Size Matching Activity

I found this blog post on The Kavanaugh Report. She’s got some killer ideas. This was just too good to pass up.

The basic instructions are in that blog post, but I wanted to share a few pointers now that I’ve gone through the project myself!

I went to Home Depot. They sell PVC pipe in long pieces and short pieces. The short pieces are 24 inches each. They sell wooden dowels in 48 inch pieces. Both of those items come in a ton of sizes, gradually increasing in size (and price). TIP: Get a shopping cart! You should have seen me trying to carry my decaf gingerbread latte in one hand and a bunch of pipes and dowels in my arms. Then I realized, once I cut all the pieces into smaller pieces, I was going to have FORTY pieces… A cart (or basket, if your store has those) is absolutely necessary!

Now, back to the pieces. I found that there were a lot more size options of dowels than PVC pipes. I would suggest grabbing 6 various sizes of dowels and taking them to the PVC pipe section. Then test them out! Be sure that each dowel can only fit into one PVC size (and larger) but not smaller. Otherwise, there are too many configurations of a correct answer in the finished product.

If you’ve got a good power saw at home, use that to cut down your pieces! We only have a hand saw, so I figured I would get the guys at the store to cut everything for me. Guess what the wood guy used to cut the dowels… a hand saw. Hey – at least I didn’t have to do it. BUT a hand saw didn’t give me very clean edges, so I had to sand down the ends of every little piece. No big deal – it was calming.

For the PVC pipe, they have a machine. But the PVC guy who helped me decided to use a hand tool to cut them all. That’s 20 cuts, buster! I gave those two fellas a workout. (Oops.)

For the size, I knew that I wanted each piece cut into 5 smaller pieces. And I wanted to dowel to be taller than the PVC so that a little part would be exposed, for grabbing onto. That said, I didn’t think it mattered that much how much taller the dowel was. I ended up going to 4.5 inches per PVC section and 6 inches per dowel section. TIP: Use a measuring tape and marker to mark 4.5 inches or 6 inches. Then once that first piece is cut, use that piece to mark the rest. Basically, the guy at the store would cut once, and I would mark off everything else. That way, he could just focus on cutting instead of pulling out the darn measuring tape each time!

Another TIP (at least for Home Depot): Make sure that you’ve got a barcode preserved from each original piece. The PVC pipes were marked up in multiple places with a barcode, but the dowels were only marked once. So if that one barcode got cut in half, make sure to grab a second identical one, just for scanning at the register!

When I got home, I sanded down all the wooden dowel pieces. I was going to spray paint the PVC pipe but figured the exposed markings were kind of cool. It looks homemade, and I’m totally cool with that.

I had a box from the thrift store that I’ve been using for something else. I always knew it would serve a better purpose: this project was it.

It took me 3 good efforts to fit all 20 PVC pipes into the wooden box, but I finally found a configuration that worked! Once I had them situated, I heated up my hot glue gun. I removed one piece at a time, glued the bottom edge, and replaced it.

It dried right away, so I played a matching game myself. While it wasn’t a challenge for me (go figure), it was very satisfying the way that every piece only fit in there a certain way. Alexander hasn’t quite figured out how to get all the pieces in there, and I imagine that will take him a while. But it will be a long-lasting activity in our school area. And according to the original blogger, her 4-year-old has recently taken an interest in it again. That’s very reassuring that a $20 project will last me such a long time!

Indoor Obstacle Course

With chillier weather, and my pregnant belly getting larger and more uncomfortable, I prefer staying in stretchy pants and not having to get dressed to go outside. But my 2.5 year needs a physical outlet! So I came up with a couple of obstacle courses for him. This is one of them.

In order to make it up the stairs, Alexander had to complete 5 tasks:
(1) Stack books from largest to smallest.
(2) Connect a few pieces of train track.
(3) Place 3 bouncy balls in a bowl.
(4) Unzip one of my winter boots.
(5) Place 4 pieces of fruit in a large bowl.
(6) At the top of the stairs, he had to say “Wooo!” before he was finished.

By the end, he was able to set it all up for himself. He still needed me to say “Ready set go” and also encourage him along the way. But it was pretty self-guided after 2 run-throughs.

How do you wear your toddlers out when going out to play isn’t always an option?

Classroom Setup #5 December 2015

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I decided to redo all the shelves, late at night, and then take pictures late at night. So I apologize for the yucky pictures! You’ll get the point of everything anyway. ūüôā

This month I really wanted to focus on what Alexander has been enjoying recently. He has been into numbers, so I wanted to keep some numbers in there. I got him a recorder recently (the musical instrument), and he’s been obsessed with it. So I brought back out his musical instrument set. Finally, he has been into zippers and pouring and other practical life tasks. So I made a whole shelf for practical life.

Oh, and finally finally, he’s started to climb up on a chair, open the refrigerator, and ask for specific snacks! So I made him a snack shelf in the refrigerator! I’m most nervous about that because it’s not really easy to access each component. It will be a work in progress, for sure.

See pictures and more descriptions below!

1He likes these plastic blocks a lot, so I kept those out for this month. Additionally, I included some books he’s been enjoying, like a Montessori numbers book.

2This shelf has a few random things, but I’m going to break down each shelf for you.

3On top, there are some colored sheets of paper and a tiny spray bottle of water. I think he will enjoying using the spray bottle, and I’m¬†hoping that spraying water on paper will create darker spots. And he can see the effect of the water on the paper.

Next to the paper and water is a bowl of fake fruit. It’s odd, but he showed some interest in it the other day. I’ll leave it there to see if he does anything with it!

I want to try cutting paper… again. He has tried many times and has never been quite ready. I’m hoping this month is the month when he masters using scissors!

Finally, I’ve got a box of colored pencils plus a single white sheet of paper. (I may add coloring sheets to the tray.) I know Montessori setups are usually open containers, but he has been into opening containers recently. So actually opening the container will be fun for him, I think.

4On the left, there’s a bucket of buttons, 5 different colors. The other section of the tray has pipe cleaners that are the same 5 colors. He will likely match the buttons to the pipe cleaners and string them together.

In the small box in the middle are two nuts and two bolts. The box is held closed via a magnet, so he will like opening the box as well as twisting the bolts onto the nuts.

The wooden bowl has tracing cards (numbers 1-10) and a dry erase marker.

The yellow box at the bottom is shape matching eggs. Again, he’ll like figuring out how to open the box itself.

In the middle is a set of nesting dolls that he used to enjoy. I took it away for a month, so I think he’ll like seeing and playing with them again.

Finally in the blue bowl, I’ve got some PVC pipe scraps that are 4 different sizes. I’m wondering if he will do anything interesting with those. They may be put away in a week if he doesn’t show any interest in them.

5(Ignore that cord. I didn’t even notice it! I’ll move it before I go to bed!)¬†The low shelves stayed mostly the same. I moved the puzzles to the bottom shelf and the floor. On the top of this, I’ve got a bunch of musical instruments.

6This is the other low shelf. More puzzles are on the bottom shelf and floor. On the top left, it’s a water pouring station. He’s been really into water pouring recently! Top right is a PVC pipe + wooden dowel matching activity. I’ve got a blog post coming soon that explains that project.

7The other shelf is practical life stuff. You’ll see there’s still a small stool on the floor that allows him to turn his light on and off.

910On top, I’ve got two stuffed animals. On the bear, I have a cloth diaper that uses Velcro to close it. He’s also wearing a bow tie that has a different sort of closure. The rabbit is wearing a cloth diaper that uses snaps to close it. I figured he can practice using Velcro and snaps. He may even figure out how to put on a diaper! That’s a stretch… but wouldn’t that be nice if he could change the new baby’s diaper when he/she comes in January!

12This is an old wipes box. (That label is not a sticker! I can’t figure out how to remove it!) Anyway, I’ve got some cloth wipes stacked inside. He can open the box in two ways (the button on top and also by opening the whole lid). He can also leave it closed and pull wipes out of the top.

11I marked two cloth wipes: one of them is marked down the middle horizontally and the other diagonally. I want him to practice folding things in half!

13Here are two practical life activities. The left shoe requires pushing the shoe string through the holes. And the sandal has a Velcro closure with a twist. Basically you have to push the strap through a slot, THEN Velcro it closed.

14This is basic sock matching. There are 4 or 5 pairs (I forgot!) of socks that are different patterns. He will not be able to fold them, I’m sure, but he can match them. These socks are too small for him now, so it’s perfect for matching.

1516Finally it’s the snack station in the refrigerator.

There is a paper plate with two halves of bread and a dollop of peanut butter. He can make himself a little sandwich. He has never tried spreading before, so this will be fun for him!

In the back there are some blueberries that I already rinsed. There’s a small glass of milk, a banana, and a little bowl of organic animal crackers. I figure, that’s enough snack options for one day. He may not get the concept and want to eat them all at once. If that’s the case, we’ll try again the next day and I’ll just put 2 things in the fridge at a time (so at least he has some sort of snack option).

I’m pretty pumped for him to wake up in the morning and see all the new trays and setup!

12 Christmas Boxes

Christmas Boxes for Pinterest

This will be a photo-heavy post! We have not even completed all the boxes, but I’m going to show you what each box says, what is in each box, and what our plans are for each box. If we’ve done that box already, I’ll share a few pictures from it. Otherwise, I¬†may come back and add pictures, especially if I get a lot of feedback on this!

I got this idea from Katherine Marie’s blog (this is the blog post). Her kids are older, so while I was able to take a few ideas from her, most of mine were just from brainstorming! Most of what I came up with is appropriate for Alexander, who is about 2.5 years old. I included some items in each box that just reminded me of the theme, but I didn’t have any specific plans for those items.

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The 12 boxes I went with (for this year!):

  1. Grinch Day
  2. St. Nicholas Day
  3. Snow Day
  4. Christmas Giving Day
  5. Reindeer Day
  6. Christmas Carols Day
  7. Nativity Day
  8. Fireplace Day
  9. Happy Birthday Jesus Day
  10. Christmas Tree Day
  11. Candy Cane Day
  12. Gingerbread Day

I think it’s important to celebrate¬†the reason for the season (aka Jesus), but there are so many things that make this a fun, special time of year. Christmas trees! Hot chocolate! Gift wrapping (and gift giving)! The music! So I want to instill some of that magic into Alexander as well.

Now I’m going to break down each box. If you can’t read the card inside the box, just check below, in the text. I’ve outline everything in more detail!

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Grinch Day

Thanks to lots of my followers who gave me some great ideas for this box! There were way too many to include, so these are some I am going to use.

  • Who Hash – According to the Dr Seuss website, “who hash” is just any sort of hash you want to create. I plan to make a breakfast hash with potatoes and bacon or sausage.
  • Green Pancakes – To go along with our who hash, I’ll make some green pancakes. I’ll just make a traditional pancake mixture, minus the sugar, and add in some pur√©ed spinach or kale for the green color.
  • Fruit Skewers – I’m using this idea to make fruit skewers that resemble The Grinch! It involves strawberries, green grapes, and marshmallows.
  • Handprint Activity – Here is a link to one of many handprint ideas!
  • Green Face Paint – We will paint our faces green.
  • Green Paint – We’ll mix blue and yellow paint to make green paint. Then we will use a Q-tip to draw on some large white paper.
  • Heart Sorting – The Grinch’s heart grew and grew and grew. So I made this printable that has 10 hearts in growing sizes! HERE is the free printable. I printed it directly onto red construction paper, cut out the hearts, laminated them, then cut them again.
  • Watch¬†The Grinch – If we can find the old cartoon movie online (Hulu or Amazon Instant or whatever), we’ll watch that together.

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  • Beard Masks – I cut¬†two¬†paper plates into a beard shape, cut holes for the mouth, and attached string to each side. We’ll use glue to attach some cotton balls and then wear the beard masks.
  • Santa Hats – I got two Santa hats (size small and size large!), and we will wear the hats and masks together.
  • Puzzle – I found a set of Christmas puzzles online (24 pieces each). We’ll put together the Santa one.
  • St Nicholas Book – This is a beautiful book about St Nicholas. I want to teach Alexander about the history/origins of “Santa” and this is a good place to start.

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  • Glitter Snowflakes – I got some glitter snowflakes at the craft store. We’ll hang those on the windows.
  • Homemade Snowflakes – We will cut snowflakes out of paper.
  • Pipe Cleaner Snowflakes – We’ll twist white pipe cleaners together to make more snowflakes.
  • Coloring Page – I simply printed snowflake shapes, and Alexander will color them.
  • Build a Snowman with Cotton Balls – Using glue and cotton balls, we’ll build a tiny snowman on red paper.
  • Build a Snowman with Marshmallows – We will pinch and pull apart the giant marshmallows to make 2 different sizes. We’ll use pretzel sticks to attach the “body” pieces and then use pretzels as arms.
  • Read¬†Snowmen at Night – I love this book!
  • Watch¬†Frosty – This movie is currently on Netflix, so I’d like to watch at least part of it.

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  • Food Bank – We’ll collect some cans of food to take to a local food bank.
  • Salvation Army – We will take some coins and a few bills, and Alexander can put them into the red bucket.
  • Bible Verses – There are tons of verses in the Bible about giving to others and helping the poor. I’ll read some of the shorter verses to Alexander.
  • Wrap Gifts – Alexander will help me wrap some gifts and put them under the Christmas tree.
  • Read¬†Christmas Carol – This book is about a grumpy, greedy old man who has a change of heart. It’s all about giving, in the end.

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  • Dress As Reindeer – I got some antlers and red face paint. We’ll wear antlers and paint our noses red!
  • Sing Rudolph Song – This is just for fun.
  • Reindeer Poop – It’s just chocolate-covered raisins. I made incorporate them into the next bullet point.
  • Make Fake Deer Tracks – Using a fake snow recipe I found online, we’ll create fake deer tracks around the house. (I may also do this before he wakes up one day.)
  • Learn Reindeer Names – I found some reindeer flash cards online. Each one has a picture of a reindeer with a reindeer name underneath.
  • Rudolph Puzzle – There was a reindeer puzzle in the set of puzzles I mentioned earlier! We’ll put together this 24-piecer.
  • Rudolph Book – I love this old movie. We’ll read the book, for sure.
  • Rudolph Movie – If we have time, and if I can find it, we’ll watch the movie that goes along with the book.

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  • Sing Christmas Songs – I printed a few songs in a “song book”. I mostly wanted to introduce Alexander to music notes.
  • Play Joy To The World on the Recorder – I wanted to play a song on the recorder for Alexander. Instead, he played the same note over and over again. He has been playing it for a week!
  • Make Jingle Bell Bracelets – Using pipe cleaners and jingle bells, we create bracelets for ourselves. Then we listened to¬†Jingle Bells and shook our bracelets to the music.
  • Make a Paper and Felt Microphone – This was an activity that didn’t happen. I wanted to roll a piece of black paper to create the handle of the microphone, then add the green felt as the mouth part.

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  • Read¬†The Christmas Story – This book tells a child-friendly version of the Biblical Christmas story.
  • Nativity Set – I found a ceramic, pint-sized nativity set online. And my husband got some hay. We will set up this nativity scene together. I’ll explain each component as we do so.
  • North Star – We will cut out a star shape from the yellow paper. We may hang it above the nativity scene.
  • Manger – Using popsicle sticks, thread, and glue, we’ll try to create a manger.

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  • Roast Marshmallows – I would like to roast marshmallows, but we do not have a gas stove, so this may be wishful thinking!
  • Giant Cup of Hot Chocolate – I cut a paper plate into a smaller white circle. I cut a brown sheet of paper into a circle. And I cut a piece of white pipe cleaner to represent the handle. If we glue them together¬†just right, it might look like a cup of hot chocolate from above. There are 10 cotton balls in the box to represent giant marshmallows. Alexander likes to count, so I thought he might just enjoying placing the 10 cotton balls onto the brown circle!
  • Fake Fire – I cut out some fake flames in various colors. We will tape them onto our fireplace grate.
  • Real Hot Chocolate – Using chocolate chips and marshmallows, we will make real hot chocolate on the stove.
  • Hang Stockings – I got some plastic hooks that I’ll hang above the fireplace. Alexander can help hang our stockings.
  • The Night Before Christmas Book – This book mentions a lot of Christmas things. But I had a book in some of the other boxes already! So it fits in this box too.

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This one was a little deeper and more theological than the others! I know that Alexander won’t really understand much of this box, and that’s okay. It was important for me to put together the ideas. Each year, I can add to it, and one day, hopefully he will understand a bit of the theology that is behind Christmas. I don’t want it to be just a holiday for him! You know, it’s more than just Santa and gifts and trees and treats.

  • Birthday Party Decor – In the box are some candles, balloons, and a cookie cutter.
  • Birthday Cookies – I’ve got the dry ingredients for cookie dough in a mason jar, ready to go. We’ll use a recipe to make some simple sugar cookies. We’ll stack them to make a “cake”.
  • Happy Birthday Song – We’ll sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, naturally.
  • Gold – I wanted Alexander to give Jesus 3 small gifts. With my dad’s help, I landed on gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But of course, I won’t wrap those things specifically. Gold represents His Royalty (birth). In the box is a long gold bead, which Alexander will drape on the Christmas tree.
  • Frankincense – Frankincense represents His priesthood (life). Basically, I connected it to His leadership and relationship with the 12 disciples. In the box is a string, 12 small beads (the disciples), and 1 larger and intricate bead (Jesus). We’ll string the beads together to make a chain. Alexander can hang the chain on the Christmas tree.
  • Myrrh – Myrrh was used for embalming, so it may have represented His sacrifice (death). In this box is just a round, smooth stone. It represents the stone that was rolled away from the tomb. Alexander will place the rock under the Christmas tree.

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  • Pick Out Tree – We went to a tree farm. Alexander helped us pick out our Christmas tree. He also helped my husband push the tree over and roll it up toward our car.
  • Decorate Tree – I included some ornaments in this box so that Alexander could hang them on the tree.
  • Small Paper Trees – We used popsicle sticks, brown paper, green papers, glue, and felt balls to create paper trees.
  • Pinecone Trees – I found some pinecones in the neighborhood. Then we shoved felt balls into the pinecones! We used ornament hooks to create ornaments from the pinecones.

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  • Candy Cane Ornaments – We used pipe cleaners and red yarn to make candy cane ornaments. This was difficult for Alexander, so I ended up making a few to hang on the tree. We also hung candy canes on the tree!
  • Striped Paper – I cut red paper into strips. Alexander glued them onto white paper.
  • Candy Cane Smoothies – I layered a banana smoothie and a strawberry smoothie, then we drank from candy cane straws!
  • Giant Candy Cane Coloring Page – I drew a simple candy cane onto a giant sheet of paper. Alexander colored it. He doesn’t like to color much, so only a tiny portion of the candy cane was colored.
  • Peppermint Pancakes – This was a failed project. I made plain pancakes then tried to swirl strawberry jam into them, to look like giant peppermints. They tasted fine, but they did not look like peppermints!

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  • Gingerbread House – I found a kit at Michael’s craft store for a gingerbread house. My husband and I did the structure part of the house. Alexander helped with some of the decorations.
  • Gingerbread Man/Woman Cookie Cutters – We traced the gingerbread people onto brown paper using cookie cutters.
  • Gingerbread Man Rhyme – We read a poem about a gingerbread man. And every time I said the word “gingerbread”, Alexander was supposed to jump. Instead, he just ran around the table about 400 times.
  • Gingerbread Pancakes – I made some plain but delicious gingerbread pancakes.

That’s all, folks!

This took a ton of planning and brainstorming. And I know that next year, I’ll have an 11-month-old and a 3.5-year-old. Those boxes will look much different, but I hope I’m able to reuse many of these ideas.

I also hope this is a lovely tradition that we continue over the years. This year, the materials and planning were a little expensive and overwhelming. But now, I’ve got the boxes, lots of books, and lots of ideas. I imagine it will be easier as the years go on!