DIY Easter Resurrection Garden

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Easter is coming! Easter is coming! Easter is coming!

Easter is the holiday I look forward to all year, and I can hardly contain my excitement. The time of preparation and waiting is coming to an end, and soon we will celebrate the greatest joy in our faith: Jesus is alive! I want to be really intentional with my kids during this season–I want to teach them and include them in as many activities as I can so that they will experience the joy of Easter for themselves.

Awhile back I came across this idea for making an Easter garden. The idea behind the Easter garden is to have a concrete illustration of the events of Easter. It is also a “talking point” to spur on further discussion with your kids about the meaning of Easter. Plus, it involves digging in dirt–so of course we had to make it. Here’s the how-to:

What you need:
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-Bible (we like the Jesus Storybook Bible for kids) or a printed version of the Easter story
-Large pot
-Small pot
-Dirt or potting soil
-Small, smooth stones (you’ll need as many stones as there are days left until Easter)
-1 large stone
-Permanent marker
-Plants or flowers (real or artificial) or seeds

*Note* I bought all of my supplies at the dollar store and spent a whopping $5 on everything I’d need for about 5 gardens. Gotta love the dollar store!

What you do:
Start by reading the Easter story to your kids so they will have some background on the story. As you’re reading, ask lots of questions and encourage your kids to share their thoughts with you.

After you read the story, it’s time to build your garden! First, fill the large pot up with soil to within 2 inches of the top. Place the small pot in the dirt and bury it partway down so that the opening of the small pot is still open and accessible (this will be the “tomb”). If you want to, you can now cover the soil with moss or ground covering plants.
IMG_2806Now for the rocks. I had the boys collect rocks from our yard and then we counted them to make sure we had enough (1 rock per day leading up to Easter). On each rock we used a permanent marker to write one word relating to the Easter story. I started by letting them come up with words on their own that stood out to them from our recent reading of the Easter story (cross, friend, tomb, 3 days). Once they ran out of words, I suggested my own (grace, hope, resurrection).
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We placed our rocks upside down in a pathway leading to the “tomb” (the small empty pot). Each day leading up to Easter we will turn over one rock in the path and discuss how it relates to the Easter story and to us personally.

Next, we placed our final two rocks. Inside the tomb we put a stone with the word “Jesus” on it. Then we rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb to seal it off until Easter.
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Finally, the boys decorated our garden with flowers (I was using artificial flowers because, let’s be honest, the real ones wouldn’t fare too well under my care. If you decide to use seeds or real flowers, however, you’d want to plant them way back in step 1 right after you put the dirt in the pot.).

We placed our Resurrection Garden on our dining room table as a center piece. Each night at dinner we can turn over our stone and have some conversation over our meal.
IMG_2818On Easter morning we will roll away the stone to the entrance of the tomb, but–surprise!–it will be empty (so long as I remember to empty it the night before…). This will be a visual for the boys that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is alive! And now the real party can begin ūüôā

DIY Paper Heart Animal Valentines

FullSizeRenderIf you’ve been following my posts lately, then you know I was SO over January. When February 1 rolled around last weekend, I seized the opportunity to start something new. I “took down January” (recycled all of the paper snowflakes we had hanging around the house) and decided it was time to “put up February” (cover my house in hearts). Plus, since Jon was off for the day starring in his first major Hollywood blockbuster (OK, he was just an extra in a new Steve Jobs movie, but I’m sure he rocked it!) I took advantage of the quiet morning at home with the kids to do a little Valentine¬†project.

We had gone to the library earlier in the week and checked out this cute little book, My Heart Is Like a Zoo:

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It’s a rhyming book with timely similes¬†about the many ways our heart can love. What makes the book really unique, though are the illustrations–every picture is an animal constructed entirely of hearts. There are silly seals and a rugged moose:

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Eager beavers and a steady yak:Hall-2

And even happy hippos sipping their juice:

Hall-4Each page features a different heart animal, and my boys couldn’t get enough of them. After reading the book for about the 5,000th time that week, David suggested that we make some heart animals of our own. And, since I’m never one to shy away from a cheesy craft, I obliged.¬†We (and by we, I mean I) set to work making our little love zoo.

Here’s a brief how-to if you want to join in the heart-animal fun:

What you need
~Paper–any paper will work, but I used a combination of construction paper and scrapbook paper. If you want more sturdy animals, use colored cardstock.
~Scissors
~Glue–glue sticks work best for this project
~Black marker
~(if you’re the perfectionist-type) Heart-shaped stencils, paper punches or die cuts

What you do
~Decide what animal you want to make. After making about a dozen of these critters, I’m convinced that you can make any animal imaginable out of hearts. If you need some inspiration, see my creations below or search Google or Pinterest for “paper heart animals” and you’ll find more animals than were on Noah’s Ark.

For instance, did you know that you could make a penguin, a blue jay, or a bear out of hearts?
IMG_1859Or a beaver and a fox?IMG_1858 What about a caterpillar and a butterfly?IMG_1857You see, the possibilities are endless…
~Next, choose what papers you want to use for each part of the animal, and just go to town cutting out hearts! I did the good ‘ol fold-your-paper-in-half freehand method for my hearts, but you could certainly use some other more-precise technique if you have the patience for that sort of thing. Cut out hearts in many sizes and colors to use for the different parts of your animal.
~Start puzzling together your animal. Cut hearts in half to make oval shapes, turn the hearts in different directions, or cut the points off the bottom of the hearts to make triangles–it’s amazing the different shapes you can form from simple hearts! If there’s a part of your animal that doesn’t lend itself to a heart-shape, I also give you permission to just cut out whatever random shape of paper you need. You’re welcome.
~After you’ve laid out your design, glue it all together. Use a black marker to add details like a nose, mouth, or whiskers.

And that’s it! Each animal only took me a few minutes to make, so¬†I had a whole Valentine menagerie¬†by the time my boys had finished watching Veggie Tales (yes, I also give you permission to enchant your children with television while you get lost in kids’ crafts that they should be helping you with).

Happy Heart Day, friend!

 

Fortunately I Know I Will Laugh About This Some Day

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There are many fears that we have as parents. Fears over safety, health, and our child’s general well-being. I would have to say, though, that one of my worst fears as a mom is over something that I encounter nearly every day of my life: that my child will have to go to the bathroom at an inconvenient time or place. Seriously. The panic that sets in when you hear the words “Mommy, I have to go“–and you know there’s nowhere to go–is unparalleled. This happens to me all. the. time. Somehow they just seem to know the single most inconvenient place to declare a need for relief and I somehow have to magically find a solution. As a matter of example, here is a brief excerpt from our trip to the park today:

Fortunately I had about an hour to kill this morning before we were meeting up with some friends for lunch, so I thought we would stop by a new park for some fun play time.

Unfortunately as soon as we pulled into the parking lot David grabbed his crotch and said he had to go potty.

Fortunately a woman in the parking lot told me there were toilets in a cafe in the park.

Unfortunately the cafe was about 1/4  mile away from the parking lot on the opposite side of the park.

Fortunately I’m a strong momma so I picked up my toddler and ran with David all the way across the park to the cafe.

Unfortunately the restrooms were for cafe customers only.

Fortunately I had a coin in my pocket, so I bought a fruit snack before we rushed into the bathroom to do our business.

Unfortunately we were not at the park to spend all day in the bathroom and a little cafe.

Fortunately there was a fantastic playground back on the other side of the park near the parking lot. The boys had a blast swinging and sliding and spinning and climbing.

Unfortunately our time in the playground eventually came to an end and we had to get ready to leave for our lunch.

Fortunately David said he didn’t have to go potty again before we left, so we started to walk out to our car.

Unfortunately he was lying.

Fortunately I knew where the bathroom was this time, and when he started doing his little potty dance I grabbed him by the hand and started leading him back across the park.

Unfortunately we only got halfway across the park toward the cafe toilets when David stopped in his tracks, looked up to me and said he didn’t have to go potty any more.

Fortunately the front of his pants were still dry.

Unfortunately, the back of his pants were quite brown and stinky.

Fortunately I had a change of clothes for him in the diaper bag that was back in our car.

Unfortunately, the car was now on the opposite side of the park again.

Fortunately I’m a strong momma and I was able to, for the third time this morning, run across the park while schlepping a flailing toddler in my arms and chasing a distracted preschooler all the way back to the car.

Unfortunately by the time we got back to the car to retrieve the diaper bag I really didn’t want to walk all the way back across the park to the cafe again.

Fortunately I spotted a public toilet right across from the playground.

Unfortunately it was one of those super-sketchy public toilets that is a single pod and you have to pay to go inside and then a metal door slides shut behind you and I’m pretty sure meth addicts hang out in them and they are always disgusting and smell like the inside of a sewage treatment plant.

Fortunately I’m a strong momma who’d already had been through enough crazy this morning that the sketchy public toilet didn’t bother me as much as it should have so we went in anyway.

Unfortunately it was just as disgusting as I’d imagined it would be and I had to cover the entire room with toilet paper before I would allow my children to step foot inside.

Fortunately David finished his business on the toilet instead of in his pants.

Unfortunately I’d used up all of our allotted toilet paper making a semi-sanitary environment¬†for my children and there wasn’t enough left to clean up David (remember, it’s a sketchy pay-by-the-minute public toilet with a toilet paper allowance).

Fortunately I had baby wipes in the diaper bag. They did the trick.

Unfortunately while I was cleaning David up with the baby wipes Jacob saw the giant flashing red button that was right at his eye level: the SOS button. He pushed it. Sirens went off. Lights started flashing. The metal door that had been shielding us and our poop-covered selves from the rest of the decent world crashed open.

Fortunately David didn’t even notice that he was stark naked and covered in poop in the middle of a public park. We finished getting him cleaned up, dressed him in clean pants, and walked out of the toilet as if nothing had ever happened.

Unfortunately I lost the last bit of dignity that I had been holding onto since I was in labor with my babies.

Fortunately I’m still alive to tell you this story. I didn’t die of embarrassment or a heart attack or a staph infection from the disgusting public toilet. And in the end, I guess that’s all that really matters.

Unfortunately this is a true story.

Fortunately I know I will laugh about this some day.

The End

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Easter Bunny Thumbprint Craft

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This week has been all Easter up in our house: we dyed eggs, acted out the Easter story, made Resurrection Rolls, and played with Resurrection Eggs. And, since we weren’t Eastered-out yet, we decided to go on ahead and make Easter cards for David’s teachers here and some special far-away relatives. I saw a cute idea for making thumbprint bunnies on Pinterest¬†and I thought they’d make adorable Easter cards. Here’s the how-to:

What you need:
– stamp pad or finger paint (we used this great stamp pad from Melissa and Doug)
– plain white paper (printer paper or construction paper)
– scrapbook paper or construction paper for the backing
– glue
– candy (optional, but highly recommended)

What you do:
Use paint or stamping ink to make a thumbprint on the paper. If you’re doing this with a young child, you will have to place their thumb on the ink pad (or paint it) and then set it on the paper for them right where you want it. Unless you want a modernist approach to thumbprint art, you’re going to have to do all of the “stamping” yourself.

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Using the child’s index¬†finger or pinky (whatever you can wrangle them into using), make two intersecting “ears” on top of the thumbprint “head”:

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If you want to get creative, you can also make a carrot: use the thumb for the top part of the carrot and then each finger right on down to the pinky for the rest of the carrot. Wipe off the paint and then use green paint on their pinky to make all of the “leaves”. After you have made your thumbprint creations, use a fine-tipped pen (I used a super-fine Sharpie) to draw on the face and ear centers (what do you call that middle part of the rabbit’s ear, anyway?):

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We made three or four rabbits/carrots per card, and then glued them to some colorful scrapbook paper for backing. And, for good measure, I wrote the words “Hoppy Easter” (get it?) on the front¬†each card:

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We wrote little notes to the recipients on the back of each card and then attached some bunny chocolates¬†with a bit of tape (because who doesn’t love getting chocolates at Easter!):

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And, ta-da! Now we have some¬†simple handmade Easter cards sure to brighten anybody’s day.

 

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Spring is finally upon us and nature is beginning to wake up after the long¬†winter. ¬†With warmer days and new life appearing all around us, it is the perfect opportunity to get outside and observe nature–especially if you can bring your kids along for the fun!

One of our family’s favorite activities is to go exploring–just find a trail or a beach or a patch of woods and see where it takes us. This week I decided to take advantage of my boys’ excitement over exploring (and David’s new-found obsession with scavenger hunts) and embark on our first-ever nature scavenger hunt. The concept is simple, but there is so much (fun) learning that can happen on a hunt like this.

To begin, we needed¬†only two supplies:¬†our “treasure map” (a Nature scavenger hunt¬†page that I created that included items I knew we could find in the woods behind our house) and a jar with a lid (I just used a clean, empty jam jar).

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Then, it was time to start searching! I held onto the “treasure map” and David carried the jar, where we placed our “treasures”¬†as they were found.

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Jacob loved following his big brother on our hunt, and he even found a few treasures of his own to add to our collection.

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The boys were thrilled to be outside running around finding treasures to place in their nature jar. David couldn’t wait to see what was next on the treasure map and he carried his nature jar around with such pride.

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After we’d found every item on our treasure map we walked back home and brought the nature jar inside for observation. We had three ladybugs in our jar, and the boys were absolutely mesmerized by them. In fact, David sat like this for about half an hour while I made dinner (and, just so you know, that is highly unusual!):

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I poked some air holes in the lid of the jar for our little ladybug friends and we kept them for two days before releasing them back into the wild (our back yard). The boys couldn’t get enough of their nature jar, so this was the perfect opportunity to sneak in some learning. Here are a few questions I asked David to get him thinking about what he observed on our nature walk and in his nature jar:

  • How many (sticks, rocks, leaves) can you see in the jar?
  • Is this rock smooth or rough? Is it hard or soft?
  • Which (stick, rock, leaf) is the biggest/smallest/longest/shortest/darkest/lightest?
  • What colors do you see?
  • How many legs are on the ladybug? How many eyes? How many wings? How many dots on its back?
  • Which of these treasures are alive or come from living things?
  • Can you arrange these stones in a row from smallest to largest?
  • Which of these items starts with a b/r/t/f sound?
  • Can you think of a word that rhymes with bug/twig/rock?
  • How many syllables are in the word flower/pinecone/twig/leaf/berry?
  • What was your favorite part of the nature walk? Why?
  • Which of these items do not belong in nature? Why shouldn’t this be in nature? Where does it belong instead? (One of our items was litter and, unfortunately, we found lots of it on the trail. After this experience, I think our next nature walk may be a litter clean-up!)

We can’t wait to go on another scavenger hunt soon to¬†see what else we can find!

 

Repost: Easter “Resurrection Roll” Bible Story and Recipe

Easter is just a few weeks away, which means it’s time to bring back all of my favorite lent activities. Easter is such a special time to share with children, and I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to share the truth of this season with my boys. This week we will begin using our resurrection eggs¬†and we’ll also be doing one of my all-time favorite cooking projects: resurrection rolls.¬†Resurrection rolls are¬†a simple (and, might I add, delicious) way to share the gospel with children, a truly memorable experience. I thought I’d repost the recipe and story here for you if you’d like to join in the fun–enjoy!

Original Post: Resurrection Roll Recipe and Bible Story

I love finding creative ways to teach important truths to kids. And I love it even more if I can find a way to tie food into the “lesson”. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I first discovered Resurrection Rolls.

Basically, Resurrection Rolls are a treat that you make where each step of the cooking process represents part of the Easter story. It’s a wonderful way to tell kids the Easter story AND the rolls themselves are sublime. I’ve had people make the rolls for me before, but this was my first time doing the whole project with David. He was able to help out a bit and was pretty engaged the whole time (even if he did keep trying to swipe marshmallows from my stash). I’ll definitely be doing this again next year–a new tradition has been born!

What you’ll need:

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  • 1 package of crescent rolls
  • 8 large marshmallows (plus extras to snack on while you’re waiting for the rolls to bake!)
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar plus 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Bible (or use the “script” below)

How It’s Done:

IMG_1513Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, get out your Bible and open up to John 19 or find the Easter story in a children’s Bible (my favorite is the Jesus Storybook Bible). Below you’ll find the pictures and the “script” for how I told the story to David (he’s only 2 years old, so I kept it simple for him).

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Say: “Even though Jesus was perfect and had never sinned–he had never ever done anything wrong– some people did not like him. They wanted to hurt Jesus because he said he was God. They made Jesus carry a cross and they killed him. This made God very sad, but it was all part of His great rescue plan. When Jesus died, his friends took his body off the cross.”

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Do: Give your child a marshmallow
Say: “This marshmallow represents Jesus’ body. Jesus died for you and for me, because we have sinned and we need to be rescued from our sin.”

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Say: “After Jesus died, his friends came and they put special oil and spices on Jesus’ body to get him ready for burial.”
Do: Roll the marshmallow in melted butter, then in cinnamon sugar

Say: “Next, Jesus’ friends wrapped his body in special cloths–almost like a mummy! Jesus had died, and they were getting his body ready to bury.”
Do: Roll the cinnamon-sugar marshmallow up in a crescent roll (it won’t look like a crescent roll). Press all of the seams¬†firmly. Repeat for each of the crescent rolls. Place the rolls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

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Say: “Next, they laid Jesus’ body in a tomb. A tomb is like a big cave carved out of rock. Then big, strong soldiers rolled a heavy rock in front of the tomb so nobody could get in or out of the tomb. They even put a special seal over the entrance so they would know if anybody tried to move the rock that was in front of the entrance. Soldiers stood in front of the tomb to guard it day and night.”
Do: Put the rolls in the oven and set your timer for 10-12 minutes. Let the rolls bake until they are golden-brown. I even let David stand guard in front of our oven “tomb” with his toy sword.

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Say: “Jesus was dead in the tomb for three days. Let’s count to three: one, two, three. How many days was he in the tomb? That’s right, three days.”
(We had some time to wait for the rolls, so I let David play while they were baking. I kept going back to him, though, and we’d repeat this whole conversation about how long Jesus was in the tomb.)

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Do: When the rolls are done baking, take them out of the oven and let them cool (I let mine cool for about 20 minutes, and that was perfect). The marshmallow will probably have exploded out of your rolls, but that’s to be expected (that’s why we put down the parchment paper!). After the rolls have cooled…

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Say: “Three days after Jesus had died, an angel of God appeared to one of Jesus’ friends. He told her that Jesus was alive! Jesus’ friends decided to look in the tomb where they had put Jesus’ body, but when they did, it was empty! Jesus had risen! And still today, Jesus is alive. Today he lives in heaven with God.”
Do: Cut open one of the rolls. The marshmallow has melted, so the “tomb” is now empty.

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Do: Eat your yummy rolls!
Say: “These rolls are sweet, just like the love of God. God made you and he loves you very much. And some day, if you choose to love and follow God, you will be able to spend forever and ever in heaven with him and Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is our Great Rescuer. The Bible tells us that the only way to Heaven is through loving and believing in Jesus. We celebrate Easter, because Jesus died and rose again so that we could have a way to Heaven.”

Repost: Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day

I posted this entry last year shortly after returning from our first visit to Ireland. Now that we are actually living in Ireland and about to celebrate our first St. Patrick’s Day here, I thought it would be fitting to repost it. Although the drinking and the leprechauns still seem to steal the show here in Ireland, I am reminded that St. Patrick was a real man who really stood for something. So, on Monday as we join thousands of spectators lining St. Patrick’s Street and Grand Parade for (what I’m hoping will be) the most memorable St. Patrick’s Day parade I’ve ever witnessed, I’ll keep good ‘ol Patrick in mind. And hopefully he won’t mind if I have a pint in his memory.

 

Original Post: Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day and a Shamrock Craft

I’ve never really liked St. Patrick’s Day. People seem to just use it as an excuse to drink too much beer and pinch unsuspecting bystanders who made the unfortunate choice to not wear green on March 17th. This year, however, I’m seeing things a bit differently. You see, I just got back from my first trip to Ireland where I learned a lot about Irish history and who St. Patrick really was (yes, he was a real person). So this year, instead of eating green eggs in a drunken stupor, I am going to try and redeem St. Patrick’s Day for my kids.

Who Was St. Patrick?
First of all, Patrick is not really a Saint (you know, the capital “s” type canonized by the Catholic church). And he’s not even Irish. Patrick was born in Scotland and, when he was about 16 years old, he was captured in a raid and brought to Ireland as a slave (this was in about the year 405–a really long time ago). At the time, Ireland was a radically pagan place– considered to be about as far away from God as any place on the planet. Patrick’s grandfather, however, had been a priest. While Patrick remained in bondage in Ireland he clung to his faith and relied on prayer. Then, after 6 years, he managed to escape and return home.

When Patrick was in his 40’s, God brought him back to Ireland–this time as a missionary (I love God’s sense of irony!). Patrick had become intimately connected with the Irish people during his years in slavery and history tells us that one of his first converts was the very man who had held Patrick in captivity. Patrick went on to spend the next several years of his life preaching and spreading the gospel throughout Ireland. He was so successful in his missionary work that he turned the once-pagan island into one of the early centers of the Christian faith.

Legend has it that on one of Patrick’s missionary journeys through Ireland he came to a castle at the top of a rocky crag called the Rock of Cashel. I had the great honor of visiting the Rock of Cashel a few weeks ago when I was in Ireland:

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It was here at the Rock of Cashel that Patrick (reputedly) used a shamrock to tell the story of the trinity and then baptized King Aengus. Basically, the illustration of the shamrock trinity is that each of the leaves represents one of God’s persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While they are each separate and unique, they are all part of one whole.

As you look out from the Rock of Cashel to the Irish countryside, it’s easy to imagine what that day must have been like:

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For The Kids: Shamrock Collages
This week I told my 2 year old about St. Patrick. I told him how he was a man who lived a long, long time ago and that God used him to help other people learn about Jesus. We looked at pictures of shamrocks and I explained the trinity to little David using Patrick’s illustration. It was awesome!

Then the former-kindergarten teacher in me had to get crafty. We decided to commemorate our little shamrock “lesson” with a simple project.

I started by gathering an assortment of green things: scrapbooking paper, pom-poms, foam shapes, tissue paper and a large piece of green cardstock. I also put a dime-sized squirt of glue into a bowl with a Q-tip to use as a paintbrush:

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I used a pencil to draw a shamrock shape onto the cardstock (heavy construction paper or cardboard painted green would also work), then I cut out the shamrock:

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I sat David down at the table and gave him all of the green things I’d collected. He helped me tear the tissue paper into small pieces (this is great fine-motor practice, by the way!). Then I showed David how to use the Q-tip to “paint” glue onto the shamrock where he wanted to stick his green things. Whenever we’re using glue we use the mantra “just a dot, not a lot!”. David had a lot of fun picking out the decorations for his shamrock and sticking them on.

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He required quite a bit of supervision and direction (put the glue here…ok, now pick out another piece of paper..ok, now put the paper on top of the glue…please don’t lick the glue…). In the end, though, his little shamrock turned out pretty darn cute! And the best part of all: we’ll have something meaningful to think about this St. Patricks day.

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