If you are anything like us, you are very excited for Christmas and the holiday season. We have been secretly listening to Christmas music in our classroom since the beginning of November. The fact that it is now December and acceptable to listen to Christmas music and put up decorations has made us very happy!
During the three weeks we are in school before Christmas break, we have planned a myriad of Christmas centers, art projects, and other activities. Here is part one of our Christmas craziness.
Our students love to play and explore with rice. Any time we have rice in the sensory table, the entire class gravitates to that center. Keeping this in mind, we decided to make some peppermint rice for the kids. We found the recipe in a blog post from Growing A Jeweled Rose. The rice was super easy to make, all you need is:
- Gallon size bags
- Red & green food coloring (liquid drops or gel)
- Peppermint extract
To begin, I took a gallon sized bag and filled it about halfway with rice. I then added 2 tbsp. of vinegar and food coloring. I just eyeballed the amount of food coloring to get the desired shade of each color. I tried both the liquid drops and gel food coloring and both worked fine and the results were basically the same.I also added a splash of peppermint extract to give the rice a fun holiday scent.
Once all of these things were in the bag it was sealed to prevent the contents from spilling. I then worked the dye into the rice to ensure the color was spread around equally. After the rice was coated in dye it was then laid out on cookie sheets and newspaper to dry.
The rice looked and smelled great! It didn’t take but a few hours for it all to dry. Afterwards, I transported it all up to school and placed it in our sensory table.
The kids absolutely love playing with the Christmas rice!
Tinsel & Garland
The second of our two Christmas sensory bins is a tinsel and garland sensory exploration. This sensory table is so much fun because it is not only a unique experience for the kids, but the colors look so cool. We asked parents to donate various colors of tinsel and garland to our classroom and received a wide variety of each.
The tinsel we placed in the sensory table as is but the garland was cut into pieces approximately 3″ long.
This sensory table has been a hit with the kids and we love how festive it is!
A holiday favorite of all children is unwrapping presents. We have expanded upon this to create a present wrapping center. A few weeks ago a letter was sent home to parents asking for donations of various supplies to be used during the Christmas season. One of the things we asked for was wrapping paper and tape. We were overwhelmed with the amount of wrapping paper we received from parents. Enough wrapping paper was donated that we will be able to have this center open throughout the entire month of December.
For this center we used some of the wooden blocks from the block center, wrapping paper, tape, and scissors. The kids get to wrap the blocks up like presents and then either unwrap the gift themselves or give it to a friend to unwrap.
Prior to letting the students play in this center we did take some time to show them how to wrap the blocks and discussed the proper use of scissors and tape. The kids have really done a very good job in terms of showing responsibility with the scissors and not overusing the wrapping paper or tape. They are measuring out the paper for their desired block and cutting the paper to fit. Not only are they having some Christmas fun, they are also exhibiting some great math skills!
Christmas Dramatic Play
One of our favorite ways to incorporate different holidays into dramatic play is by having themed plates, napkins, cups, etc. in the home center for the children to throw a holiday party. We have done this in the past for Halloween and Valentine’s Day and now Christmas.
I got a plastic tablecloth, paper plates, napkins, and cups all for $1 at Wal-Mart.
These items were placed in the home center for the kids to throw Christmas parties with their friends. They have done a great job having Christmas dinners with their friends.
Trimming The Tree
Another special aspect of the holiday season is decorating the Christmas tree. Every child loves to decorate the Christmas tree, but many don’t get the chance to do that at home. We have a small tinsel tree along with some beaded garland and ornaments. The tree goes in the dramatic play center and the kids get the opportunity to decorate it with their friends!
Making Gingerbread Men
This first week in December we are talking about gingerbread all week and so it is only fitting that we create gingerbread men as our weekly art project.
The Target dollar spot has some great foam gingerbread cutouts that are the perfect size for our project. We also used ric-rac, sequins, and glitter glue all from the Target dollar spot or dollar store. These items were also among the things we asked the parents to donate.
To begin, the kids drew two eyes on their gingerbread man. They then added a mouth using their choice of glitter glue. Buttons were given to the gingerbread men and the kids were able to choose if they wanted sequins as buttons or glitter glue. The final step was to add the icing decoration on the arms and legs, of which the children chose from ric-rac or glitter glue.
Each child’s gingerbread man turned out unique and oh-so-cute! We are certain the parents will love seeing their child’s creation!
You can’t talk about gingerbread men without making gingerbread men! Since we can’t make actual gingerbread man cookies, we did the next best thing and made gingerbread play-dough! We love making our own play-dough, it feels better, lasts longer, and you can add in scents to make add to the sensory experience.
To make gingerbread play-dough, you just need a basic play-dough recipe and add in the spices:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 c. water
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
Mix all of your dry ingredients together in your pan. Next add wet ingredients. Cook over a low to medium heat until the mixture starts to lump together. Then put dough on wax paper and knead. The play-dough will last for a few months in a sealed container.
A few tips:
- When it comes to the spices in this recipe, you don’t have to have exact measurements. If in doubt, err on the side of too much!
- If you don’t have all of the spices listed, you can use all spice or even pumpkin pie spice since they all are VERY similar in their scents and you won’t actually be tasting the spices.
- Be sure to cook you dough till all of the mixture has been cooked through, otherwise you will have super salty dough that will leave salt residue on little fingers.
We hope you have enjoyed reading the first part of our Christmas activities. There is much more Christmas fun to be had and we hope you will come back to read more about it! Subscribing to our blog is a great way to get all the fun of our classroom brought straight to your inbox. If you choose not to subscribe, then we hope you will be back on Friday to read this week’s five for Friday and next week to see part two of our Christmas activities!