Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas tree fail - or success?

When E. asked for the Christmas tree set (construction paper cut-out Christmas trees and decorations, like tinsel, buttons, stars, cotton wool balls etc.) I was more than happy. It took me a while to prepare this Christmas tree activity but at first it seemed to be a failure.

nicely prepared set

E.'s choice instead

But at the second time it was a hit. E. was chatting away (in Hungarian this time), sticking and encouraged me to decorate my tree too. I did as she told me and didn't take many photos. We just enjoyed being creative, being together, being full of Christmas spirit.

busy with decorating
Our final results (done in Hungarian)

Our first try (done in English)

In both cases E. made the light green trees.

If you give it a try you can widen your little one's vocabulary in the field of

  • Christmas: tinsel, bauble, star, snowflake, beads
  • colours: light green, dark green, silver, gold, shiny
  • shapes and sizes: round, star-shaped, snowflake-shaped, long, tiny
  • texture: prickly=stingy, soft, fluffy, hard, velvety, silky, rough, sticky

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas tree - fail

I had another Christmas tree craft on mind through which we could have practised some English and had fun. Well, E. wasn't in the mood. At first...

Earlier I read about a Jen's Christmas tree decorating creative table and I thought it would have been great fun with E, too. I was wrong...

I found a Christmas tree template online and I cut 4 pine trees out of green construction paper. I also prepared different kinds of decorations: cotton wool balls, beads, mosaics, stars, buttons, pipe cleaners, tinsel etc.

This scene welcomed E.:

I thought she'll be over the moon if she can use the glue and stick like millions of shiny decorations onto the Christmas tree.

At the beginning she enjoyed it, but wasn't so much interested. I was trying to talk about the cotton wool balls and the shiny starts of two kinds; silver and gold. But, very unlike her, she was speechless.

She did a little gluing...
The dark green tree is what I made

but she ended up like this:

Well, maybe it wasn't such a good idea. I should have come up with a snowmen or a snowflake art project. She might have had enough of Christmassy crafts. But I loved the idea about talking about how the angels decorate the Christmas tree, what the texture of different decorations feels like, what shapes they have (round, square, star-shaped), counting bead and button baubles and sticking on tinsel...

I still love this activity... she doesn't. At first I was disappointed, then I just needed to accept this is not so much fun for her. So I packed everything away and I've already started to think about some snowy projects.

Then much to my surprise, the next day she was looking for the blank Christmas trees: - Where are the Christmas trees we made? Where are the empty ones?
I was more than happy to serve her with the set... but you need to wait for the next blog post to find out about its outcome.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas tree crafts and some more ABC

As Christmas is getting closer we are doing a lot of Christmassy crafts. They give us the chance to talk about a lot of things in English, like colours, decorations, presents and E. has already learnt plenty of Christmas vocabulary (like candy cane, gingerbread man, angels, advent, wreath, candles, sparklers, baubles, tinsel, gifts etc.)

Here I'd like to present you 2 ideas in connection with decorating a Christmas tree.

  1. Sticker decorations and letter recognition:

I searched for a Christmas tree colouring sheet and I copied it in WORD, then I added the letters and a little table at the bottom. In the table I put the letters and above them you can see a Christmas related word. (We didn't read them I just wanted her to see the words written down.)

I had some Christmas stickers from last year (I'd bought this sheet in KIK for 300 HUF) and I added an angel, a star, a candle, a bauble and a gingerbread man. These stickers are really cool. They easily come off the paper, so I took off the candle and the gingerbread man, just for fun. Later, E. put them back.

One afternoon after her nap this was the scene waiting for her.
She needed to search for a figure and stick the right sticker on the starting letter of the word.

But first she coloured the tree green, the star on the top yellow and the trunk brown. A little more colour talk.

artist at work
Then searching and sticking started:


 I had to add some more letters as she wanted more baubles and stars.

When she'd finished we displayed it on the door of our living-room.

            2.     Dot marker decoration

We got a box of DO-A-DOT markers for E.'s birthday in May and ever since we've had so much fun with them. Actually, I saw this dot the letter Christmas tree activity online, though we've done a similar dot marker activity at Halloween with a pumpkin.

This time I drew a Christmas tree with some presents below it. I wrote the beginning letter of the colours, like G for green (a lot of them, though I should have written even more), R for red, Y for yellow, P for purple, B for blue.

I prepared all the dot markers well in advance. I took off the lids so E. didn't need to although it could be a nice fine motor skill practice. There were quite a lot to do with the Christmas tree and I didn't want her to get bored with the opening of the markers.

First, she tried almost all of the colours, then she stuck to one colour and finished dotting all of them on the sheet. As I'd always been telling her to put the lid back on the markers she decided to put it back and pack away the marker when she'd finished with a colour.

packing away

red baubles

She mentioned that she was putting red and purple baubles on the tree. When she was doing the yellow decoration she said they were candles. I asked quite a lot of questions to make her talk while she was working. We even sang the "Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree" song:

Then we put the finished Christmas tree next to the other. 

I have some more Christmas tree ideas from paper plate with some painting and sticking, however some snowy crafts are on the way too. We'll see what we have time for.

Also, I'd be happy if you let me know in the comments what Christmas tree projects you have with your little one.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Santa visited the Helen Doron School

In Hungary we have a special day called St. Nicholas Day on the 6th December. St. Nicholas (=Mikulás) is depicted like Santa Claus and more or less they are very similar legendary characters.

As Mikulás is a big day for Hungarian kids, our local Helen Doron school also organised an event: meeting Santa on Saturday (6 Dec). Alas, I left the camera and my phone at home as we were in a hurry to leave for the school, so all the photos were taken with the HD school's camera.

10-12 kids signed up every half an hour on the big day. (FYI: Financial contribution of the event was 500HUF/family). When we arrived the previous group was in with Santa so we had time for some snacks, cocoa and some crafts. It was very simple but a lot of fun activity with a cardboard ring, some black circles, white hearts and some orange scraps. Our teacher, Zs. was preparing the materials and helping the kids with the crafts. And what did we make out of them? This door wreath of penguins:

Then our time came to go in Santa's room, where Santa was sitting on the sofa with a thick book. In the corner there were some props for a Christmas story. The starry sky, a stable with a new-born baby in the manger.

Santa read out the story of a tiny, sad star, called Starlet, who grew big and hot when she needed to give light and warmth to Baby Jesus. The story was read in English, one of the HD teachers' (Z.) partner played the role of Santa. Although his English wasn't perfect, but good enough for the occasion.

After the heart-warming story, the kids needed to sing (together) a Christmassy song for Santa (luckily with the help of the HD teacher - Z.). We sang "We wish you a merry Christmas". E. was really quiet, so I whispered into her ear that she needs to sing louder, as Santa can't hear it. Then she started to sing REALLY loudly. She took it seriously and she was so cute.

Next, Santa pulled out tiny presents for the children (szaloncukor - the Hungarian traditional Christmas candy and a tangerine) from his bag. We could take some photos with Santa and also the director lady (O.) took some (Thank Goodness!) so this is the only reason why I can include some in this post.

After meeting Santa, we went back to the crafts room to Zs., where we could eat some more or do some more crafts. A Christmas card this time. The reindeer inside are E.'s finger prints.

After having finished two Christmas cards, we thanked O. and Zs. for the nice and well-organised Mikulás party and left for home to tell Daddy all the exciting details about meeting Santa.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Getting familiar with the ABC

I do not want to brag, but yes... a little I do. E. is so  interested in the letters and the ABC that, I do not exaggerate if I say, within a year or two she'll be reading. In this blog post I would like to collect some fun activities we've been doing with the ABC.


The very first favourite. E. was watching this video her mouth agape in amazement when she was 8-10 months old. Phonic Song 2 by KidsTV123

The traditional one is always the best (Upper- and lowercase) The ABC Song by KidsTV123

A song about how to pronounce the letters - Phonic Song by KidsTV123:

Since the age of 2 we have been watching a lot of Mother Goose Club songs: (ABC song with Eep the Mouse)

She could watch it all the time. Sometimes she wants to watch them all day (if I let her).

- Magnetic alphabet

I bought the first set of magnetic alphabet when E. was about 18 months old. She loved them at once.
First, it was just one pack of upper case letters. We used it on the fridge, but the letters always fell under it. So I had a magnetic word game at home (for adults, the letters are too tiny for little children) and I started to use one of its steel boards (You can also use a steel tray or a magnetic whiteboard)

Then I bought another pack of both upper- and lower case letters later when we started making up words at about the age of 20-22 months. (Frankly, we don't really use the lower case letters yet - age 2,5 years. Update: at the age of almost 4 we still do not really use the lower case letters)

At the very beginning we just put together the alphabet from A to Z. We sang the ABC song and/or the phonic song while arranging the letters.

Adding the missing letters to the alphabet with Daddy

 I told her words starting with certain letters, like  E. for her name or D for daddy, M for mummy, A. is for our nanny's name etc. As time passed I added some more words, such as E. is for elephant, egg, or A is for apple, ant and so on, not just names. I always tried to include things that she knew or she was really interested at that time. Within a few days she was the one who said the words: - B is for ball and bubble.

Next, we made up short words she was already familiar with.
Daddy, Mummy, M. (our dog), dog, cat, yes, no, hat, rat, egg, bat and so on. I have no intention to teach her how to read. She is the one who, from time to time, comes to me with the letters to play with. She'll work it out by herself.

- Matching game with the magnetic letters

What you need:

  • letters (magnetic, felt, play dough, cut out from cardboard, drawn on bottle tops)
  • plastic surface (e.g.: whiteboard, but I used an A/4 sheet that I spoiled while laminating. 
  • markers (not permanent!!!)
  • sponge or tissues to wipe the surface if you want to reuse it
First, I wrote three words on the laminated sheet (also drew some basic pictures)
I put the letters of these words mixed in a little container 

E. came and emptied the container.

And matched the letter. The interesting thing was that I didn't need to tell her toe start from left to right.

She wanted to do it with our nanny, too.

When she got bored with it I wiped the surface off and at another time I made a new one with: yes, no, love, sun, hot, rat as you can see it in the photo.

She had to start with her letter, E.

 It was summer time we last did this activity, and now sometimes she "reads" letters on her clothes or, some book's title.

- Search for the letters - sensory bin (autumn)

What you need:

  • a container
  • bark (you can buy it in a packet at animal stores)
  • small object connected to autumn in some ways (berries, grapes, apples, pears, twigs, conkers, pumpkins, leaves etc. What I did was I chose 1 bunch of grapes made of plastic, 2 apples made of felt, 3 golden leaves, 4 pumpkins made of felt, 5 real conkers.)
  • letters (wooden, foam, felt, magnetic, whatever) of A-U-T-U-M-N
  • a sheet of the object and the letters of autumn shown
Throw the bark into the container and hide all your chosen objects in the bark. Put the sheet in front of your child and whenever they find something among the bark, place them in the right group, or if it's a letter, then on the right letter.

And the search can begin.

This activity gives you and your child plenty of opportunity to talk about not only the letters, but also colours, autumn fruit, trees, leaves and berries, and in this case numbers too.

I still have several activities, but I'll need to come back with them in another post. Try them, enjoy them and let me know how they worked out for you.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Our Advent - 2014

Daddy's birthday always goes together with the start of our Advent. This year there's a little extra. The Book Advent Calendar.

First of all, here is our traditional, bought in a shop (Tchibo) advent calendar:

horrible photo, but I don't have any other
I always put it on the door frame. Each shape has a pocket and I put in some surprises:

  • some treats (dried fruit, nuts, crackers, marzipan - E.'s favourite, etc.)
  • advent activities from Időtetrisz  (you can download the cards for free - Christmassy crafts, acts of kindness, gift giving, funny. If you want something similar in English you can download Jen's advent calendar activity cards from this link. Időtetrisz offers some blank cards, so I wrote some of my own in English. E. can't read yet anyways, so I can read the Hungarian cards in English if she is in an English mood)
  • a small animal (I bought these last year in a secondhand toy shop - they were really inexpensive)

The animals are for putting together the stable where baby Jesus was born. We've just started it, but I'll add a photo of it when you can see what it looks like.


Here it is:

E. wanted to add the Christmas tree and the snow ball

Extra advent book calendar - a book a day

I saw plenty of great advent present ideas on Pinterest, however, the best is the 24 books wrapped up. Your child can open one a day up to Christmas. It's great if you can collect 24 Christmas stories. I couldn't. I had about 12-15 book I'd bought earlier but there was no occasion to give them to E. So I bought some more discounted books, and some more new ones from Book Depository (if you order from them there's no delivery fee). This is how I collected 24 books. (The cost of the books altogether was between 6-10 thousand HUF = 19-33 EUR)

Here is about half of the books:

I didn't take a photo of the other half but I will after we have opened all of them. I'll also put together a list of the titles, authors and E.'s reaction to them. This post will come after Christmas.

My Mum helped me wrap all the 24 books. I made the stickers out of cheap, circle-shaped post-its and a white gel pen. (It took a while until the white gel dried on the post-its)
We've already read two of the books:
  • Me and My Dad 
  • Dora's chilly day
Both of them were bullseye. 

Let's not leave out our unconventional advent candles. I can't call it an advent wreath because they are made up of 4 porcelain cups, Christmassy washi  tape, fake grass, 4 Christmas tree decorations stuck on the cups, 4 sparkly, red balls and 4 long, claret candles. No wreath whatsoever.

But it's easy and fun to make it even with a smaller child.
Last year E. helped me make it
So our advent has begun and we are very excited about opening the little pockets on our advent calendar and reading a new book every day. Only Christmas Eve can be more exciting than this.
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