My husband grew up with an Advent Calendar. Every day his mother would dole out butterscotch candies that were pinned to it. A few years ago, he mentioned it to me, saying that it was a tradition he enjoyed and missed. We don’t celebrate Christmas, so we needed to come up with something that would work with our beliefs and holidays.
We ended up with a Solstice calendar. I’m not certain why I felt it necessary to hand stitch all of the tiny pieces of felt on, but it does look nice. The same ribbons that we use to hang it tie the calendar when it is rolled up. It’s also quilted, so it’s rather sturdy.
It happens that the Winter Solstice is not always on the same calendar day, so the last row of pockets has snaps so that we can change numbers or pictures. Rather than have the calendar be about receiving a treat, we made it about the gift of giving, with the idea that after receiving something nice yourself, you would pass it on by doing a kindness for someone else. The little face showing in the first pocket is a simple shape gnome. I realized after I finished the calendar that we needed a visual representation to move each day, so I grabbed one of our handmade toys. The little gnome has lived in the calendar ever since.
This year, we have added a small piece of paper to each pocket with a special thing to do. Some of the items are fun things and some are of a more giving nature.
We’ve been helping our children make gifts for their siblings this year, and I have to admit that I am extremely pleased with the results – not necessarily the physical results of their hard work, which admittedly are lovely, but the results of the experience.
The first step for each was to come up with a gift idea they could make. I admit that there was quite a bit of parental involvement in this. Children often have grand ideas full of thoughtfulness which aren’t necessarily attainable by their inexperienced little hands. I helped my children to narrow down their ideas to age- and skill-appropriate ones. However, the process was wrought with creative thinking and a focus on others.
Photo by mmloek
Once we had the idea, we made special trips to gather the supplies we would need. It was special time with a parent (and nursing baby sister in tow). The actual process of making the gift also gave opportunity for one on one time between parent and child.
The end result for each child was a thoughtful gift for their siblings, an emphasis on giving, an exercise in creative thinking and planning, and quality time with a parent. The joy on their faces has told me that we definitely hit the mark this year.
When our oldest child was 2 years old, I designed a wooden play kitchen. My husband and I built it and the kids loved it. Unfortunately, it did take up quite a bit of space, and we eventually sold it. Lately I have been thinking about it, as my younger two children are growing. Our space is even more limited now that we have four children, though.
When I saw the kitchen playmat tutorial at Balancing Everything, I knew I wanted to make one. I didn’t have enough felt to make one, so I just substituted fabrics I already had on hand. I also seemed to have forgotten that there were actual PDF patterns available for download by the time I sat down to make it. My trusty scissors and I just cut into the fabric. I did use my first set as a pattern to make two more for some little nephews and nieces, as the kitchen playmat seemed to go quite nicely with the play food I already had made for them.
There are ribbon ties on one side. When my children are finished, they can roll it up and stick it in the bin of handmade playfood. Fantastic! I toyed with the idea of making placemats with plates, silverware, a napkin, and place for a glass on them. I decided it might be overkill, until my six year old came downstairs and suggested the same thing. Sometimes she is eerily like me.
When my daughter was two years old, she drew on the wall with a pencil. It was actually a pretty cool drawing. We took a picture of it before she helped me wash the wall off.
There is something appealing about drawing on the wall, though. It’s a different experience drawing on a vertical surface as opposed to a horizontal one. That’s when I occassionally began taping up big pieces of paper on the wall for a creative outlet. The kids get to draw on the walls without actually drawing on the walls.
A couple of months ago, as I was taping up a big piece of paper, I decided to try something different. I drew frames of all different sizes and styles on the paper. My daughter walked in while I was doing it and sat watching. Then she raced off to get her brothers. The kids ran in, excited to fill in the frames.
They each seemed to like a different type of frame. My three year old began drawing on the medium sized frames, carefully picking cooridanting colors from his drawings to go on the frames. My daughter was drawn to the very small frames, experiemneting with pictures in different colors. However, my oldest surprised me the most. He wasn’t very interested in arts or crafts when he was younger. It has only been in the last two to three years that has has started to do them at all. He picked out each frame, contemplating what would go best. He actually spent the most time, drawing various landscapes and portraits, and of course, naming and signing each one.
When my older two children were little, we saw some adorable ghost trick or treat bags at Pottery Barn Kids. Being me, I decided to make them. I went home and designed the pattern. I made them with white felt and lined them. Hand-stitched accents just like Pottery Barn Kids made them that extra special adorable. The problem was that back then I didn’t know much about felt. I made them with acrylic felt, which doesn’t stand up against time and wear.
Last year I finally got around to making new ones. I couldn’t find my old pattern, so I had to make all new patterns. Ironically, the ghost didn’t turn out as well as the old ones, but the other bags came out well.
My little witch found the perfect hat last month – it was black and purple satin with black lace and sparkly ribbon and it was on sale. Her eyes lit up with delight, and we finally knew which direction her witch costume would go. A little black and purple satin had me desiging the perfect dress and lined jacket with flared arms. The last debate was what she would wear on her legs; we found these cute little tights at Target. They even have silver sparkles in them. She wants to wear it everywhere.