Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Balancing Christmas

This is one of my new purchases this Christmas season... and I absolutely adore it. To me it is so thought provoking and really embodies the Christmas season.
Over the last month or so I've been really thinking about Christmas and what I want it to be for our family. I'm a big Santa person and tradition person, so I didn't want to completely drop those.... but I also don't want Christmas to be so commercial in our home as it is. And even more importantly.... I wanted to put a stronger emphasis on Jesus and the true meaning for the season than I feel most people do these days.
Also while browsing over the last month (because I start thinking about Christmas the first cool day in fall... it's sad... I know) I found Elf on a Shelf and thought it would be a super fun tradition to start in our family. I mostly just liked the idea of how mischievous the Elf becomes at night and waking up to a new surprise each morning (I mean how fun is that?!).

So how in the world was I going to incorporate Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and most importantly religion?

Here's what Daniel and I decided Christmas was going to be for us and our family....
There is a Santa, and there are Elves, toys, reindeer, North Pole... the whole nine yards. But there is also God.... and he and Santa think a lot alike. Santa believes in all the things God believes in... and hopes that all the boys and girls around the world believe those things too. That's why our Santa doesn't watch to see if you're "naughty or nice". We won't be using (and will encourage our family not to use it with Dax) the old, "Santa's watching and if you're not good he won't bring you any presents". Because really.... who's not going to give their kid presents? Instead, our Santa watches to see if you have a kind heart. If you love others, show compassion and kindness and grace. He watches throughout the year to see if you're trying your absolute hardest to be the best person you can be. Elf on a shelf shows this perfectly. He can be pretty ornery and mischievous each night, but he loves others and has a kind heart so that's all that really matters. And we're all going to slip and make a mistake every now and then... we're not perfect, Elf isn't perfect, and Santa isn't either... he just wants to see you learn from your mistake. He wants you to have a heart like God. And that's what our Elf will be watching for.... not to see if you're being good or bad, but to watch and see if your actions and words are matching a heart of kindness and love. And on Christmas Day, Santa shows his love to you by sharing gifts with you, rewarding all of your hard work all year to be the very best person you can be. Santa can't give us a gift as precious as the one God gave us, so special presents just for you are his way of saying "Good job, keep up the good work. Keep learning, growing, and loving."

So in our house there won't be your typical "naughty or nice" and your typical list of all the toys you're wishing for each year. There will be acts of kindness, words of compassion and love.... and through those things, Santa will give you just the perfect special gift that he knows you'll love.

After writing this post a found a couple others on pinterest that have thoughts similar to mine.... check them out and maybe you can start a new tradition of belief in your home too.
Jesus, Santa, and the Elf on the Shelf
It's Beginning to Look A Lot....

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hands On Learning

Dax is at probably my absolute favorite stage of development. He is really using his imagination and taking initiative to learn all he can. You can just see the connections constantly being made in every activity he does.
I try to plan something for us at least every other day. Nothing big, but just a general idea of something for us to spend some time doing. Most of the time I know that I plan on doing an activity that day, but I don't actually know what I'm going to do until about 5 minutes before it happens. I try to watch Dax and see what he's interested in and engaged in that day and then go from there with our activity.
Here's an activity that we did a couple weeks ago that he just ran with and took it in directions I didn't expect him to.
 So the day before, we went on a nature walk in our back yard.... collecting leaves, bark, nuts... whatever we could find. I also had some great books on fall that I hadn't read yet with Dax. I picked through the leaves and found ones that I thought best showed the color changing process and put them in this little basket. We read the books and looked at the leaves that we had found. I fully expected him to just touch the leaves and feel them.... but to my surprise he decided to do this 110% on his own....
 My little stinker took the leaves and matched them to their picture in his book! I didn't touch these leaves at all, or even talk to him about it, and yet they are perfectly matched to the book (under each leaf is the picture that matches it!)
 After he was finished with the book and touching and feeling the leaves I spread glue out all over paper and let him make a nature collage with them. He loved it and was very proud of his work (which is now hanging up in our living room).

Here are a few other shots of things we've done this past week...
His block building is getting so creative and intricate. Up until the past week or two his block play consisted of stacking blocks as high as he could get it and then knocking it down. But now he is building "houses" that he works really hard on for several minutes at a time. And most of the time he tops his buildings with a triangle (just like a roof... precious huh?) Kids learn SO much through block play that this makes me really, really excited. I always stressed block play in my classes so I'm very satisfied that he's a fan too :)
Today we pulled out what was left from our nature walk. He learned so many new words and names and got to feel such new, different textures. He also collected all the rocks and lined them up and counted them without my involvement at all.
We were playing with his beads today and I was talking about the shapes. He then went on to classify each block by it's shape and made piles for each (again, completely on his own).

I'll be posting more often on things we're doing during our day. I know I love great, simple, and cheap ways to learn so hopefully you do too. And if you have any fun simple ideas I would love to hear them!