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If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know I love DIY decor projects! So this Christmas, I had lots of fun putting together several projects that are perfect for the entire winter season. If there were any year where cheery decor were necessary all year, it would be this one, right? Check out these gorgeous farmhouse designs, plus tips for recreating the looks!
Dining Room Table Centerpiece
Using the same off white recycled jars from this project (see the Thanksgiving jars), I was able to create a beautiful centerpiece! I traded out the autumn foliage for faux pine branches, pinecones, and berries, and used a gold metal tray as a base. I then wrapped twinkle lights (with leaves attached) around the vases, and placed the battery pack in the center vase (beneath the greenery). The finishing touch was the addition of a few pinecones on the tray. I paired the centerpiece with a table runner, plus white and gold candles.
Farmhouse Style Wreaths
These wreaths are super basic and easy to make; just purchase a faux pine wreath and use a hot glue gun to add a few pinecones and a burlap ribbon (the ribbons I used had gold thread intertwined). Because there is no red, no ornaments, and no other holiday related additions, I'll be able to keep these wreaths up all winter!
Birdcage 'Potpourri' Light
I loved the birdcage decor I used for the fall so much that I repurposed the item for winter! I wrapped evergreen garland (which had bells attached) and twinkle lights around the cage, and then filled it with some scented pinecones. This farmhouse style DIY piece is a huge upgrade from your grandmother's potpourri dish, and made for a festive addition to my foyer.
Products You'll Love
Want to try one of these great projects? Here are some products you may love!
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Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases. My participation in this program comes at no added cost to you, and helps support this blog. You can learn more about my participation in this program here.
For our homeschooling letter W theme, I picked the seasonally appropriate word 'witch'. And what better book to celebrate Halloween and discuss the concept of witches than 'Room on the Broom'. This adorable picture book discusses the themes of kindness and friendship, as a witch is helped by a series of new pals, who she (in return) allows to join her and her cat on their adventures. But that is just the start of how these new friends help one another on a particularly stormy autumn evening! I'll not give spoiler, but I will provide you access to some of the awesome activities I developed (or in some cases, collected) just for this book!
Room on the Broom Velcro Activity
As you read the book, you can use this velcro activity to help children track what is happening in the story. Have your child pick out the appropriate pieces, removing them or adding them to the velcro board. The activity is a great, hands on, visual aid for comprehension.
You can find this activity in my free subscriber's resource library.
Room on the Broom Videos
My little one has been enjoying watching this cute Room on the Broom cartoon on YouTube. It pairs imagery with the classic book text, read out loud.
A second fun version reads the book outloud as a song, with video graphics!
Witch Themed Coloring Pages; Letter W Coloring Page
I'm making a few of these pages available for immediate download. The rest are available in my subscriber's only resource library.
For immediate download:
And for those who have subscribed to the library, check out the newest addition to coloring pages! The letter W page is already uploaded there.
Witch Matching Velcro Activity
Another subscriber's resource library exclusive, I added this activity to my busy book for independent play and learning. Simple laminate two copies, cut out the shapes from one copy, and add velcro to make your own. You can also have your child color the pages prior to laminating (for extra fun).
Witch's Hat Craft
What you'll need:
This activity is super simple! Just cut out a witch's had shape (use the stencil below)- use one plate/piece of paper for the triangle shape, and one to make a flattened oval. Glue them into the shape of a hat, and then decorate!
If you want to make a band, simple place the hat on your child's forehead, use the paper or twine and measure the circumference, and then tie or glue to the hat! Make sure to leave room for your child to pull the hat on and off, though.
Magical Mud Sensory Play
Making magical mud is easy. It is just ooblek! If you've not made it before, the recipe is easy, and uses ingredients you probably already have in house:
That's it! You'll need a 2:1 ratio, so 1 cup of cornstarch for 1/2 cup of water (or whatever sized batch you'd like)
Want to make it extra 'muddy'? Just add food dye; you'll want to add all the colors to make a nice, gunky, brown color.
Then, let your kids play! If you'd like, you can let them cover animals in the ooblek, too (just like the animals cover themselves in mud in the book).
The great thing about ooblek is it really does seem magical. Defying the boundary between solids and liquids, this amazing activity is bound to get your kids thinking.
Witch's Brew Sensory Play
This one isn't my activity, but head over to Tot School Resources for their Spooky Witch's Brew Science Experiment. It is a perfect complement to my Room on the Broom activities!
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Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases. My participation in this program comes at no added cost to you, and helps support this blog. If you want to learn more about my participation in this program, click here.
As I noted inmy post about our first week homeschooling, sometimes everything doesn't get done when we want, or how we want. And that is perfectly okay! But because I didn't want us to fall behind with what letters I was planning to review each week, I made the choice cover a few letters at a time throughout the rest of September, and into October. Since I know I'll be covering the alphabet repeatedly, this felt like a good modification to make sure I could get through content I wanted to review while also being able to do other activities in October
Here is a breakdown of each of the activities we did for the remainder of the alphabet!
You can find our letter A and B activities here.
Calendar and Story Time - Daily (Mostly!)
Our calendar and story time routine doesn't vary much! Therefore, it has looked pretty much like what we did the week before. Be sure to check that out here. You'll also find a link to our daily circle time book, Shadow Boxes. We read the page related to the letter(s) of the day!
Why does the header say "mostly", by the way? Because we didn't do the calendar daily. Between early intervention therapies, doctors appointments, general life, and refusing to enforce calendar time rigidly (my kid is a toddler, remember?), it didn't happen every day. And that is okay! While I always try to do fun homeschool activities with my child daily, I never want to give the impression that I have it all together, and things run seamlessly. That isn't fair to you, the reader. That isn't real life. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise!
Book: 10 Little Pumpkins
Activities: 10 little pumpkins velcro activity, Fall Numbers Binder Book Activity (from the subscriber's library)
You can learn more about the 10 little pumpkins activity here.
Letters D, E, and F
Nat Geo Dinosaurs 101 Video
Many kids love dinosaurs, but given they are something no human being has or can experience in person, they are also a highly conceptual topic to cover. As such, I wanted to find ways to make the content more accessible to my toddler.
The video I'm sharing with you is geared towards slightly older children and contains larger vocabulary, but my toddler loved it! It is never too early to start exposing your child to more advanced academic content, so long as it is in a developmentally appropriate way. In this case, the video was just over 3 minutes (so, short), contained exciting imagery, and was presented in a way that made my child more interested (I played the video on my phone after reading a book about dinosaurs, and he normally doesn't have access to my content via my phone). From the time I was a small child, I loved National Geographic and PBS documentaries. I hope to instill the same sense of academic curiosity in my child!
While I try not to use screen time as a way to teach, in this case, it made a lot of sense to provide video content.
Dinosaur coloring pages:
These coloring pages can be found on the Subscribers' Library!
Dinosaur Spikes and Spots Shape Activity
We added spikes and spots to the dinosaur template from my subscriber's library (or any dinosaur coloring page). While doing so, we discussed shape and color.
This activity is easy. All you need is a dinosaur shape, a glue stick, some colored construction paper, and scissors. Cut out circles and triangles for your child using different colored paper. Then, let them have fun decorating their dinosaur however they want!
Letters D, E, and F letter tracing/coloring pages
Letters G and H - Ghosts and Halloween
Craft and Sensory Activity: Tissue Paper Ghosts
Making tissue paper ghosts is easy! Just grab some white tissue paper, crumple, and glue to a piece of black construction paper (though you really could use whatever color you want)! Then add eyes with black paint or marker. If your child is a bit older, they can paint a Halloween scene on the paper first (like I did on mine).
Literacy/Letter Activities: Reading Halloween books, as well as about the letters G and H in our Shadow Boxes book. We then colored the letters G and H, and did ghost and halloween coloring pages from the resource library.
One of our favorite Halloween books is "When the Goblins Came Knocking". It is a great social emotional story for young kids who may find costumed trick or treaters scary of overwhelming. The protagonist tells of last Halloween, when he was scared and hid, but also, of how this Halloween he is able to wear a scary costume. The last page shows the child with his scary dinosaur hood off, letting little readers know that behind those costumes are other kids. It is a sweet story that you'll love sharing with your child.
I believe the book is out of print, but there are tons of used copies available for less than a new hardcover copy!
Letter I - Ice
For the letter I we painted with ice cubes and colored the letter I (see coloring pages in the resource library). We also discussed the concepts of cold, and melting (while my little one likely didn't take in everything I told him, it is a great idea to share ideas with your toddler. They are sponges, and as long as you aren't giving lengthy explanations of high level concepts, the only thing it can do is get their little minds working!)
J - Jack O Lantern
For Jack O Lantern we made pumpkin faces out of paper plates and black construction paper shapes (you can find that activity here), and watched Sesame Street's Making Pumpkin Faces Video. Just like all Sesame Street content, this cute music video is educational, talking about shapes and family.
Letter K - Kitten
We didn't spend a lot of time on letter K, but we did do the letter K coloring page from my library, and spent a lot of time with our own cats. We also did the same animal finding activity with easter eggs (see the Letter E section), but this time searched for different kinds of "kitties" (big cats).
Letter L - Leaves (did along with letters O, R, and Y for orange, red, and yellow)
For the letter L we collected and played with leaves (sensory), watched a Nat Geo video about leaves changing, as well as doing the leaf matching activity in the resource library. We also did the L for Leaf and fall finds velcro activities from the resource library. We also did a number of velcro activities I put together sorting the colors we see in autumn, and discussed letters R, O, and Y for the brilliant colors our leaves turn this time of year. You can find those velcro activities in the Subscribers' Resource Library.
Letters M and N - Moon, Monsters, and Night
Letter Activities: M for Moon Velcro Activity, coloring/tracing pages for letters M and N.
YouTube Video: Moon 101
Craft and Literacy: Making a Monster (from subscriber's library)
This activity is simple! Just print the pages and let your child mix and match bodies, arms, legs, and other add ons for their monster. Want to expand on the activity? Have your child tell or write a story about their monster. What is their name? Where do they live? What do they eat? Do they have a family? A job? A hobby? Are they friendly or scary? Your child decides! There are two worksheet pages (not shown) to get your child started with writing in the printables kit.
Letters O and P - Orange and Pumpkins
I did an entire blog post about the great pumpkin activities we've done. You can find that here.
Letter Q - Quiet
We did letter Q along on the same day as letters O and P. How to help a young toddler learn about the concept of quiet? We practiced! We tip toed around the house, and then practiced being loud by stomping and roaring before going back to trying to be quiet.
Letter R (did along with letter L, plus reviewed O, and skipped ahead to discuss letter Y): Red, Leaves, Orange, and Yellow (Autumn Colors)
See the section for L above for more!
Letter S, skipped ahead to letter X - Spiders, Six
For the letter S we discussed spiders, and the difference between spiders and insects. One great way to tell them apart? Insects have six legs, while spiders have eight!
I'm putting up a separate post about the spider activities we did soon, so keep an eye on the blog! I'll link that here once it is live.
Letters T and U - Ten, Up, Teal
We came back to 10 little pumpkins for the number ten, danced and practiced being up and down (through dance and song; we sang the Wheels on the Bus and did If You're Happy and You Know It (jump up, put your arms up), and painted Teal Pumpkins for the Teal Pumpkin Project.
You can find the 10 Little Pumpkins Activity and the Teal Pumpkin activity here.
Letter V - Volcanos
We didn't spend much time on letter V, but we did do a bit of learning about volcanos. I look forward to returning to the letter V and doing a volcano unit in a few months, when my child is a little older!
Nat Geo Volcanos 101:
Letter V coloring pages (see resource library)
Letter W - Witch
I did an entire post about our letter W activities. You can find that here.
Letter X - See Letter S
Letter Y - See Letter R
Letter Z - Zoo
We were initially planning to take our little one to the Bronx Zoo for this unit, but weather and responsibilities got in our way. Instead, we focused on doing a lot of learning about animals that might be in a zoo!
I added wild animals you might find in a zoo to my child's sensory bin, and he had a blast playing with and labeling the different animals he found. I also gave him some salt dough I'd made, since he seemed to have been craving the smooshy texture.
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Disclosure: The post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases. My participation in the Amazon Associate program comes at no additional cost to you, and commissions earned help support this blog. You can learn more here.
Making the choice to pull my child from preschool this fall was difficult. I feel fortunate to have the resources to be able to stay home with my little one during this challenging time; I know it isn't an option for many families. I also feel quite lucky to have a background in teaching (including teaching preschool!). For critical social skills we are doing playdates with a small circle of cautious friends, at least until it is no longer a safe option in our area, or until the pandemic passes and we can go back to school. But what about all that time when we aren't occupied by playdates?
That is where my background in teaching has really been an asset! But I know not every parent has a degree in education and formal teaching experience.
That is why I've decided to share our homeschooling journey with you!! Here is what we did during our first week learning from home:
Starting the Day: Calendar and Weather, Themed Story (Daily)
Circle time is a vital part of the preschool day. It helps children center and prepare for a day of learning, connect with their classmates and teacher(s), and, of course, learn. Sure, we are learning from home with no siblings, which means there are no other students to connect with. But that is no reason not to start the day by focusing on the learning ahead!
Each morning we start with our calendar; we discuss what month and year it is, count up to the current day, sing our days of the week song (see lyrics below) and review any special events or holidays happening that day. We then sing our weather song (see lyrics below) and then look outside to figure out what the weather is that day.
Once we have finished the calendar and weather, we read a story (or stories) related to our theme.
Our theme for the month of September is 'The Alphabet'
Each day we cover a new theme related to a letter of the alphabet. Sometimes we cover the same letter a couple of days in a row, other times we only spend one day on a letter (the only reason for repetition is if I have a lot of content related to one particular theme and can't fit everything into one day). I cover each of this week's themes in detail below.
Week 1 - Themes and Books
Why no curriculum for Thursday and Friday? Part of our homeschool journey is accepting sometimes things come up that make it difficult to follow through. My goal is always to do the best I can, as a parent, and in all my affairs. While older children doing virtual learning may not have the luxury of taking time away from formal learning, preschool is different. We can be more flexible. If there is one parenting lesson I hope to impart on readers it is that parenting requires flexibility and being mindful that sometimes things don't go as planned.... And that is OKAY. I love routine, but trying to rigidly stick with plans stresses me out. After years of running on a hamster wheel with trying to be perfect, I've decided instead to work hard to go with the flow. Thursday I wasn't feeling well and Friday we had a playdate in the morning and got sidetracked in the afternoon. And that is absolutely okay! I originally planned to cover the letter C, but instead moved those activities to the following week.
Looking for a great lesson planning template for little ones? Here is the one that I've been using (please feel free to download it for your own use (conditions apply*!)
Circle Time Book (literacy): The Book of Shadow Boxes
This alphabet book takes the form of a poem, and is quite creative. It moves away from alphabet book stereotypes, and focuses heavily on promotion of phonemic awareness (focusing on the individual sounds each letter makes), as well as some phonics strategies. You can find it here (it is out of print, but you can find used editions), or check out some of our other favorite alphabet books!
Activities: Letter coloring/Tracing (Fine motor, writing), singing the alphabet with a visual aid (see below).
Stay tuned to my subscriber's library for access to these great (and free) printables!
Circle Time Book (literacy): The Book of Shadow Boxes - Letter A poem only; How Do Apples Grow
Activities: Apple stamp painting (fine motor, sensory, STEM); Letter 'A' & apple matching (literacy).
Stay tuned to my subscriber's library for access to these great (and free) printables!
Apple stamp painting is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers. I paired it with "How Do Apples Grow", and we used the opportunity to cut open the apple, look at the different parts of the apple as shown in the book's diagram (including the seeds). We then removed the seeds for planting (we placed the seeds in a wet paper towel for safe keeping until they could be safely planted; I was out of potting soil!). By extending the painting activity to include talking about the apple as a plant, we in turn covered apples a science topic as well as art, literacy, and fine motor skills!
Letter activities (printables coming to resource library soon!)
Favorite products for making the most of these printables:
Circle Time Book (literacy): The Book of Shadow Boxes - Letter B poem only; my child's book of choice (we read All Are Welcome repeatedly!).
Activities: Letter 'B' coloring/tracing; Body tracing activity. (click for full description of activity)
We had so much fun with these homeschool activities during our first week of homeschooling preschool. We were also super grateful to be able to build on social skills as well (since social skill development is one of the most critical elements of early education). I can't wait to share our activities from week 2!
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*Access to this template (and all Mindfully Scientific Mama content) is for personal use only. Mindfully Scientific Mama content may not be shared for commercial use, or on another website, without explicit written permission of the content creator.
Disclosure: This post contains links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate I earn on qualifying purchases. My participation in this program comes at no added cost for you. You can learn more about my participation in this program here.
Autumn is my favorite season, and I relish all things fall decor. I'm also a huge fan of crafting, so when crafting and autumn go together, it makes for one very happy mama.
Last year I got quite into creating custom jar crafts using recycled jars. Most were made out of Barilla pasta jars, but I've also used almond butter jars (while my little one is allergic to some nuts, almonds are thankfully not one of them).
For all of these crafts you will want to start with label removing. I started by peeling the labels off the best I could, followed by scrubbing under warm water with a sponge and Dawn blue dish soap. You can also place the jars in boiling water with a bit of dish soap to remove some of the remaining glue, or use goo gone.
Once I removed the labels, I used spray paint and acrylic paint and/or paint pens to create custom painted creations. Then I sealed the paint with a layer of spray sealer (Krylon makes several good ones). Below are several creations I've come up with. In the future I'll be offering step by step instructions and link to them here. Until then, I've written brief descriptions about how these were created, as well as some product recommendations to get you started..
Vases made with Barilla pasta jars, matte black spray paint, and acrylic paint. For the lettering I used orange acrylic paint and a brush to make dots, followed by using an acrylic paint pen, and then lightly going over the piece with acrylic paint on a brush. The spiders and spider webs were done with acrylic paint pen.
For these jars I used silicone self stick plumbing tape to create letters, and then spray painted the jars with a silver/white sea glass spray paint. I then used a bit of matte black at the bottom. The spiders and webs were done using acrylic paint pen. I affixed ribbons on the tops of the jars using a hot glue gun, and inserted tea light candles (the kinds that come in a metal container). I also spray painted the lids and affixed ribbon to the edges.
Once Halloween was over, I removed the faux flowers and leaves from the BOO jars and put them into Barilla pasta jars that I'd painted with off white spray paint. I then wrapped the jars with burlap and gold ribbon. These jars are perfect for all year use; just change the floral arrangement you use!!! Here you can see them set up on our Thanksgiving Table from last year.
Products to help recreate these looks:
This ribbon set is an Amazon Choice and offers similar patterns to the ribbon I used.
A hot glue gun is a must have crafting item, and if you don't have one yet, check out this Amazon recommended mini hot glue gun with excellent reviews. While this item comes with glue sticks, you'll want to be sure to purchase extra, too!
If you love these jars but aren't crafty, feel free tocontact me! I am happy to make custom pieces for any season.
Planning a first birthday party, a general kids birthday party, or looking for new fun activities? This post has ALL of that, and MORE.
Above: Image of a menu card with a fishing pole and three bobbers. Menu reads "Goldfish, Swedish fish candy, Pretzel "Fishing" Rod, Lifesaver/Gummy Ring Life Preservers, Sand Cups, Veggie Rods with Dip.
Be sure to check out the following cake topper options on Amazon to recreate the looks above! Just click on the images to navigate to the product pages.
Above: Clickable image link for cake topper; It is a brown "The Big One" sign with a green fish clipped to it.
Above: Clickable image link for a cake topper. It has two sticks (each topped with a bobber) with colorful fish hanging from a line, and a brown sign in the middle that say "The Big One" and has fish and a bobber on it.
Above: Memory Cards. These cards have a blue border and a white center with the shape of a wave. The top of the card has a fishing pole with a yellow and red fish, and three bobbers. It also has a section to write the birthday child's name. The bottom of the card has a section for guests to write their names.
Above: Memory Poster. The poster has a blue border and a white center with the shape of a wave. The top of the card has a fishing pole with a yellow and red fish, and three bobbers. It also says "The Big One" in red and a space to write the birthday child's name.
Above: Clickable image showing red and white bobbers available for purchase from Amazon (accessible text link available in the above section)
Above: Printable bobber tags.
Above: Clickable image that brings you to the Amazon Product page for a banner that says "The Big One". The banner has four fish (red, yellow, green, and blue) and three bobbers, each with a single word (the, big, and one). Click here to view product page
Above: Printable poster available in the Big One Printables Kit. Poster says "The Big One" in red in the center of the image. The top right includes a fishing pole and a single bobber. Blue fish are shown in the center. Three bobbers are located in the bottom left corner.
THANK YOU BAGS AND CARDS
We gave out goodie bags (available in the nautical themed first birthday kit here) containing candy, as well as letting our guests bring home their own fish (see below for the product we purchased).
You can also use the bobber tags from the printables kit and/or the printable thank you notes. Either use a hole puncher and ribbon to affix the tags to the bags, or handwrite thank you messages on the notes for your child to mail/give to your guests.
Above: Three images showing three different thank you card options.
The top thank you card has a blue border, says thank you in red at the top, has a fishing pole and three bobbers in the top left corner, and has a square in the center that says "Insert Picture Here". The background is white with light blue fish. The bottom left thank you card has a blue border, says thank you in red at the top, has a fishing pole and three bobbers in the top left corner, and has a background that is white with light blue fish. The background is white with light blue fish. The bottom right thank you card has a blue border, says thank you in red in the center, has a fishing pole and three bobbers in the top left corner, and has a background that is white with light blue fish.
We ordered an adorable Big One onesie and a crown from Amazon. And, the choices turned out adorable, if I do say so myself!
Taking this theme beyond the party: Resources and links to fun and educational thematic content
Be sure to check out the following content:
And coming very soon.... Literacy Kits!
The Big One - Printables Kit
- 4 different bobber tag/photo banner options.
- 1 "The Big One" Poster
- 1 Memory Template Card for Guests to Fill Out
- 1 Memory Poster for Guests to Paste Bobber Tags with Memories On
- 1 Menu Card - Blank
- 1 Menu Card - Filled with Sample Menu
- 3 Thank You Card Options
- 1 Pin the Tail on The Fish Set (1 poster, 2 pages of tails)
- 6 Pages of Photo Booth Props/Decorations
- 1 Page of Multisized Fish Tags
- 1 Decorate Your Own Fish Template
- 2 Pages of Fish for Decorations or Fishing Activity
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Find more recipes, product recommendations, activities, and more!
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Middle School Years
Teal Pumpkin Project
Trick Or Treat
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