Easy Elf Houses {made from birdhouses}

We like to tell stories at our house and one of the series we have created is based around Santa and his elves. Over the past three years we have created a complex north pole with a full community of elves . When I picked up a few birdhouses on clearance at a craft store I knew exactly what my plan was and how much my kids would be into it. What I love about this project is that these are great decorations to keep year after year and they will stand up to it too. We kept ours simple but you could add sequins, pompoms, jewels… your imagination is the limit.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some unfinished wood birdhouses, acrylic paint made for wood ( I really love Martha Stewart Multi Surface Paint) , paint brushes , paper plates, table protection, painter’s tape and make sure your kids are in clothes that you do not care if it gets stained. These paints are not washable. I also has baby wipes on hand for quick clean up.
  2. Start by making a door and windows with your painter’s tape on the back of the birdhouse. Older kids can be encouraged to draw their own architectural details but using tape for a resist effect is such a fun way for kids who aren’t able to achieve the look they imagine but still want to create. 
  3. Pour paint into paper plates. Since the paint was not at all washable I kept the bottles far out of reach and provided each kiddo with colors they helped me pick out.
  4. Invite your artists. Paint. A tip for choosing paint brushes for kids , give larger brushes for kids that are younger or have a harder time with fine motor control.  They both loved this and I was so glad. Sometimes my son will just show his sister or else the activity will be so obviously past her ability that I will try to do it with him while she is napping . When I find something they both love I feel like I won the lottery.
  5. Let dry and peel off the tape.
  6. Display. Ours are prominently displayed in our family room – they look like little elf chalets and since they are turned around no one even knows they are birdhouses I grabbed on clearance!

Christmas Books

Counting Christmas by Karen Katz is what you might expect from this awesome author. It’s sweet, cute and will get your littlest readers excited for Christmas. I like the sentiment that Christmas is a magical day to share with family . My daughter adores the illustrations of all the babies and the math element is a great bonus too.

Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk is a cute story about an adorable little dog Tucker who is crazy about Christmas. While getting into the holiday spirit he burns his nose on a cookie pan . When Santa sees his bright red nose he asks him to come a long for the fun on Christmas Eve. There is a lot of good natured humor that any young child will giggle at , Tucker peeing on a Christmas tree got some good giggles at our house.  I doubt this will be a Christmas classic to read on Christmas Eve but it a cute book your kids will enjoy.

SantaKid by James Patterson is a favorite library book in our house this year . My son inherited his love and curiosity of the inner workings of the North Pole from me and this book feeds that wonder. It also taps into something preschoolers are often seeking, power and a voice that gets heard. In the story Santa’s daughter saves the North Pole and Christmas from a corporate take over. I liked this book, and my son did too. It doesn’t focus on the religious celebration but rather on Santa and it doesn’t take a very sophisticated kid to know it’s make believe, 3 pages in my son said ” Mommy, this is a made up story right? Santa isn’t a regular Daddy, that’s silly!”  What it does is focuses on giving kids power to save something. Maybe it’s just my 4 year old but he spends all day pretending to save the day and this book spoke right to that desire to be powerful and good!

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Santa’s Workshop Pretend Play

christmas pretend play

I love having a project set up for my son when he gets home from school before he gets involved in his own play . Yesterday he arrived home to this simple Santa’s Workshop set up. This wasn’t a long afternoon of play , but it was 30 minutes of smiles and giggles and pretending he was an elf! He also did some crafting, some deep thinking , reading,  a little writing and of course imaginative play. Remember that your set up need not be worthy of a Broadway production, just good enough to support play.

  1. Gather your materials. I made 3 stations in this workshop a building station, a toy testing station and a wrap station.  My materials included paper bag, glue ( I switched it to a glue stick), scissors, wrapping paper, construction paper, markers , plain paper , a clip board and some toys.
  2. For the Duplo Building Station I used black construction paper down the middle of the table to act as a conveyer belt, made simple buildings with the duplo and provided duplicate blocks in containers for my son to build. There is actually a really great lesson in duplication here. Following directions is an important skill and lego type toys are a great way to work on the skills non verbally.
  3. The Wrap Station is our craft component – I provided glue, scissors, markers , snowflake confetti, wraping paper scraps to cut and glue and paper bags.
  4. The Toy Testing Station had some reading for him to do , and questions to answer after he tested the toy. I snuck some circle drawing in too!
  5. Think he was excited to see it? He said to me ” Do I really get to pretend to be an elf? Really?”
  6. Getting into the elf character .Building the duplo !
  7. Making the gift bags.
  8. All wrapped up.
  9. Off to test a toy.
  10. Test results.
  11. Happy, busy and at the North Pole … at least in his imagination!

Santa Book

How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow is a great book to go along with this activity. The book is styled as an expose about how Santa and his many many elves get all the work for Christmas done. I will caution you now that this is a long book, with even longer asides. I made my son head up to bed with me and the book early inorder to get it read and still have time to chat about it after. I love the “insider” feel about this book and so did my son. There were many asides thta made both of us giggle especially the comment about how many requests Santa gets for ponies each year. I loved that it encouraged kids to write to Santa but I have to say I sorta miss that it didn’t include much about magic. Still I can’t tell you how much my son loved this book ( I knew he would) and how impressed I was when he asked me if I thought this was how it worked. That opened a great discussion about how we imagine the North Pole and how stories andmovies are just one person’s imagination and no one knows the truth . This is a completely secular view of Christmas too so if you are looking for a religious book this is not for you but you can try these ones.

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