Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Countdown Calendar Activities

This Easter holiday was fun because Tory finally understood the concept of holidays and celebrations. She's all about having "parties" these days and loves to decorate our house with her artwork. This month, we made an egg tree together (I grabbed a twig from our backyard, stuck it in a vase and hung plastic eggs from the branches) and she was so proud of our creation.

Since she loves "celebrating" so much, I thought it might be fun to do one holiday activity a day until Easter. My cousin, Jen, did a Valentine's Day countdown calendar with her preschooler, so I decided to steal the idea. I brainstormed a list of about 20 Easter / spring activities for Tory and I to do together. I thought about writing the activities on slips of paper and sticking them into plastic eggs (one for each day), but I wanted more control over which activity we completed. So, I set reminders on my iPhone calendar based on what our schedule permitted. Like the advent calendar activities we did at Christmastime, these daily prompts got me into the holiday spirit and gave Tory and I fun things to do together this month. WIN.

Here's our list of Easter activities:

1. Read the story of Jesus together
I've been thinking about ways to introduce the story of Easter to Tory. At 2 1/2, it's hard for her to understand the true meaning and I don't want to scare her by bringing up death or even bad/mean people. But, I also don't want her to grow up thinking Easter's just an excuse to eat chocolate bunnies. Aden received the Baby's First Bible box set for his baptism, so I pulled out The Story of Jesus and started reading it to Tory and Aden. It's short, simple and very appropriate for small children.

2. Make bunny cards for friends and family
Pinterest to the rescue! It took Tory and I several days to make handmade Easter cards for our loved ones. I'm not sure how Pinterest moms get their kids' painted handprints to show up perfectly on artwork, but that definitely doesn't work in our household. Plus, sometimes Tory has a weird sensory thing about her hand being covered in paint. For our cards, I traced Tory and Aden's handprints on the cards and then painted the shapes. (To get Aden's handprint, I traced his handprint once while he was sleeping, cut out the handprint shape and re-traced it onto all the cards). Tory decorated the cards with stickers and doodles.

3. Eat a duck-shaped sandwich
I let Tory use a cookie cutter to make a duck-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She loved it, and now requests "duck sandwiches" on the regular.

4. Eat bunny pancakes
Pinterest strikes again! Tory and I made bunny butt pancakes for breakfast one morning. We woke up to 9 1/2 inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground and I promptly decided we weren't going anywhere that day. Great day to make a fun breakfast.

5. Make an Easter craft
Grandma Janie, Auntie Lindsay and Tory make foam bunnies together. They were from a kit including buttons and shapes. Easy peasy.

6. Read Easter books
Some of our favorites: Duck and Goose: Here Comes the Easter Bunny and Here Comes Easter

7. Paint a bird house
Tory had a blast with this activity. I enjoyed it, too ... but was a little nervous about her using real paint on my dining room table. Luckily she was careful and I stayed close by for assistance. We talked about the birdies who will live in the bird house once we hang it in our backyard. (Although, let's be honest, I hope it doesn't attract real birds because they completely yuck me out).

8. Play with Easter eggs in the bathtub
Easiest thing ever, and Tory loved it. I dumped the bucket of plastic Easter eggs in the bathtub with her one evening and she had a blast filling up the eggs with water and dumping it on her head.

9. Bunny gel clings
I bought a few packs of bunny-themed gel clings (similar here) in the Dollar Spot section at Target a while back. Originally, I thought they might be a fun activity to do on the airplane on our trip to Cabo San Lucas, but the window was too far out of reach from Tory's car seat on the flight. So, I busted the gel clings out at home and let Tory go to town sticking them to our sliding glass door. Sure, my glass door is a mess from constant fingerprints, but what's new. Tory had a ball playing with them all month long. Great $1 investment.

10. Volcano Eggs
Borrowed this idea from my cousin, Jen, (seriously, she's such a fun mom!) and it was a big hit. I don't think Tory knew what a volcano was for reference, but who wouldn't love watching baking soda-covered eggs react with vinegar and "erupt" all over. I boiled the eggs and mixed the baking soda paint over nap time and had everything ready for Tory when she woke up one afternoon. Super fun activity.

11. Easter Egg Lunch
As seen on Pinterest ... I made Tory lunch one day using plastic Easter eggs as her "plate." Girlfriend was impressed! (Oh, I love how easy it is to impress a toddler). Seriously, mind explosion and it was easy to make, too. I deconstructed Tory's regular lunch to fill up the little eggs, so basically it was things she was already eating. (Deli turkey slice torn into pieces, a string cheese cut into cubes, slices of banana, a few raisins, Cheetos, and some shelled sunflower seeds). The only food she refused to eat were the sunflower seeds which, truthfully, was a long-shot anyway. "I don't like peanuts!" she said. Otherwise, Tory polished off every bit of her meal.

12. Paper Plate Chicks Craft
This craft was just OK. Tory painted a few paper plates yellow, but then we had to wait for the paint to dry so we could add eyes, a beak and legs. She lost interest by the time the plates were ready and I ended up throwing them away after they'd been sitting on my table for two days. Meh.

13. Make Egg Nest Treats
These little Easter treats turned out really cute, but they weren't exactly toddler-friendly. I guess I should I have read the recipe ahead of time, eh? Super simple to make though - chow mien noodles, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, creamy peanut butter and Cadbury Mini Egg candies. Tory helped me measure the ingredients and I did the melting of the marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate on the stovetop. We delivered a plate of treats to our cabin neighbors and brought some to Andi's family's Easter celebration and everyone loved them.

14. Eat Bunny-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls
Easiest breakfast ever. I popped a tube of cinnamon rolls, used four of the circles for the "bunny heads" and shaped the other four cinnamon rolls into "bunny ears." The highlighted recipe suggests adding raisins and almonds as facial decorations, but I kept it simple. If I hadn't slightly overcooked the cinnamon rolls in the oven, these would've been delicious.

15. Play-doh with Spring Shapes
'Nuff said. I broke out the Play-doh one morning along with some spring-shaped cookie cutters. Tory cut flowers, a church, bunny and eggs out of Play-doh.


I had a few more things planned like coloring an Easter cross, visiting the Easter bunny and playing a plastic Easter egg matching game, but we simply ran out of time. And that's okay! My goal in organizing all this was to simply find things for Tory and I to do, have fun celebrating together and interject the true meaning of Easter into conversation. We had a blast completing our Easter countdown calendar.

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