Hey Everyone, I don’t know about you, but this month has already gone to fast. I am so far behind, because I have been decorating our house for the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas. The first thing we did to decorate, besides cleaning and rearranging furniture, was to decorate the Christmas Tree. My Kids love decorating our tree, in fact they get a chance to decorate two trees almost every year. My Mom has my girls to her house to go out and pick their live tree, and they decorate it on black Friday, while I get to go out shopping. Then they get to come home and help me put up our FAKE tree. What was crazy is how excited they got about putting up our tree when they just got done putting up my Mom’s. This got me to thinking, and I believe that kids are just enamored with decorating trees. Sometimes the little ones even get a bigger kick out of it, because then they get to take all of them off again. As a teacher in a preschool classroom and day care, I used this infatuation with Christmas trees to my advantage. Here is my Christmas Tree theme, and some ideas that I used to make it more applicable to all the subjects. Hope you enjoy it and find a few useful tidbits to help you this holiday season.
Triangle Christmas Trees: This particular project is great for teaching fine motor cutting skills, as well as shape and color recognition. I also love this project because it is super easy, and can be adjusted to meet a variety of standards. First of all it could be used as a simple art project that you use for decorating and for the fine motor skill of gluing by gluing on odds and ends, buttons, ribbon, yarn, pom poms, and sequins. This is nice, but I have used it to accomplish literacy objectives and math objectives. For Literacy I write the letters that we have learned and practiced through out the year all over the tree for each student. Then I give them colored dobbers, to them and I call out a letter and they put a dot on it, to create ornaments. If you want to take their listening skills to another level, I suggest adding in a specific color for them to use. For instance: Find the letter C, and put a Red dot on it. You could do a similar game with shapes or numbers. This way I multipurpose an art project to work for accomplishing other objectives. (objectives: cutting, letter recognition, number recognition, color recognition, and creativity.)
Three green triangles Christmas Tree– Another simple Christmas project that focuses more on math skills and fine motor. For this I copy three small triangles about 3 to 4 inches each. I have them glue them one on top of another a little each a little higher to create a layered Christmas tree. Then I have them cut out a brown rectangle and have them glue it to the bottom of the triangles to be the tree trunk. My favorite way to decorate this particular tree, is to use washable tempera paint and their fingers. The fingerprints make awesome light bulbs, that you can later connect with a black sharpie to be the strings for the lights. (Objectives: fine motor, cutting and gluing, color recognition, and number recognition, shape recognition)
Hand Print Christmas Trees: I can not take credit for this project, my eldest daughter’s Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Joyce Dus, made this, and I used the idea with my other 2 children. She took burlap and turned over one end and sewed it so that there was a little loop at the end to put a wood dowel through. She then had the kids dip their hand prints into green paint, and printed their hand prints four on the bottom, then three, then two, and finally one. The hand prints create the tree, and then one brown hand print to be the trunk. Then she used a red fingerprint to make the ornaments, and she painted a yellow star on the top of the tree. The best part was the poem she glued on it. Then she helped the kids wrap them and that was the Christmas present we received that year from my eldest. We still hang it up each year. Click here if you want the pdf for the poem.
Tasty Christmas Tree: (paper plates, sugar cones, frosting vanilla, green food coloring, m&m’s and other small candies for decorating, coconut) For this I take a sugar cone ice cream cone, and I dye some vanilla frosting green, or you can sometimes buy it from pillsbury. I usually just make my own, but sometimes it is hard to get a dark green color. I like to use Walmart’s Gel food coloring it seems to work a little better then the liquid food colorings. Then I give each student a bowl of frosting and a plastic knife, I place a big glob of white frosting in the middle of the paper plate. Then I have them stick the icecream cone upside down on the frosting. The frosting works as glue to hold the ice cream cone down to the plate. Then I have them frost the whole ice cream cone, green to create their Christmas tree. I hand out m&m’s for them to add to their trees as ornaments. They need to make sure they have enough frosting on the tree to hold the ornaments on. Sometimes I add gummy bears for ornaments, or get those fancy old fashioned hard candies and use those as presents. One last idea I had that I haven’t tried but might work is using the peel apart twizzlers to create garland on the tree. Finally I have them sprinkle coconut over the whole plate and tree to create snow. (Note: You may want to do this just before Christmas break, and have them take it home, so as to not have a lot of extra sugar in their systems while at school.) If your school is trying to avoid sugar, definitely do not do this project.
Pine Cone Rolling: ( box Cover with a 2 inch lip around it or a box big enough to hold a 81/2″ by 11″ paper, paint, tape, pine cones.) For this activity I roll a bunch of pine cones in paint, and then tape a piece of paper into the cover with two small pieces, just enough to hold the paper still, and then I drop 2-3 pine cones in the box and let the kids shake rattle and roll the pine cones over the paper. Just a quick disclaimer make sure to have the kids wear paint shirts, and maybe even lay some newspaper on the floor, just in case the kids get a little wild with the box and the pine cones fly out. The kids love this activity.
Pine Branch Painting: For this I try to get a variety of pine branches again, and then I let them use the branches as paint brushes. It creates a cool texture and depending on how it works, sometimes, I use this paper as wrapping paper for any present that I come up with for the parents that year.
Pine Tree Cut Ornament: For this I asked any parents who have real trees, if they are willing, to cut off part of the bottom of the stumps, then I cut the sections I receive into 1 Inch thick cuttings. The stump makes a great Canvas for a hand print project. I personally like to paint their hands green and make their hand print into a Christmas tree. Then I let them decorate with glue, glitter, and sequins. Then with puffy paint, I write their names and the year we made it. I use an eye bolt meant for hanging pictures, this works well and with a little fishing line, makes an amazing ornament.
Triangle Christmas Tree: For this activity I draw out a very simple triangle on a piece of 8 1/2 by 11 green paper, and I have them cut it out. This works on the fine motor skill of cutting, and it works on recognizing the shape triangle, and noticing that a triangle has three sides. You can also include the shape rectangle and draw out a 2 by 3 inch rectangle to have them cut out and then attach to the bottom of the Christmas tree to be their tree stump. Then I would have them compare a triangle to a rectangle, how many sides does each have which has more, which has less sides. This activity was also incorporated in to the art unit just spoken about, or you can do that Christmas tree in addition to to the art Christmas tree. I figure the more things are reinforced the better.
Graphing: Graph if the kids like rainbow colored lights, white lights or one color lights on their Christmas trees.
Patterning paper chains: I cut 1 1/2″ strips of red and green paper, then I have them glue the chains together and create a pattern with them. We work really hard on it, we try and see if we can make enough chain to go all the way around the classroom, with a little extra to help go around the tree. This is something that is so easy, and it really reinforces patterning, and fine motor gluing and pasting ends together.
Christmas Calendar Patterns: I always had a calendar up in my preschool classroom. I know this is kind of a hot topic for a lot of early childhood teachers. However, I feel that so many skills that in many of the math and science standards for the early childhood classroom, can be accomplished during calendar time, that I thought why wouldn’t we make it part of our every day routine? It works on the days of the week, months, weather, counting, number recognition, and even reading right to left. I even figured out a way to help teach patterning with calendar time, that was literally my calendar itself. I made a variety of Christmas shapes, I did ornaments, and Christmas trees for my calendar numbers. You could easily do Christmas lights, or presents. I picked three colored ornaments and a Christmas tree. (To help with the shapes, I used my cricut machine. I used this machine so much during my teaching days.) Then each day at Calendar time I would have the Calendar helper come up and guess what the next calendar number shape will be on the calendar for this day. Then after the first week, I ask them if they notice a pattern. About week two of December they are starting to get the pattern and have a great time trying to guess. Once they get the ornament, ornament, ornament, tree pattern, I begin to have them guessing the colors of the ornaments, which just happen to also be in a pattern. After we have added the number for the day, we count left to right to our number for the day, and then we also review the pattern from the beginning of the month, to the day we are on. ( Red, yellow, blue light and a green Christmas tree.) I try and have it in a rap or a pattern so that they enjoy joining in.
Pine Trees Field Trip: This depends on where you live, but for me in Wisconsin, you can just walk out our door, and have them look at the pine trees on our play ground. Another field trip that might be a little easier, is visiting a Christmas Tree farm, or any place that sells Christmas trees. If you can try to have the farmer, or worker talk about the different kinds of pine trees that would be awesome. I also talk about different animals that might make their homes in pine trees. I also spend a day comparing deciduous trees to pine (ever-greeen) trees and see how pine trees never lose their leaves, while deciduous trees lose their leaves every year.
Pine Cones: I find some real pine cones, and place magnifying glasses by them, and I use this opportunity to talk about the life cycle of a pine tree, and how the pine cones, carry the seeds. A cool science experiment to do is to take one of the real pine cones that are closed, and place it in some water, the pine cone will actually open up and if it hasn’t already lost its seeds it will in the jar.
Pine Cones and pine branches: For this I try to get a variety of evergreen branches and pine cones. I try to let them feel the branches and play with the pine cones. The texture is something they probably aren’t used to.
Ginegerbread Playdough: Here is a recipe I found at Ben and Me, a home school website, that I really like. It uses everything I usually have on hand, plus it uses cream of tartar. I have found that all playdough recipes with cream of tartar seem to be softer and more pliable. Click on the blue wording, and it will take you to Marcy’s site, and give you the wonderful recipe. I put out cookie cutters, rolling pins, aprons, chefs hats, and pans. Using these items kids can recreate the baking experience and have a little fun experiencing some new skills, like rolling out dough. The kids usually love this activity. Any time I can incorporate playdough it is usually a good day.
Decorating a classroom Christmas Tree: For this I dedicate one class period or more to have the kids help hang ornaments on the tree. Hooks work well, but to help with fine motors even more I use fishing line or yarn for each of the ornaments and then they have to separate the strings and place on the pine tree. Hanging tinsel, and garland are all great activities that can work on fine motor, you can also encourage them to talk about their Christmas traditions and sing Christmas songs.
Preparing for the Holiday: I leave the Dramatic play area as a house, I try and make a fake fire place out of a box. I use real logs and bolt them together, and then I use red, yellow and orange cellophane paper, tissue paper will also work. Then I add a flash light under the cellophane paper to create a glow of the fire place. This way they can hang stockings on the fireplace. I also include a little fake Christmas tree with soft ornaments that they can decorate the tree with and small garland. This way they can decorate for the holidays in their “home”. I also try and put some ugly sweaters or holiday ties, or holiday dress up clothes in their and aprons, all to work with the preparing for the holidays.
Christmas Traditions (Literacy): I also use this as our Christmas Traditions. We talk about traditions and what they are and why they are important to our culture. Then I have them tell me what their favorite tradition is, then I write it at the bottom of a piece of paper, and then have them draw a picture of that tradition. We combine their pictures into a class book, and I put it out for parents to read to their kids, during our Christmas party. This tends to be a hit with the parents.
Giving of Gifts: We practice the giving and receiving of gifts with books. At Circle time, when we are planning for our free play time, I have a box wrapped, I tell them it is pretend, but we have to practice giving a receiving. I demonstrate. I take the gift and give it to a child, and wish them marry Christmas, and then help them to say thank you. Once they say thank you, they get to plan what they want to do for free play. Then after they are done planning they get to give the gift, practicing marry Christmas, and finally receiving a thank you, and practicing your welcome. You keep going until the last child. The last child then re-gifts the present to you, continuing to practice the skills.
Songs: O Christmas tree
Poems: Christmas trees, ever green, Christmas trees what do they mean. Trees of ever green, show God’s love forever seen, Christmas lights are shining bright, through our lives shines Christ’s light, the triangle shaped Christmas tree, Showed that Jesus, from heaven, came for me, The star shining bright in to the dark dark night, is God’s sign to all that he kept his promise just right, finally, the gifts under the Christmas tree, are to remind us of the greatest gift, Jesus, sent for you and for me.
A wish to be a Christmas tree by: Colleen Monroe
I love this book, it is great for discussing the social act of recognizing when some one is hurting, and helping them to feel better. It also works into our science unit, because it makes reference to a lot of animals that live in pine trees.
This is just a fun book about these two mice who are trying to come up with the biggest Christmas tree.
If you need a more religious story about a Christmas tree, The Tale of three Trees by Angela Hunt is a great story of three trees who want to be Christmas trees. One becomes the manger Jesus was laid in, another becomes the boat Jesus preached out of and calmed the storm in, and finally the third one is the cross that Jesus was hung on. I find this book is a great way to include the whole meaning for Christmas.
I love the book, Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood. It is a great book that talks about giving, and why it is important. It also gives kids a reason to think about giving instead of receiving. What someone might feel like if they didn’t have something under their tree. Mouse shares his presents and decorates a tree for his “friend” the Big Hungry Bear. Very Cute book. It also works on recognizing facial expressions.