Monday, November 11, 2013

Celebrate St. Martin of Tours {Free Martinmas Lantern Printable!}

Today is Martinmas (the feast day of St. Martin of Tours)!  St. Martin was a Roman soldier (and later became a Bishop) born in 316 A.D. He was forced into the military when he was quite young.  He is most well known for the famous story in which he encountered a beggar on a cold wintery day.  Filled with compassion for this shivering man, Martin cut his cloak in half, giving part of it to the beggar.  Later that night he dreamed that the beggar was Jesus himself.

In many countries, Martinmas is celebrated by children processing with paper lanterns at night. They sing songs, receive candy and build bonfires as well.  To honor this tradition, I thought it would be fun to make a paper lantern printable for children to cut, color and light (using an artificial candle, that is!). Today, the feast of St. Martin coincides with Veterans Day, which is nice since he is the patron saint of soldiers.  There is a prayer for soldiers included on one of the panels of the lantern, which would be nice to pray this evening.

Below is the printable.  Simply click on the link and you will be directed to Google Docs:

 (The printable is a microsoft word document)

Here is how to assemble your lantern:

1.  After printing (and coloring!) your lantern, cut and discard top section of page along thick black "scalloped" lines.   

2. Fold lantern into 4 vertical sections along dotted lines.  Cut along folded lines from the bottom up to the solid line.  This will create 4 flaps that will become the bottom of your lantern.

3. Fold bottom flaps along solid lines, placing glue on the inner bottom of each flap (I used glue stick).  Place one flap on top of the other, holding in place for a few second to let glue dry.

4. Place tape along the opening of the lantern walls to close remaining gap.  Your lantern is now complete and ready to illuminate!

5.  If you want your lantern to have a handle (nice for children to process with!), simply cut a thin strip of paper, cardstock or ribbon, and tape across any 2 opposite walls of the lantern.

6.  Place a battery-operated artificial tea light candle inside and enjoy the pretty luminary you made!

And remember to say the pray in honor of our soldiers this Veterans Day! 

Happy Martinmas!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Giving Trees {A Simple Kids Craft for Thanksgiving!}

With Thanksgiving approaching, there are many beautiful crafts and activities to do to show our thanks.  But along with giving thanks for all that we have, why not also do an activity about giving to others?  "Giving Trees" are a wonderful way for little ones to think of ways to serve others this Fall as as Thanksgiving draws closer.  Inspired by the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, along with wanting a craft to celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (November 17th), I came up with the idea of making a giving tree.  The base is made from a paper lunch bag, and on the leaves are written ways to give to others.  Simple and sweet!

One of my favorite children's stories!

The trees are very easy to make, and you only need a few basic supplies:

--a brown paper lunch bag (I used the larger size)
--autumn colored cardstock, cut into leaf shapes
--a hole punch


1) Open your brown paper lunch bag and set it on the table. 

2)  Grab your bag around the center and twist in one direction, while keeping the bottom of bag (your tree base) pressed firmly on the table.  While twisting center of bag, be sure the base will stand upright.  If you wish, you may tuck the corners of the bag so they are not visible, making it look round, instead of rectangular.

3) Fan open the top of your bag and make about 8 vertical slits with your scissors, down toward the center of your "tree trunk". These strips will become your tree branches.  They should be approx. one inch wide and 4 inches long (this craft is very forgiving so don't stress over counting and measuring!)

4) Scrunch each strip with your hands, twisting tightly in any one direction to form your tree branches.  You may wish to shape them by giving them a bit of a curve, like a real tree branch.  This is the fun part!

5)  Once all of your branches are formed, be sure to twist the tips of each branch very tightly, so that your paper leaves will be able to slide onto the branches easily.

6)  Cut some simple fall leaf shapes from your cardstock.  Punch a hole in the top of each leaf.

7)  Write various ways to give to others on each leaf.

8)  Marvel at the simple beauty of your Giving Tree...and then get givin'! :)

Here's a quick at-a-glance reference of each step:

That's all!  Easy, right?  They look really pretty placed in a group together (like a forest!), and would make a beautiful centerpiece for a kid's table on Thanksgiving.  

And, of course, you must read The Giving Tree together, to make this activity complete. :)  And, for my Catholic friends, if you wish to incorporate this activity with St. Elizabeth of Hungary's feast day, the Loyola Book of Saints (a wonderful book which arranges saint stories by theme!) has a lovely story about her life of giving, and Charlotte from Waltzing Matilda has a beautiful coloring sheet that you could use as well.

Happy Crafting!

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Walking Game {a.k.a. Easy Kid Fun!}

A couple of days ago the kids were feeling a little restless--you know, the dreaded pre-dinner witching hour was beginning to strike.  As I often do in times such as these, I decided to read aloud (one of our favorite pastimes).  I grabbed the latest issue of Spider magazine (another favorite!) and got to it.  One of the stories was called "The Walking Game" by Linfred Longenecker.  Intrigued, I started to read.

Love Spider magazine.  LOVE.

The story tells of some rowdy siblings who are getting annoyed with one another (the spooky E.S.P.-esque realization that I had picked this story in the midst of sibling crankies was not lost on me!).  The mom decides that, in order to remedy the squabbles, the kids need to play the "Walking Game",  in which they head outside in different directions, returning home once they were no longer feeling annoyed.  The assignment works like a charm, and the kids come back refreshed with unique treasures in hand, resulting in a nice dinner together.

Ummmmm, yeah.  This girl needs some serious cheering up come witching hour.  What was it that Shakespeare said... "though she be but small, she be fierce"!

 Genius!!  I immediately needed to put this idea to the test!  After finishing the story I sent the kids outside in different directions to collect 3 things each, that we would arrange on the table as a dinnertime centerpiece. I know.  I veered from the original story.  But just a little.  Keep in mind that our yard is not nearly as interesting as the one in the story, in which the kids come back with all kinds of spectacular garden fruits and flowers!  So, I figured I'd add in the treasure-hunting aspect.  IT WORKED.  Worked like a charm, it did!  The kids thought it was uber-fun to see what they could find, and loved the added intrigue of keeping it a secret from one another.  They all came back with cute little finds (cute for a considerably boring yard in late October, anyway!), and had a blast arranging their treasure for our centerpiece.  Then we had a nice (and peaceful!) dinner together...and the rest is history!

Our centerpiece :)

Witching Hour: 0,  Mom: 1.

In fact, the kids loved it so much that they asked to do it again the next day!

Witching Hour: 0,  Mom: 2.

So, if you find yourself desperate to occupy the littles some late afternoon, I highly recommend giving the Walking Game a try!  You could easily modify it to become an indoor hunt on bad weather days--just send them to different areas of the house to find something special.  Or, if you want to get crafty, you could have them each make something to use instead.  And if you want to get even more creative, you could have them each find or make something specific (e.g. something red, something symbolizing a favorite activity, something holiday-themed, etc.)  The possibilities are endless!  For us it struck that perfect balance of feeling special (an official centerpiece!) with mystery/ rivalry (who will find the coolest stuff?  What will everyone else pick??).  If you want to read the original story to add to the fun, I found it online here: The Walking Game.  Try it, it worked for me!

Easy and fun...a win-win!

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