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Month of JOY: Gingerbread Houses


The smell of sugary sweet candy brings instant JOY to the face of little ones. Whether it is in your classroom or at your kitchen table, kids love decorating gingerbread houses. Make this part of your holiday tradition this year. Let your little ones have free reign to decorate how they would like. You will be surprised by their creativity. Looking for a little math connection, gingerbread houses are a great way to talk about patterns, counting and sorting like objects.

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Month of Joy: Stained Glass Mitten




Sometimes the old classic crafts of my elementary days are the ones that I love the best.  I have fond memories of making tissue paper stained glass to celebrate a holiday when I was little.  Since we live in the warm and sunny southeast, school being cancelled due to snow is almost unfathomable.  Each year I host a "Snow Day" for my students.  I will bring your more details soon, but this is one of the crafts we make while "snowed in". 


I'm hosting a snow day in a my son's two year old class this year too, and it should be interesting!  Not quite the same as hunkering down with a room of 5th graders!  It was chilly out the other day (in the 50's...brrr), so we made a mitten of our own. 

All you need is wax paper, tissue paper, glue, and a seasonal cut out (I just traced an image from Google).  He loved ripping and gluing, and I attached it to the outline and trimmed.  It was a simple, seasonal, and fun project.  That brings me joy!


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Month of Joy: Family Game night


 What brings more JOY than a game night? I love watching my kids have a good time, I can't imagine any better way than to spend a cold winter night inside having fun. 
To raise the bar and excitement for your players assemble a winners box containing small toys and trinkets for your winners to choose from ( The Dollar Tree is great for this)
To get started with a family game night gather a few household items and let the fun begin:


Tower of Cups: 
Use plastic cups to create a tower and then collapse it. Time each participant and the best time wins. to vary the difficulty level add more cups. 

Cup Toss:    
Set up cups like bowling pins, assign a point value using a post it and a marker ( or you can write directly onto the cup) Have your players toss coins or beans, (whatever you happen to have on hand)  into the cups. Give each player a minute to toss items into cups...highest score wins.

The Perfect Shot :
This is a partner game. One partner ties a clipboard around his waist and stands behind a small box. The other partner throws ping pong balls attempting to bank the shot off the clipboard and into the box. First team to get get 5 balls in wins!

Puzzle Mania:
Cut the front side off of a cereal box (you will need 2 that are the same) Using a paper cutter cut into 4 inch squares to create a puzzle. Contestants must be the first one to finish the puzzle to win.
 
 
 Shake what your mama gave you!
 Use empty Kleenex boxes, cut a hole in the bottom, strap on using a belt. Fill with ping pong balls. Each contestant has to jump, shake or move to get their balls out the fastest. Don't underestimate those younger players....they might just have you beat!
 
 These are just a few ideas to create a one of a kind game night for your little ones at home......get creative and get ready to laugh as your little ones put on their game face! These ideas would also work well as a Holiday party for your students....a great alternative to the standard cupcakes and sugar highs!


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Month of Joy: Candy Cane Burlap Door Hanger


We're breaking out of our normal routine around here to bring you a month filled with joy.  Marcy and I have been keeping our eyes and ears open to show you some things that simply bring a smile to our faces!  Whether it be an educational craft, a gift to give, a classroom project, or even a holiday tradition that we think might bring you happiness too. 

Today's joy comes in the form of a candy cane burlap door hanger that happens to be super simple to make.  Children can definitely help with this Christmas creation!  I know we haven't flipped the calendar over to December yet, but it's never to early to start thinking about teacher or volunteer gifts.

All you need to gather for this project is:

Red or natural colored burlap
Red and white acrlyic paint
Glue gun or sewing machine
Wired ribbon
Florist wire
Plastic grocery bags

Trace a candy cane on your burlap (notice I chosen a seasonal shape that even I can't mess up!).  Fold your burlap so that you can cut once and have two candy canes.  If you are able to find red burlap, you will just need to paint white stripes.  If you use natural, like I did, you will need to paint both red and white.  The burlap soaks up your paint so you will use a couple of bottles of each color.  This is the longest part of the project, so don't give up!  Make sure to paint on a piece of cardboard.  The paint will soak through the burlap.  You only need to paint the front side of the candy cane.  Once you have the front of your candy cane painted and dried, either sew the two pieces together or hot glue at the edges.  Make sure that you leave an opening to stuff the shape!  Now gather your bag of plastic grocery sacks and start stuffing.  This plastic stuffing allows the cane to hold its shape and be more weather resistant.  Stuff until you can stuff no more!  Then sew or glue your candy cane shut.  Add some florist wire to the back to make it able to hang, and a big ole fluffy bow.  If you aren't the best at making your own bow, have the ladies at your craft store whip one up for you.

Perfectly festive, inexpensive, and simple gift to give or keep for yourself! 

If you have something that brings you joy and you would like to share with us, please email us at simplysprout@gmail.com.


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Turkey Day art projects


Looking for an easy way to keep your little ones occupied while you slave away in the kitchen. Get a few easy art projects ready so they can have a little fun while you are prepping for the big meal.

Cut a paper plate in half and then cut red, orange and yellow tissue paper into small squares. Have your little one cut out shapes that you have traced a circle for the body a triangle for the beak and 2 feet. If hey aren't ready to cut on their own just have these shapes pre-cut for them to glue together. I love using the google eyed stickers, easy for little hands to put together. We cut a slit in our brown circle and used a tiny water balloon (deflated) to add a little waddle to our turkey.

A few more ideas for you...

Have older kids alphabetize the cans you are using for your Thanksgiving meal
Give little ones paper plates, utensils, napkins and cups...have them practice setting the table
Let them use some of that left over dough from your pumpkin pie to roll out and make their own shapes.

Be sure to check out our Pinterest site for more Thanksgiving ideas!
 



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Lil Sprouts Book Club: Turkey Time


It's beginning to smell a lot like Thanksgiving with all this baking and cooking going on!  I have noticed, and maybe you have too, that students don't have the sharpest attention at this time of year.  Oh I wonder why?  So I had to think outside of the box to cook some concepts of measurement into one of my dear students' heads.  We mixed baking with some math.  She was skeptical, but we managed to reinforce a few concepts while baking up some turkey treats.


We talked about the importance of measurement when baking, and that each recipe calls for precision (unless you have a show on the Food Network!).  We used precise measurement with the recipe, and estimation when it came to filling up our cupcake papers with batter.  While they baked away in the oven, we worked on a review.
Now our cupcakes might not be professional level, but they were easy, fun, and pretty yummy!


In the spirit of turkey math lessons, I wanted to share with you this funny and festive Thanksgiving book.


10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston tells the silly tale of some crazy turkeys while children learn to count backwards.  I searched high and low for a Thanksgiving book about measurement and couldn't find one.  If you know of one, please leave us a comment!


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Night Owl


Today we were stuck inside due to a cold, but not bad enough off to not get crafty.  My son and I made this special card for some one dear to us, and we hope that you'll make it for someone that you're thankful for.  Nothing perfect about it, and I'm thankful for that!  Scrap pieces of fabric, construction paper, and a little paint pulled our sentiments together perfectly. 

While the little one was snoozing off his symptoms I made some yummy cookies, Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Chocolate Chips, and tonight I tied them up in a bag to send with the sweet card.

Teachers, volunteers, and loved ones will feel mighty special when a little hootie cutie like this comes flying their way!



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Mommy & Me Mondays: Carrying on the traditions


As we approach the holiday season I enjoy reminiscing about my own childhood and family memories of the holidays, they always involved lots of food, family and fun. Mom slaved away in the kitchen while my sister and I obsessed over the newspaper ads, making a very detailed list for Santa. One part of thanksgiving that I remember every time I look at my dining room table is learning how to set a table from my Grandma. She is very particular and loves all things tradition, so she taught us from a very young age how to properly set a table. At the time I didn't realize the importance but as I grew up her lessons on manners and proper etiquette really paid off. So I decided to take some time with my little 4 year old and teach her some basics before the big day.

To do this I grabbed some basics from my pantry, utensils, paper plates, and cups....we started with just the informal setting (keeping it basic). I introduced all of the items and showed her where they went on the table. I then placed them all in a  basket and had her set the table...she did pretty good for her first try. I left all of the dishes in a basket for her to use to play with this week, we added a few placemats and table decorations. She has had a great time pretending to set her kid's table for Thanksgiving.

There are so many fun ideas for Thanksgiving we have compiled a few on our pinterest board, be sure to take a look!

Images used are from:
(2)http://www.bluecricketdesign.net/wp-content/uploads/image-import/_QiJz8X7krvI/TNvrt31sx_I/AAAAAAAAE8s/C6x4pBxVJOk/s1600/shindig%2Bthanksgiving%2Btable%2Brunner1.jpg
http://itswrittenonthewalls.blogspot.com/2011/10/kids-thanksgiving-tablescape-post-1.html
(4)http://www.simplyvintagegirl.com/blog/index.php/2010/11/27/the-thankful-tree/
(1, 5)http://www.livingwrighthome.com/2010/11/more-thanksgiving-table-ideas-printables/


While your little ones are in a  festive table setting mood print off a few of our place cards to add to your Thanksgiving table. 
To print right click and save to your desktop, insert image into a word document and resize as needed. Print, cut and fold in half to add a little fun to your Thanksgiving Day table.



Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
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Lil Sprouts Book Club: Squanto's Suggestion


As you probably have gathered by now, I love teaching American history to kids.  I think the thing I love the most about it is that most children think it's boring.  It's a challenge as a teacher, and I fully accept it!  History is even better taught when you can mix in applicable lessons that can be used today.  For instance, the suggestions that Squanto gave to the Pilgrims to help them with farming.  These were life saving suggestions because the Pilgrims needed to survive their first winter.  Conditions were tough, and so different than they were used to back in England.  While I'm on my "I love history, please teach it" soap box, I also think it is important to teach the truth behind events like the first Thanksgiving.  What the relationship between settlers and the Native Americans was really like, their struggles, their discoveries, and more.

Books like Squanto's Journey is a great mixture of content, but still with a picture book feel.  Each year we read this book, it reminds me of how much we have to be thankful for and the journey that those before us have taken.


Here's where I mix in a great little science activity.  Squanto suggested to the Pilgrims to use the resource of fish from the close by Atlantic Ocean to help their farming yields.  He showed them how to catch the fish, ground it up, and use it as fertilizer.  We do the same thing in our class, with the help of a local nursery (or Home Depot or Lowe's) for the fish emulsion.


On our free printable you will find the materials you need, and a student reflection sheet.  We follow the seed packet directions for planting the corn, and label our emulsion fertilized pots with a fish tag.  The other pot (or control) is not labeled.  This is a great activity to send home for students to watch over the holidays, or something to do as a family too!






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Mommy & Me: A time to be thankful


Everywhere you look on online you see people posting things they are thankful for, especially on Facebook! So why not take a few minutes and get your little ones involved in the season of thankfulness? For Mommy and Me Monday I took a few minutes with my daughter to discuss what being thankful means, we made a list of all the things that are important to her and what she is most thankful for...I have to say her list was quite detailed. It's amusing to see what things are truly important to them, especially at the age of 4.

My favorite one: " I am thankful when my mommy lets me have two pieces of Halloween candy".....what a little extortionist!


Today's activity is quite simple, we made a tree of thanks. After brainstorming all of the things she was thankful for I asked her to pick 8. She repeated them to me and I wrote them onto little sticker tags I found at my local craft store. I used glittery scrapbook paper in fall colors to trace a leaf and cut it out. She applied the stickers onto the leaves and I hole punched the leaves attaching a little ribbon to the top to hang from.

To make the tree I used really stiff scrapbook paper, just draw a tree with a few branches, cut a slit in one from the top about halfway down and on the other one from the bottom about half way up. Slide the pieces into each other making the tree stand up ( I glued mine together for added strength.)

Just hang your leaves from the branches on the tree. Hang them all at once or make this an ongoing activity and add one leaf each night at dinner time. This makes a colorful Thanksgiving centerpiece and will be a great conversational addition to any Thanksgiving table.
If you are planning a large gathering with family this holiday season this is fun to do as a placeholder on the table. Just cut out the leaves, add ribbon and write each name onto one side of the leaf. Use ribbon to slide over napkin or simply rest on top of each place setting. Leave pens at the table and encourage everyone to write what they are thankful for onto the back. Before you start your dinner have each family member share what they have written and then hang their leaf onto branches arranged on the center of the table. I like using a large vase, bucket or planter, fill it with dry beans and just add a few tree branches you find outside. (this is a great way for kids to help, send them outdoors to collect a few branches) It makes a perfect centerpiece for the holidays and once the leaves are added it is a colorful way to display what you and your family are thankful for.

There are so many things to be thankful for this holiday season. Make sure you take time out of the regular hustle and bustle of the holiday season to spend time with those you love. Just a few minutes of your undivided time means the world to little ones. They just want somebody to listen and validate what they have to say. They learn from the example you set, if you make it important, it becomes important to them...so spread the thankfulness!
 

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And the President is.....Grace!


As you wake up this morning you are probably a little groggy from all of the late night presidential election coverage. Sitting on the edge of your seat as each poll is tallied and votes are determined. All of the debates, campaigning, and political advertisements all lead up to this, the announcement of our newest President. In our state of Florida it was neck and neck the entire way. While it is exciting to include little ones in the democratic process it is also a little overwhelming for them to understand. Between the electoral college and the determination of battleground states it is enough to make my adult head swim. I think as parents and teachers the most important things our little ones can take away from this process is:
 The importance of making our voice be heard by exercising our privilege to vote. 
They too can dream big and achieve, maybe even one day becoming President themselves.

One of my favorite books to read to help my little one understand the concept of voting is  

"Where are the girls?"

When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides that she is going to be the first. She starts off her political career as a candidate in the school's mock election! This is an empowering story which illustrates the importance of dreaming big and believing in yourself, the value of hard work, courage and independent thought. This colorful story offers a fun introduction to the American Electoral System. Which can serve as a starting point for curious young politicians in the making, it is an inspiring example of how we as a country choose our leaders.

So as the conversation begins today and a new leader is announced, ask your students and children What would you do if you were President? You might be surprised at some of their answers.
For our older friends I love using the book So You Want to Be President, by Judith St. George
It offers a comical look at the role of President of The United States and takes a look throughout history at past Presidents, offering comical and sometimes embarrassing facts.



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Mommy & Me Mondays: Future Voters & Cookie Lovers


This future voter is ready for Tuesday!  It is hard (or near impossible) to teach a two year old about the democratic process, however he did have fun making a button just for him.  Here are the things we used:

*  Card stock paper
*  Red and white striped wrapping paper
*  Star stencil, star shaped stickers, or star die cuts in red, white, and blue
*  Mailing label
*  Red and blue curling ribbon
*  Tape
*  Badge or name tag adhesive pin (found in bags of 20 at Hobby Lobby for a couple of dollars)



First trace a circle on the card stock paper and on the wrapping paper, and then cut both circles out.  I let the future voter glue the wrapping paper on top of the card stock.  I showed him how we make patterns with colors and he glued down the stars (a glue stick works best with these wee little ones).  While he was busy gluing, I wrote out "future voter" on the mailing label and stuck it down in the middle of the circle.  We cut a couple of pieces of curling ribbon, taped it to the back, and stuck on the name tag pin.  

I look forward to making these with my students on Tuesday.  To speed things up in the classroom, I am going to use a die cut circle and stars.  Of course my students can do the rest of the creating!  How cute will they be at the poll with their parents on Tuesday?!

Another way to bring some election excitement into your home or classroom is through a cookie taste test.  You could choose any two types of cookies, or use the ones below from Michelle Obama and Ann Romney.  

Here is a free printable to use with your kids to find out what cookie wins the popular vote!


Recipes from Family Circle magazine

Michelle Obama's Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields: 5 dozen cookies
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 375 degrees for 12 minutes

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each of white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  On low speed, beat in flour mixture.  By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.  Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Ann Romeny's M&M's Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 325 degrees for 18 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (suck as Karo)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
6 ounces of chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&M's candies

Directions: 
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed until well combined.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.  Beat in vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix together oats and baking soda.  Stir into peanut mixture until combined.  Mix in chocolate chips and M&M's.  Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet).  Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For more presidential lessons check out our Presidential Pack in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


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