STEAM · teaching thoughts · topic

Christmas Engineering

Today let’s do some engineering! (Engineering at this age means problem solving through design and exploration of an open ended quest) Provide your child with any of the materials listed below and then let them work. When we work on these projects at school, we typically start by letting the children explore their materials. After learning how the materials work together, then provide a challenge. Make the tallest Christmas tree. Make a gift box. Make a candy cane. Make a sleigh. Make an ornament for the tree. Whatever you want your child to create/engineer.

Pick any of these combinations:

  • jingle bells with pipe cleaners
  • jingle bells with playdough
  • gum drops (or other gummy candy) with toothpicks
  • beads and pipe cleaners or string
  • playdough and beads
  • marshmallows with toothpicks
  • toothpicks, straws, tape, string,
  • playdough and candy canes (this can be tough since candy canes aren’t as strong as you’d think)

Ok… here’s a different way to engineer

Build an ornament holder (that suspends an ornament up) using straws, tape, pipe cleaners, ornament holders

Design a new sleigh for Santa use paper, tape, glue, popsicle sticks, egg cartons, Lego blocks or whatever creative items your child wants to use

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You  Started - A Fine Parent

Remember! There is no right or wrong way to work on these STEM projects. Your roll is to ask questions. If you want to participate…. do your own version beside your child. Children often figure out how to do things by struggling through the steps of what not do it… failure is always an option, it is the first step on the way to success.

art · story · topic

Christmas Tree

When we think of Christmas, one image often comes to mind… the Christmas tree. It is believed that this tradition began in 16th century Germany. Trees were originally decorated with foods such as nuts, berries, apples and dates. Beginning in the 18th century, people began adding candles to their trees, but this was not very safe. The first Christmas lights were added to the Christmas 1895.

Let’s read some Christmas tree stories: The Littlest Christmas Tree by Janie Jasin and The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll.

I decided to share this Art for Kids Hub video How to Draw a Christmas Tree… it is a folding surprise picture. I chose it because when the picture is folded, it is a little Christmas tree, but when opened, it is the biggest one.

Let’s work together on a torn paper picture.

  • green sheet of construction paper
  • another color to use as the background
  • glue
  • markers
  1. tear the green paper into smaller pieces. encourage your child to use their pincer grasp to hold and tear the paper (fine motor work!)
  2. arrange the torn paper into the shape of a tree, if struggling draw a rough outline on the background paper
  3. After gluing all the pieces down, pick up the paper and let any that didn’t stick fall off. Glue them back on if needed
  4. use markers (or other colors of construction paper) to add ornaments and other decorations.
story · topic

Light the Lights

Many winter holidays have a light component. Christmas lights and candles, Hanukkah’s Menorah, Kwanzaa’s Kinara, Winter Solstice’s yule log, Diwali’s lanterns, St Lucia’s candle headdress, Chinese/Lunar New Year’s lanterns, and more! (Lights of Winter by Heather Conrad)

While many families only celebrate one winter holiday, others celebrate multiple. Let’s read a few books about families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Light the Lights by Margaret Moorman and Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Momma by Selina Alko.

This is a great opportunity to complete a venn diagram, or double bubble web to compare and contrast the holidays. What makes them the same? What makes them different?

art · story · topic


Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Each night, for 8 nights, families gather around and celebrate by lighting the Menorah. The Menorah symbolizes the oil that lasted long ago in the temple. After the Maccabean War, the Jewish people went back into their temple they only had enough oil for one night, but it lasted for eight nights. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights. Each night, the shamash candle (the middle one) is light and from there the other candles are lit. One for each night of Hanukkah.

Families gather together and exchange gifts and a meal. They enjoy potato lakes, sufganiyot (a type of jelly filled donut) and other fried foods (in celebration of the oil that lasted 8 nights). The game of dreidel is played to try and win nuts or gelt (gold chocolate coins). And of course, they light the lights!

Learn more with from National Geographic’s Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights Starts Tonight.

This is the Dreidel by Abby Levine

Follow along as Art for Kids Hub makes a Menorah

Now, let’s make a Menorah. You can either have your child put the whole thing together on one day, or add candles from right to left each night as they do in the celebration.

cut a paper plate in half

one half leave whole, the other half cut out a triangle section for the base (you can color or paint the plate pieces or leave them white… your choice)

on the whole half you will draw curved lines to represent the “arms” of the menorah

cut nine thin rectangles from construction paper (I chose blue, but you can do white, blue, yellow, silver….)

make flames from tissue paper or yellow construction paper

now let’s light the lights!

art · story · topic


Poinsettia is one of the most popular plants in the US, it even has it’s own “holiday” December 12th is Poinsettia Day. This plant is native to Mexico and Guatemala. In the winter the leaves transform into the well known red coloring with a cluster of yellow buds in the middle.

Zetta the Poinsettia by Alma Hammond

So, lets do some poinsettia fun…

Here is a direct drawing with Art for Kids Hub!

Now let’s make a paper poinsettia. Using red, green and yellow construction paper. Cut leaves out of the red and green paper. I folded both sheets into quarters and then cut two leaf shapes out of the quarter sized paper making 8 of each color, but you don’t have to do it this way. I chose to lay down the green leaves and then layer the red on top. Then I tore the yellow paper to make the poinsettia flower in the middle.

story · teaching thoughts · writing

Too Many Tamales

During the holiday time, many friends and families get together to share food, love and laughter. While this year might look a bit different, the sentiment can still be the same. As adults, we feel the changes from the normal. We feel that things are different and missing. Often times we put these feelings onto our children too. Young children are more flexible in terms of holidays as they do not have the history of this is the way we do it. This year create a new holiday feel. A new holiday tradition and find ways to tweak the tradition to work in the new.

Onto today’s activities: Too Many Tamales by Ed Martinez is a story about family getting together for the holiday. Traditions they share AND a bit of oh no!

This is a great story to discuss problem and solution. What problem did Maria have? What solutions did they try? What finally worked and why? What could Maria have done differently?

Brainstorm with your child things they enjoy doing over the holidays. What do they remember? What do they want to do this year? How can you make this holiday different, but just as special? What special foods will you make? How will you connect with those you can’t see this holiday? Remember this is still a special and exciting time for your family, even if it is different!

STEAM · story · topic

Candy Cane

When you think of the holiday season, there is one candy that pops into mind… candy canes! So, let’s learn about candy canes today.

File:Candy-Cane-Classic thumbnail.png - Wikimedia Commons

Here is a fun story to start: Katie the Candy Cane Fairy by Tim Bugbird

Now let’s learn about candy canes: How It’s Made Candy Canes, History of Candy Canes, and Making Candy Canes in Disneyland.

Now that you’ve learned a little about candy canes… let’s have some fun.

Candy Cane STEAM (see similar activity here)

  • Take out 3 glasses
  • in one glass put room temperature water
  • in the second, put ice water
  • in the third put boiling/hot water
  • Make a prediction: what do you think will happen to the candy canes in each glass?
  • drop a candy cane (or part of a candy cane) in each glass
  • Now observe!
  • Does the temperature of the water effect the rate of dissolving?
  • Any other observations?

You can do the same experiment using different liquids (water, vinegar, soda, milk) or different waters (tap, distilled, salt, sugar, etc).


The Night Before Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is turkey day. So, it is a great day to read Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey and The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing. While the rhythm of the story is the same, they are two very different books.

This is a good opportunity to talk to your own children about what you are doing to get ready for the holiday. Are you cooking already? Will you set the table today?

Ask your child what they think needs to be done to get ready for the holiday. What can they do to help? Children at this age love to help, and if you give them the right tasks, they can do it! Check out Momable’s list of things children can do in the kitchen by age. Or if you don’t want your child helping in the kitchen… they can set the table. Make place cards/placemats or other table decorations.

Here are three levels of turkey drawings with Art for Kids Hub simple, cartoon, realistic… and don’t forget a cooked one too.

I am taking some time off to be with my family over the holidays. I will be back on December 1st… don’t ask what topic, I haven’t decided yet… oops!

math · STEAM · topic

Monday Math- Memorial Day

Today is a holiday here in the US. While many people think of Memorial Day as the first day of the summer season, a day for picnics time with families and friends it is more important that we remember those who gave some and more important those who gave all.

Here is a simple song to teach (sung to Frere Jaque)

  • What is red?
  • What is blue?
  • What is white?
  • What is white?
  • What has 13 stars?
  • What has 13 stripe?
  • It’s our flag
  • It’s our flag

Have your child make an American flag.. make sure you count the stripes and the red and white stripes are in the correct pattern.

Make patterns with red, white and blue.

Practice counting all the red, white and blue items you find in your bedroom.

Can you count to 50?

So many fun math activities to use and celebrate today.