GOODNIGHT, MANGER: 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones about Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas memories is watching my daughter play with the Baby Jesus that was part of our Christmas nativity. All through December she’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.”  Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. Her sweet play inspired me to write “Goodnight, Manger”, a Christmas bedtime picture book that not only serves as a fun reminder that Jesus was once a baby who cried and felt everything we feel, but which also keeps Christ, rather than Santa, as the focus during the holiday season.   Now, inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER, here are:

8 Nativity Activities to Spark Meaningful Conversations about Christmas with Preschoolers


1. Play “I Spy…an angel!” Identify the figures in the Christmas story using the nativity as your playground. After you “spy” each figure, ask simple questions like “Who was Mary?” or “What were the shepherds doing that night?”


2. Play “I Count… three sheep!” Preschoolers love counting. After each count, think about how everyone in the nativity was looking forward to meeting Baby Jesus. Ask them what they think about that.


3. Play “Where is Baby Jesus?” In this variation of hide and seek, take turns hiding Baby Jesus in the nativity (or beyond). Each time you find Him, marvel about how exciting it must have been to see God’s promise for a Savior fulfilled in the birth of a special baby – Jesus!


4. Re-enact the Nativity. Using Luke 2:1-20 as your guide, re-enact the Christmas story using the figurines. Add animal sounds and alleluias to bring the story to life. For extra fun, you can also retell your nativity-themed picture books (such as Goodnight, Manger, for example) using figurines. Be sure to always link back to the all important message that Jesus is the gift of Christmas.  


5. Sing Carols. While holding the appropriate figurines, sing carols that relate to the nativity story.  For example, pretend the angels are flying as you sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Have the wise men march as you sing “We Three Kings.” Place Baby Jesus in the manger as you sing “Away in a Manger,” etc.


6. Care for Baby Jesus. Just as my daughter did, let your child take care of Baby Jesus. Pretend to gently rock and feed him. Maybe even sing him a tender lullaby. Then be amazed together – that God loves us just like we love little babies. He cares for us and comforts us. His biggest gift ever? Sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world.


7. Make your own nativity figurines. Little ones love anything hands on, so roll up your sleeves and make sheep, shepherds, angels and more using whatever materials you fancy. Play dough, felt, glue, paper, crayons and even blocks are all perfect materials for a fun afternoon of nativity building. 


8. Go on a Nativity Hunt. Here’s a fun activity that will get you and your children outside on a crisp day. Walk around your neighborhood looking for nativity lawn scenes. Name the figures you see and celebrate! This also makes a good activity to keep children busy and engaged while running errands in the car.

A version of this post previously appeared on Noelle Kirchner’s amazing blog .  Thank you, Noelle, for having me and for letting me share here!

Read. Discuss. Do!: LOVE IS KIND Jelly Bean Jars

RDD Love is Kind

Today I’m delighted to continue the WORLD KINDNESS DAY celebration with this adorable Read. Discuss Do! graphic created by children’s author Rebecca Gomez.  The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities.  It is my hope today this LOVE IS KIND Read. Discuss. Do! will inspire you and your little ones to spread love and kindness wherever you go!   Happy reading, discussing and doing!

 

LOVE IS KIND: Six Book-Themed Extension Activities to Celebrate LOVE and KINDNESS!

LoveisKind_emailheader_650x254_BDid you know that tomorrow is World Kindness Day?  It’s wonderful to have a day to officially recognize kindness, and hopefully it will prompt us to extend kindness and love to each other each and every day. One of the reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was so that kids could see through a fun story just how varied and wonderful extending love and kindness to others can be!  Here now, to help you celebrate KINDNESS after reading LOVE IS KIND, are six book-themed extension activities. Enjoy!

  1. Version 2PUT ON A PLAY.  Creatively re-enacting the story is a great way to embrace and reinforce the wonderful message of the story.  So, after reading LOVE IS KIND, have fun retelling it using stuffed animals, puppets, or yourselves!  Don’t forget to grab three coins, a dollar bill, and a crinkled coupon! For extra fun, write the snippets from I Corinthians 13 that are found within the illustrations on sentence strips.  Then have one child hold up at the right places during the re-enactment.  
  1. IMG_7380DO A PICTURE READ THROUGH.  After reading LOVE IS KIND, flip things around by having your child re-read it to you using the pictures as clues! Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to.  Reading the story again and again is also a good way to take to HEART the message of the story – that kindness and love aren’t found in a box – even one filled with chocolates. 
  1. MEMORIZE I CORINTHIANS 13: 4 – 8a by SINGING it!   This famous Bible passage was inspirational to LOVE IS KIND and snippets of it appear throughout the story.  As you read, look for them in the illustrations!  Afterwards, open your bibles and play around with various familiar tunes that you could sing the passage to. My favorite pick:  Sing to the tune of “Happy Birthday”  and when you get to the finale – “Love never fails” sing that to the “Happy Birthday” postscript – “…and many more.”  Songs, as you probably know, are a great (and fun) way to memorize all sorts of things because the melodies and words combined stay with us – our whole lives.
  1. 38298026_1792465114173807_3188628633023414272_nSEND a “KINDNESS” POSTCARD to SOMEONE SPECIAL.  Illustrator Lison Chaperon created awesome postcard printables to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND. Print one (preferably in color) for each child and glue as directed.  Post card printables are found in this LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit from Zonderkidz. When dry have your child write a sweet “I love you”  or “Kind thought” message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher.  It’s a perfect opportunity to reinforce correspondence conventions, address writing skills, and old-fashioned empathy.  Then affix proper postage and take a trip to the post office to mail!
  1. IMG_7709SPREAD SOME EDIBLE LOVE.  After reading LOVE IS KIND, bake a batch of your favorite sugar cookies – heart-shaped, of course. Decorate with icing, then arrange them on a plate and deliver them to a neighbor, family member, or friend who could use a little extra dose of love and kindness. Or, if you have heart-shaped molds (available at your favorite craft or confectionary making shop) make your own heart-shaped chocolates and deliver those instead. Or, bake some muffins and top them with these delightful character-themed muffin toppers (with recipe), created by the illustrator and have a kindness tea party.
  1. COLOR, make an OWL MASK or DRAW ! After reading LOVE IS KIND, print out one of these adorable coloring pages and have fun coloring while you talk about your favorite bits of the story which can all be found in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit Zonderkidz has created to accompany the book.  Or, have your child DRAW their favorite scene. Then talk about what made it their favorite. Have fun!  

Tune in again tomorrow as I celebrate WORLD KINDNESS DAY with a special post and giveaway over at Noelle Kirchner’s blog.  Pop over today to see her kindness devotional.  I’ll post the link for tomorrow’s visit on my blog tomorrow.

Happy Reading, all… and I hope your day is filled with KINDNESS AND LOVE!

Note:  A variation of this post appeared at Becky Kopitzke’s wonderful blog in August as part of my blog tour. Thank you for having me, Becky!

TAILS ON THE ARK: An Edible Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, ARK

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It’s always fun when you discover that someone you’ve never even met has seen your book and thought enough of it to create a special activity based on the book. That’s exactly what happened last spring when I discovered that on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, Addie Gundry, trained chef and cookbook author, used the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat. Click here for her wonderful edible activity.  And thank you, Addie, for letting me share the adorable picture above.

Now to springboard off of her creativity, I’d like to add some suggestions for thoughtful questions you might ask as you are making these delightful tails inspired by GOODNIGHT, ARK!  

GOODNIGHT, ARK Tail-Themed Questions

Do all of the creatures in  GOODNIGHT, ARK have tails? Which do not?

Which is your favorite tail? Why?

How many tails can you count? (On any given page.)

Why do you think animals have tails?

If you had a tail, what would it look like?  (Draw it , or make one using Addie’s ingredients!)

Happy reading, conversing about, creating, and then eating these adorable tails! And thank you, Addie, for creating this delightful (and tasty) extension activity!

P.S. Addie Gundry has also created adorable (and I mean ADORABLE) treats to go with GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.  Press here for her adorable Bunny Tails.

LOVE IS KIND: Student Art and Kindness Reflections!

It’s always fun for an author to receive mail – especially the kind that includes student artwork and thoughtful writing inspired by one of their books. That’s exactly what happened this week!  Now, with permission, I’m delighted to share teacher and author Tina Cho’s students’ work along with her explanatory note about how she used LOVE IS KIND with her students in South Korea. Thank you, Tina!

“I read LOVE IS KIND last week for Fall, and we had also read nonfiction books about owls. So it was perfect! I had them draw Little Owl and write how they can be kind. Attached are papers. Below is what they said in case you can’t make it out.”
What a delightful way to integrate learning about owls with thinking about how to extend love and kindness to one another. Little Owl gives this project a thumbs up… and so do I!
Now, without further fuss, here are the art projects with captions beneath for clarity.  Enjoy!

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I can help my mom.

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I eat eggs, be kind at breakfast with Grandma.

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I can share my stuffed animal.

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I love my mom and dad. I play games (with them).

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I help my mom clean the room.

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I can be kind to my dad (helping him work on their jeep

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I hug my mom.

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I share with mom flower.

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I share an apple.

LOVE IS KIND: Activity Guide and Printables (Bookmark this post!)

LoveisKind_emailheader_650x254_B.jpgTEACHERS AND PARENTS: This post is a treasure that should be book-marked. It contains a wonderful activity kit offered by Zonderkidz and created by my illustrator Lison Chaperon. The not-to-be-missed kit has an assortment of LOVE IS KIND-themed printables – including coloring pages, an adorable Little Owl mask craft and a post card activity!

41257812_1845944638825854_3088792384515866624_nYou can download the kit here.

IMG_7709And for your convenience, I’m also including the downloadable baking activity with  character muffin toppers seen above – perfect for birthday parties, class celebrations etc. Press here for that.

Happy reading and creating!

 

LITTLE OWL’S TEA PARTY: A Baking Activity for LOVE IS KIND

happy fall

HAPPY FALL from LITTLE OWL and his friends! And a special thank you to illustrator, Lison Chaperon, for creating this adorable picture of Little Owl, Beaver, Rabbit, and Mrs. Mouse’s little mice ALL enjoying an autumn tea party!

And now, I’m delighted to share that you and your little ones can join in the fun by baking your own special LOVE IS KIND muffins and having your own tea party, complete with book-themed muffin toppers.

IMG_7709The recipe for Little Owl’s Chestnut Applesauce Chocolate Muffins was a collaborative effort between author and illustrator. I followed her recipe, but had to adapt for American ingredients and American measuring units.  I baked six batches before I got it just right!  The recipe calls for chestnut flour, which is delicious, but may be difficult to find. I got mine (and it was top-notch) at Nuts.com.  But, if you have nut allergies or just prefer to bake without it, the recipe is equally delicious if you simply omit the chestnut flour and increase the whole wheat flour to one cup.

Click here to download high quality at scale version for better printing. (Thank you, Lison, for providing!)

ENJOY!  And if you want to share snapshots on social media of you and your littles enjoying the book and this treat, we’d love that! Simply use the hashtag #littleowlsteaparty. Happy baking!

Little Owl Tea Party 1

Little Owl Tea Party 2

 

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: Stop ONE!

Please help yourself to one these these delectable virtual chocolates (made by Miss A.) and take a look at that sweet Little Owl, who’s the protagonist of my new picture book LOVE IS KIND, then head on over to bestselling author and blogger Becky Koptizke’s inspirational blog, as we kick off the LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour with Six Book-Themed Extension Activities!  (Hint: One involves sharing a yummy treat!)  And… there’s a giveaway too! Thank you for having me, Becky!

Extension Activity: DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE Coloring Page!

DivaDelores_ColoringPageR1_HighRes (1)TEACHERS, PARENTS, LIBRARIANS: Extend your story time with this printable DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE coloring page created by Sterling Children’s Books.  After coloring it in, make it super special by adding pink feathers and glitter. For extra, extra fun, use the coloring page as a jumpstart to write your own story about what you think might happen when Diva Delores and Fernando star in their next opera production.  Have fun!

GUEST POST: Zonderkidz Author DENETTE FRETZ with SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE!

CoverToday I’m delighted to feature SIX  AUTHOR-CREATED EXTENSION ACTIVITIES in celebration of the release of Christian picture book author Denette Fretz’s adorable new picture book, I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, published by Zonderkidz and illustrated by Jacki Urbanovic.  Not only is Denette a skilled children’s author, with a gift for creating stories that are fun and thought-provoking, she’s also a teacher – so her extension activities, many of them faith-based, are teacher tested and approved!

As you will see from the book trailer, I WANT YOUR CROCODILE SMILE is a clever tale of self-acceptance, starring Jack, the Meerkat, who covets all the things his zoo friends have but ultimately discovers that true contentment is only found when we accept and embrace that we are each created beautifully according to God’s perfect, purposeful design.  Enjoy the book trailer, then treat yourself  (and your kids) to Denette’s rich offering of extension activities.  Zonderkidz is also offering a GIVEAWAY so be sure to check out details for how to enter at the end of the post. Take it away, Denette!

SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Laura! I hope your readers and their children enjoy these activities together.

1. Become a meerkat expert.  I Want Your Smile, Crocodile follows a spunky meerkat, Jack, who thinks he would be happier if he were more like his zoo friends.  With an adult’s help, follow these video links to begin learning more about meerkats:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efRGPz1BQ6Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rml2Z2ytjAE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlOfIjP5-e8

2. Print and complete a meerkat word search. Now that you know more about meerkats, can you solve Jack’s clues to find thirteen meerkat words? If you get stumped, the words you are looking for are printed at the bottom of this post.

Word Search for Laura Blog JPEG

3. Read about animal features. In I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, Jack wants a crocodile smile, polar bear fur, and an elephant’s “hose nose.” What if you had animal teeth? Animal hair? An animal’s nose? Discover amazing animal facts by reading these fascinating picture books by Sandra Markle:

What if You Had Animal Teeth?

What if You Had Animal Hair? 

What if You Had An Animal Nose?

4. Design an imaginary animal. Jackie Urbanovic illustrated I Want Your Smile, Crocodile and did a fabulous job giving Jack the Meerkat jellyfish swish, porcupine spines, or an elephant’s trunk. What animals would you combine to create a new one? Print and use the template below to draw your imaginary animal. I thought this would be fun to try…and drew a “piggock!”

Piggock ScanDrawing Page for Laura Blog JPEG

5. Follow the zookeeper. Start at the beginning of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, and follow the zookeeper through its pages. What is he doing? How is the zookeeper acting like Jesus?

6. Discuss scriptures about God’s design. Below are the “foundation scriptures” I kept in mind when writing I Want Your Smile, Crocodile. Read each scripture. How does each scripture relate to the story? Most importantly, how does each scripture relate to YOU?

  • Genesis 1:31
  • Psalm 139:14
  • Ephesians 2:10

Thanks so much for these WONDERFUL extension ideas, Denette! Enjoy another I Want Your Smile, Crocodile activity next week, when the Blog Tour stops by Rebecca J. Gomez’s site for a “Read, Discuss, Do” activity…and another chance to win a book! 

Answers for Word Search:

1.  MONGOOSE  2. SENTRY  3. MOB, CLAN, GANG  4. BURROWS  5. KALAHARI  6. CLAWS  7. INSECTS, SPIDERS, SCORPIONS, SNAKES  8. PUPS

120427-82028_cropBIO: Denette Fretz is an elementary art educator and picture book author who desires to craft humorous, inventive, and memorable parables that engage imagination and encourage life-application of biblical principles. She is the author of PIRATES ON THE FARM (Zonderkidz, 2013), CONRAD, THE COWGIRL NEXT DOOR (Zonderkidz, 2014) and I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of I LOVE YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 5/10/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 5/11/18! THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. WINNER POSTED HERE.