This week’s thought: I have scientifically determined what is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. That would be any Saturday in late February when you are moving your entire house to a tiny apartment during a winter storm that is dumping 5-8 inches of snow 24 hours after fighting a hideous case of the stomach flu. That is all.
In my opinion, Groundhog Day is one of the most absurd holidays out there. However, it is also one of the most fun holidays to celebrate with children. And it’s coming up soon! This craft my mom invented years ago is my favorite Groundhog Day activity. Kids can act out Groundhog Day by sticking the groundhog puppet up out of the hole. On one side, if the puppet sees its shadow, it can scurry back underground. On the other side, if it doesn’t see its shadow, the puppet can dance around enjoying spring weather. It’s actually very simple to make too!
First, make your groundhog puppet. Cut out a groundhog shape from brown construction paper. Draw a face on it and glue it to a popsicle stick.
For the ground, get a big piece of white construction paper and fold it in half. Cut a curved slit large enough for the puppet to fit through on the fold. On one side draw grass or flowers to show signs of spring peeking through the snow.
On the other side make a groundhog shadow for winter. Trace the groundhog puppet on black construction paper. Glue it down so it is touching the curved slit on the fold. Trim it to match the edge of the curved slit.
The best part of this project is that kids can act out Groundhog Day again and again with the little puppet.
Winter may be long and cold, but there’s no reason it can’t be cute too! I made this darling snow globe with our daughter last year. Having it on our fridge last January really brightened up the winter blahs – a little at least.
I first saw this little snow globe project on Pinterest and adapted it to what our little one would be able to do. She actually really loved making it! Cut a circle for the top of the snow globe out of blue paper. Then for the fun part – dip your child’s finger in white paint and make dots all over the blue circle for the snow. Our daughter LOVED doing this. Frankly I’m a little surprised she didn’t put dots on everything in the house. She would have if she could have, I’m sure! Next you need a piece of red construction paper cut into a trapezoid shape for the base of the snow globe. Glue it to the bottom of the blue circle. Use a circle punch to make white circles for the snowman’s body and head. Glue them to the blue circle. Draw a face on the snowman. (At the time, our daughter was too little to draw the face so I did it for her. Older kids can certainly draw their own faces though!)
Pretty simple! That’s all it takes for a cute little snow globe craft to brighten up cold and dreary January. Enjoy!
We tried a new treat this year for our New Year’s Day lunch with our family – Snowman Pretzels. I found them on Pinterest and couldn’t wait to try them. They were actually quite simple to make and turned out really cute!
First I cut Fruit Roll Ups into thin strips for the scarves. I spread them out on wax paper. Then I melted white chocolate chips in a big Ziplock Baggie in the microwave. I cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. I piped a dot of white chocolate onto the middle of one scarf. Then I pressed 2 round pretzels to the dot – one above and one below the scarf – to glue the snowman head and body together. Next I piped white chocolate into the centers of the pretzels until they were all filled in. I put one more dot of white chocolate at the neck of the snowman and wrapped the scarf around, gluing it with the white chocolate. Finally I added mini chocolate chips for eyes and buttons and an orange Nerd candy for the nose. I found it works best to work quickly and do one complete snowman at a time because the white chocolate hardens fairly quickly.
The snowman pretzels turned out to be a fun and tasty treat perfect for January.
Olympic Fever anyone?!?! I have always loved the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics. When I was little, I even held Barbie Olympics for my dolls complete with medals made of gold, silver, and bronze sequins. Such fun memories! In fact, there are so many fun activities that go along with the Olympics:
- Read Koala Lou by Mem Fox. This is more of a summer Olympics story, but I never pass up any opportunity to read this darling story about a koala who enters the Olympics to impress her mom.
- Make torches using toilet paper rolls for the torches and tissue paper for the flames.
- Make flags out of construction paper. They can be very simple. For example, for the French flag, just get a 9″x12″ piece of white construction paper and glue a 4″x9″ piece of blue construction paper on one end and then a 4″x9″ piece of red construction paper on the other. Voila! A French flag! This same format also works for several other countries with their own colors. Have kids march along while holding their flags while playing the Olympic music by John Williams. Instant Parade of Nations!!
- Use paper plates as skates on carpet. Just put them down, step on the plates, and skate around. They slide along beautifully!
- Make medals or find medals stickers for kids to wear.
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you can come up with others as well. The Winter Olympics can make winter fun for everyone!
My choice for the February Author of the Month is Tomie dePaola. I like his books for February because they all have themes of families, caring, and love. He even signs his name with a little heart – perfect for Valentine’s Day month!
I don’t usually do individual activities or projects with his books – simple is best in this case. This is helpful in the very busy yet very short month of February. Instead, I like to read them aloud and have children practice making text to self connections and text to text connections. His books provide lots of great opportunities for using the strategy of making connections with such loving descriptions of his family and childhood memories as well as retellings of familiar and not so familiar folktales. Every kid can find something relatable in his books.
I also love to end the month with his book “Snip, Snip, Little Lambs,” a cute story about early spring that is a great springboard for a discussion about whether March will come in like a lion or a lamb.
For now though, it looks like more snow is on the way, so curl up with a blanket and a good Tomie dePaola book!
I attended schools in the same district from kindergarten through twelfth grade. During that time, I had a total of 4 – maybe 5 tops – snow days. So far this year, that very same district is on its 6th snow day and counting… and it’s only January. Needles to say, Groundhog Day has never been more important. In an effort to butter up the little critter and persuade hime to predict an early spring, this week’s project is Groundhog Day Cupcakes.
To make these adorable treats, you will need a brownie mix, a cake mix, chocolate frosting, white frosting, red hot candies, mini chocolate chips, and regular chocolate chips. These special baking pans work perfectly for this project:
The bowl shaped brownie pan on the left makes perfect groundhog burrows (although you could also use regular muffin tins if you can’t find one of these pans), and the mini muffin pan on the right makes the groundhogs.
Make the burrows with brownie mix. They will be much more sturdy and come out of the pan much better than if you make them with regular cake (learned that the hard way!). When they are cool, frost them with white frosting so they look like snow covered burrows.
Then make the groundhogs with cake mix in mini muffin tins. After they cool, frost them with chocolate frosting. Add red hots for the mouths and chocolate chips for the ears. Use white frosting with mini chocolate chips for the eyes.
Finally nestle the groundhogs in the tops of the burrows and enjoy… and cross your fingers for an early spring!
We have certainly had more than our share of cold snowy weather this year! Personally, I’m pretty much over it! But there are fun activities for kids (or adults!) that can help brighten up the winter doldrums. One of my favorites is painting on snow.
It couldn’t be easier. First gather some watercolor paints or food coloring. Then go outside and have the kids scoop up bowls of snow.
Bring them in and begin coloring the snow with the paints or food coloring. It’s so neat to watch the colors spread and feather out on the snow and blend together.
If the kids really get into the activity, take the paints or food coloring outside and color the snow right on the ground. A splash of color will only help brighten up the cold winter days!
I’m always a little sad when it’s time to put away the Christmas decorations at the end of December. So to lessen the sting, I like to decorate the house for January instead of just going back to the regular non-festive decorations.
Finding the right decorations for January can be tricky. They should look wintery but not Christmasy. I have a very strict rule to help navigate this fine line: NO HOLLY!
Snowmen make perfect January decorations. As long as they don’t have a speck of holly (or the stray candy cane, star, or present) that would make them look Christmasy, I figure they are acceptable to use all winter!
It’s fun too look for and collect these non-Christmas snowmen too because it becomes a bit of a challenge to find them. The best part is, lots of times you can find these snowmen at a steal at after Christmas sales. Stores must not know my no holly rule! They lump all the snowmen together on the same sale table – even the holly-free ones that would be perfect for January. Their loss is your gain. Happy hunting!
Brrr! Winter is here! Time for January’s Author of the Month – Jan Brett. An obvious choice perhaps, but her books just can’t be beat – especially for January. I love her winter books like The Mitten and The Hat so much, I even decorate my kitchen with red and white mitten themed decorations for January and February!
In addition to winter decorating inspiration, here are some fun activities to do with Jan Brett’s books all month.
- The Mitten – Make a chart of the animals in the story. Discuss how they survive in the cold weather.
- The Hat – Practice making text to text connections with The Mitten. Also, use this book to introduce Jan Brett’s character Hedgie. Follow it up with Hedgie’s Surprise and Hedgie Blasts Off! Then make Hedgies out of brown construction paper circles and toothpicks.
Have kids use the Hedgies they made to imagine new adventures for Hedgie. Then have them write their own stories about these adventures. Over the years I’ve done this with kids, these stories are always some of the best writing I see each year. Hedgie is such a fun character, he sparks great creativity in the kids. He’s been a superhero, a detective, you name it! Also Hedgie appears at least once in every Jan Brett book. Kids LOVE hunting for their little buddy in the illustrations of all her books, usually making them the most popular books in the classroom each year.
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Snow Bears – Compare and contrast the two versions and make text to text connections between the books. Also discuss the polar habitat and forest habitat and compare the two.
- Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends – Compare and contrast them with the original “Gingerbread Man” story. Make and decorate gingerbread cookies. Perhaps even stage a runaway gingerbread cookie hunt in your classroom!