Last year turned out to be a bit of an anomaly in terms of our usual March Break routine. My mom drove up from the States to help make a special dress for Beatrice’s First Communion. While Grandma and I spent the week sewing, we kept the kids busy playing board games, watching movies, and eating take-out. These sewing and free-play days were complemented by a few special outings to theatres and museums downtown. This year, however, the kids are dead set on returning to the “normal” routine we established, for better or worse, in 2010. Needless to say, the next week or so is going to take some serious planning (and creative writing!) if I am even going to get us close to the stellar week we had two years ago. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from March Break, or, as I call it, MARCH AK!!!!! 2010.
I spent about a week in Feburary, 2010 coming up with an Easter-themed story that I thought would keep the kids entertained. I ended up with The Coronation of the Easter Bunny Bear, a re-working of the classic Jacob and Esau story. My main characters, Jake and Essa, are a pair of brother bears living on a remote (fictitious) isle in the South Pacific not far from the real Easter Island. Their father, a chocolatier, and the current “Easter Bunny Bear,” is about to choose his replacement in the island’s traditional blindfold ceremony. With their mother bear’s help, the boys pull off a “switcheroo” at the festival so that the smooth-haired baker Jake can follow in his father’s footsteps rather than his wiry-haired, fisherman brother Essa. [I’m in the process of submitting the book, now known as The Easter Bunny Bear, with my husband’s illustrations, to publishers.]
Once I had the story written, I began to wonder what was I going to do with the kids aside from reading it to them or having them read to me. My initial idea was to have the kids illustrate the book themselves by printing portions of the story towards the bottom of blank pieces of printer paper. My plans expanded, however, when I realized that I could make this a penmanship exercise for Bea (then in Grade One), and a tracing exercise for little Tobes (then in Junior Kindergarten). At the very top of each blank piece of paper, I printed a paragraph from the story, in Arial font, emboldening a shorter sentence or phrase within that paragrah which I wanted the kids to illustrate. At the very bottom of the same page, I re- printed that emboldened sentence in a slightly larger font. Then, just above that emboldened sentence or phrase, I placed a generous rectangular box in which the kids could copy or re-write the words. Inside this box, moreover, I re-printed that sentence or phrase in a very light gray shade (I believe I downloaded a dash or dot version of Arial on the net) so that the kids could trace the words if they so desired. There was still plenty of space in the centre of the page for the kids to use coloured pencils or crayons to make their illustrations.
Of course the 2010 version of The Easter Bunny Bear turned out to be a very long story, so I was sure to divide the book into four sections. This way, the kids had only a small set of pages to complete on four of the five weekdays of their March break. In fact, I decided that I would keep them in suspense by refusing to let them read ahead, only doling out one section of the story per day. This activity easily took up an hour or two each of our four mornings. With snacks, and “dance breaks,” our Illustrate-Your-Own Books pretty much consumed the entire space between breakfast and lunch.
We also did lots of baking, crafts, “candy math,” and outdoor play over the course of the week.
There were two particular activities that I designed to go along with our Easter Bunny Bear story:
Our character, Essa bear, loves to hunt and fish. So, we made a Go Fish! Game to celebrate his sportsmanship.
We stretched the process of making the game pieces out over the break, performing small steps every day.
Leftover cardboard from pizza or packing boxes
Markers or Pencils
Child-safe Scissors or an Exacto-knife for only a parent to use
Old Newspapers cut into strips for paper mache [Optional]
White Glue and Water or Flour and Water for paper mache [Optional]
A Place for Messy Things to Dry: Plastic-Lined Table, Clothesline and pins, etc.
Poster Paints and Brushes
2 Packs of Nickel- or Quarter-sized Magnets [6-10 each]
2 Small Metal Disks that the Magnets come attached to or Large Paper Clips or Old Metal Utensils
White Glue or Super Glue
2 Dangly Cat Toys with Plastic Wands and Strings or Wooden Dowels/Random Sticks and Kitchen Twine
Hole Punch [Optional]
With markers or pencils, hand draw about a dozen fish shapes OR print and cut out a fish template like this one from allkidsnetwork and trace it about dozen times onto the cardboard.
With an adult’s help, use scissors (or have an adult use an exacto knife) to cut out the fish shapes.
If you don’t want to bother paper mache-ing the fish, just move on to the *painting step below.
Make a Paper Mache paste by mixing every 3/4 cup glue with every 1/4 cup water in a big bowl, or by mixing equal amounts of water and flour.
Dip strips of newspaper into the paste and wrap them around the cardboard fish to your liking.
Dry completely by setting fish aside on a garbage-bag or plastic-tablecloth-llined table or hanging them inside or out on a clothesline, possibly with an old sheet or towels below.
*Paint the fish with poster paints.
Using white or super glue, place a magnet on one side of each fish where an eye would be.
To make “rods,” we chopped the sparkly toy off of the end of a dollar-store cat toy, hole-punched through the thin metal disk that came with each packet of magnets, and knotted the string through the hole.
You could just as easily drill a hole in one end of a dowel or a stick, pull a one end of a length of string through the hole and knot it, or you could simply wrap and knot one end of a long string around the tip of the dowel or stick. Then, knot something that attracts your magnet-fish (like a paper-clip, an old bent fork, or measuring spoon) onto the other end of the long string.
Drop the fish behind a couch or chair, sit facing the couch or chair back, and “Go Fish!”
Jake’s Modeling Chocolate: Recipe and Game
Our character Jake loves to mold and sculpt things out of chocolate. We made modeling chocolate and played an animal scultping game!
Sculpting Chocolate Ingredients: JUST TWO!
I. Choose: Bittersweet, Semi-Sweet, Milk or White Chocolate Baking Squares or Chips
II. Light Corn Syrup
Measure according to these Syrup to Chocolate Ratios:
1/4 c LCS to 7 oz (1 heaping! cup) Bittersweet, 4 tbs LCS to 7oz Semi-Sweet, 3 tbs LCS to 7oz Milk, 2 tbs LCS to 7oz White
Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pot of gently boiling water.
Warm corn syrup slightly in a separate pot.
Cool the chocolate slightly.
Stir corn syrup into the melted chocolate until fully combined. It may stiffen substantially.
Place chocolate mixture in a ziploc-style bag and refrigerate for 1-2 hours until firm.
Remove chocolate from the refrigerator, divide into two or more portions, and knead until pliable.
Roll, flatten, sculpt, slice, or manipulate the chocolate into any shape you want.
You can eat the chocolate as you sculpt it, too!
Modeling chocolate may be returned to its bag, refrigerated and reused repeatedly for at least a week.
However, we wouldn’t recommend letting the kids eat chocolate they’ve handled on a previous day.
Animal Sculpting Game:
Whisper the name of an animal into each child’s ear and have them begin sculpting.
You might choose to give them a set time using a stop watch or egg timer.
After a few minutes of sculpting, have the kids guess which animal each other has formed.