Monday, December 3, 2012

The Countdown is On: Making Paper Advent Chains

As a part of our first day of Advent plans yesterday, we made our annual Advent Chain -- a simple and fun way for the children and us to countdown the days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus while also focusing on how He lives within each of us.

The Ideal:  Two Montessori Trays for Making Paper Advent Chains

Flashback:  Nina concentrates as she cuts strips last year.

I had imagined setting up two Montessori trays this year to make our Advent Chain:

  • one with purple paper, a ruler, kid-sized scissors and a pencil, so that the children could draw and cut straight lines to make our Advent chain strips,
  • and, another with the cut paper strips, a pen and the children’s ideas for serving others written out on strips that the children could be used for copywork.

The Real:  A More Free Flow Activity to Transition to Quiet, Focused Time

Drawing Straight Lines

However, Sundays are a bit too free-flow around here for such structure, so, yesterday, we kept the essence of the project, but not the arrangement.  Instead of working from pre-prepared Montessori trays, we set about the project with a more impromptu nature.

After some outdoor family time, Jack needed a nap and Luke and Nina needed a semi-structured activity to help them transition from boisterous outdoor play to quiet (i.e. brother needs a nap) indoor pursuits.  So, upon spying some construction paper I’d purchased for our Advent lessons sitting on the kitchen counter top, I decided that preparing our Advent Chain would be a perfect activity!

Out came a ruler, some writing utensils and the adult scissors, which were all readily available in the kitchen.  Down sat Luke and Nina.  And, the project was underway.

Nina and Luke concentrated on drawing lines and cutting along them to make paper strips for our chain.  They asked if they could make pink ones as well as purple ones this year, which I was happy to agree to.  By doing so, I was able to weave in some patterning discussion – asking the kids what type of pattern we should make and, then, proceeding to help create an A-B-A-B pink-and-purple chain.

Since the children were in more of a construction mood than a writing one, I forwent the copywork idea I had originally had for our Advent Chain project this year and simply wrote out the children’s ideas on each chain link myself.  As I did, I smiled at the works of service that they had come up with during our Christ the King liturgical tea last week.  During the tea, we had discussed how Christ the King, unlike many worldly rulers, leads by serving.  Then, the children had brainstormed ways that we, as a family, might serve others during Advent.  The breadth of their ideas – and the depth of some of them – impressed me as I rewrote them on our Advent chain.

The First Link Accomplished

"We did this!"
Finally, we hung the chain up high in our living room, so Jack won’t be apt to tear it apart, and Nina excitedly took down the first link – an idea the children had come up with last week which I had purposely put at the end of the chain as the children had already accomplished its suggestion today. 

“Give stuff to other people,”  it said.  At Mass, they had given an extra copy of one of our Christmas board books to a family with three young children.  This small gesture of kindness was a HUGE thing for them, in my opinion, as it demonstrated growth in areas of character development and social skills that they have been working on:  not hoarding things we don’t need, sharing, approaching others and getting their attention with politeness, speaking up with people they might not know, etc.  Not to mention it started our Advent off right with a focus on Faith, Others, then Selves.

Undoubtedly, the next 22 days will be filled with similar growth as the children work to honor all the ideas they brainstormed on Christ the King day.

Academic Links for the Next 22 Days
To keep us accountable to our focus of service – as well as to add an easy dimension to our Math work this month – I made a simple bar graph for the kids and I to fill out daily. 

Additionally, we will use the chain for practice with counting, addition, subtraction, concepts of time, etc.

Since some of the ideas the children brainstormed involve gifting things to others, practical life skills will be inspired aplenty.  Likewise, there will be handwriting practice as the children write notes and make cards.

And, of course, Luke will work on decoding as he attempts to read some of the links.

For Posterity

Nina with Last Year's Advent Chain
Since I already tossed the paper from the kids’ original brainstorm into the recycling bin and the idea are now hidden inside each chain link loop, I cannot share what the kids’ ideas were this year just yet.  However, for posterity, I would like to list some of the ideas that the kids came up with for last year’s chain.  For it is not from the wind that they get their bad habit of squirreling things away unnecessarily.  In recent weeks, I found a stack of last year’s purple strips that I had kept for who knows what reason.  They are now headed to recycling, too, but first, let me share some of them:

  • “Make a card for someone.”
  • “Paint a picture for someone.”
  • “Hug someone.”
  • “Visit a neighbor.”
  • “Play ball with Jack.”
  • “Let Mommy have computer time.”
  • “Make Luke’s bed.”
  • “Rub someone.”  (i.e. offer a back massage at nap or bedtime)
  • “Offer a compliment.”
  • “Say something nice.”
  • “Tell Daddy he runs faster than us.”
  • “Tickle Jack.”
  • “Make books.  Read them to see if they’re good and give them away.  If they’re not good, don’t give them away.”
  • “Make a bird house.”
  • “Protect the birds by saying, ‘Shoo, squirrel, shoo!’”
  • “Kiss someone.”
  • “Feed the birds.”
  • “Pick a room and do a ten-minute cleaning.”
  • “Clean all the doorknobs and light switches.”
  • “Make a welcome sign.”
  • “Give our neighbor’s food.”
  • “Let Jack play with us.”
  • “Make Mommy’s bed.”
  • “Skip computer time to play with the kids.”
  • “Let Nina go first at something.”

As I recall, I helped the kids brainstorm some of these ideas last year by asking how we might be kind to one another, help people in our neighborhood, help the poor, prepare our home for unexpected guests, etc.  From there, they came up with the ideas.

Flashback to Last Year:  Luke Making Our Advent Chain
Do you make Advent, or Christmas Countdown, Chains?  If so, do you have children generate their own ideas, do you come up with them or do you use a pre-made printable?  What is the focus of your chain?  Service?  Fun?  Prayer?  Family time?  Some combinations of all of them?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 This post is being shared over at Montessori Monday.  Click on over to be inspired by many home and school ideas.

1 comment:

Heather said...

What a great idea! I love anything that can involve the kids :-)


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