“Creating” with the Daily Readings..

It is always nice when the daily readings are a bit more”kid-friendly” for the three and under set! Today was one of those days, as one of the Old Testament readings was Genesis 1:24-2:3.  It got me thinking that we should do some kind of activity relating to the “living creatures” and more specifically, the birds of the air.  Since it is still technically winter (though in North Carolina you certainly wouldn’t know it!) I thought it would be fun to make some bird feeders.  Taking care of God’s creatures seems like a nice (perhaps loose) extension of almsgiving during this first week of lent.

I’m guessing you probably made one of these when you were little! So easy-all you need are pinecones, peanut butter, and birdseed.  This example is from kaboose.com-you can find full instructions here.

Pinecone Bird feeder from kaboose.com

If there are no pinecones near you, you can also use bagels, like Hearts and Trees did.  And if nut allergies are a problem, you can use lard or honey to make the birdseed stick (see here).

Another fun nut-free idea is to use gelatin and cookie cutters, like eighteen25 did.  A little more work for the adult, but very cute looking, and your child can choose their favorite shape.

Other ideas for today could be taking extra care of the family pet, perhaps making homemade doggie treats? Here is a fun and easy recipe from dogtreatkitchen.com that you can use cookie cutters with-but i have never  tried it so no guarantees your little pooch will like them!

A few Ideas for the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Icon from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Raleigh, NC

This Sunday is, of course, the first Sunday of Great Lent and the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  On Orthodox blogs and websites, there are so many wonderful icon activities.  I especially like this idea for an Icon family tree on Orthodox Education Blogspot:

Isn’t that beautiful? I will have to try it soon!  Another idea for your parish or Sunday school setting could be modeled after the following:

“At St. Andrew’s, in Boston, the children make and decorate icons.  They will procession (sic) around the church after Liturgy and Father will bless the icons.  These are saved, by the priest, who will give them to sick or shut-in parishioners during the coming year. – “monkvasy”,  posted on orthodoxchristianity.net.
What a neat idea! Another wonderful way for children to give alms during the first week of lent.

Our Prayer Corner

Please excuse these photos.  I am not the most talented of photographers, and the light in our little hallway leaves something to be desired!  But I wanted to share with you the little spot that my family and I have carved out for our prayer corner.  It is both figuratively and literally the center of our home, part of a small, square hallway that leads to every room in the house.  One of the jobs we give our three year old before we pray is to close all 5 doors surrounding us!

It was important to me to make this area work for all members of the family.  So that meant icons hung high, for my six foot three husband, and down low, to touch, for our baby and three ear old.

I picked up this little cabinet at a thrift store, years before having children, and loved that it looked like it had been handmade for a child, probably by a grandparent or uncle.  Its’ size and features have made it perfect for housing everything we need.

Though it can be hard to convince my daughter to abandon her play to join us for morning prayers, she does enjoy helping my husband light the candles and open her little cabinet.  We used to have little battery operated candles for her to place in front of the icons below, but need to replace the bulbs (hence the pink flashlight!)

Also pictured is a little tray with icons to look at, prayer cards like those used in Catechesis atriums (more on that soon), a few books, and a Montessori land & water globe we used when reading the creation story.  On the doors are icons of the Nativity and Christ Blessing the children.  I still need to get a little rug, to make the floor a little less cold in the winter!

Throughout the year, you can find different things tucked away in the cabinet, from palm crosses to art work made in Sunday School.  Now that my daughter is getting a little older, I plan on changing out the materials more often. I have lots of ideas for this, and hope to share them with you soon. It is a work in progress, that is for sure!

Why ‘Sprinkled with Joy’ ? Part 1

My three year old daughter loves sprinkles. LOVES them.  On cakes and cupcakes? Of course! But really on anything.  They have even become my secret weapon in getting her to eat healthier things, like tart Greek yogurt, for example. Most kids love sprinkles (and let’s face it, so do I!)  As I started to brainstorm ideas for making our HOPE and JOY meetings not only spiritually-centered but also fun, I found sprinkles were a great tool. You’ll see them mentioned here a lot, among other things!  And in some ways I’ve found they have become a bit of a metaphor for my approach to youth activities at our church.  Sprinkles are the fun, extra touch, to the sweet treat.  They can never replace the cupcake or cookie-they simply add some sparkle that can make the treat that much more enticing.  Just as there is only One teacher, Whose ways are Scripture and the sacraments, our teachings and efforts outside of this are the “extra” on top.  An important extra, of course! But sometimes I fear we can fall into the trap of taking ourselves a bit too seriously and spend too much of our time talking “at” our youth, using words that often go above their heads (or in one ear and out the other!) And I’ve found that attention spans on Saturday afternoons (when our Hope/Joy group meets) can be quite short!  So I’m striving to find and create easy, fun, projects, that a variety of ages can do, that correspond with a brief, but essential Orthodox truth.  I’m learning as I go, and making plenty of mistakes! But it is a joy to work with our Orthodox youth, and I hope this little blog can be of service to others doing the same:)

More Valentine’s Fun…

Here are a few more pictures of Valentine’s day celebrations at our house.

First, we made valentines for all of my daughter’s classmates at preschool.  It was a great opportunity to bring out the glitter glue (so much less messy!) and talk about how we can show love to our friends and family.

We opted for some simple collage work, using paper doilies from the Target dollar spot, hearts cut from red cardstock, torn up tissue paper, paper punched hearts, ribbon, string and rick-rack.  Basically any pink and red scraps I could find around the house.

Easy and fun!  We also read The Story of Valentine’s Day by Nancy Skarmeas, a great little book for  both younger and older children that tells a brief story of St. Valentine.  For Valentine’s breakfast, we had bacon and eggs (greatly enjoyed before Lent!), pink “milkshakes” (strawberries, a little sugar, & milk in the blender) and (canned) cinnamon rolls with-what else?-heart sprinkles on top!

And for those of you who are doing a bit of Montessori homeschooling/Catechesis work, here are a few little Valentine-themed practical life activities as well:

Thonging Heart-shaped "ice" cubes into empy candy box

Spooning pink & purple beads

We also practiced pouring purple water, stringing heart beads on pink pipe cleaners, and placing heart cupcake picks (toothpicks) into a cheese shaker.  Last but not least, pink playdough was made, to use with heart cookie cutters, of course!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day-two weeks late! I want to share some photos and activities from our recent Hope & Joy meeting. Though it is too late to use them this year, I wanted to add  them to the archive as a resource for the future.  I hope you enjoy!

Since we focused on St. Valentine last year, this year we decided to focus on love (surprise!), specifically Christ’s greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:36-40*    (We  chose to stop there and not read the entire parable, but to save that for a later date.  Since we are a small church, we invite even the youngest siblings to participate, from the littlest 3’s up to age 12.  So we strive to pare down our lesson to the most essential, and make the  activities accessible to everyone, since attention spans can be short on saturday afternoons!)

We started with a brief introduction asking what rules and commandments are (they tell us what to do and how to act, etc).  We asked if anyone could think of any rules they had read in the Bible (the Ten Commandments). Then we introduced the Scripture reading by saying that in the Bible, Jesus has told us the VERY MOST (emphasis here!) important commandment, or rule, about how we should live and act.  We shared that we can find Jesus’ words in different parts of the Bible, but today we will read from the Book of Matthew.  We then read the verses, and asked the children about what they had heard. (“What was the first most important, the greatest, commandment, that Jesus told the people? What was the second?”).  We then talked about the ways we can show God we love Him, and talked about who our neighbors are, and how we show love to them.  The children, of course, had wonderful answers, and we filled in the gaps when necessary!  We then segued to our activities by holding up a paper cut out of a heart, and asking the littlest ones what it was, and the older ones, what it made them think of.  We talked about the symbolism of the heart as one for love**, and that we would be doing some fun “heart” activities that would remind us of Christ’s greatest commandment to LOVE.

 

We started with painting these wooden heart frames, that I found at Michael’s for $1 apiece (you could also probably find something similar at A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, etc).  Michael’s is great because they are always offering coupons, which I take full advantage of!  (If the price is too steep for your larger group of children, you could also make the frames out of cardboard or styrofoam food packaging, cutting the hearts out beforehand with an exact-o knife.)  We told the children that there was only one condition to these frames: they could not be kept for themselves, but had to be given to someone they love!  It was so sweet to hear the children  share who (and why) they would give their frames to.

 

While the paint dried on our frames, we make some heart tortilla “cookies, similar to the ones pictured above.  I had seen this idea floating around the web, and thought it would be great to make something a little healthier that cupcakes or cookies (though there is a time for those, too!)  These are super easy to make-all you need are soft flour tortillas (any size), melted butter, and various kinds of colored sugar and sprinkles, of course!!  The younger children can use cookie cutters to cut out their hearts (we found metal ones cut better than plastic) and older children can use kitchen shears if they would like.  Then we brushed the hearts with melted butter using pastry brushes (or your fingers if you don’t have those!) and sprinkled with sprinkles.  Bake them at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you would like them.  Yum!

My 3 year old's paper plate version

Lastly, I found these neat  paper decorations (wind-catchers) at the craft store as well.  They can be decorated as simply or as elaborately as you would like- we used markers & crayons, but you could also use glue and glitter, torn tissue paper and doilies, etc.  We then glued a cut-out paper heart printed with the Bible verse to the very center-older children can write it out themselves. Since these decorations may be hard to find, I experimented with making one of my own out of a paper plate.  You simply cut a spiral into the plate, and as you get closer to the center, cut it into a heart shape.  Glue the verse inside in the same manner, then add a string for hanging. I took my daughter’s outside to photograph, and it twirled in the wind so much it was hard to photograph!

We sent everyone home with heart-covered pencils and chocolate-covered pretzel hearts 🙂

UPDATE: pictures of all 3 of these projects, coming soon! Thanks for your patience.

And here are some other easy heart crafts from the web:

Glitter Heart doilies

Doilies + glitter= easy and fun! see here.

Marshmallow pops!

 

So easy and yummy!   We made these last year, and used only water applied with our fingertips to make the colored sugar stick. If you use sprinkles you probably need the melted candy bark. Heart-shaped marshmallows work great, too! see here.

 

*alternatively Luke 10: 25-28, Mark 12:28-31

**With older children, you could also tie in the symbolism of the cross, with the vertical plank toward God and the horizontal plank to our neighbors.