Friday, December 13, 2013

Sugar Cube Igloo

Today we finally got around to decorating the Christmas cake.  While I was icing it Matthew asked to find the decorations.  The mistake I made was that I keep the decorations for all occasions in the same box.  Being a boy he found the train so we have ended up with a Polar Express Christmas cake.

As normal we had lots of icing left over so we decided to get creative using the icing and sugar cubes to build an igloo.  Matthew decided he was going to use a layer of icing for the foundations of his creation.  Good idea as this stuck it to the plate.

It then gradually grew taller using the icing as cement.
And then Santa decided he was going to move in.
After the roof was finished there was still some icing and sugar cubes left over so he continued building.
This was so easy to do and kept him occupied for ages.

Time for the fresh decorations.

Just about on top of the Christmas preparations, planned time today to make the door wreath.  On the way back from shopping yesterday I went out to the woods to collect some foliage to make it.  Just as well I did.  Got home to a message saying the heating engineer was coming out.  Not good news he found big problems with the heating.  We spent the night without it while the parts he needed were delivered.  Looks like he will be here most of the day today. Handy we have a wood fire and good neighbours with electric heaters.

OK so the wreath this year is going to be quite plain.  I was going to go out today to collect some berries.  That is now out the window.  Might have to use ribbon to spice it up.  Not my normal choice.

Found the wooden frame down in the Christmas boxes that I made last year.  One less thing to have to make.  Unless Matthew comes home from kindergarten wanting to make one as well.

I find it easies to cut up lots of small bits of foliage before I start making the wreath but of course I ran out and had to cut more as I went along.

Then all you need to do is hold the foliage on the frame and wind some string round to hold it in place.
Keep going all the way round.  Adding any berries etc. as you go.  I just had a few catkins.
I then added some ribbon.  Normally I just tie a bow at the top.
Thought I would just show what I was planning to make from last year.
Still not sure about the ribbon. This afternoon onto candle arrangements and icing the Christmas cake.  Might just leave the engineer for a bit to go down the end of the road for berries.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

fun Snowball word game.

Raising a know it all, smart Alex I'm often browsing the Internet/blogs and Pinterest for educational activities.  While I was looking the other day I found this fun snowball Digraph sorting activity by Make Take and Teach.  I think it was her snowmen containers that first caught my attention.  Then I thought the game would be ideal for Matthew.

He would have to match pictures to letter sounds.  As he has trouble with some sounds including SH I thought this might help.

As we didn't have the containers I decided to make our own version to play this game.  Clip art came in very handy again along with white plastic cups and some Christmas sticky tape.

 I found a snowman clip art picture that I printed out 4 times.  Then I stuck it onto an old cereal box and cut them out.  Matthew then helped me to tape them onto the cups.

Then I printed out the snowball letter sounds and pictures from Make, Take and Teach.  These also got stuck to cereal box and cut out.  Matthew enjoyed matching the pictures to the sounds and I think even playing it once I was hearing the difference in some of the words he was saying.  I need to keep looking for more ideas like this one.  Thanks again.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Raising a Smart Alex

Since Matthew could talk he has always been interested in everything.  Anyone that knows him would agree with me that he never stops talking.  We have always travelled by public transport which he has loved since he was young, he used to point out things he could  see through the window. Gradually I realised that he was recognising words on shops and asking about them. (I’m just glad that he didn’t ask about the Red Rose.)  

We have always read him a bed time story.  To start with in English and as he grew older he also had one in German.  (That was Phil’s job his German is much better than mine.) Slowly it dawned on us that he was recognising words as we were reading to him.

Trying to look back I can’t remember how it all started but I printed out easy work sheets for him on the computer.  These were simple things such as draw a line to match the gloves, or two blue objects.  He couldn’t get enough of them.  I felt a bit awkward doing these with him as he was so young but he loved them.  So I decided as long as he wanted to do them I would encourage them, but if he didn’t want to I wouldn’t make him.

He has always liked company and as a toddler/spielgruppe kid he never wanted to play on his own. I must admit I didn’t want to sit driving cars around, so we often fell back on crafts of some kind.  Almost without thinking words gradually got included in our play.  To start with he had the days of the week, and months.  Then we would write colours and shapes to match with pictures.  He loved it all.  It wasn’t at all long before we realised he could read bits of easy books. 

Not having had anything to do with small kids before he came along I didn’t realise this wasn’t really normal.  We used to go along to the Basel children's trust playgroups and I would chat with other Mums like we all do.  While chatting I just mentioned that Matthew was reading.  The other Mums were surprised at this OK he was only about 3-4 years old. 

His reading continued to improve at a great rate and now at 6 years old he loves reading and can read chapter books. Every time he finishes a book he is rewarded with a new bookmark. (He is a kid really)  
I realise he is still young and don’t want to push him but if he is interested in something I go along with it.  We have been through phases learning about Vikings, pharaohs, Space and of course trains.  Recently he has got interested in learning to write and do maths.  Often when we are sat at the table he will suddenly start asking maths questions, 1+4 or 9-5 or if you have 6 apples and 3 children how many apples does each child have.  One day he was doing this on the train and we were getting strange looks from a mum opposite before she plucked up the courage to ask how old he was.  

He is now in Swiss kindergarten so is learning German or should I say Swiss German and he is having fun.  But he won’t even start to read, write or do maths till he starts proper school next year. I have always realised It would be down to me to teach him reading and writing in English but didn’t realise I would be doing maths, geography and history as well.  He still loves to learn about everything and I now feel like a part time stay at home teacher.  

 I’m always looking for crafts and educational activities on the internet.  There are various different blogs that I follow and Pinterest is a great waste of time.  Sorry I should say source of knowledge, crafts and activities.  I have found lots of simple maths and spelling games that are either easy to make or print out.  I’m always amazed at how he takes to them and often when he has spare time he will go and get one of these out instead of playing cars.  One of his favourites must have been a maths game using bottle tops.  Numbers and symbols are written on the lids and then a sum is laid out we then take it in turn to answer them.  

I leave him to take the lead but as I’ve always thought if he is interested in something I should encourage it.  Just a shame that he is missing this time at school when he could be learning all this there.   I just hope that he is still interested next year when they do it at school and not bored because he knows it all. 
Recently I started doing a blog as Mothers Madness sharing the activities and crafts that we get up to. Thinking that family can see what we get up to and other mums might like to use some of the ideas to entertain their own kids.  I’m always amazed at what you can find on the Internet with a bit of time. Here are a few sites you might find helpful.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

We wish you a Swiss Christmas

I'm an English Mum living in Switzerland.  My Son was born in Switzerland but has a British Passport.  Last year he started in Swiss Kindergarten and we moved to the country where he has made lots of Swiss friends and speaks Swiss German.
On his birthday in kindergarten he was asked where he was borne.  He came home asking why am I English.  We knew this would come but though it might be when he was older.
Over the last year we have realised he thinks of himself more as Swiss and wants to join in with his friends and Swiss traditions.  This year I though I should start to find out more about a Swiss Christmas.

In Switzerland Santa or weihnachtsmann comes on 6th December.  He has a helper called Shmutzli.  Traditionally  Schmutzli is the bad character (nowadays this gets played down).  If a child is bad Schmutzli will take the child to the Black Forest to peel carrots for the reindeer.  We played down the Black Forest bit because it is a nice place to go walking and we didn't want Matthew to be afraid of going there.

Instead of bringing toys he brings a small sack of goodies.   This normally contains chocolates, nuts and small oranges.  Some times also a sweet bread man called a Grattimänner. We actually decided to make our own on the same day.

On 24th December the Christ child comes with gifts.  Like Santa nobody ever sees him.  Lots of gifts are also opened on 24th. In the past it has also been tradition to bring the Christmas tree in on Christmas Eve and decorate it with real candles.  Although I think this is changing over to normal lights and having the tree in for longer.  Sounds a lot safer to me.

In the town near us they have lots of  Santas who arrive on Harley motorbikes.

Matthew will be luck he will be getting his Swiss bag of goodies tomorrow on 6th and will wake up on Christmas day to the English tradition of Santa bringing a sack of goodies.  Just hope he will go to bed in time.  Santa can't come unless he is asleep.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Star

11 Yeas ago when we lived in England before moving to Switzerland I used to be a florist.  When we moved I discovered that the floristry style was very different and of course I didn't speak German.  Luckily I was in the position that I didn't need to work so I decided to do voluntary work before my son arrived.  Although at times being an adult with adult company would be nice.
Sometime though I like to fall back my floristry skills and Christmas is one of them. Today I decided to make a star to hang up outside.  So this morning in heavy frost I decided to go for a walk to collect some willow twigs.
I came home with a bundle of willow twigs.  (I use willow because it is nice and flexible with nice straight twigs.) Once you have your twigs you need to strip any leaves that are left and any side twigs so that you have nice straight pieces.
Once you have your sticks lay a few out in the shape you want.  I put two sticks going each way but you can make it as thick as you want.

Then you need to tie the points together.
I also decided to tie it where they crossed over to hold it together better.  Once you have your shape trim off the ends.
I wasn't happy with this shape so I then played about with it a bit to get a better star. 
You could leave it like this but I decided to make it a bit more rustic.  If you tuck the end of another stick through two sticks to hold it in place you can then wrap it around the frame you have.
As you add more sticks it is easier to tuck the ends in.
Again you could leave it plain like this, or cover it with Christmas foliage.  I decided this year we would decorate it with beads.  I had some fishing line type thread so I put some beads on this and wrapped it around the star.  To keep a bead in place on the thread (if you want gaps), thread the bead on to where you want it and then take the thread through the same direction a second time.
I got to this stage and decided I really should leave it so that Matthew could decorate it as that was the plan in the first place.
Last year I made a ring that I turned into a door wreath.  At the end of the Christmas season I took the foliage off  and kept the ring to decorate again this year.  That is still to be done.

Another idea could be to put lights around it and turn it into a table decoration.  Lots of different possibilities.  Wonder If I could make a willow Reindeer.  Now that is pushing it a bit.


If you are looking for other great Christmas crafts try looking at my Pinterest Christmas board.