft books at your library.

Then they let their creativity go, and I helped them along if they needed it. They made small sculptures of everything from horses to roses to beetles to fruit and candy. Even my five-year-old was able to make a strawberry without assistance using a picture as a guide.

You can also vary this project to suit your lesson. Because our co-op class was reading stories about snow, winter, and Christmas, we used the sculpey to make simple Christmas ornaments. The children formed simple shapes, such as triangles for Christmas trees, circles for snowmen, hearts, etc. We then cut a small piece of floral wire, bent it into a “U” shape, and pushed both ends into the scupley, making a “hook” for the ornament. Because the wire was metal, it could be baked along with the clay.

After the sculptures were complete, we followed the directions on the package for baking them, and they turned out great! If you decide to try working with polymer clay with your children, though, be very careful not to over-bake it, as it does give off fumes. A well-ventilated area is best for baking.

Now get started molding that clay — and have fun!

The Christmas Stick

01 christmasWith Thanksgiving almost here and Black Friday following close behind, I’ve (finally) begun thinking about Christmas. If you’re like me and starting a little bit later this year, you might want to put The Christmas Stick on your gift list. It’s a brand new book, and one that the whole family will enjoy.

Written by Jack Marryn, this Christmas story has something for everyone; children will love the pirate adventure and colorful illustrations, while parents will appreciate the lesson it conveys. The main character is a boy who finds only one gift for himself under the Christmas tree: a stick. He’s sure Santa has made a mistake, but he follows his dad’s directions and goes outside to play, taking his stick with him. He soon discovers, though, that the stick can be anything, from a spyglass to a boat to a sword. And he realizes it’s just what he asked for — “the best gift” for him.

The author adds a note at the back regarding the inspiration for the story, and it’s one I’m sure most parents can relate to. While Marryn was waiting for his son who was at a birthday party, he took his daughter to the park and gave her a very “special” stick. She played with that stick for hours, even taking it home with her that night. I love to see my children playing outside, too, with just the objects they find on the ground and their imaginations.

Not only would The Christmas Stick make a nice gift, but it could also be the start of a new holiday tradition. A friend of mine purchases a Christmas book every Christmas season to share with her family, so every year their collection grows by one book. During the holidays, they read them aloud together. By the time the children are adults, the collection will be one they’ll cherish.

Remember, though, if you plan to give The Christmas Stick as a gift this season, be sure to include a couple of sticks with it — one for your child… and one for you! 🙂