The countdown to Christmas has begun, which means that curious little minds are anxiously awaiting the number of days until Christmas. Since my own 4 year old, Sugar and Spice, asked about ten times a day, for probably a week, how many more days until Christmas, I decided we needed to make a good visual for her. While she is a smart cookie, she just couldn’t remember how many days I had said were left, even a few minutes after she asked the question.
Here is our solution: a Christmas Advent countdown calendar that we hung in our classroom above our felt Christmas tree. Each morning we take a clothespin away and count how many more days until Christmas. This is a perfect calendar time activity for the month of December.
The best part is that this really works! These little sweetie pies are truly starting to understand how far away December 25th is. Since they are no longer asking how many days until Christmas, I am reassured that they are starting to understand the goal of this activity.
Dye clothespins (of course dying them is optional).
Cut out and number shapes to put with the clothespins
Put the clothespins with the shapes on a hanging line. Feel free to make a pattern with the shapes. We got this particular art line at IKEA.
Order them from left to right with however many days until the big day. Even if you are close to Christmas, this is still super fun! Although this is called a countdown, we are more accurately counting up to Christmas. I avoid counting backwards with preschoolers because counting the proper way is confusing enough :).
I went ahead and made some printables of the shapes for anyone who would like to use them. Print them out, fold them, then cut. It’s much easier to cut four and get eight :). They are definitely not perfect, but I wanted to make something available to anyone in a hurry.
What preschoolers learn from this:
There are a lot of math skills coming from this activity: counting, learning about quantity, measurement, number recognition, shape recognition, learning about time, patterning, and even addition and subtraction skills for the more advanced preschoolers.
Time is a very hard concept for preschoolers to grasp. It is abstract to them, so in order to help them comprehend it, we need to make it more tangible. I really never thought I would say that time is “tangible” because it isn’t, which is why it makes this so tricky. In this case a tangible model is represented by clothespins.
I use prompts such as these after we do the daily countdown (or count up): “George, which numbers are on the stars?” “Cara, can you show me which numbers have ‘4’ in them?” “McKenna, can you show us and tell us which number is your favorite?”
We talk about the patterns as well. The patterns of the clothespins is one that they all are great at. The printables can be used for any sort of pattern, so you don’t have to use all four shapes. Instead you could follow a format such as AABB, ABC, ABBA, etc. Mine is actually a bit complex, so I will probably change it up next year.
How we dyed our clothespins: (this section contains affiliate links that help support Preschool Inspirations)
Sugar and Spice (my daughter) and Lil’ Red (my son) dyed all these clothespins. I got the idea of dying them from Fun at Home with Kids. We pulled out our
liquid watercolor and paint brushes, and they got to work. I don’t actually have green liquid watercolor, so we mixed it with the blue and yellow. I honestly only keep red, blue, and yellow liquid watercolor around since I know I can make any other color fairly easily. One day I will probably buy more, but that’s my frugal solution for now :).
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