From the perspective of our kiddos, the holidays as many of us celebrate them are heavily focused on receiving. Involving kids in the process of making homemade gifts for siblings, friends or younger relatives is a great way to counterbalance all of this and get kids hooked on giving.
Here we share a sweet way for kids to make a Winter Treasure Box—a homemade gift to surprise, delight, and spark outdoor play for another child all winter long.
This activity is featured in our December calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.
Step 1: Start with a box.
Any box of any size can be transformed into a nature treasure box. You can purchase an unfinished wooden box online or from a craft store or repurpose a cardboard box.
Step 2: Proclaim your box a treasure box!
Show your child the box and ask, "Do you know what this box is?!" Take ideas, then say, "This box is a winter treasure box—a space to collect special nature treasures!” Ask kids if they know of someone who loves to spend time outside and/or loves to collect nature treasures. Who would your child like to gift a winter treasure box to? A friend? Family member? Once your child has a recipient in mind, head out to create your winter treasure box together.
Step 3: Collect some winter treasures
Grab a bag or container and head outside together to collect fallen or found objects from nature (e.g. leaves, pine sprigs, pine cones, tree fruits). Look for objects with a variety of colors, textures and smells.
Step 4: Decorate your treasure box
Use the enter treasures you collected to transform your cardboard or wooden box into a winter treasure box. Here are some ideas:
Glue winter nature treasures to the outside of the box.
Draw pictures of the nature treasures on paper. Then, cut out the drawings and tape or glue them to the outside of the box.
Dip treasures in paint and make prints on the box.
Make paint using nature materials like beets, berries, spices and even dirt, then paint your box.
Cut up magazines, calendars or other recyclables (especially photos of plants and animals!) and cover your box in a recycled nature collage.
Step 5: Gift your winter treasure box!
Print out this card and place inside the box to give the recipient some inspiration for how they can use their new treasure box to discover, collect and create with nature treasures all winter long. If your child would like, they can also gift a treasure or two inside the box.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Kids use and develop multiple senses as they collect, arrange and create with natural objects. Thinking about another person and creating a homemade gift for them is a super way to help kids get hooked on kindness and giving to others and boost empathy.
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By creativity, we mean the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions to problems and actually do what needs to be done to make them happen. So, to help kids develop creativity, we parents need to nurture kids' imaginations and give them lots of chances to design, test, redesign and implement their ideas.
"Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Why, you ask? For one, it is through being creative that a person is able to get senses, sensibility and spirit working together. Simply put, without creativity, we don't think our kids will live a full life.
On a more practical level, it's also the means by which humans of all ages make an impact on the world and other people around them. A lot of heavy stuff is going to go down in our kids' lifetime, and their generation will need to imagine and implement solutions to big and very complicated problems. Although our kids are still far from public office or the boardroom, today's political and business leaders worldwide are already pointing to creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.
Although years from the art studio or design lab, little kids can learn to think and act creatively if you give them time and the right practice.
What is Sensory Development?
Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?
What is Empathy?
Simply put, empathy is the ability to think and care about the feelings and needs of others. The good news is, the more we study, it appears that children are empathetic by nature. All we need to do is nurture it in them—that of course is now always easy. Even though young children are simply working on gaining control over their emotions and won’t learn to really think about their emotions and the cause and effect of their behavior on others until their school years, they can start to develop the foundation for empathy much earlier. Taking actions (and watching adults take actions) that benefit other people, caring for animals and their environment and even just wondering how other people or creatures are feeling helps build both positive habits and a strong base for the development of empathy.
Why does it matter?
Empathy is at the root of what psychologists call “pro-social” behavior—behavior that people must develop in order to develop a conscience, build close relationships, maintain friendships, and develop strong communities. Empathy also helps kids avoid bullying, one of the most worrisome social challenges young kids face. Being able to think and feel for others can keep kids from becoming either bully or victim and equip them to stand up for others who are bullied. Imagine if all kids had such tools!