Countdown to Christmas with 3,2,1, Fun!

The countdown to Christmas will be starting soon! Many of us have seen or even used the traditional Advent calendar, which houses a delicious chocolate behind each of the 25 doors leading up to Christmas. Children love these calendars and the excitement that comes with the Christmas countdown. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have compiled a fun list of Advent ideas and Christmas activities to share with you. These ideas combine fun and learning into creative Christmas experiences and potentially new traditions that your children and family will love.

ADVENT CALENDARS

25 Books for Advent

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Unwrap one book a day to read as a family.

Some of our favourite numeracy-themed books to share are:

  • 12 Days of Christmas – Rachel Isodora
  • The Doorbell Rang – Pat Hutchins
  • Bedtime Math – Laura Overdeck
  • Christmas Activities MATHS – Irene Yates
  • A Frog in the Bog – Karma Wilson and Joan Rankin
  • Ten Apples Up On Top – Dr. Seuss

Advent Activity Envelopes

Advent-Envelopes

Choose 25 fun family activities and secure each one in an envelope. Choose one envelope to open each day and enjoy!

Some of the numeracy activity ideas we share in 3,2,1, Fun! are:

  • Baking
  • Holiday theme BINGO
  • Make paper snowflakes and explore their unique shapes
  • Craft Christmas cards or write your wish list
  • Build a snowman
  • Go for a walk and count how many houses are decorated, predict how many Christmas trees you will see, or collect pine cones along the way to turn into Christmas crafts later

 Make Your Own Advent Calendar

AdventCalendar

A fun idea we shared at 3,2,1, Fun! is how to make your own advent calendar using  recycled paper towel tubes, cardboard and craft supplies!

In addition to Advent calendars, there are many fun ways to bring numeracy into your Christmas activities. Some of our favourites at 3,2,1, Fun! are:

  • Wrapping gifts – a fun way for children to utilize their measuring and estimation skills
  • Christmas baking – a delicious way for children to follow a recipe and practice their ordering, number sense, and prediction skills
  • Decorating the house – gives your children the perfect opportunity to use their pattern, shape, and sorting skills
  • Making Christmas wish lists and shopping for gifts – offers a great chance for children to discover counting, money sense, and emergent budgeting skills

We hope you enjoy these Christmas activity ideas from 3,2,1, Fun! Do you have a favourite countdown to Christmas tradition that you’d like to share?

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Advent Calendars for Kids

As December quickly creeps up on us, our kids’ minds turn to Advent calendars. The anticipation the calendars build with each day is a fun part of the season.

The Wikipedia definition of an Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now found everywhere.

If you go into any large chain store you will find an array of Advent calendar choices. Traditional Advent calendars conceal 24 small chocolates to be opened one a day until December 24th, but more and more choices are becoming available every year. Lindt has a full chocolate every day, and Lego has 2 or 3 different calendars to choose from every year. Toy or candy calendars, ranging from Disney, Crayola, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, Kinder surprise, Jelly Belly and more, can also be found.

But ever since my kids were born, I have been interested in making my own Advent calendars. They are more personal than the bought versions and I can add anything I want, from toys or books to candy. You can find many Advent calendars to make with your kids at Growing A Jewelled Rose.

One of our yearly traditions is a Book Tree Advent Calendar. I love it because it combines my love of reading with my kids and a surprise for the kids each day.

I found the following Book Tree Advent Calendar at Reading Confetti. Every year we enjoy opening up some of our favourite Christmas classics and a few new ones.

book-tree-advent-4

 

Happy Thanksgiving! What are YOU Thankful for?

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving, and the traditions and celebrations around it, are unique to every family. In mine it means gathering with as many family members as possible and lots of food – Chinese food at the local restaurant with my Grandma, turkey with my mom and dad, and turkey again with my in-laws. There’s lots of laughter and re-connecting.

Thanksgiving was originally created as a day to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest and all the other good things that had been received throughout the year. These days as we celebrate, how many of us stop and think about all the things we are thankful for?

Taking time to talk with your children about what you are thankful for can become a great tradition. A friend ensures they do this every year with an activity at the dinner table before the family eats. They each take five kernels of corn (I’m sure whatever vegetable you have will work) and take turns telling five things they are thankful for.

You can also make it into a game. Going around the table, each person gets a letter from the word Thanksgiving and has to come up with something they are thankful for that starts with their letter. For example, “T” could be “time with my family” and so on.

ThanksgivingBookIf you think your children might need some help understanding what they could be thankful for, Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland is a lovely little book you could read together to get things started.

I would love to hear the ways you give thanks with your family. Send me your ideas and have a wonderful, and thankful, Thanksgiving this year!

 

“O Canada, our home and native land…”

CanadaDay1As Canada Day approaches, many families are gearing up to celebrate. They are stocking up on red and white decorations and Canadian flags, making plans to participate in local festivities, and planning get-together barbeques. These are just a few ways to mark the day.

Here are some different activities to try with your family this Canada day:

Make your Own Flag

  1. Take a large piece of white paper and paint the two sides red.
  2. Put red paint on your child’s hand and make a print in the middle of the paper as the maple leaf.

Make a Canada Flag Cake

CanadaDay2

  1. Choose a cake mix (I like white for this one) and follow the directions on the box (or use your own recipe). Read the steps out loud and let your kids add the ingredients.
  2. After the cake is baked and cooled, spread whipped cream over the top as icing.
  3. Let your kids use sliced strawberries to create the flag on the cake by putting them on the sides and in the middle.

Sing a Canadian Song

  1. Make one up using a tune you know, like this one (http://www.dltk-kids.com/canada/songs/ourcountry.html) sung to the tune of “The Muffin Man.”

Do you know our country’s name,
our country’s name, our country’s name.
Do you know our country’s name.
C-A-N-A-D-A!

2.   Another favourite song for this special day is, of course, our national anthem. I love hearing the random outbursts of it everywhere. Each time I hear it, I’m reminded of a story from our Rhymes that Bind program.

A parent came to the program worried because she knew it was really important to sing to her baby, but she only knew one song. I asked which song she had been singing and she sheepishly confessed it was “O Canada.” After reassuring her that her baby loved hearing her voice, no matter what song she sang, we supported her goal of learning more songs to share with her baby.

You and your children will treasure the memories made, not only on these special days but all the time. Sing anything, anytime, but sing our anthem especially loud this Canada Day – I’ll be waiting for it!

 

2 Easter Egg-tivities, a Song and a Book

“See the bunnies sleeping, ‘til it’s nearly noon
Shall we awake them with a merry tune
Oh so still. Are the bunnies ill? Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop and GO!”

Usually we end this song with “stop” so our little bunnies will pretend to go back to sleep for another round of the song. For Easter, it’s only fitting that we use this song as is to start the morning or the egg hunt. If your kids are anything like mine at Easter, you probably don’t have to wake them up!

Easter for us means a family get-together, good food, and many different activities. Colouring eggs is a big part of our traditions, but we like to try something new each year – sometimes it doesn’t even involve dye!

“Mod Podge Egg” was a hit last year, providing many opportunities to talk about colours and shapes, and to just have fun.

mod-podge

Mod Podge Egg

You need:

  • Egg (boiled, or blown out if you want to keep it)
  • Tissue paper (many colours)
  • Mod Podge (a sealer – like glue, but it hardens and keeps the egg strong)
  • Paint brush

 What to do:

  1. Tear or cut up the tissue paper into different shapes and sizes.
  2. Spread Mod Podge on the egg and put tissue paper all over.
  3. Spread another layer of Mod Podge over the tissue paper on the egg, and add more tissue paper until you’re happy.
  4. Add one last layer of Mod Podge to seal it completely.

Another Easter favourite for our family is the great Easter Egg hunt. It gets more complicated every year, and sometimes we like to add a little variety to what the Easter Bunny brings.

One year we made “goldfish carrots.” The kids had so much fun pulling them out of our pretend garden.

carrots

Goldfish Carrots

You need:

  • Goldfish crackers (or something else orange)
  • Clear disposable icing bags (not cut)
  • Green ribbon

What to do:

  1. Fill the icing bag with the goldfish so the pointy end is down.
  2. Tie the ribbon around the top of the bag when you get the size of carrot you want.
  3. Hide them in a houseplant or make your own “garden”.

Finally, what is Easter without a good book? For some bunny-themed books, scroll down to Darren Hinger’s blog, “Babies Touching Books… with Bunnies.” A great Easter themed book is Duck and Goose: Here comes the Easter Bunny by Tad Hill. It’s about two little birds trying to find a hiding place so they can see the Easter Bunny. It’s perfect for bedtime the night before the big day.

There are many fun Easter activities. Does your family have Easter traditions you would like to share? We would love to hear about them!

 

Great Family Traditions

Reunion

Every three years in July, my mom’s side of the family gathers for a family reunion, and we alternate the location between British Columbia and Saskatchewan. This year the reunion will be in Saskatchewan at The Battlefords Provincial Park campground.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins are scattered across every province from BC through to Ontario so it is a long drive for some. Not everyone is going to be able to make the trip this year, but there will still be about 30 of us at the campground!

I look forward to reconnecting with family that I haven’t seen in years. It is important to set aside time to get together – we are so spread out and get so busy in our own lives.

I also look forward to camping, swimming, playing games, singing songs, reminiscing over old photo albums and eating a lot of food together. It is so much fun participating in all the different activities with my extended family. It is a great time to learn new things and to learn about each other.

As I am now an adult myself, I enjoy visiting with my aunts and uncles. I love to hear stories about my grandparents and about my mom when she was a little girl. Learning about my family history and where I came from helps me understand more about who I am today.

Have fun with your family this summer. Ask to hear family stories or share some yourself with those who are younger. Learn about old family traditions and even some old recipes. See how you might incorporate them into your family today so that they are not lost!

Love on Mother’s Day

I miss those days of Mother’s Day gifts handmade from a variety of things – pipe cleaners, construction paper, lace, paper dollies. All held together with a ton of glue!

Homemade coupons for a cup of tea or a foot rub. There were so many treasures that were perfect for any mother! I had many favourites. One of them was a melamine plate that could be drawn on. My son drew us holding hands. He told me that “this is you and me, walking to the park.”

Cards that said, “I love you, Mom’’ or “You are the Best’’ in big bold letters.

The excitement near Mother’s Day when the “secret” was coming in the door! The scurry to the bedroom to hide that special gift which was tightly wrapped with tape. On Mother’s Day, my son yelling “close your eyes” until the treasure was safely placed in my lap. I loved those times.

Learning the gift of giving.

Breakfast of a bowl of cereal with milk on the verge of flowing over the top, scrambled eggs with a chunk of egg shell, well done toast with smeared peanut butter.

The days of impressing me with those handmade gifts are gone; my son is an adult with a life of his own.

Last week he asked me a couple of times what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I knew he was struggling to come up with an idea so I told him to come and cook something on the barbeque and spend some time with me. That would be the greatest gift he could give me.

And oh, yes I asked him to help me clean my windows!

I hope that you had a wonderful Mother’s Day too!

 

Get Ready, Get Set, Go Hunting!

At this time every year families are gearing up for Easter – buying and decorating eggs, planning a big family meal, and creating a fun filled Easter Egg Hunt. However along with the fun can come some tricky challenges!

I have never had the privilege of hosting Easter dinner. But I have organized the Easter Egg Hunt. The first time I did, I was surprised at how time consuming it could be – especially if you have multiple families coming over. When there are two or more children it can be hard to create equality in the Easter Egg Hunt. Watching my nieces and nephews find and argue over eggs completely took me back to when I was a kid at Easter. My parents had to deal with the same thing – my younger sister never found as many goodies as my older sister and I.

A few years ago I found the solution – colour-code the Easter Eggs! Each child is given a colour specific to them – the only eggs they can collect are of that colour. It’s a great way to introduce learning colours (for the younger children) while keeping things fun and fair.  An unexpected bonus is that the Hunt changes from a competition into the fun event you planned!

If you are hosting Easter dinner, why not incorporate decorating the eggs into the party? While dinner is cooking, have the adults sit and help the children create some wonderfully colourful eggs. It’s a great way to spend some quality time together. It’s also a great way to incorporate some early literacy – by talking about the colours they are using and about how they are creating their designs. For those families that thrive on competition, the prize for the winning decorated egg can be getting out of washing the dishes after dinner!

Good Luck Hunting and have a Happy Easter!

 

Reflections

With only the glow of the tree lights to brighten the room, I sit sipping my hot chocolate.  With the muted strains of glad tidings in the background, this is my time! No noise, no hustle or bustle, no pressure to get anything done. I am alone but not really as my family sleeps upstairs. It is the perfect time to reflect on all the changes that have happened this past year.

At times these changes seemed:

  • chaotic – anything that could go wrong did go wrong
  • welcome – about time
  • selfish – all about my needs
  • bitter sweet – sad, but knowing it was for the best
  • joyful – opening new doors and adventures
  • scary –  venturing into unknown territory

What made these changes more bearable was that I didn’t need to face them alone. I had my family to share them with. And when I look at whom I call family, this too has changed over time. I belong to a number of families – those I am related to, those I choose, those I work with and those who will always be a part of my life even after they have left it. I think this could be the case for many of the people whose paths have crossed mine.

For many, gone are the days of spending your whole life in one place surrounded by people you have known all your life. Today it seems many people move about (for work or by choice), grandparents keep in touch with their grandchildren through video feeds, brothers and sisters live continents apart but get together with the touch of a button, and the number of childless families seems on the rise. I don’t think there is a standard definition of family that fits all. Family is what we make it on an individual basis, defined in a way that makes sense to us. I often wonder how others define family.

Oh dear, I have contemplated too long – my hot chocolate is now cold, there is no longer any music to be heard, and I am ready to go to sleep myself. Before I turn out the lights and head upstairs, please let me say, from my family to yours, may the holiday season bring you peace and joy and may all the changes you face in the coming year be met with a sense of wonder.

Christmas in Zimbabwe

Looking back at the years in Zimbabwe with nostalgia, I reminisce about the Christmas gatherings with close and distant relatives, friends and neighbours. The days leading to Christmas were filled with an air of excitement for the annual reunion. Family would come from far and wide to celebrate Christmas at our grandpa’s distant farm. I remember my brothers and sisters betting on who would be the first to arrive and who would be last.

      

Muriwo Nedovi                                                 Sadza Rezviyo

On Christmas Eve there would be no sleep for anyone. The female family members would be cooking all night; muriwo nedovi (vegetables with peanut butter), Nhopi (a traditional Zimbabwean delicacy made from pumpkin and peanut butter), and of course sadza. Sadza is the staple food in Zimbabwe and is typically made from ground corn. My family ate this “white” sadza almost every day – except at Christmas, when the women in my family cooked sadza rezviyo which is sadza made from rapoko (finger millet), for a special treat. This sadza had a very deep brown colour and a pleasant smell. The male members of the family had it relatively easy, braaing (barbequing) the meat from the cow and goat that were normally slaughtered for the occasion.

I can smell the yummy Zimbabwean traditional food just thinking about it. The food is one of the things I miss the most now that I live in the western world.

The youngsters were usually involved in playing games like dunhu (a version of monkey in the middle), chisveru (a version of tag), chihwande-hwande (hide and seek), as well as the usual mischief that kids get up to when excited! This helped to spread the merriment into a naughty spirit of laughter. Even the toddlers seemed to feel the excitement in the air and stayed up past their normal bedtimes.

With all the cooking, braaing, games and merrymaking came the joy of catching up with family, reminiscing about Christmases past, and looking forward to the joys of the coming year.

As we approach another Christmas, I sentimentally look back on those times and miss the large extended family that made Christmas the once a year event in our family.

I wish everyone a joyful Christmas with family!