The Polar Express and Graham Cracker Trains

Traditions are my favorite! I love creating memorable experiences for my kids, and December is full of many anticipated events that we have done year after year. Watching The Polar Express and making graham cracker trains is one that my kids definitely look forward to. We always include this holiday tradition as one of our Advent activities.

Each year, my kids invite a couple of friends to join them. I hit the candy aisle for mini M&M’s, Smarties, Gummy Lifesavers for wheels, mini Starbursts for windows, Nerds, Candy Canes, mini marshmallows and whatever else looks fun and festive. I get a couple of boxes of graham crackers and some vanilla frosting and have the table ready when friends arrive. I have found that muffin tins make the perfect holder for a variety of sweet treats. #CommissionsEarned

I tell the kids to create their train, but to hold off on eating until we start the movie. I love watching all of their creative ideas come to life. Some of their trains are simple and others make complex box cars with hidden compartments filled with candy. I like to include a few “healthier” snacks to put out with the movie as well, so that they are not leaving my house in the midst of a sugar crash.

I usually plan for about an hour for train making and two hours for the movie. Once the trains are complete, we throw on The Polar Express, which honestly is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies. I am pretty relaxed about kids eating in my living room, so I let everyone get comfy and enjoy their tasty creations while they watch.

For more fun Christmas ideas check out my other holiday blogposts:

Advent

Turn Dad Into A Snowman

Glittery Christmas Silhouettes

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

Thanksgiving (Turkey Handprint) Kids Table

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have been reflecting on the progression of our Thanksgivings over the years. This used to be the one holiday that my entire side of the family came together. We spent several days at my mom’s house baking, taking walks through the almond orchards in her town, playing games, bike riding, watching movies, and preparing for the big feast on Thanksgiving Day. When my mom passed away, 6 years ago, everything about this beloved holiday changed. We started getting together with my family the weekend after Thanksgiving for a non traditional meal, which has still made for some really fun memories, but some years, we have found ourselves at home on Thanksgiving Day, just the 5 of us.

I love to create memories that my kids will look back on with joy when they have families of their own, so on those quiet Thanksgivings we started a new tradition. I purchased a roll of brown craft paper and used it as our table cloth. I grabbed a large bowl from the kitchen to use as a template to trace circles for each member of our family and put a bucket of markers in the middle of the table. At some point in the day, before our big feast, we all sit down and make “turkey handprints” in the circles and then write the things we are thankful for. The circles then become our dinner place settings. #CommissionsEarned

On Thanksgiving, like many families, we take some time to share what we are thankful for. This interactive table setting, provides plenty of content for a wonderful conversation about gratitude and gives each member of the family a chance to put their creativity on display.

You can even add to this activity by including some fun holiday stickers for the kids, as well as a beautiful thankful sticker to place along the center of your table. #CommissionsEarned

For more fun Thanksgiving ideas, check out these blogposts:

Thanksgiving Turkey Place Cards

Thanksgiving Cakes and Cupcakes

Fall Leaf Cupcakes

Thankful Tree

Breakfast Turkey

Turn Dad into a Snowman

Turning Dad into a snowman has become one of the most anticipated Advent activities for our children.   We started this tradition 3 years ago and it’s always sure to bring out tons of laughter and joy for all of us!  The kids squealed with delight this morning, when they opened the Advent bag and read that this was the day to make a Dad “snowman!”

The best part of this activity, besides the crazy amount of laughter, is that it is free!  Just gather what you have around the house.  We used a couple of rolls of toilet paper, some scrapes of cardstock for the eyes, coal buttons, nose, mouth, and arms.  I grabbed a scarf out of my closet and a hat out of the kid’s dress up box.  Have some scotch tape handy and you are ready to go.

Last year, by accident, my husband got some toilet paper in his mouth, which made for a hilarious few minutes of giggles for the kids.  So of course, this year, there was the expectation that he would make this happen once again.  He did not disappoint!  Make sure to watch our video to the very end to see the grand finale!

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Over the last several years, we have switched things up a bit. So far all but one of us has been the snowman. The kids were delighted the year that they opened the advent bag and found the card that said “turn MOM into a snowman!” From that point on, every year we have chosen a different person to be the snowman. Here are a few pics of this silly tradition.

For more Christmas Fun check out the following blogposts:

Advent

Glittery Christmas Silhouettes

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

Thanksgiving Turkey Place Cards

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  I love the food, the family time, and all the yummy desserts.  Involving the kids in the preparations makes the anticipation even greater.  Each year, I give my kids an activity to do before we pack up and make the trip to visit family for Thanksgiving.  We made these place cards several years ago, and I have to say, they are still one of my favorites.  To make these cute turkey place cards for your Thanksgiving table you will need card stock in plain colors, scrapbooking paper in various fall prints for the feathers, and buttons or googly eyes.  Cut out rectangles of card stock and fold in half for the cards, cut out the basic turkey shape, small orange triangles for beaks, red squiggly gobbles, and feathers in various prints.  Hand out glue sticks and let your kids get creative with the design of their turkeys.  Leave some room on one side to place the names.  I just printed a list of names off of the computer and then backed them with dark brown card stock to make them pop.  These little place cards looked perfect on our Thanksgiving table, and my kids were very proud of their creations! #CommissionsEarned

My daughter and I recently added a tutorial for you to enjoy and you can find another fun kid friendly Thanksgiving idea by clicking on my most recent blogpost Thanksgiving (Turkey Handprint) Kids Table.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

When my oldest son was in preschool, we started this tradition.  Every year during Christmas Break, my kids get to invite a couple of friends over to make graham cracker gingerbread houses.  We have carried on this tradition for 10 years now and it is definitely one we all look forward to.  A muffin tray makes the perfect holder for the various small candies used to decorate these tiny edible houses.  Royal frosting is a must, as it hardens quickly and acts like glue to hold the sides of your houses together.  Stick pretzels can be used to create a log cabin or a fence.  It’s helpful to give each child a baggie full of frosting with one corner snipped off for cleaner lines.  Because this is a messy experience, I like to put a cheap plastic table cloth on my table for easy clean up.  It’s also important to buy heavy duty plastic or thick paper plates to build your houses on.  To secure the houses, it’s best to “glue” the base to the plate with some royal frosting.  I always invite parents to stay and hang out while the kids work on their house’s.  Not only does it make for good company, but there are extra hands to hold graham crackers in place and spread frosting for little ones who need the help.  I love to see how each child comes up with a completely different and unique design for their graham cracker gingerbread house.  I imagine that we will continue this tradition for years to come!IMG_1058IMG_1065IMG_1066IMG_1078