12 Days of Christmas Crafts – Day 1 – Paper Plate Christmas Trees

If you've read about how I choose crafts for our family, you know that I like crafts which use only simple items that we have on hand.

That's how I knew that these Paper Plate Christmas Trees would be a good choice for us.

They are SO SIMPLE.

12 days of Christmas Crafts - Day 1 Paper Plate Christmas Tree Ornaments

What you'll need:

A paper plate

green washable paint

small colorful pompoms (or other decorations such as buttons)

yellow construction paper

paint brush


yarn or ribbon

white washable school glue


glitter (optional)

First, you will need to paint the paper plate.

Although we use washable paint, I still like to keep things as neat as possible so we put a large piece of paper under it to keep paint from getting on the table.

If you are using glitter, you can sprinkle it into the wet paint after the entire plate is painted.

Set it aside to dry.


painting paper plate for christmas tree craft

Cut a star from yellow construction paper.

You can draw it freehanded or trace a star shape that you may own such as these Glow in the Dark Plastic Stars or a star cookie cutter.  About 2 inches across is a good size for this craft.

I drew ours freehanded, and then let the children cut them out.


The star can also be decorated with glitter, but it doesn't have to be.  If you choose to use glitter, just make a design on the star with the white glue and then sprinkle away!

I was feeling brave today, so we chose to use glitter. If you are going to use glitter, I have found that these Glitter Shakers do help to minimize the mess.

Wait for the paper plate to fully dry.

Some of the paint had been applied very thick, so we let it dry for about 3 hours just to be sure.


paper plate Christmas tree ornament craft

When the plate is completely dry, fold and cut into 4 equal pieces.

To do this, first fold the plate in half. Then cut on the crease.

Next, fold each half in half and cut again.


Cutting paper plate Christmas tree after it's dry

You should have 4 equal pieces when you are finished cutting.

Now it's time to put the Christmas Tree together!

paper plate christmas tree ready to assemble

Stack the Christmas tree sections and glue on the back.  

Use a small amount of white glue, and you may need to slightly  bend the tree sections together to get the glue to hold.

making a paper plate Christmas tree

Decorate your Christmas tree.

Glue the star on top of your tree and add pompom decorations.

You can be creative here and decorate the tree how you want. If you don't have pompoms, you can use buttons, foam shape pieces, or even cut small construction paper ornaments for your tree.

Both of my children chose pompoms.


Here they are decorated!

I think they turned out really well.

Allow the glue to dry.

We only waited about 15 minutes before moving to the next step.



finished paper plate Christmas tree ornaments

Add yarn to the back to make a hanger.

We used tape to hold the yarn and it did well.

Plus, my children love to use tape.

They loved this craft because there was glue, glitter, and tape involved!

Making the Christmas tree hanger using yarn and tape

And here they are hanging on our Christmas tree!

We thought this was a very fun and cute craft.

The most difficult part for us was getting the tree sections to stay together with the glue. But once you figure out how to bend it and hold it in place for a few seconds, it will stay together.

The best part of this craft was decorating the trees. My children absolutely loved this!

12 days of Christmas Crafts - Day 1 Paper Plate Christmas Tree Ornaments

What do you think of this craft? Are you going to make Paper Plate Christmas Tree Ornaments with your children? 

I would love to hear from you! Please comment below.

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Introducing the 12 Days of Christmas Crafts (and how we will choose just 12!)

When the Christmas season comes around, we like to include several extra crafts and activities into our homeschooling days. This year, we have decided to do a holiday themed craft each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas and we are calling it 12 Days of Christmas Crafts (check out Teaching Little Hearts #12daysofchristmascrafts on Facebook and Instagram).

There are so many adorable crafts this time of year that it's going to be hard to choose only 12 of them!

Here are some of  characteristics of the crafts that  I consider when choosing crafts for us to do (not just Christmas crafts, but anytime of the year):

1. Can this craft be made with simple items that I already have?

I don’t choose crafts that require lots of special item purchases. Most of the crafts and art projects we do use basic art supplies and simple crafting items like construction paper, pompoms, and wiggle eyes.

Simple items to have on hand for homeschool art and craft projects

2. Is it possible to add your own touch to this craft?

We like crafts that allow for creativity. Yes, they may all look similar, but you can add your own personal touch.

3. Is this craft easy to assemble?

With a 3 year old and a 6 year old, it is important to choose projects that aren't too complicated and become difficult instead of fun.

4.  Will this craft capture moments of my children growing up?

I especially love handprint and footprint crafts.

I also think about photo opportunities with the craft (in making it, or with the finished project).

Family handprint hand painting craft

5. Is this craft something that we will be able to use/keep?

I have a very hard time throwing away my children's artwork and crafts. So when I am planning art projects, I consider if it will be something useful or cute enough to keep. I also like edible crafts for this reason - they make something cute, take a photo, then they eat it and it's gone.

And that’s how we choose our art and craft projects. (We do occasionally buy painting or peel and press Melissa and Doug Craft Kits when they are deeply discounted).

I hope you will follow us as we complete our 12 Days of Christmas Crafts. Just maybe you will find some craft ideas that are a good fit for your family.

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I would love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite Christmas crafts? How do you choose what crafts to do with your children?

Top 5 Educational Toy Gifts for Preschoolers

Preschoolers are natural learners. They are curious about the world around them and learn so much through play, and they find simple things fascinating. (Is it just me, or does anyone else's preschool age child prefer to play with my kitchen utensils and tupperware containers over their toys?)

Choosing good toys for preschoolers does not have to be complicated. When buying toys for 3 to 4 year olds, there are so many options for toys that are just simply fun to play with and promote hands on learning at the same time.

Here is my top 5 list of toy gifts for preschoolers that will both entertain and teach:

1. Blocks

Blocks help fine motor coordination through stacking, and they foster imaginative play through creative building. Depending on the block set, they can help with learning colors, letters and numbers as well.

There are so many different kinds of blocks that preschoolers love. Traditional stacking wooden blocks and snap together type like LEGO DUPLO Sets are two great choices.

For wooden blocks, this Alphabet Blocks Wooden Truck is one of my all time favorite block toys for children and both of my children loved it as preschoolers. I love the colorful alphabet blocks and how easily they can be stored on the truck.

For snap together blocks, one of our favorite sets is this Lego Duplo House. It is great for imaginative play and can be used to help reinforce daytime and nighttime routines with the special printed blocks that come with it.

Melissa and Doug Alphabet Block Truck
Lego Duplo Playhouse Set

2. Play Food

I believe that this is a favorite toy of all preschool children. Learning Resources brand makes some very sturdy play food pieces like this Fresh Picked Fruit And Veggie Tote that is fun for imaginative play. Other food toys like  this Super Sorting Pie help with color recognition, fine motor skills, and sorting.


3. Little People Sets

We love Little People! There are so many different sets that are fun and imaginative for preschoolers.

Our favorites are two that you may remember from your childhood: the Fisher-Price Little People Animal Friends Farm and the Little People House.

Little People Animal Farm

4. Puzzles

Preschoolers enjoy puzzles. I think both the board puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are good for this age.

For board puzzles, we really like both the Melissa and Doug Wooden Chunky Puzzles and Wooden Peg Animal Puzzles Set. I have seen preschoolers have great fun in just working the puzzles alone, and also with playing this puzzle game that helps with learning to taking turns.

These Melissa and Doug Sound Puzzles are really neat, too.

While jigsaw puzzles may be advanced for some 3 and 4 year olds, others enjoy them as an activity to do with help from an older sibling or adult. There are even beginner jigsaw puzzles available with as few as 12 pieces.

Wooden Board Puzzles

5. Magnets

Magnets are just fascinating. Magnetic alphabet letters and numbers can be purchased to play with on the refrigerator, or there are magnetic chalk board sets that come with letters and numbers.

Magnetic Blocks are also another fun magnetic toy to consider.


There are some really great choices for preschool toys out there that are both fun and educational. Here are some other educational toys that you may consider for preschoolers:

Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Book, 3-Pack - Animals, Alphabet, and Numbers
Play-Doh Fun Factory Set
Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register

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Why Our Christmas Tree is Up Before Thanksgiving


christmas-tree So yesterday we put up our Christmas tree. I know what you’re thinking, we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, our Christmas tree is up 4 days before Thanksgiving. And I have to say that this is earliest I have EVER had a Christmas tree in my house.

I know that many people are against early Christmas decorations because of the widespread commercialism of the holiday and the “skipping over Thanksgiving.” I have to admit that I have had similar thoughts in the past, so we have never put our tree up before Thanksgiving.

So when my children asked yesterday if we could please get our Christmas tree out (They have literally been asking since October!), I had a thought that actually changed the way I think about early Christmas decorating.

Here was my thought:

Christmas is actually a big part of Thanksgiving to me.

I know it does sound strange when you first hear this, but allow me to explain my thought:

So everyone knows that Thanksgiving is a time to pause and give thanks to God for all that we have. I love Thanksgiving! It’s one day of the year that we are especially mindful of all the blessings we have.

Fisher Price Little People Thanksgiving Set

Thanksgiving is a time we remember the history of the Pilgrims coming to America, their successful first year of harvest, and how God had provided for them after the initial hardships they faced.

My daughter and I have been reading about this in detail and have learned so much in one of her history books this year called Stories Of The Pilgrims.

So that’s Thanksgiving.

Now let’s look at Christmas.

Christmas is about celebrating the Savior’s birth. Without Jesus coming to Earth as a baby, He could not have gone to the cross to pay for our sins (and not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world, “whosoever believes” 1 John 2:1-2, John 3:16).

Christmas Tree Close up

This truth was really brought to life for me at Christmastime last year as my family and I enjoyed reading a book together called One Wintry Night.

My favorite quote from this book resonates in my mind as we approach Thanksgiving this year:

“Since the beginning of time, we needed Christmas.”

What a beautiful thought this is!

When you think of it this way, we really should be celebrating Christmas everyday of the year, the humble first coming of the Savior we all so desperately need!

So yesterday, 4 days before Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree.

And while having a Christmas tree up doesn’t necessarily remind me of all the blessings I have to be thankful for, it does remind of of something that I am most thankful for:

God’s saving grace that was made possible only through Jesus, who first had to come as a baby in a manger.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!

I hope the blessing of Christmas will be a big part of your Thanksgiving this year!

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Rod and Staff Preschool Workbooks


Rod and Staff Preschool Workbooks Set of 7 ABC SeriesToday, my two little hearts were so excited because of a box that was delivered to our front door. It was a box from Milestone Books and contained our new Rod and Staff Workbooks!

I was introduced to Rod and Staff through the Heart of Dakota Curriculum, Little Hearts for His Glory. My 6 year old completed this amazing curriculum last year, and these simple, yet beautiful workbooks called Going on Eagerly and Just Thinking and Choosing were part of the fine motor skills schoolwork. She absolutely loved these workbooks – the cutting and pasting, the tracing, the simple illustrations, and the learning about various animals. I have to admit that I was equally impressed. They were so simple, yet so profound. And the cost of them – I absolutely loved that part. They were just over 3 dollars each. There aren’t many good quality workbooks to be found at this price!


Just to tell you a little about Rod and Staff, if you haven’t heart of them. Rod and Staff Publishers was founded in 1958 as Pilgrim Mennonite Press and is located in Crockett, Kentucky.  Their purpose stated in their printed catalog is to “supply Christian homes and schools with Bible-based textbooks and literature that impart truth and that in no way compromise the Word of God.” They do not sell directly online. They can be contacted directly by phone (606-522-4348) to obtain a catalog or to place an order. If you wish to order online, Milestone Books is the major distributor for them. And some of their products can also be found here on Amazon. But even if you do get free shipping from Amazon, I have found that the prices of the workbooks are much cheaper at Milestone Books. (Most of the workbooks are just $3.60 each!)

So this year, as my daughter has moved into the next Heart of Dakota Guide (Beyond Little Hearts), Rod and Staff workbooks were not part of the curriculum. She has missed doing these workbooks SO MUCH. So when I discovered that there were other workbooks available, we ordered them! And to my 3 year old son’s delight there were some available that he could do too!

I bought the Set of 7 ABC Series (pictured above) for my son. It’s called the ABC Series because the title of each book begins with a letter of the alphabet in sequence. They are: Adventures With Books, Bible Pictures to Color (also included was Bible Stories to Read that goes along with it), Counting with Numbers, Do It Carefully, Everywhere we Go, and Finding the Answers.

Rod and Staff Workbooks GHIJKLI also ordered the set of 4 Preschool Activity Workbooks for 3 and 4 year olds. These look like they will be wonderful for him. Four great workbooks for $10.00!

For my daughter, we ordered the GHIJKL Series which came as an add-on with the Set of 7 ABC Series. She has already completed G and J (Going on Eagerly and Just Thinking and Choosing) so those 2 will be put away for my son when he begins Little Hearts for His Glory. But she now has Hearing and Helping, Inside and Outside, Keep Doing It Carefully, and Learning More and More to work through.

I also ordered a Rod and Staff Music Workbook for her as she is becoming interested in learning piano.

Both of my children are so excited to start their new workbooks! And I love seeing them excited about learning.

Friends, if you are looking for some good quality workbooks for your preschooler and young elementary age children, I highly recommend Rod and Staff workbooks. They are so simple, but we all absolutely adore them!

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)


Teaching Preschool at Home

Four years ago, I set out to become a preschool teacher to my first little heart. She was only 2 and 1/2 years old at the time but she wanted to "do school." And she really was ready, or so I thought. She loved for me to read books to her and would sit and listen for as long as I would read. She could say the alphabet flawlessly and count to twenty with near accuracy. She could identify colors, shapes, and almost all letters of the alphabet. I had to agree, she was ready to "do school."

The problem was, I didn't know how to "do school" with her. Just two years prior to this, I was a full time pharmacist. My days consisted of filling prescriptions, counseling patients about medications, screening for drug interactions. I didn't know anything about being a preschool teacher.

So I went to the dollar store. I bought a few letters and numbers workbooks, a brand new box of crayons, and a fat pencil. I showed her the new, colorful school books. She was so excited! Well, that is until we opened them to the first activity and I told her to trace a line. She took the fat pencil into her little right hand with eagerness, and attempted to stay on the line. She tried so hard! (With the knowledge I have now, I know that there is probably no two year old that can trace a line with precision.) Despite her best effort, she did not stay on the line. The tears came. Big, sobbing tears of failure because she couldn't stay on the line. And the tears were followed by a phrase that I will never forget coming out of her little mouth, "I not want to do school!"

A few days went by. She no longer asked to "do school." She even said, "I not like school!" a few times when I tried to talk to her about it.  I was devastated. My husband and I had recently decided that our daughter would be homeschooled. How was I supposed to homeschool her if she didn't like school and if I couldn't successfully teach her?

I had to find a way for my daughter to want to "do school" again. So I made the decision to get rid of those workbooks that had caused tears, and to never bring them up to her again. Maybe she just wasn't ready to do school, I reasoned. But with all that she knew, I couldn't understand why those books had been so stressful to her! They looked so colorful and fun!

What I didn't realize at the time, friends,  is that we had already been doing school. Yes, preschool had already begun for my daughter, and I was already a preschool teacher to her. Our lovely times of reading together, playing with her blocks and toys, all the things she had been learning through play was school for her. And that was enough, actually more than enough, at her age. That beautiful, adventurous, eager age of two.

So why didn't I know this at the time? It's because this type of school wasn't the school that I knew. I attended public school my whole life. So did my husband. The idea of school to us (as well as in the Sesame Street books we had been reading to her) was sitting at a desk or table, with a pile of worksheets or a workbook and coloring pictures and writing letters. The idea of school through play would have seemed ridiculous to me at that time!

Friends, don't ever underestimate the power of playtime for teaching a preschooler. It is truly how they learn! Play with your little children. Read to them. And teach them as you play. No worksheets (or tears) are required.

I am remembering this as my second little heart is now preschool age, and it is so precious to do school with him in this way. (Surprisingly, he does ask for worksheets at the age of 3 because his sister eagerly does them now at the age of 6. He really enjoys them, too. He is not stressed out by not being able to stay on the line perfectly as she was at preschool age. He completes them with joy!)

I will leave you with this quote that I love and have found it to personally hold so much truth:

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."  -Fred Rogers