Magical Childhood Newsletter
Volume 27
December 9, 2001

Hello again magical people!  I'm feeling rather elfish today so forgive the goofy exuberance.  :)

Things are good here.  The Magical Childhood web site was chosen as "site of the month" by the Natural Child Project (their link is on our front page on the award button).  I'm thrilled to have been recognized by such a great organization, and we've had lots of visitors from all over the world through their recommendation.

I saw a specialist in South Dakota about my migraines and I'm optimistic at the chance of getting a handle on them at last.  I've had daily migraines with auras for years now, since getting pregnant with Victoria over 4 years ago.  She was worth it but boy will I be happy if I can kick these things!

Now a munchkin just climbed on my lap so I'll hush up and get on with the newsletter......

50 Ways to Make the Holidays Magical (free!)

Get a group together to go sing carols at a nursing home   Every day till Christmas, leave a dorky Christmas joke in their school lunches Wear fancy clothes around the house all season (hint: save "ruined" dress clothes for this-- who cares if that velvet dress has a stain? What fun to dress like a queen for no reason!) Bring homemade cards and artwork to a hospital Simmer water mixed with potpourri, scented oil or spices on the stove  Go to sleep under the tree  Tint supper red and green Hang ribbons and ornaments all over the house, not just on trees  String popcorn for the birds and leave it on a tree in the woods  Read the hilarious book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with the kids Wrap a whole bunch of boxes of silly things for your toddler to unwrap each evening (you know the boxes and wrapping paper are more fun for them anyway!) Even a turkey baster is a wonderful toy to a one year old who gets to unwrap it!  Make cut paper snowflakes for the windows  Sprinkle glitter going up the stairs and help the kids wonder who left the trail (or make up your own story)  Play carols together on whatever instruments you have-- even popcorn kernels in a coffee can  Drive around and look at the lights Make colorful paper chains to hang (recycle wrapping paper or magazine pages for glossy, free stuff)  Make ice lanterns for votives and put them outside *  Make up blue sugar and let the kids sprinkle it on their toast in the morning Watch a holiday special like Rudolph together-- even if your kids are teens! Have your tot decorate the backs of your holiday card envelopes with crayons, markers or stickers (why not?  Bills too!)  Make a dough ornament together to symbolize this year for your family On the winter solstice (Dec. 21), ceremonially turn out all the lights in the house.  As you turn out the last light, tell the kids this holiday celebrates the shortest day of the year and the return of the sun.  After a moment of darkness, light a candle.  Have them run through the house turning on every light in the house to welcome back the sun. Mail birthday letters to Jesus Make hard candy Hanukkah stars **  String lights around children's rooms to give them something magical to fall asleep under  Cut a small elf shoe shape with a pointy toe out of a hunk of sponge and track elf prints outside with washable paint Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches and toast into trees, stars and other holiday shapes  Streak cream or wheat or mashed potatoes with red and green food coloring, add cake decorations to the top  Every day this month, make a conscious effort to do something sweet for your sweetie Play holiday music at dinner...  No TV!  Check the paper for free concerts and plays to attend at local churches and schools, or volunteer to help out If you have snow, have the kids pack it into large balls, line them up, and spray them with cold colored water to make ice beads for the yard  Get out the photo album and look through pictures of holidays past together.  Kids love hearing about when they were little!  Play board games together  Mix tempera paint with dish soap and paint ornaments, candles, stars or other symbols on the windows (the soap makes it easier to wash off)  Paint everybody's fingernails in holiday colors  Give the kids sheets of paper to decorate for homemade wrapping paper with potato prints, markers or crayons  Read the original Christmas story  Go outside and find the North Star and talk with the kids about what it must have been like way back then   Make a Hanukkah stained glass decoration by making an outline with black marker and coloring it in with crayons.  Paint the whole image with cooking oil to make it translucent, and hang in the window (from Make up a Kwanzaa principles list about each child, recognizing something she did this year to illustrate each quality ***   Write a family Christmas carol (you can borrow another tune)  Make the bathroom merry too-- gather pine boughs or other greenery, make a swag over the medicine chest or mirror and add bows or ornaments  Take the kids to see Santa  Bring him and his elves a treat!  Have the kids choreograph a dance routine for a holiday musical  Smile at everybody  Tape record the family telling stories, singing carols and otherwise being entertaining-- make copies for relatives with little ones and keep one as a souvenir (and to entertain your own little ones)  Attend service with friends of another faith and invite them to come to yours  Every time a bell rings, give your children kisses!

* To make ice lanterns:  Freeze a couple of inches of water in a large bowl.  Put a smaller bowl or can in the center of the bowl and weigh it down.  Fill the area between the can and the outer bowl with water and freeze again.  To unmold, just hold under water for a minute.  Put a votive candle in the center, put outside and light!  :)

** Hard candy Hanukkah stars:,1158,FOLI_project_20961,FF.html

***  The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and how to apply them:
The principles of Kwanzaa are so wonderful that we can all learn from them.  Talk to your kids about what each principle means and why they're important.  Make a list of something they've done this past year in each area and put it in this year's photo album or scrapbook.  Children love to feel recognized for their goodness.  While you're at it, make up a list about you too.  Celebrate what you're already doing and brainstorm on what more you can add.

1.  Umoja (Unity):  (ooh-MOE-jah)   What has she done that shows sisterhood, togetherness, family unity?

2.  Kujichagulia (Self-determination):  (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-ah)  What has he done to define himself, speak for himself and become his own person?

3.  Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility):  (ooh-GEE-mah) What has she done to show community responsibility or teamwork?  Volunteer work?  Helping a neighbor?  Picking up trash on the street and tossing it?

4.   Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics):  (OOH-jah mah) What has he done to financially support the neighborhood and community?  Does he buy from the corner market instead of the superstore when he can?  Did he boycott a company that uses child labor?  Did he collect money and food for the food bank?

5.  Nia (Purpose):  (NEE-ah) This principle is about pledging to strengthen the family, school and community.  What has she done to make them strong or help t hem grow and flourish?

6.   Kuumba (Creativity):  (koo-OOM-bah)  Has he made something more beautiful, used his artistic talents to help or inspire?

7.  Imani (Faith):  (ee-MAH-nee)  Not merely religious faith, this last principle encourages us to believe in ourselves, each other and goodness.  Did she do something to show that she believed in herself or that good would prevail?

For more on Kwanzaa, see issue 26 of the Magical Childhood newsletter.

Here are the words to more Christmas carols than I knew existed:

And here are midis where you can listen to carols in many different languages:

And now for something completely different......
Here are a whole slew of space craft models your kids can print out and make up!  This is more suited for older kids but how neat!  Thanks to magical mama Denny for recommending this site.

Rethinking Arts and Crafts time

I've noticed that there's a common formula for doing crafts with toddlers and preschoolers.  It goes something like this:

    1.  Mom finds a neat crafts idea online or in some magazine.

    2.  Mom compiles 10 materials, gets everybody set up, and explains to tot how to make said craft.

    3.  Tot plays with crafts "all wrong," makes mess, gets bored, moves on.

    4.  Mom gets stressed, frantically finishes tot's art herself.  Mom gets covered in glue and while she's attaching 27 pom poms to abandoned art projects, the tots conduct unfortunate experiments with Barbie dresses, peanut butter and the cat.

    5.  Mom throws out art project, wonders why "EVERYTHING HAS TO BE SO HARD!".

I've been guilty of it way too many times myself.  I remember getting together with my friend Jeanne and her kids last summer.  I brought flower pots and rubber bands so that we could all make twig pots.  It was a grand idea.  The kids searched happily for sticks while we snipped them into the correct lengths.  We rubber banded and added twigs.  The kids got bored at 10 sticks.  Jeanne and I tried to finish 5 abandoned twig pots while the kids ran around hooting, working like Lucy and Ethel on the assembly line of chocolates treats.

Last month I found a bag of twigs, rubber bands and an abandoned stick of a geranium under the car seats.  Boy, that was a great project!  <G>

And it looked so good in the pictures...

The problem with us parents is that we look for crafts with a finished product in mind.  Kids rarely have the attention span to finish even the easiest projects, and they usually find way more creative ways to use any materials you assemble anyway.

Jeanne and I should have told them to find a pile of twigs, given them some rubber bands, and let them come up with their own games and crafts.  Then we could have sat and talked.  ;)

There will be years of lint clay necklaces and shell frames to look forward to.  I'm finally abandoning my role as activities director and finding neat processes instead.

With that in mind, here are some fabulous arts and crafts ideas we've been doing lately.

Marshmallows and toothpicks
Thanks to magical mama Jackie for giving me this idea (in jest at the time).  I gave Victoria some stale marshmallows and colored toothpicks and she created wonderful structures.  She learned about how to reinforce them, got to be creative, got to munch her materials, and got to use the ever-important "poke reflex" (an innate need that small children are born with, I'm convinced).  You could also use those annoying styrofoam peanuts for this too!  Just keep an eye on any small fry with pokey things, obviously (like I need to say that).

For an easy craft project to fill up those winter days, go scoop up a bowl of snow and bring it inside.  If you're one of those lucky folks without snow, maybe crushed ice would work.  Being in the land of the frozen tundra I'm not going to feel too sorry for you.  <G>

Okay, now give the kids an assortment of materials like candy presses, cookie cutters/stampers, melon ballers, plastic utensils, funnels, etc. to press and poke and make designs with.  You can also flatten the snow and give them an assortment of washable markers (since it can get messy and might get on clothes etc.).  They can draw right on the snow and even experiment with color mixing.  When the snow is melted, dump it and get more!

Bath painting
Yes, here I go with the bathtub parenting again but lately my CFS has been acting up and the bathtub saves me!  While Annalee naps, Victoria and I get in the tub.  I read a book and she finger paints with watercolor paints on sheets of paper I tape to the walls.  There's no clean-up involved, we get to sit and yap while she paints, and I get to feel like a good mommy when I'm not feeling up to being upright.  This is a good project for pregnant moms or anybody who's sick but can't call in sick from parenting.

You can all wear swim suits if you like.  It adds to the fun.  For more bathtub crafts, check out "Bath Time as a Parenting Tool" and "Spray Art" in the crafts and articles sections of the MC site.  There are more lazy parenting ideas up there too.

Am I hurting your eyes?
If your email can't read colors and fonts, I know this stuff probably reads like
<gbisk> @#$@* magical *<Ls(l> annoy annoy annoy #%@#%<< break>  :)
Please let me know and I'll send a plain black and white version just for you!

Oh yes, and I promised you our playdough recipe.  I still have to compile a few other craft recipes too.  I'm so behind!  :)

Anyway, here's the world's easiest playdough.  It's not going to fool anybody into thinking you paid 20 bucks for it but it takes a minute to mix up and you can toss it if it ends up full of dog hair and make more.  That makes it the best in my book!  Besides, it does handle pretty nicely.

Mix:  1  1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water and 2 TBS cooking oil.  Add a few drops of food coloring (and a splash more water if needed).  Knead.  Ta da!  You're done.  No boiling, no weird stuff added.  We keep ours in plastic baggies on the counter and don't refrigerate, but it also never lasts more than a couple of days so I don't know if you'd need refrigeration if you kept it forever.

For rich, nifty colors, get paste food coloring instead of liquid.  You can find it with the cake decorating stuff at most grocery stores.  You can also scent it with essential oils, but then your kid will probably try to eat it.  Or at least mine would.

While I was finishing this, I swear a herd of angry styrofoam goats ran wild and then exploded in my kitchen.  It's the only explanation I can come up with, but I'd better go clean it up.  ;)

Till next time, have a wonderful week, tickle your kiddos and don't forget to take care of you!



A Magical Childhood
Copyright 2001, Alicia Bayer

A Magical Childhood Newsletter is just something I throw together because I love children and those who love them.  To subscribe, send a message to  We do not use ads.  It's not about money.  :)

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