Week 3

Read aloud and discuss Genesis 41
Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dream, and prepares for famine.  Grain is stored up by God’s wise servant, Joseph.  The grain will be used to care & provide for ALL the people of the world, and eventually, Joseph’s family too.

Trace a barn template onto a piece of red construction paper.
Have your child cut it out, and also cut out the doors so they open up. Fold them back.
Glue barn onto another (whole) piece of construction paper.  Do NOT glue down the doors.

Inside the doors, spread glue all over, forming what will be a large heap.
Glue down grain (or oatmeal or rice if no grain is available).

Inside the doors, glue a small Joseph, with his arms raised up.

Your child can color and cut out this picture of the resurrected Christ, and glue it onto the back side of the construction paper, showing the parallel between Joseph and Jesus.

Joseph was in betrayed, falsely accused, and thrown into prison.
Jesus was betrayed, falsely accused, and crucified.

Joseph was raised up out of prison and was seated at Pharoah’s right hand, where he provided food for all.
Jesus was raised up from the grave, and was seated at God the Father’s right hand, where he provides for all our needs.

This Week’s Scripture:

My God shall supply all of your needs, according to His riches in glory.
-Phil 4:19 

Oh, how I wish
I would have found this idea a few years ago when I first started introducing letters to my daughter, who is now in Kindergarten.
Nevertheless, it has been a WILD SUCCESS so far,
and is still totally reinforcing everything she is learning right now.

This idea, in its entirety, was borrowed from Pink and Green Mama, and can be found here, as well as several other places on the internet.
But good ideas are for copying, tweaking and re-sharing, don’t ‘cha think?  =]
Get ready, cause this one’s pretty darn COOL.

Behold, the Alphabet Toolbox.

Pink and Green Mama actually used a great little drawer system for hers; I was unable to find a drawer-set that had at least 26 compartments (one for each letter) at any of our local stores, and decided to keep looking a bit longer before I figured I’d eventually have to buy one online.

BUT THEN–I walked into my garage one day, and right in front of my eyes was this
brand new, heavy-duty, plastic toolbox
(technically, it’s a small-parts and hardware organizer)
that my awesome neighbor and friend, TRISH had given my husband when she was moving!! 
I had totally forgotten about it–and I was SURE my hunny wouldn’t mind if we used it for school instead!

Seriously, WHAT A SCORE!!  And it was FREE!  

Also, I love that this super cool box is portable AND far more durable than the mini storage drawer system.  Only thing I don’t LOVE is that each letter cubby is unable to open individually–you have to open the whole side at once. 
But other than that, it’s PERFECT.

PLUS, my big 3 year old boy loves it because it’s got a toolbox feel. 
And anything that can further interest him in learning is a good thing. =]

 So, with our box finally in hand, we were able to begin this

If you would like to try this yourself, I suggest you search your home improvement stores, or Walmart, etc. for either a small-parts organizer like mine, or a drawer system like the one linked above. 

All you need is something with 26 or more compartments.

For ours,
We first removed all the stickers/advertisements off of the top and sides of the box, and once she was all cleaned up, I made up our letter cards & taped them on the inside of each compartment.
Then I printed a title to tape to the top.

Next, Eden placed all of her magnetic letters,
capitals and lowercase,
into their new “homes” in the storage box. 

Can I just say this brought me great satisfaction because those things are always laying around everywhere, and now they have a place to live!!

Now for the fun part.

We went on a scavenger-hunt, for miniature items whose beginning sound matched each letter!

To do this,
initially, you’ll just want to take a bucket or a box,
 and go on a hunt through all the rooms in your house,
and all the toyboxes and bins (and under the couch cushions too), gathering any tiny items as you go.

This is great fun, and with each item you find, you and your child can review its beginning sound!

Look It’s a /k/k/ KEY!  We can put in the Kk box!
Ooooo!  An /e/e/ ELEPHANT to go in our Ee box!
And on and on–you get the idea.

You child will be DELIGHTED to take their bucket back to their Alphabet Box to organize everything.

Put ’em all in a pile, then one at a time, say the item, practice identifying its beginning sound, and put it in its proper place.

Once you’ve sorted everything out, you can survey your letter box,
and determine which letters still need items.

(Poor Xx, and Yy, Qq and Oo, they will take a bit longer to fill. 
Our Xx is still empty, and I think I will print a miniature picture of an x-ray this week on some transparency paper just so there is SOMETHING in there…)

Here is a very important tip for you.
If you have a daughter, and she has a doll house,

you will want to go raid it.

(WITH her, of course!)

Go on, it’s OK
You can always put those little things back later.
The dollhouse is your JACKPOT for this project.

the kitchen.

 Just look at all those tiny treasures!

And before you go thinking that it always looks like this in my FIVE year old’s dolly house [which used to be mine! *tear*]  LET ME ASSURE YOU: it doesn’t. 
We cleaned up before we had you over, is all.

And no, the rest of the house is not this cool.  But anyone who collects miniatures knows that the kitchen is just the absolute MOST FUN room in the whole house.

Just in the kitchen, we found:

vegetables (radish, carrot, turnip, cabbage, green beans green onion, parsnips, and tomatoes)
fruits (oranges, lemons, apples, cherries)
meat (sausages, steak, ham, pepperoni)
pepper mill
-soda pop
pots and pans
jars, bowls, plates, cups, mugs

And no, we did not take ALL of them out for our ABC Box.

Just certain SELECT items. 
After all, the little family that lives there has to have SOMETHING left to eat!

Other fun items for your ABC Box–
 if you are as obsessed as we are with the little Japanese erasers,
start rounding them up too. 

They are PERFECTLY SIZED for this project.

Just look around your place. You’ll be surprised what you can find, once you begin looking. 

Now, it seems wherever we go, we’re searching for and finding tiny little “treasures” for our ABC Box.
The alphabet is ON THE MIND!!

In fact, last week, when Eden was telling a clerk at the store that her Oo box sadly had no items in it, the lady actually GAVE us a darling little miniature octopus she had on her cash register. 
My girl was THRILLED.

How to use your ABC BOX:

Once your letter box is filled,
expect your child to want to carry it around for the first week or so, bringing it out
in every.single.compartment
over and over again.

(BUT THIS IS GOOD, so go ahead and secretly apologize to the one who has to sit through all 26 compartments, and then enthusiastically cheer your child on).

I keep a little baby washcloth in one of our extra compartments, and Eden uses it as her display area when she removes the contents of each drawer.  Or you could use a piece of felt.

Here are some of our letter compartments, and their contents.

Bb: book, butterfly, bird, button, burger, bucket, ball and a boy baby (with a bandaid on him)

Pp: piggie, princess picture, plate, potted plant, pear, pot, pop, pillow, pizza, pick, and penny

Ss: sewing machine, snowman, souvenir, small sandwich, sandal, sword, super sized sandwich ūüôā sea shell, and sunglasses
Cc: crown, cupcake, crate, cow, car, cake, clothespin, coin, and cup

Here’s another fun activity we do as a warm-up before reading in the morning.

I will present Eden with an assortment of items, like this:

And she’ll have to put them all away, based on their beginning sounds.
It’s great fun for her, and I get to assess her letter identification/beginning sound progress.
Often, I will choose items from the letter/sound boxes I know she still struggles with.

Here is a good idea:
 You can take out the contents of TWO of your letter boxes, mix them up, and have your child sort them into two columns.

For more challenging activities, or for older kiddos, you could:

Have your child remove the contents of one box, and spell out the items.

You (or your child) could write out all of the items from one box onto a notecard, then sort them alphabetically…

You could EVEN try sorting items out based on their ENDING SOUNDS for a whole OTHER kind of challenge.

Let me know what works for you and your little learners!

Until next time,
Happy Learning!

A few nights ago, I re-read¬†one of my daughter’s¬†favorite books to her at bedtime, called¬†Little Mommy.
This time, as we snuggled up to read, I told her why I chose this particular book:
“Hunny, this book reminds me so much of YOU, because everyday,¬†you’re learning how to be a little mommy too, aren’t you?”
And this time, I watched her face as I read each page, and in her sparkling eyes, I could almost see her entering the storybook and becoming one with the main character (THE Little Mommy herself).
The next morning, after breakfast, with a grin on her face, she tells me she had a “really LONG, wonderful¬†dream,” but wouldn’t tell me what it was about.
However, with the Little Mommy book in hand, she went to the basement and found an empty storage bin, gathered her dollies, and asked if she could take them in the back yard to give them baths and wash their clothes.

I knew what she was up to–she wanted to act out the story.

The pre-school years, up through about age 8 or 9, are rich with exploratory play-learning. 

And good books are the fuel for that critical imaginative play.  A good story feeds the soul and waters the creative mind.

I enjoy helping my kids enter into this wonderful play-world, knowing how good it is for them (and for me, since they usually become so immersed in play that I can get other things accomplished!) 

So I found a clothesline and clothespins for her, filled her bin with soapy water, and even dragged her little table and dolly furniture outside to put into the playhouse in the backyard. 

But once I got her set up, she was off to the races.
She actually brought the little book out with her, and with each new page, she acted out the scene. 
Several times, she’d stop, and ask me for more items:
a chalkboard, a stroller, an apron, and would then get back to her children.¬† It wasn’t long before her brothers joined in too.
This is the kind of imaginative activity we want to promote with our children. 
All it takes is a good book, a little helping along from mom or dad, and away they’ll go!¬†
What books capture your children’s imaginations, and suck them right in to play land?¬†
You know your kids best, and when you see and read one that you just know is MAGICAL, be sure to bring it home from the library or the bookstore! 
After a while, they won’t even ask to watch those mindless cartoons anymore.¬† They’ll be too busy in their own make-believe world.
Some books, like Little Mommy, are perfectly-suited for your kids to act out themselves.
The Fancy Nancy books are great for this too, as well as any of the classic fairy tales.
Then of course many books need to be entered with toys as the main characters and props.
Read your kids¬†the riveting toy tale called¬†The Tub People, then supply them with a family of little toy people at bath time, along with their soap and washcloth.¬† They’ll never let a toy get near the drain again when it’s time to empty the tub!
When we made our Construction Site Sensory Box, Joshua’s imaginative play was totally fueled by this book he chose the week before from the library.
¬†I’m always trying to keep my eyes open for special books that I know will stimulate my kids’ minds.
Of course, we can’t forget the descriptive and meaningful stories that abound in
THE Good Book! 
You will often hear me say that the best thing we every purchased for our kids was our
We have been using it to work our way through the Bible, beginning with Genesis, for the past 2 years.  We are currently in 1 Samuel, though we return to our beloved Genesis stories often.
In case you don’t already¬†know, these first 10-12 books of the Bible are OVERFLOWING with narrative accounts. ¬†
All kids greatly enjoy hearing and seeing a story told to them, then being allowed to retell it on their own. 
And yes, random characters and animals and plots are always SOMEHOW integrated into their version of the story, but that’s ok too!¬†
They’re just using their imaginations. =]

Here are some photos I snapped of OUR Little Mommy-in-training, along with text from the book.  After snapping these pictures, I thought it would be great fun to print them, and rewrite the book with these photos in place of the illustrations.
What a fun little keepsake that would be!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“This is my house and I am the mommy.¬† My children are Annabelle, Betsy, and Bonny.¬† They are good little children and do just as I say.¬† I put on their coats and they go out to play.”

“I do the dishes and sweep the floor, and wipe the fingerprints off the door.”
“I wash the clothes in my washing machine. I scrub them with soap and rinse them clean.”

“Then I’ll hang them on the line to dry.¬† I’ll have to iron them by and by.”

“Sit on my lap, it’s story time.¬† I’ll read a poem and a nursery rhyme.”

“My children like to go for a ride.¬† They sit in the buggy side by side.”
“Now I will teach you the A B Cs, and who can count to ten for me?”
“I think it’s time for me to bake. I’ll make some cookies and ginger cake.”
“I tuck them in bed and sing them a song, and they’ll be asleep before very long. We Mommies have such a lot to do.¬† Good night, dollies, I’m sleepy too.”
I hope you can enjoy some
imaginative play with your little ones today!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I just have to shut my eyes
To go sailing through the skies–
To go sailing far away
To the pleasant Land of Play.
-“The Little Land”
by Robert Louis Stevenson

You shall Love the LORD your God  with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”    –Deut 6:5-9

                                                        ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This year, we began taking time each weekend for “Family Fellowship.”

The home-churches & Bible studies we are involved in are typically 1) in the evenings, and 2) not set up for young children, so my husband and I usually leave the kiddos with their grandma and grandpa when we go.

This has opened up our Sunday mornings for gathering as a family, with the specific purpose of
–reading the Word (Daddy reads, Mama “tells” the story on the felt board),
–worshipping together, (sometimes with the guitar, sometimes just our voices, and other times, with a CD), and also,
–joining together in prayer as a family.
Afterwards, I take the big kids to the kitchen table for a fun little craftivity pertaining to our story that day. 

This has been a wonderful experience so far.

But let me share what happened about a month or so ago, at our very first time of fellowship.
Christian and I had really only planned to read the Bible story aloud, sing some praise songs with the guitar, and then I’d finish with a craft.
[in other words, have “Sunday School class” at home].

So there we were that first week, and after our Bible-story reading and felt lesson was done, right on schedule, we began our time of praise with the children. 
The kids of course, love dancing around to the music.

Then a few songs in, I began playing “I cast all my cares upon You.”

As we all sang, my husband and I noticed Eden (age 5) was creating motions to accompany the words we were singing.

At “I lay all of my burdens, down at your feet…” her arms swept down, down, down the the floor, where she kneeled…

“And anytime, I don’t know, wha-at to do…” Out she lifted her questioning hands. . .

“I will cast all my cares upon You…”
As we sang these last words to finish the song, we watched our girl stretch out on the living room floor in a prostrate/kneeling position before the Lord…and stay there.

Totally spontaneously, and without a word, Christian and I both moved to join her there, and then invited the squirmy boys to join the circle too. 

On our knees or lying down, we all held hands with our faces down to the ground, and we prayed together. 

Do you know what beautiful, simple prayers come from the mouths of 3 and 5 year olds? 

To hear my little boy thank the Lord for his daddy “always workin’ hard” and requesting that his brother learn to share with him (hahaha) …and his gratitude for about 20 of his favorite toys (before we cut him off)… =]

Then listening to our daughter’s heart cry out in faith for a family member to come to know and love Jesus…
Oh, I just could not stop the tears from flowing!

This sacred & unplanned moment in His Presence was one of the most beautiful “church services” I’ve experienced of late.

We lingered a few moments in prayer there together as a family before declaring our Amens, but this has now become a weekly part of our gathering.
At some point each week now, the children will come running to the middle of the living room floor, and together we “take our place on our face” before the Lord.

I don’t think I have to tell you how powerful this is.

Can I encourage you, along with your spouse, to commit some time each week, as a family, to enter into His Presence, if you don’t already do so? 

Don’t make the mistake we did, and try to OVER-structure it. 
Just do a little planning, and allow the Lord to direct.

The important thing is to set it apart unto HIM.

If your kids are little, it won’t take long.  And it may be awkward at first.
But you know what?

It will be HOLY.
Yes, even though the children will squirm and fuss at first (our first week, Joshua spent half of our gathering in time-out), it will still be holy unto Him.

You will be BLESSED.
…In ways you did not expect or plan for.
Watch as the simple story you read to your children penetrates your heart afresh.

But most importantly, He will be GLORIFIED.
And HE is most worthy!

As our kids grow, we hope to teach them the WAYS of the Lord–including the importance of what it means to BE the Church as opposed to only “going to” a church building, or “doing” a church routine.

You hardly have to look past your own street or neighborhood to find a multitude of ministry opportunities available for you as a family.  There are so many ways to encourage and bless fellow believers as well as reaching out to those who are simply in need of a helping hand. 

How about the new mama who just had a baby, or the elderly neighbor who just had surgery?
They could probably use a meal or a plate of cookies. . . or even just a visit.

We have a nursing home RIGHT in our neighborhood where we visit with the children.

We also just found out that our neighbor a few doors down is the director of a homeless mission here in Washington County!

The opportunities are limitless if your eyes, ears and heart are open. 
Pray about how the Lord would use you to be the church right where you’re at.

Does anyone know there is a church at YOUR address?  ‘Cause if you live there, there is!

But before your neighborhood, and before your street, it starts right in your home.

Teaching our children the WAYS of the Lord comes first by LIVING that example in front of them, in everyday things, in ordinary ways. 

They notice how you respond when you have to wait in a long line.
They hear your road rage. 
They pick up on gossip. 
They remember ungodly attitudes and hurtful words yelled at spouses, or at them.

Heck, when I SIGH too loud, my daughter immediately asks me what’s wrong.  They notice everything.

They also pick up on your kindness and tenderheartedness. 
They see when you open up the Word, and will want to find their Bibles and “read” too.

Eventually (if you make prayer a discipline) they’ll even find you in your prayer closet–and will mimic you in that, too.  I’ll never forget when I came into Eden’s room and was a little alarmed when I saw her lying  prostrate on the floor, only to have her look up and assure me that she was “just praying.”

Your kids notice the way you speak to your husband.
Is kindness and respect on your tongue?

When they hear you say “I love you” to him, they are made to feel secure and loved. 

The point is, your formal family gathering should reinforce what is happening informally and on a daily basis in your home.  THAT’s what Duet. 6 is talking about when it says:

 “Impress [these commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

It’s a day-in, and day-out kind of thing, isn’t it? 

You have probably seen or are familiar with the Jewish tradition of placing a mezuza upon the doorpost…and of the wearing of phylacteries, or tefillin.  The use of these symbols is an outward, and literal response to this ancient command from Deut. 6.

What spiritual lessons can we draw from the binding of the Word of the Lord upon our HANDS and FOREHEADS, and upon our DOORPOSTS and GATES? 

Indeed, there is no area of our hearts and lives that should not be fully infiltrated by His Presence!

Ask Him to sanctify, or set apart your whole life as an offering of praise and adoration–then honor Him corporately by coming together into His Presence as a family.

O Help us Lord, to remember You in all things,
and to honor You as holy in our coming and going,
in our rising and sitting down,
in our actions and in our speech.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are currently in the Story of JOSEPH, Genesis 37, 39-50

Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy grain during the famine.  They don’t recognize him yet!

The Story of Joseph so far: 1) Favored son with the coat of many colors, 2) Betrayed, sold into slavery and imprisoned unfairly, and 3) Appointed by God to store up grain!  Next week, Joseph reveals Himself to His brothers! 

Totally stole this awesome idea from http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com/.
Originally, I needed help keeping my 1 1/2 and 3 year old boys busy for a bit in the morning while I worked with my big kindergartener.
My teacher friend, Jennie, suggested I try making one of these sensory boxes for them… 
Here’s our Construction Site Box:
I used one of our small bins, put in a few cups of fish tank pebbles
(I’m with pinkandgreenmama, no sand in the house). 
Then I added some larger “boulders” out of one of my decorative vases, added some moss and fake plants, and then Joshua rounded up his construction trucks
I even found a pack of cool little construction signs and cones at the dollar store!
Gotta love the little details.
The boys (and even my big girl) are pretty much obsessed with this little construction site.
It’s already provided hours and hours of imaginative, sensory play! 

And it’s gone to grandma’s house and back already.

Yes, the big baby sometimes makes a bit of a mess with it. 
It cleans up easily though, and they are getting better and better at keeping all the little pebbles
INside the box.
We decided to make an ocean sensory box!
Are ya ready to go Under the Sea with us. . .?

Ta Da!
Lots of sensory things going on in this one:
Dollar store blue and green stones (found 3 different sizes for more sensory variety),
Dollar store mermaids (we already had),
AND squishy dollar store sea creatures, textured shells and acquatic plants! 
And a rock from the backyard.  =]
Kids love the sea creatures, and enjoy taking turns hiding them under the “water,”
then letting the other one find them. 
Somewhere under there there’s also a chest of buried treasure, left over, and repurposed from our pirate bday bash in spring!
We have tried several kinds of boxes.  We created a farm box (everyone has farm animals, right?) and we decided to try oatmeal for the barn yard…
Did NOT go well.
The baby thought it would be fun to sprinkle and throw the oats
I really should have taken a picture.
Anyway, now the farm box is no more.

This one turned out great, though! 
It’s Eden’s Into the Woods box…
We love nature, and spend a great deal of time in our woods, so making this one one was really special.
Rocks, flower and greenery are all from our house.

The branch and sticks are from the woods.

At Michael’s we found the moss, the nest, a pack of eggs, and the bird (she came with a couple of small cardinal babies which are MIA at the moment). 
I hotglued the nest to the branch because it kept tipping over in play, and the eggs would fall to the forest floor!
And Mama Bird MUST keep her eggs safe and away from prowling predators!
Lookout for that snake, Mama bird! 

These boxes are a BLAST to make with your kids. 
And I don’t know about you, but I think it’s so fun to reuse, recycle and repurpose things you ALREADY have around the house
(like all those little toys buried at the bottom of the toybox),
and spending very little (think: dollar store) to make something that is this much fun.
How about ONE more pic? 
This is our Dinosaur Box
Seriously? How cool is THIS!?! 
Dollar store comes through, ONCE again! 
Can you spot the dinosaur bones? (what a bonus-the bones were 2 for $1)
Sensory boxes are wonderful.  You must try them if you have little ones!
Come on, what kid wouldn’t love one of these? 
It will keep them busy, and encourage imaginative play.

OH–and I’ve given 2 boxes so far as birthday gifts, and they were a hit!
I suggest you use bins that can store easily under a bed or chair, or some other place, and bring them out when the kids are bored. 
Then depending on your kids’ ages, you will want them to ASK before getting them out…

Ok, you’ve hopefully been inspired.  Now it’s your turn!
And I’d LOVE to hear your ideas for other sensory boxes.
Have a happy day with your kids!