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Friday, 25 March 2016

Resurrection Garden

I love Easter!  I love it like most people love Christmas!  The promise of new life reflected in the season with its blooming of daffodils and the lighter evenings after the cold and darkness of winter.

I felt inspired to create a resurrection garden a couple of years ago, initially building one from play dough, but this year I finally built up enough courage to grow one!  Given my poor performance in keeping plants and flowers alive, this was quite a feat.

It turned out to be very easy.  I purchased a large plant tray, a small flower pot, some soil and grass seed.  I covered the tray with soil and built a mound of soil over the flower pot.  Once the pot was held in place, I added grass seed pushing it into the soil.  I watered it and waited about six days for signs of life and by the sixth day grass started to sprout and from then on grew very quickly.  I added some stones that I collected from our driveway and a large stone for the tomb.

I wanted the children to open an egg each day and find a symbol of Easter inside that could be built into the garden scene.  I used seven plastic eggs and placed a chocolate for each child inside together with a symbol and a card.  The cards were downloaded from this website.  The website uses more cards as part of a resurrection egg activity, but I stuck with just seven days.  I hung the eggs on a tree for the children to take down and open up each day.

In addition to the symbols I included some larger items: a donkey, three crosses, an angel and a small LED light that will shine out of the tomb on Easter morning (more photos to follow).

The children absolutely loved it and we accompanied the activity with readings from the bible story to make sure the children could appreciate the true meaning of Easter.

What we used:
Large plant tray
Grass seed
Small plant pot
Small stones
One large stone
Plastic eggs
Symbols for the eggs: green foam paper palm leaves, bread, a foil cup to symbolise suffering, a gold coin, a crown of thorns made from twisted jewellery wire, a crucifix, a swab to represent Jesus' clothes in the tomb (I decided that the "clothes" would be placed in the tomb for the children to discover on Easter morning, rather than in the egg).
A donkey figurine
An angel (made from silver tinsel pipe cleaners)
3 crosses (made from coloured lollipop sticks)

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Chinese New Year Activities and Crafts

More Chinese New Year activities and crafts:

Chinese New Year Small World Play

Lion Dance Puppets

Chinese New Year Sensory Tub

My youngest son, Dooey (2.7 years) is really into sensory play at the moment, so I created this mini sensory tub for him to explore.

What we used:
Rice (dyed red)
Gold coins
Orange peel
Angpow packets (for him to transfer the rice into and empty)
Tin containers (for extra sound)
Scoops for transferring
(Another idea I had, but didn't use in this tub was the idea of adding the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac for the child to discover and arrange according to the order they came in the race).

Orange Peel Numbers

This activity was based on the lion dance that is performed around shops and condos in Singapore during the build up to Chinese New Year.  During the dance, the lion is offered oranges (believed to symbolise prosperity and health), which he consumes, leaving an arrangement of "lucky" numbers which he forms out of the orange peel.   The Chinese typically make a note of the numbers and then gamble on them!

I created an outline of our numbers (I followed the year, 2016, but also created individual mats for the boys birth years, 2011 and 2013).  I peeled a couple of oranges and tore up the peel.  The boys then arranged the peel in the shape of the numbers.  It was also a fun way to teach them the year of their birth and to help Dooey (2.7 years) gain a familiarity with the shape of the numbers.

What we used:
Orange Peel

Chinese New Year Plaques

When I think of Chinese New Year in Singapore I think of red and gold plaques with animals and/or Chinese symbols for wealth, health, good luck and happiness stuck to shop windows or hanging from the ceilings - if not the plaques then those gigantic paper pineapples!

Today we made some plaques of our own - an activity that combined writing and threading skills.

I downloaded images of Chinese symbols for happiness and laminated them.  I gave each child a symbol, tracing paper and a black marker pen (Dooey chose green!) and let them trace the symbol. Later we mounted the symbols onto red card and added some gold thread, which Wugs threaded.

What we used:
Chinese symbol (laminated)
Tracing paper (optional, the child could copy)
Red card
Gold thread

Making Angpow Packets

We have really been getting into the spirit of Chinese New Year this week and decided that today we would make some angpow packets.  In Chinese tradition, the red envelopes (sometimes refered to as "lai see") are usually filled with money notes and presented by the older generation to the younger one.  They symbolise good luck for the year ahead.   Being a part-Chinese family, we follow this tradition and the children will be receiving angpow from us and their grandparents this year.

I designed a template for the packets based on an A4 sheet of red paper.  Once I had cut them out and glued the edges, I presented the packets to the boys for decoration.  Usually the decoration is in gold and includes Chinese symbols for good luck and happiness.  Once they had finished, we added chocolate gold coins.

What we used:
Red A4 paper
Gold and red glitter glue
Examples of angpow packets and Chinese symbols
(Any red and gold patterned paper would also look good on these packets).
Chocolate gold coins

Counting Angpow

I'm always looking to present maths to my sons in fun and interesting ways.  (I loathed the subject as a child!).  In these activities I used their fascination with money and their anticipation of receiving their angpow this Chinese New Year to encourage them to practise counting, adding and subtracting.

The first version of this activity was made for Dooey (2.7 years).  I gathered together 5 angpow packets and fixed 5 post stick notes to the back with numbers on them.  I did the same to the front of the packets, but instead of writing the numbers, I made dots to correspond to the numbers on the back.  Then I flipped them over so the numbers were facing him.  For each number he read out, he counted the same in coins and placed them inside the packet.  Once he was finished, he flipped over the packet and emptied it, comparing the number of coins he placed in the packet with the number of dots on the front.  (The post sticks notes with dots worked as a control of error).

The second version of this activity was made for Wugs (4.3 years).  Instead of writing numbers on the back of the packets, I wrote sums which corresponded to the answers on the front of the packet:

This activity combined their love of coins with their love of hiding and rediscovering objects in envelopes.

What we used:
Angpow packets
Post stick notes
Black marker pen