2017 Advent Countdown

Scripture-Based Christmas Countdown – Why?

As Evangelical Christians and as parents, my husband and I wanted to make sure to give our kids a foundation of understanding what Christmas is all about… beyond the trees, lights, gifts, Santa, etc (there are places for those, but we don’t make any of them the center of our celebration). So, starting when our twin daughters were almost 2 years old, we created 25 daily Scripture readings to help them understand the background of the Bible before Jesus came. We wanted them to have an understanding of how the world was before the great moment of wonder — the incarnation — happened, so they’d gain a better understanding of why this is such an important event.

In the following years, we added ornaments that the kids put onto a small tree. These ornaments are simple but are connected to the Scripture we read — for example a whale, an apple, a red ribbon, etc. They *love* touching little tangible objects — they’ll often come up to the tree, touch an ornament from a past day and explain it’s significance. We also added some chocolate, because a little incentive to do an activity every day doesn’t hurt. 😉 This year, due to how much both girls and I love LEGO we’re also adding a daily mini-build.

This activity has grown with us over the years and I think it should be applicable to kids from around age 2 (for eager listeners) through elementary school.

Free Materials

You can find a free printable file that has directions, a verse list, printable verse cards, suggestions for ornaments, and pictures (so you can play match/memory, or substitute an image if you can’t find an ornament). You can present these in many different ways — the photos below show some of our past efforts.

What Else You’ll Need

You can do this activity with just the Scriptures (read them from the cards or from your Bible). If you want to do the ornaments, you’ll need to find or make them. Suggestions are in the free printable file linked above. I suggest you work a week ahead. Don’t be afraid to substitute a picture or pull out coloring pages when needed. It took about 3 seasons for me to find or make actual ornaments for everything (perhaps because I’m cheap! I didn’t want to spend more than $2 on any ornament!).

We also use a typical Christmas-countdown-calendar with chocolates. Ours comes from IKEA. It’s not necessary, and you could always substitute something small like an M&M.

Notes

Since this is the first year to make the LEGO mini builds and since sourcing all the bricks took me a long time — I’m not undertaking the herculean effort to show you how to build them.  However, there are a few rough photos of my work-in-progress here.

We do another activity like this for Easter – also with Scripture cards and ornaments to hang on a twig tree – that covers the life of Jesus. The Christmas verses pretty much take you through the Old Testament and the nativity story.

Images

Day 1 – Earth
Day 5 – 2 year olds wanting to kiss the sheep ornament
Day 7 from the year that we hand-wrote the Scripture cards and hung them on the wall — for Joseph’s colorful coat (made from contact paper and tissue paper for a stained glass effect.)
This one took some creativity – it’s “manna” (coriander seeds) in a jar with a string attached for day 10.

On Our Shelves: Early February 2017

(These on-our-shelves posts try to just show pictures of what we’ve got available. I love these kinds of posts on other blogs, so I try to show off ours. I try to add info about what each item cost to set up. The categories — Practical Life, Math, Language, and Sensorial — relate to a Montessori style, but I think you’ll see that most of these things are interesting from any educational philosophy.)

Practical Life

Clockwise from top: Sewing, Water Pouring, Bead Lacing, Open-Ended Art, Paper Chains, Scrubbing

Valentines, Red, and Hearts show up in a lot of activities this month.

  • Paper Chains. Glue Stick and Paper Strips (found on clearance last Valentine’s Day). Cost: $1.50
  • Open-Ended art with stickers, paper, glue, stampers, etc. Heart stickers (also on clearance last Valentine’s Day) and paper from Michael’s. Cost: $4 for enough stickers to last us many years.
  • Scrubbing. The kids love this activity whenever I refresh it with something new. I felt I’d gone overboard on hearts, so they’re actually scrubbing little airplanes this month. We added toothbrushes for a challenge.
  • Water Pouring: 1 to 3. The kids *love* when they get to pour water!
  • Sewing. We used a big needle and some embroidery floss to make heart art for Valentine’s Day. We also used the supplies with paper plates to sew hearts for our Valentine’s Cards for an exchange at the Library. For an open-ended activity, I have some wooden hearts and yarn that the girls can practice on.
  • Beading. Small box with cords and assorted beads. The small photo above shows it after all the heart beads were cleared out. One girl used letter beads to make her name.
  • Cleaning, Cooking, Laundry — all the good stuff we do regularly. 🙂

Math

Clockwise from top left: Red Rods & Number Rods, Bead Stair & Teens Board, Count & Transfer, Memory Game
  • We’re working on several traditional Montessori-Math concepts right now — golden beads, bead stair, and teens board. We also still have our Spindle Box, Cards & Counters and Number Rods available. I made almost all of these myself. I’ll post about them little-by-little in coming months.
  • Counting & Transferring Pink Rocks. These are actually beads that fell off a necklace. I put them in a ramekin with a large dice. We play it independently or as a game — roll the die, count the pips, then move that many rocks with the wooden spoon. Kids both love it!
  • Memory Game. We’re playing the number memory game as a clean-up activity. For example — if you open the “3” maybe you get to find 3 dishes to put away, or if you open the “8” you get to find 8 pencils to sharpen and put back in the jar. It works really well! I really love getting the “0” 😉

Language

Clockwise from upper left: Dwyer objects and labels in small drawer, double sandpaper letters & picture cards, single sandpaper letters and phonetic objects, movable alphabet, h/H heart game, valentine mail phonics game, shadow matching, vegetable cards
  • We have 3-Part-Cards about vegetables out right now. One girl mostly matches the pictures. I try to get her to look at the letters on the labels, and she can match them based on the starting letter. The other girl can read at a beginner’s level — but she, too, mostly just matches the labels based on the beginning letter.
  • Traditional language activities including Sandpaper Letters (singles and doubles) and Movable Alphabet (with Dwyer-style objects & cards).
  • One daughter doesn’t always prefer the traditional Montessori trays, but does love anything that feels like a game. For her, we’ve got a “game” where she has to place a red acrylic heart onto H or h letters and another where she has to match the beginning sound of some valentines mail.
  • Shadow matching with valentines-colored vehicles.

Sensorial

Bad photos of sound jars, scent jars, knobbed cylinders
  • Our DIY pink tower is in for repairs (needed glue — more on that some day) but we’ve still loving our (purchased) knobbed cylinders. The scent jars are out, also, but they’re not getting much use.
  • I put sound jars out again, after a long delay. Last time, the girls didn’t get it. Now, they do! Success! Ours are made from pill bottles — filled with popcorn, beads, or bells.

Other

Love Poster
  • We recently added a Daily Weather/Activity chart (found for $3 at Target). It has sections for weather, what to wear, activities, etc. and magnets to correspond. I like it pretty well, but I’ll be tweaking it in the months to come. Right now, we use it to check the daily weather and what we need to take with us when we leave the house.
  • Gardening: It’s a mild winter here in Central Texas so we risked it and planted some seeds directly into our garden recently. The girls each have their own small planter box where they’ve planted snap peas, carrots, and phlox. (With room to add something else later.) Indoors, we’ve stated basil, sensitivity fern, and pumpkins — including pumpkin seeds in a glass jar so we can watch the seed grow.
  • 1 Corinthians Love Poster: I printed and cut a few sheets of paper, then we glued them onto a poster and talked about what it means to love others.

Costs/Summary:

I didn’t total up all the costs this month, but it was very much on a small budget — I think I spent around $10 on valentines theme items, and the rest was from my stash of craft supplies. I only printed a few sheets of paper, and only laminated a couple. The art supplies for making valentine’s cards and the supplies for planting the garden would have been the biggest expenses — though I tend to chalk those up to general living.

See you back later this month for a refresh of the shelves, I hope!