The Giving Manger {and giveaway!}

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

Worhty Kids

Y’all. Every now and then along comes something that is just so beautiful and sweet, you feel the need to tell others.

The Giving Manger is one of those. WorthyKids has created something so sweet and simple, but impactful; you are going to love adding this to your family Advent celebrations. It doesn’t require daily crafts, snacks, or buying all the things. All you need is The Giving Manger and your family.

The Giving Manger

What It Is

The Giving Manger isn’t something else you have to add to your to do list. The Giving Manger creates an atmosphere of love and peace in homes because the end result isn’t about what everyone gets out of it. The end result is about loving others:

The purpose of using The Giving Manger for Advent is to honor Jesus, by loving and serving others. Just as He has served us.

The book itself is a hardcover picture book, with lovely cut-paper illustrations. The book will help get children excited about the tradition, while helping everyone understand how this new tradition honors Jesus and why you’re doing it. In the 32 page story, a dad explains to his children how Christmas will be different this year- they won’t be opening gifts on Christmas day, instead they will be giving Jesus gifts by loving and serving others during the Advent season.

When they’ve done something to serve others, children place a piece of straw in the wooden manger (both are included with the kit), to prepare it for Jesus. And finally, on Christmas morning they get to place Jesus in the manger. This can be done at night by a parent as a surprise for the next day, by the children, or the family on Christmas morning.

The Giving Manger

How We Used It

Let me tell you- there is something about that little baby Jesus that children *love.* I am not sure what He is made of, it feels like a resin, or resin coated wood? He is sturdy and just perfect for small hands. My kids have been in awe of baby Jesus!

For the purpose of this review, our family began using The Giving Manger before Advent, but hey- what’s an extra month of intentionally serving others and being kind (especially when we are talking siblings)? First we read the book, which is a beautiful and simple explanation of The Giving Manger.

Then, we read through the list of ideas for serving others. This is found in the back of the book, and is a big help when little minds are drawing a blank about how to serve others. There are several pages of simple ideas such as: paint rocks and hide them in the park, put a kind note in a library book, help a sibling with chores, read a book to a younger child, etc.

Much like the children in the book, my kids became very excited once they realized that serving others meant doing something for others that shows your love to them. We talk about this a lot, and they do this in helping me often. But I am so thankful this book and Advent activity really opened their eyes to serving one another better. I saw a big change in the competitiveness that’s creeped into their relationships in recent months (I feel like this happens at certain ages?). And they come up with ways to serve those outside of our family, all on their own.

 

I’ve found them jumping up first to help when I need it, doing chores for a sibling when they are sick, helping keep each other’s doors shut (because toddler!), and reading to one another more. The ideas in the back of the book are very practical for most families, I don’t think they’re over the top or too difficult at all. Of course families can come up with their own ideas, too!

But mostly I’ve just seen their hearts soften and become a little less me focused. And isn’t that what we want for our kids year round? Of course it is! At Christmas, when hearts can become very focused on what’s under the tree, or all the many fun activities going on, The Giving Manger is a wonderful centerpiece for our home, that helps everyone remember why we celebrate Christmas at all.

 

This sweet little kit of book, manger, straw and baby Jesus have created a peace in our home, it has opened hearts to the idea of what serving others really looks like. It has made Jesus somewhat tangible for little minds, and made a concept that may seem abstract to children more concrete.

Thank you WorthyKids, this is definitely a new family tradition for our Advent season!

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Read more reviews from the Crew by clicking the banner below:

Start a New Christmas Advent Tradition with The Giving Manger

 

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A Real Christmas Lesson: If He Had Not Come {a review}

Christmas Book If He Had Not Come {Quiet in the Chaos}

With the holidays coming up, it is important to our family to focus on the reason for Christmas- Jesus Christ’s birth.  We were able to read and review a precious book, If He Had Not Come.  Originally written by Nan F. Weeks, it has been reintroduced by David Nicholson, a retired school teacher and missionary.

This is a wonderful story for any Christian family that wants to truly show their children what Christmas celebration is all about.  Though the book is recommended for ages six and up, my (just turned) four year old really enjoyed and understood it.  The casebound hardback version can be purchased for $18.95, or choose the e-book version at $3.99.

About If He Had Not Come

This book was such a pleasant surprise to receive in the mail!  In the front cover was a special, handwritten note from David himself, which Lexie thought was just wonderful.  The book is a beautiful hardback, illustrated by Charles Jaskiewicz- there is a lot of detail in the illustrations that support the story so well.  We have read this book many times already, and Lexie has noticed something new in the pictures each time.

The story begins with a young boy, Bobby, getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve, anticipating opening the gifts from his family the next morning.  (I will say, one of my favorite things about this book is there is no mention of Santa Claus).  But when he goes to sleep, he dreams of a world where there is no Christmas; there is no church, no Christian run/owned businesses like homeless shelters, hospitals, etc.  When he goes looking for each of these things, in its place he finds a sign reading, “If I had not come.”

After realizing what a desolate world he would live in were it not for Christ, Bobby wakes up and thanks Jesus for coming, for being the very best Christmas gift.

What We Thought and How We Used It

This is honestly one of the best Christmas books we own.  Really.  It isn’t too much for a young child to understand, and it clearly and honestly opens their eyes to Christmas and the Christ in Christmas.  The story shows them not only would we not have Christmas to celebrate His birth, but our world would be so different without Jesus. There are so many things we take for granted that we would no longer enjoy if Christ had not come to save us.  This is a great book for all families, and Sunday school classes alike!

We have been reading this book for my four year old’s bedtime routine.  I wasn’t sure at first what she would think, or if she would enjoy it.  Well, she has requested it for nap and bed time since the day we introduced it!  My husband and I have been able to take If He Had Not Come and go deeper into the meaning of Christ’s birth-even farther than the meaning of Christmas.  (in the picture she was in her gymnastics leotard and I am not sure what was up with the crazy headband ..)

Wonderful Christmas Book: If He Had Not Come {Quiet in the Chaos}

In the back of the book you will find several helpful pages.  There is a page of interactive topics for families and Sunday school teachers- the questions are thought provoking and open ended to allow plenty of discussion.  They will really help you have a deep, wonderful, honest, discussion with your child/ren.

There is also a section titled, “Going Deeper;” these are questions to help you and your child explore what the Bible says about the birth of Christ.  I really like this section, as it has possible answers for you to share/follow up with, and references specific Bible verses!  That is really helpful for any parent trying to lead their little one to God.  There is also a small section on the last page with an idea to help you celebrate Christmas using a fun activity.

If you are looking for a book to add to your Christmas collection, or want to do a unit on Christmas with your children, this is the book I would suggest you look at first.

Connect with David Nicholson

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Gingerbread Play Dough

I have been looking at a lot of different crafts for the kids and I to do together.  I came across a recipe for salt dough, which is a homemade play dough.  I had planned on trying it, then today my mom sent me a similar recipe, but there were two differences: 1) her recipe was for GINGERBREAD play dough and 2) it used fewer ingredients than the recipe I had.

Gingerbread Salt Dough
You will need:
  • 1c flour
  • 1/2c salt
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, etc to desired smell/color
  • 2tsp cream of tartar
  • 1c water
  • 1tsp veg oil
  • essential oils of your choosing

Just as in baking, mix all your dry ingredients together- the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and spices.  The spices are just for a great gingerbread smell and color.
In a separate bowl, mix the water and oil
Add water-oil mixture with your dry ingredients in a small/med pan.
Cook mixture over low/med heat for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.  WARNING-it becomes thick quickly.
You will know it’s done when it starts to pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan.
When it’s done, knead on the counter until it is nice and smooth.
*don’t forget the cookie cutters and rolling pin!*

This is the best and easiest play dough recipe I have found.  When the holidays are over, exclude the seasonings and add regular food coloring for year-round fun!

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(Original post Dec 2011)
Here is Lady (15 months old) playing with play dough for the first time:

 She was really only interested in the cookie cutters at first .. and yes she arranged them in size order?
” Hrm .. maybe I will touch it a little”
She did not like the texture of the dough at the beginning.

 

More with the cookie cutters ..

 

Then I made her name out of the play dough and she liked it!  Her favorite letter from her name is “i,” so she enjoyed playing with the “ball” on the “i.”  When I spell her name out loud, it goes something like this:
Me- “l, e, x
her- “I!!  I!!! I!!! I!”
Me-E
her- “LEXIE!”

It’s a lot of fun!  So, our first go at play dough was a success.  There were a few snacking attempts, but overall she did really well!  This has made me less fearful of doing more crafts and activities with her, for sure!

Try it out with your little one!

What are some of your children’s favorite activities, crafts, etc to pass the time and learn?

Family Advent Devotional: Good News of Great Joy!

Simple Advent Devotional: Good News of Great Joy!v

My family and I were so blessed to review a wonderful new Advent devotional for Christian families!  Good News of Great Joy, ($3.99!) by Rachel Tiemeyer from Thriving Home, is a wonderful way to begin your family’s Christmas season.

This e-book devotional is written for children ages 2-11, but is definitely appropriate for all ages.  Each devotional is set up for a weekly reading and activity, but you can schedule this out daily if you’d like.  This is what I *love* about this particular program- it isn’t a crazy busy craft or activity every. single. day, requiring tons of supplies.  It is gentle and simple, just how we like to focus on Christmas in our home!

What’s Inside

There are four (4) devotions; each devotional has a “read,” “pray,” and “discuss and do,” section.

  • Read: you read the devotional from a Bible of your choice (she has even referenced the particular stories in some of the most popular children’s Bibles- The Jesus Storybook Bible, and The Rhyme Bible Storybook), or several different Bibles.
  • Pray: Pray about what you have read
  • Discuss and Do: Here is where you complete an activity.  These are fun and simple, but meaningful.  You can do one activity, or all of those suggested with your children.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year- while the world is spinning into utter chaos over material things and sales, we relax, focus on the birth of our savior, and spend time together.  We use this time to remember why God sent Jesus to Earth, and thanking Him for that precious gift.  This devotional helps us do just that!

So if you are looking for an Advent Devotional (your first, or maybe a new one), head on over to Thriving Home, and get a copy now!

Merry Christmas!

Weekly Wrap Up: November 2014 {and Notebooking American Girl Books}

This month has flown by!  Thanksgiving is already over and everyone is prepping for Christmas.

We haven’t had any real weekly updates the last few weeks, because well … we haven’t done a lot of formal schooling.  Most everything has been relaxed and theme based.  And of course, we spend a lot of time just snuggling Ila.  =)  I mean, I spend 6 hours a day nursing her, and after every feeding Lexie and Max both request a turn to hold her.  So, we school when we can. 😉

Fall Indoor activities {quietinthechaos.com}

Lexie and “Jane Kirsten” having a picnic, building forts, happy baby ila

We worked on some pumpkin activities, which involved Max making his own pumpkin description book. (you can find it at www.ThisReadingMama.com) He really enjoyed it!  We are still working on NOT eating the markers … =)

Handwriting Practice and Fine Motor {quietinthechaos.com}

practicing handwriting, coloring with markers, gluing pumpkins in book

We also had our first big snow: (Lexie doesn’t mind the cold if she can play in the snow.  Mister refuses to keep his clothes on, so of course he gets “too cold” and needs to come in.  haha)

DSCN2822

Lexie is still notebooking her way through the Kirsten of American Girl series.  She loves doing this and I am so glad she does.  I am going to introduce her to a timeline soon.  We have been talking about so many things in history lately, and I know it will help her understand something so contrast if she can see a visual.  We have two chapters left to notebook, and then we will move on to the next book.  I got our blank notebooking pages from notebookingfairy.com.  I chose the biography pages, whole punched them, and put in a folder with prongs.  We will add to it as we go.

notebooking American Girl Books

Notebooking “Meet Kirsten”

Last Saturday I was working on some knitting, and Lexie asked if I could show her how to knit.  Of course I said yes!  I love that my girl wants to sew and knit!  So, this is the little progress we made.  You may be wondering how I helped a four year old knit- I sat on the edge of my chair, and had her stand between my legs, so I could get my arms around hers.  I place my hands over hers, and we just went through the motions.  By the end, she knew exactly what to do, although she struggled with the dexterity needed.  I have no doubt she will be able to do it herself before long!

knitting with a four year old

We did do lots of reading about Thanksgiving.  You can see my post of supplemental books for Thanksgiving HERE (link coming soon).  Lexie really enjoyed this and learned lots of new vocabulary from these readings.  She has been using the new words every chance she gets!

And then, of course, we had Thanksgiving dinner.  Usually we spend Thanksgiving traveling to see family, but this year with Ila being so little we just decided to stay home.  It was my first year to cook a real Thanksgiving dinner for my family- we had turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole (from scratch, might I add…) and pecan pie.  And of course I am using my turkey bones to make bone broth!  As my sweet Lexie said, it was a “real Thanksgiving feast!”  She was so funny, she was kinda wiggling around on her seat during dinner, and she says, “I am just wiggling my belly so I can make room for more!”  haha  She definitely belongs to us!

Thanksgiving "feast" www.quietinthechaos.com

Between all this I have slowly started back running on the treadmill, and decorating for Christmas.  I hope to get you a recipe for that DELICIOUS green bean casserole soon, and an update on our Advent activities.  =)

Happy Holidays, and stay warm!

Thanksgiving Week

So, I have been MIA this past week.

I really have no excuse …  I just didn’t schedule any posts for my 2 weeks of travel.  


We spent time with family in Memphis, before driving to Arkansas.  Max was pretty cranky on our trip.  His disposition is more like mine when I was little- he doesn’t like strangers and he doesn’t warm up to others well.  At all.  And he likes home.



Lexie has had a great time; she is our social butterfly.  But man, was she happy to be home!  It was hard being out of our routine- no independent play, naps were a mess.  While in Memphis Mister took 2-2.5 hour naps every day.

In Arkansas, naps were only an hour, and he woke up screaming from every nap and every morning.  Sometimes he cried at night (most nights).  But, he was also in the most horrible of horrible, wonder week 64.  So I do attribute some of it to that.  Now that the wonder week is over, I am curious what developmental leaps he will start showing in the coming weeks!  Maybe more words?  I don’t know.

I just kept telling myself, this too shall pass.  And it did.

We did have a lot of fun though- in Memphis we visited family, and Lexie got to spend some time cooking with Granny.  Then in Arkansas, Lexie went to see the dinosaurs at the museum with her Sue Sue, we played in the deer woods, saw the gingerbread house downtown, went to the hot springs downtown, and saw the lights at Garvan Gardens.  It was a lot of fun.

Playing in the woods with Daddy
While in the woods, we decided our vehicles are just too quiet and smooth- neither of our children ever sleep in the car…  Max fell asleep riding around in a huge, loud, bumpy Razr, in the cold!
 
 

This was while playing in the back yard at my husband’s parent’s house.  Lexie was pretending to be Tigger, climbing trees in the One Hundred Acre Wood.

 

I am so thankful to be home!  Oh my goodness- 11 days is just too long.  A week isn’t quite long enough, but I am thinking 9 days next time.  We will see.

Flying home!

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I feel like it is already the middle of December!  =(  I haven’t even started decorating for Christmas or planning our Advent activities.  I am so behind.  No Christmas tree yet … think we will do that tomorrow or this week.  I am in desperate need of Christmas and a whole month of non stop Jesus!

Lexie loved, loved our Advent stuff last year, and I really want to plan some fun stuff this year.  So guess what I will be doing all night?  (After I get some blog work done, anyway).


Here is to a wonderful December! 

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