{The 2011 Creative Christmas Countdown: 24 Days of Holidays Magic}




Are you ready to be inspired for the holidays? 

The 2011 Creative Christmas Countdown advent calendar starts tomorrow!

An amazing group of 23 of my favourite kids' bloggers and I have gotten together to make our very own advent calendar of creative ideas for you and your family this Christmas, and I'm so thrilled to be involved! Each day one of us will post a special advent activity that you can do at home. 








Look for mine on December 8th, and be sure to check out all the others, too. This is truly a fabulous group!



Here's the line-up:




If you click on the calendar above, it will take you to the homepage of the Creative Christmas Countdown advent calendar, which will be updated daily with each new link (thanks to Alissa of Creative With Kids!). You can even sign up there for daily email updates on the advent calendar.



Why not check out some of these great blogs now, 
and let the bloggers know you are looking forward to their advent post!


Here are the links to all the blogs taking part:


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{Advent Calendars Round-Up}


DIY advent calendars round up


I grew up with one of those advent calendars made of card where you open the little door and inside there was a picture of something Christmassy. These days, the possibilities for advent calendar ideas for your kids are endless and creative! Some of my favourite DIY advent calendar ideas are below. 



For our own kids' advent calendar, we have a string of mini-stockings. Each day the elves come to spy on the girls. If the elves think the girls are being good, they leave a little something in the mini-stocking and then go report back to Santa about what kind of behaviour they saw! Princess Pea (who really is pretty much always good anyway) loves this idea - she gets so excited for the elves to come!

We put just teeny-tiny things in the stockings: Maybe a single hair clip or a single marker from a pack (the others will show up on different days, or I save them to put in gifts or party favours later in the year). 

Last year I bought a mini Playmobile set and put in a piece from it each day, along with a clue as to what the next piece would be. (For example, one day she got a tiny Playmobile rabbit hutch and a note asking who might live there; the next day she got a tiny rabbit to put in it and a note asking what rabbits like to eat; the next day she got a tiny carrot, etc.). That went over really well, and I liked that it also made her think and learn at the same time! This year we also got this adorable Playmobile advent calendar - I'm so excited to give it to them!

I don't have everything yet to put in this year's calendar, but the beauty of the elves coming to fill one stocking at a time is that it gives me more time to find things to fill it with! ;-)


Here are some of my favourite DIY advent calendar ideas I've come across that are all a little different:


christmas countdown tree advent calendar



christmas activity advent calendar


christmas advent calendar of activities from paint cut paste


advent calendar activities ideas list
and here's a great list of advent calendar activities to include


advent calendar from across the ocean




magnetic tins advent calendar


toilet paper roll advent calendar


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{Alphabet Mat Jumping School Game}


Princess Pea invented a game she calls 'Jumping School'. She's very proud of it!




The 'teacher' (me) calls out "start" and the 'students' (her) jump around all over the alphabet mat.


When the teacher calls out "stop", the students have to name the letters they're standing on.



Perhaps not the most original game in the world, but she's very proud of it!

Not a bad way to work on letter recognition, and get some active play in at the same time!

You could liven it up with some music if you like, and make it like musical statues!


*If you have an interest in how movement helps with learning, 
you might want to check out one of my favourite blogs, Moving Smart.


Addition: Since writing this post, I've discovered that ''jumping school" is the Hungarian name for hopscotch. So I guess this should really be titled 'Alphabet Mat Hopscotch Game'.

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*This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

{Guest Post: {Our} Home for the Holidays Series at One Artsy Mama}



I've been invited by the very creative and talented Amy of One Artsy Mama (yes, the very same artsy mama who made the jewelry for my recent giveaway) to participate as a guest blogger in her {Our} Home for the Holidays series!

Pop over and hear about one of {Our} family's holiday traditions, and while you're there, be sure to check out some of the other guest posts in the series for more holiday inspiration!


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{Outdoor Play Party: Pancakes, Ponies, and Elephants - Oh My!}


This week we went for brunch at a friend's house outside the city. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes, sausages, mini quiches, and bagels, we went out for a walk near their house. At the end of their street is a muddy path that leads to a stable that houses all the local horses and ponies and runs a riding school. We had promised the girls that we'd go see the horses after eating.

Princess Pea was very excited as we set off over the frosty fields and through the woods, across a dried up pond still full of broken bullrushes from last summer. When we got there, she eagerly pointed out the colours and features of the different ponies, asking questions and answering them.


Sweet Pea, on the other hand, somehow got it in her head that we were going to go see some elephants! Despite our repeated assurances that there were only horses and no elephants, she was completely unconvinced and I ended up having to carry her almost the whole way while she clung to me, repeating "Where's the elephant?" and looking fearfully all around!

When we finally reached the horses, she wasn't reassured much and stuck close to me the whole time. I still have no clue why she thought there would be elephants!

But anyway, on to the party....

There were some lovely posts linked up to last week's Outdoor Play Party! My favourite was this post from Exploring the Outdoor Classroom about using tires as 'loose parts' in children's play - fabulous!



Be sure to check out my cohosts' posts to see who they featured this week! And to those that are featured, feel free to grab a 'featured' button! (Sorry it's still copy and paste, working on getting code for it. Been a busy week!)




How did your kids play outdoors this week?



Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every week! The linky goes live each Friday at 12:01 GMT+1. Here are just a few guidelines for sharing.

  • Any kind of children's outdoor play is welcome. If it happened outside, then please link it up!
  • Please do not share any competitions, promotions, or posts that are not related to Outdoor Play.
  • Please remember to link back to this post and help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! You can grab my button from the sidebar or copy and paste the 'Outdoor Play Party' button below. 
  • Each week we will feature an activity from the previous week. By contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished.










Sharing at: The Sunday Showcase
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{Apple Printing}


I've been meaning FOREVER to do this with my little peas, and I finally got around to it recently.
We used to do this as kids with potatoes, cutting a shape out of the raw half potato.
For this time, though, we used some old apples that had been sitting around,
and just printed with the shape of the apple itself.





Simply cut them in half, dip into a tray of paint, 
and press onto paper.





Sweet Pea also wanted to use brushes and lids to make different kinds of marks.
You could also try using different kinds of fruits and vegetables,
or do like we did as kids and cut out shapes in the foods.



We used a big sheet of paper from a roll, so we can use it later as wrapping paper for a special someone



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{Rice Sensory Tub}



The other day after breakfast, I decided it was definitely time for a new sensory tub

This time I thought we'd go really simple with just some plain, white rice.

Sweet Pea explored the texture of the rice and the dry floury powder it left behind on her hands.

After exploring the rice by itself, we added some utensils - a small spoon and a couple of small containers.



Scooping


Pouring

 

She loved the way it felt to stick her hands in the tub full of rice, and let it fall through her fingers.




After a while, we added some figurines.



The figurines got to play a little hide and seek.


Not quite sure what this poor fairy did to deserve this!

Sweet Pea amused herself for about an hour and half with this just at the first sitting and has come back to it many times since! When Princess Pea got home she dove right in too.
(in fact, I ended up having to set up two rice tubs)

It is a bit messy, so I tried to contain the rice as best I could by putting the tubs on trays and in a big roasting pan. Quite a lot did escape, though, but it was easy to suck up the escapees with the hand vacuum afterwards. (We keep ours on the charger right next to the dinner table for easy clean-up.)

The rice was perfect for standing the figures up in. It would be easy to take this a step further and turn it into a small world, as Sunhats and Wellie Boots did!


Sharing at: ABC & 123, The Play Academy, The Sunday Showcase, Fun Sparks



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{Outdoor Play Party: Shadow Play}


We've been playing with shadows outside this week!

We've taken advantage of some sunny autumn days to play, wave, walk in silly ways, and learn about what shadows are. Sweet Pea is quite fascinated and loves to wave to her shadow. And in the dark, we've been watching our shadows grow and shrink as we pass the streetlights. Princess Pea has been into measuring lately and is carrying a measuring tape around with her to and from school, so I think next time we might try measuring our shadows as we go.


Did you have a chance to check out all the ideas shared at last week's Outdoor Play Party? I especially liked this children's Gardening Club shared by Cathy at Nurturestore!


school gardening club


Be sure to check out my cohosts' posts to see who they featured this week! And Cathy, feel free to grab a 'featured' button!


How did your kids play outdoors this week?


Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every week! Here are just a few guidelines for sharing.

  • Any kind of children's outdoor play is welcome. If it happened outside, then please link it up!
  • Please do not share any competitions, promotions, or posts that are not related to Outdoor Play.
  • Please remember to link back to this post and help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! You can grab my button from the sidebar or copy and paste the 'Outdoor Play Party' button below. 
  • Each week we will feature an activity from the previous week. By contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished.









Shared at: It's Playtime, Fun Sparks

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{Fairy Land - Small World Play}

Fairy Land in a Basket

for Small World Play




Princess Pea has been on a 'fairy kick' for some time now. In the summer, I found these fairy figurines on sale for a bargain, and picked up a square of fake grass at the dollar store to make a fairyland for them. Although they've both enjoyed playing with the fairies, I hadn't gotten around to making the fairy land until now. This weekend I finally put together Fairyland as a surprise for the girls. It actually took all of about 5 minutes - guess I should have done it a long time ago!

I set it up in a large wicker basket I picked up at the pumpkin festival a few weeks ago - perfect! Because it's in a basket, it's easily for them to carry it around to wherever they want to play.

When the girls saw it, they both fell instantly in love with it! It has gotten a LOT of use since then already! My girls are both super into imaginary play, and can spend the entire day in their imaginary play scenes even without any physical props. So this is right up their alley!


I used: pine cones, lego pieces, fairy and pony figurines, salt dough snakes and snails (made by Sweet Pea and her babysitter), pieces of sushi grass, a tent ...


... a Little People dragon, some tiny toadstools from my craft stash, pebbles, a butterfly on a toothpick from a plant we got as a gift, some of our many chestnuts, fake flowers and leaves, our sparkly pipecleaner flower rings, some lovely painted rocks by my grandmother, a Little People wagon, and a magnifying glass for examining the small things in this small world.


It looks so inviting, and really gets the imagination going; I'm tempted to play with it myself after they've gone to bed!


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{Clara Caterpillar - Dramatic Play at Storytime}


Do you know the book Clara Caterpillar by Pamela Duncan Edwards?

We borrowed it from the library and Princess Pea loved it!
It's full of fun alliteration for 'C' sounds, and the story is about a 'plain' cabbage caterpillar
that ends up saving the day and becoming a hero.

As we were reading it one day, Princess Pea decided that she wanted to be Clara Caterpillar,
so...

she started acting out the story as I was reading it...



Here she is in her egg.



Here she's eating the cabbages.



Little Sister kindly helped her build a chrysalis by wrapping her in tissues.

Then she emerged from the chrysalis as a plain, white butterfly.



Daddy Pea had to step in to be the nasty crow that tries to eat the butterflies.



And finally, Clara Caterpillar saves the day and becomes the butterfly hero!


She had so much fun acting out the story! I think this may become a regular part of our story times!


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