Advent Presents!

Yes, you read that right… I am suggesting Advent presents!!!

And, I cannot wait to try it.

Each year, I devise a simple and Advent activity (it’s more of a Christmas countdown in Japan) for my students. This year, as my son is about to turn 2, I wanted to do something with my family; something with the potential to evolve over the years and become a family tradition.

Fortunately, my husband and I had a disagreement about the “big” Christmas present; should it be from Santa or Mummy and Daddy? We both grew up with different family traditions and they conflicted. And there, in conflict, was an idea.

Of course, I am not talking about a new present every day. I am talking about one gift, wrapped 25 times! We just unwrap a little everyday. And there is SO MUCH POTENTIAL!!!

I love ideas that act like gremlins in a swimming pool; my whole body bubbles with excitement. The problem is, when you have an idea explosion it is really difficult to simplify and explain it to others. I have had to sit on this for a week, because every time I tried to write or talk about it, I would disappear into a tornado of possibilities and confuse myself, never mind who I was talking to.


So how does it work?

Hakuba Childcare Present opening

This year, my husband and I will buy a gift for our son. We will loosely wrap it using contrasting tissue paper. Every day, our son can take some paper off and throw it around, or scrunch it, or use it in a craft, or eat it…

And that is it. On Christmas day, he will unwrap the final piece of paper to find a present (from his parents)!

Simple, easy, and not much preparation. I don’t even need to be a Pinterest mom; it doesn’t matter if the wrapping is appalling!


A few future adaptations:

Treats
Treats can be placed inside each layer (or every few layers)

Game, Task, or Challenge Cards (Download printable for ideas.)
Under each layer is a card with some kind of task or question. Older children can write their own cards.

Speculate
Guess the present. What a fun way to generate conversation. Families could even keep track and award a prize to the earliest accurate guess.

Secret Santa
Incorporate this in your usual Secret Santa activity – it means you need to be a little more organised and have your presents bought and wrapped a little earlier than usual, but it adds a nice bit of spice.

Wrap challenge
Try to wrap the gifts creatively to disguise them as something else.

(Silent) Pass the Parcel
Have one present. Set a timer on your phone for a random number of seconds/minutes. Pass the parcel around the each participant. When the timer goes off, the person holding the present unwraps it (or is eliminated and the last person gets to unwrap one layer).

More…
Blend a few of the ideas above. Add your own ideas. Let your family suggest ideas. Have fun with it and let me know in the comments if you try it or have any inspiration to share.

British English Printable

American English Printable

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Why?

This weekend I, like many others, learned of the horrific acts of violence in Paris. I learned of tragedy and more tragedy, around the world. Again. 

The blog I was planning to write didn’t happen. So many questions, the foremost being, “why?” What do these attacks achieve, other than heartache and pain? 

Like a child I keep asking, “Why?”

When children ask, “Why? Why? Yes, but Why?” is it because they are as perplexed at the world as I am today?

And what do we say to our children when they ask about the awful things that happen in the world? How do we explain that the world is not the beautiful place we want it to be?

I am consumed by thoughts for all the families. Parents have lost children. Children have lost parents. Siblings have lost brothers and sisters. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and co-workers have been brutally taken. Families have been irrevocably changed; damaged. How can this be anyone’s victory? 

Why?

There is no reason. There is only hope. That hope is our children. 

As I type this, I look at my son playing. I gaze at him and know that parenting is not about bedtime routines or limiting screen time; parenting is love. Parenting is about sending our kids into the world to brighten it. It is our job, to help our kids be a promise of a better, safer, more beautiful world. 

The joy of Childcare

I love being with children.

I always have.

There is something liberating about being with people who wear their hearts on their sleeves.

  • Happy = exuberant
  • Sad = devastated
  • Bored = ready for more

Hakuba Babysitter costumeWorking and being around the youngest of our society allows me to exercise my creative streak: painting, crafting, and dealing with the unexpected. There are so many benefits (cognitive, emotional, and academic) when working with children:

  • I get to workout: dancing, jumping, and pretending to be an animal (or a pirate).
  • I can sing, laugh, and play!
  • I am driven to study and learn more about: childhood development, health, art, music, science, and much more.
  • I have learned, and continue to learn, the value of patience and empathy.
  • It helps me be a better parent, especially on difficult days!

Yes, there are difficult days. There are times when childcare is tough, when even the most dedicated or experienced caregivers are challenged. That does not minimize the love and joy we have for our work or home, that makes us human.

We always want to be our best selves for the children in our care and, even when exhausted, a good caregiver will:

  • model the behaviour we want the children adopt
  • give time and support whenever it is needed
  • listen to stories
  • answer questions
  • help solve disagreements about who can play with the ball
  • join the children in play
  • be fully present

Why?

  • We want to keep the children safe and secure
  • We want them to take risks (this does not contradict the previous point)
  • We want to help them overcome challenges, and feel good about themselves

We want them to be happy

Not because it makes our lives easier, but because it makes their lives better.

Mostly, childcare is fun and the most difficult thing is saying goodbye.

Hakuba babysitting children

How to make balloon birds

PDF Printable

PDF Printable

I love any craft that is simple, cheap, allows creativity, and can be played with.

So balloon crafts are always a winner!

This is the first in a series of balloon crafts that you can do with children at home or at school.

I have included a free printable with a template for the pieces you need; they are just a guide so feel free to experiment with your own shapes.


Instructions

  • Step 1
    Trace or draw the shapes onto construction paper
  • Step 2
    Cut the shapes out
  • Step 3
    Blow up one balloon per child (for a large group, you’ll want to do this beforehand)
  • Step 4
    Use double sided tape to stick the wings, beak, and feet on the balloon
  • Step 5
    Make eyes – use stickers, markers, or whatever else takes your fancy
  • Step 6 (optional)
    Add a tail. I like using old plastic bags cut into strips and tied to the balloon; it looks good and makes a fun noise.
  • Step 7
    Play with the bird!!!

Tips

  • Let the children make choices: what color to use, where to position body/face parts, etc… Accuracy doesn’t matter; aim for creativity.
  • The children can design the wings and other body parts. They can scribble, draw, paint, add stickers, etc…
  • Soften the balloons – It helps prevent accidental popping when children try to remove the body parts! Inflate each balloon as much as you dare then partially deflate before tying.
  • Give ownership. Children should be supported so that they can do as much as possible by themselves. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be theirs!
  • Make it seasonal! Add a snood and a wattle to make a turkey!

Three steps to cope with Crazy

Could have been Mamma's head!

Could be worse

There are times when life overtakes us. We have a mound of laundry to do. The fridge is almost empty. The toys are scattered all over our home. The children need our attention. We have work to complete. The floor needs vacuuming (and decontaminating). There is some unexpected cr*p we need to deal with (see picture). And, we desperately want to sit down with some tea/coffee/wine/beer/chocolate (circle all that apply).

When we talk about the importance of work life balance, we never seem to account for the work that needs to get done at home, and our “break time” is sadly not a priority.

I do not have any answers. I wish I did. But, I do have a strategy that helps me feel less overwhelmed on crazy days.

Step One

Choose ONE task
Simple, right! Just choose one task. Sometimes the choice is made for us;  the baby needs feeding, or the toddler is stuck in a cupboard. Other times we need to be grown up and choose for ourselves; should I do the dishes or put the laundry on? Maybe I should run out and get groceries first. There is no wrong choice – only a lack of decision.

As soon as you know what you are going to do, life becomes simpler.

Step Two

Say what you are about to do (now).
As a determined (not very good) multitasker and (excellent) procrastinator, I find Step One the most difficult. I need Step Two to get me moving. It may seem strange, but I find that by stating my intentions out loud the other distractions fade away. For example, I opt to do the dishes so I say, “I am going to do the dishes, now.” The key to this statement, and any variation on it, is the word “now.” When you say “now,”  you commit.  Everything else fades away and becomes less of a priority. There is no procrastination. The same is true when we do not choose a task, when the task chooses us; the blanket fort has collapsed again and your child needs (urgent) assistance. Simply state, “I am going to help you, now.” And that is it – you both feel better!

Step Three

Take action
This might seem obvious, but sometimes there is a big, fat distraction between us and the job at hand. The other day, I had a break!!! But, out of the corner of my eye, I could see vegetables waiting to be washed and chopped.  It took a huge effort (well, not that big), to ignore them and finish pouring my cup of tea. The trick? When saying, “now” step toward the task .

Do not deviate.

Do not look back.

Do not compromise.

Unless you hear urgent cries for help, in which case return to Step One!

Tips

Here are a few links to help make your time in Hakuba easier and more enjoyable. I will continue to edit this page, so if you have anything you’d like to add, please mention it in the comments.


Hospitals and clinics in Hakuba

Essential Guide to Hakuba (PDF)

Guidebook for foreign residents in Hakuba

Emergency Medical Guide for Children (PDF)