A Countdown To Christmas For Kids!

Countdown To ChristmasSo, I am a sucker for tradition and memory-making and especially Christmas. There’s no denying it. I think it was sometime in September, when I was nesting hard and hoping Margaret would make an early debut, that I began daydreaming about this year’s holidays with our three children(!). Filled with ALL the Pinterest-mom zest for their perfect childhood, I dreamed up this play on the advent calendar that would be festive, fun and chock-full of the spirit of giving.Christmas Countdown For Kids!

I organized 24 daily activities that can be shuffled around to accommodate your schedule (i.e. tree-getting and visits to Santa on the weekends, coloring and caroling on weekdays). Our daily prompts (see below) are laminated (because of course), slipped into each of these adorable numbered bags and hung on our advent tree. Every morning the kids come down and pluck the day’s bag off the tree. We’ve been having SO much fun decorating our house, writing letters to soldiers and Santa, going to the post office to mail our letters and making some charitable donations in our community.

It’s never to late to start a new tradition and make some holiday memories of your own! Hopefully, these ideas/printout makes it a little easier for you! Tis the season to be jolly, after all!Advent Calendar

Count down to Christmas with these fun and festive activities for children!

  1. Decorate the whole house for Christmas (make sure to blast the Christmas music)!
  2. Bring food donations to a food pantry.
  3. Have a Christmas Movie Marathon!
  4. Write a Christmas card to a deployed service member!
  5. Write a letter to Santa!
  6. Mail your letters to Santa and soldiers!
  7. Color Christmas pictures!
  8. Make paper snowflakes!
  9. Pick out and decorate the Christmas tree!
  10. Pick out new Christmas ornaments for this year’s tree!
  11. Visit Santa!
  12.  Do something kind for someone in your family — shh, it’s a secret! (Pick names now.)
  13. Sing Christmas carols!
  14. Make Christmas gifts or cards for your teachers!
  15. Gather old toys and clothes to donate!
  16. Make birdseed ornaments to hang outside!
  17. Go to Starbucks for Christmas drinks, then head out on a family hike (bring some birdseed ornaments to hang)!
  18. Make peppermint bark!
  19. Build a blanket fort and read Christmas stories inside!
  20. Play a family game!
  21. Bake and decorate Christmas cookies!
  22. Sit by the fire (inside or outside) and roast marshmallows!
  23. Walk around (or drive if it’s too cold) in jammies to look at Christmas pretties!
  24. Open your Christmas Eve Bag!

Countdown To Christmas Printable

Click this image for a printable PDF!


For more Pinterest-worthy Christmas ideas, check out this and this!

Baby’s First Birthday: Throwing An Epic I Am A Bunny Party

Nicholas the Bunny
In my experience, one year olds don’t have a lot of “favorite things” yet, but the book I Am A Bunny is definitely at the top of the list for Benjamin. Following in the footsteps of his older sister, Benjamin loves to find Nicholas on each page of this classic children’s book. So as his first birthday crept up (much more quickly than I would have liked) and after search on Pinterest, I knew there was no other party to throw him but an I Am A Bunny Birthday!

Invitations:
I had our themed invitations printed by Erin at LEX Designs Co. They were precious and set the tone for the entire party.
I Am A Bunny Birthday Invitation

Decorations:
I wanted it to feel like you’d stepped into the forest, so, with the help of my brother-in-law, I hung a dome of green crepe paper — the tree — along with leaves, birds and butterflies from the ceiling. There were a bunch of green balloons to kick around on the forest floor. And a “Happy Birthday Benjamin!” banner (also by LEX Designs) of leaves and acorns was strung up with twine.Woodland Party DecorationsI had my daughter and niece put butterfly stickers onto craft paper, creating a mural –a nod to the “I chase the butterflies and the butterflies chase me” page of the book– which ended up being the perfect backdrop for Benjamin’s cupcake smash.
"I chase the butterflies" mural

Food:
I Am A Bunny Food PlaqueIn my opinion a party is only as good as it’s food. Since I planned the bash for 3:30PM, after nap but before dinnertime, I served up heavy snacks (making sure to include some of Benjamin’s favorites) and drinks on thrifted serving dishes.

I Am A Bunny Food Display

The snack buffet, in all its glory.

Woodland Party Snacks

Twigs and Cheddar Bunnies

Toadstool Woodland Party Snacks

Toadstools – string cheese and grape tomatoes, speared with a toothpick rested in a bog of pesto.

Woodland Party Snack Ideas

Rabbit Food – carrots and celery sticks with hummus.

Squirrel Nibbles

Acorns – Nutter Butters and a Hershey’s Kiss topped with a peanut butter chip.

Wild Berries

Fresh “wild” strawberries.

Woodland Party Snack Display

An owl watched over the snacks, ready to swoop!

Mason Jar Drinks

Birthday tags (by LEX Design Co) made our drinking glasses much more festive!

Cake:
Benjamin is a lover of all the foods, so I knew he’d be totally into his first bite of cake. He didn’t just smash his first “toadstool” cupcake –a nod to the “When it rains I keep dry under a toadstool” page of the book– he devoured it!

Toadstool Cupcakes on Wooden Cake Stand

Toadstool cupcakes on a wooden cake stand, hand crafted by my husband!

Toadstool Cupcakes

White cupcakes, red frosting and white MnM’s made the perfect toadstool cupcakes!

I Am A Bunny Birthday

Benjamin, dressed as Nicholas the Bunny (all eBay finds), with his very first birthday candle!

Nicholas The Bunny

Benjamin’s first bite of cake!

Activities:
Benjamin’s buddies ranged from age one to five, so we kept the party activities fairly simple — a scavenger hunt outside to collect woodsy items for a collage and a painting project. The kids had a blast!

Woodland Party Craft - Collage Making!

The craft table, set up with supplemental woodsy collage supplies and a Nicholas the Bunny cut-out for each child.

I Am A Bunny Birthday Collage

Crafting their collages!

Painting Wood Stepping Stones at Woodland Birthday Party

My husband cut thin stepping stones from a log that I procured from a tree being cut down near our house (SO THRIFTY). The kids painted their hearts out — even Benjamin!

Favors:
Each child took home a bundle of kindling aka twig colored pencils.I Am A Bunny Woodland Party Favors

The party went off without a hitch. Benjamin had about as much fun as any one year old could have! Really everyone had such a good time that we ended up ordering pizza, laying a sheet down on the floor and setting up an impromptu “movie night” for the kids to keep the festivities going. We made wonderful memories with our family and closest friends celebrating the birth of our beautiful baby boy, Benjamin Andrew. Happy Birthday, Grizzy! We love you so much!

Making Maddie into Madeline: A Madeline Costume Tutorial!

It took me a minute this year to come up with a meaningful Halloween costume idea. As she is already an opinionated three year old, this year will likely be the last that I am able to choose what Maddie dresses up as. I knew I needed to make it count. When the idea to make Madeline (Mad-uh-lynn) into Madeline (Mad-uh-line) from the storybooks came to me, I flew to Amazon and started searching for a costume. Turns out there is NOTHING out there. The closest I came was a very pricey cape on Etsy. I took a deep breath and started searching Pinterest for Madeline costumes, figuring there would be a tutorial among them. Pinterest never disappoints. I found an amazing step-by-step plan for making a little girl’s cape, which I knew would be the perfect statement piece for her outfit. (For the actual instructions, I encourage you to visit Project Run and Play’s Audrey Cape Tutorial).

After a quick romp in Joann’s, I was armed with blue fleece, black lining fabric, black and red ribbons and was ready to sew.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Pinning

Fleece folded, measured and marked with pins. I made a modified version of her “Little Girl Cape” with my neck hole measuring out two inches and the length measuring out 15.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Cutting

Cut out and ready to unfold.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Lining

Liner folded, measured and marked with pins.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Cape

Fleece unfolded.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Bib Collar

Canvas bib collar cut-out and laid out, ready to be sewn.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Pinned Collar

Collar pinned in place. You can never use too many pins in my oPINion. See what I did there?

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Lined Cape

Lining pinned into place, right sides together, collar in the middle.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Sewing Cape

And then I sewed my little heart out. I worked around the collar first, knowing it would take the most nerve and patience. Once I had successfully navigated that, the rest was gravy.

Madeline Costume Tutorial - Finished Cape

I even went so far as to top-stitch for a very polished look. I sewed a button and elastic fastener in place in the gap at the collar. And finally I tied a removable, red satin ribbon in the front, underneath the collar.

With the cape finished, I decided, “If I can do that in one day, SURELY I can make a dress.” It would be my first dress (and maybe my last). I didn’t use a pattern, deciding to just wing it (always a solid idea). I laid one of Madeline’s jumpers on top of scrap fabric, traced the shape and cut out a template. After I cut it out, I folded the template in half and trimmed a bit to make sure things were symmetrical. Then I laid it on top of my leftover fleece and cut the dress. I trimmed the collar on the front of a dress a little bit lower than the back, for aesthetics. Then I turned the fabric right side in (which doesn’t seem to matter with fleece) and sewed. **DON’T be silly like me and sew the arm holes shut. I knew to leave the collar open, but for some reason I just zipped those arms right up like a potato sack and had to seam rip after realizing my mistake.** (Insert a broken sewing machine, a friend over to try to fix it and ultimately a trip to the sew shop to have it looked at, plus a new bobbin case installation here…because it can’t ever just be easy. In my best Tim Gunn voice: Make it work!) I top stitched the collar and arm holes to make it look more finished, but left the bottom straight, since fleece won’t fray and it was easier.

I taped black satin ribbon onto Madeline’s old Easter bonnet and tied it in the back, letting the tails hang, for that fearless Madeline topper.

After coming up short on Amazon (they only sell her size in packs of 12), I searched 10 different stores in the mall for white knee socks. Payless was the ONLY store that carried them, but they didn’t have her size (they do online). So ultimately we settled on white cable knit tights from H&M — more practical in her wardrobe for reuse anyway. And she’ll wear her black Mary Janes to complete the look.

Madeline Halloween Costume
Madeline Halloween Costume Back

Time to get our tricks and treats on!

PS- Benjamin’s costume, while not homemade, is also literary and fantastically adorable. Can’t wait to show you!