106. Lenten and Holy Week Nature Table

This was our first real attempt at having a seasonal nature table on display. While he didn’t work with the table terribly often, my son did enjoy it when he did, and we had some thoughtful conversations about Holy Week and Pascha while he worked with the material. I enjoyed having it in the house. The stone path idea was inspired by this Advent calendar. The Pascha items were inspired by these wonderful Holy Week lessons. The wooden cross is apparently a traditional Romanian style, given to me by a friend. I found the tree/cave on etsy, and I loved using the air plants as vegetation!
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nature table lent1

nature table lent

104. Color-Coded Orthodox Days of the Week for Children

My son measures days by how many ‘sleeps’ it will be until a certain event. He also asks the days of the weeks but has a hard time keeping track of them. I adapted this idea of a color-coded calendar by using the liturgical colors (this liturgical color wheel is fabulous) that we’ve been discussing all year in our pre-k class.  I tried to use what seemed like the most appropriate color for each day based upon the seven day weekly commemoration (Sunday- White for Resurrection, Monday- Gold for Angels, etc.)  I’ve been surprised at how quickly he has latched onto this idea.  Of course,  the calendar would go perfectly with the songs from the Garden of the Theotokos CD (if I can ever find my copy amongst my many piles).  I hope to find a way to improve this calendar when I have time and am open to your suggestions!  To make it, I opened a new calendar in Word, selected each column and filled with the designed color, and typed the commemoration at the end of the column.  I’m sorry I don’t have a printable to offer you, but it’s quite simple to do!

103. Woven Censer

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My son’s talented grandma made this small play censer for him. She wove a small basket and lid from reeds, spray painted them gold, and then added gold beads as embellishment, jingle bells, and a gold plastic chain. My son is using a black duplo block as charcoal. It is absolutely delightful to watch him censing his icons and our home. Sometimes we take it to our weekday church class and the other little boys also love to use it. (The girls haven’t been interested!)

102. Heaven

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My son had so many questions about heaven and death after my mom passed away last summer that I eventually started working on this project with him to have something concrete to learn from. I’m not a theologian but I worked from the biblical passages about streets being paved with gold and Christ going to prepare homes for us. I modeled the shape on a monastery as a way to make God (symbolized by the church in the middle) visible and accessible from all angles, and because the beauty and peace found at monasteries must be one of the nearest things to heaven that we can find on earth (along with the Divine Liturgy, of course!) Being a packrat sometimes pays off – I had plenty of small boxes stashed away in the garage. I wanted lots of boxes to help convey the idea of lots of little houses. I used a nail to punch holes in the boxes with the intention of adding electric tealights or a flashlight to the model at some point to add to the sense of light and illumination. We taped on a box as a gate – the tape lets it open and close like a hinge. The fact that there is a gate has led to a lot of discussion with him! My son watched me hot glue the boxes together, and then I spray painted it gold. He has helped me glue on gems as pathways and along the walls, and he added a white doormat in front of the church. We began this in December and have worked on it off and on. Eventually I would like to add small paper icon figures of angels and saints and perhaps of our deceased relatives to help him understand even more. It’s definitely not finished yet!
I’d love any suggestions you might have as well for our project.

100. Theophany

We are preparing for Theophany tomorrow, and I’ve finally assembled a simple album of our baptisms and our godchildren’s baptisms (as well as weddings and churchings) to share with our son on Theophany and throughout the year. I used Fotor’s collage tool to assemble simple pages (one for each event) and then printed them on photo paper. I found the idea in Elizabeth White’s book. A second set was sent to godchildren and godparents – baptisms and weddings from California to Wyoming and South Dakota to Texas and Pennsylvania… It’s quite beautiful and touching to gather all of the memories into one special album!
My son has also been greatly enamored of drawing in and creating little homemade booklets the last few days. I suggested we do a Theophany booklet and he chose to draw grass (ie, basil for house blessings), an empty bowl, a censer, a bowl with water and ‘grass’ in it, and an altar cloth. It’s quite adorable. We may do another one of small paper icons pasted into a booklet. I’m astounded at how the new format of a booklet has ignited his desire to draw and then tell the stories of the booklets.
I’d love to hear any of your Theophany traditions and activities as well!

90. Seed Work

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Kids love to plant things, don’t they? This fall as I’m beginning my very first pre-k catechism class (based on this beautiful, deep curriculum), we have been focusing on seeds in preparation for learning about some of Christ’s parables.  Forcing paperwhite bulbs to grow in mere water is so easy to do and provides quick gratification.  I bought mine at a local garden center. The little white pointed roots appeared within a few days and quickly entangled the rocks they sat upon.  I also have crocus and hyacinth bulbs hibernating in the fridge and will try forcing them in water later this winter.

I also saved the seeds from our Halloween pumpkin (I’m not a big fan of creepy Halloweens but it is fun for little ones to cut open a pumpkin and see all the seeds!).  We planted them right along the side of a clear cup and had a wonderful view of the sprouting process.  Now we are watching the roots grow.

I’m enjoying this seed and root work quite a bit!

81. Handmade Montessori

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In the beginning of the year I started training for a Montessori-based pre-k Orthodox Christian catechism program. It has been an amazing experience and I have learned so much about how children develop, about our theology, and about early childhood education. I originally took the program to use only at home with my son, but it was so fantastic that we are in the process of beginning the program at our church. It’s inspired me to begin learning about broader Montessori learning as well, and I’ve made a few small sets of material – color matching sets (wooden supplies purchased here and painted with acrylic craft paints), bean counting (modified from this – I wrote numbers on the beans to help my son match them to the correct pot), and a ‘sandpaper’ globe. I purchased the globe at Home Goods and then painted the continents with a clean sand+paint mixture, and painted the water a uniform blue.  My son is intrigued by these items as well as the other classroom items that are gathering up in our home, and I am eager to share them with his friends at church as well as to keep learning more on my own Montessori journey.