Tag Archives: winter

Make Your Own Play Dough

Play dough is the perfect modeling material for children. Their small hands can pat, poke, pinch, roll and knead it into many shapes. Keep it in an airtight container to use another day, or let it air dry into favorite shapes.

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Measure 2 cups of flour, one cup of salt and 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of oil to one cup of water in a separate bowl then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. For colored play dough, squeeze 10-20 drops of food coloring into the water before you add it to the mixture. Cook the dough at low heat in a wide pan, stirring constantly until it becomes rubbery. Remove the dough from the heat and knead it for a few minutes. When it cools the kids can play too!

Photo: Kevin Jarrett (Flickr)

Indoor Winter Fun

Brr…It’s cold out there!

Whether you’re staying home with the kids during a  blizzard, polar vortex, or just because it’s cold and dreary, the hours inside the house during winter can seem endless for everyone. But with just a bit of preparation, you can ward off the winter doldrums and keep everyone smiling. Here are some ideas to get your started:

APIA’s Pinterest Pinboards are loaded with indoor craft ideas and activities for kids of all ages:

APIA Winter Fun

APIA Kid’s Stuff

APIA Fun Recipes

 

America’s Test Kitchen has recipes and STEAM-focused, hands-on activities designed to get kids ages 8-13 cooking, experimenting, and exploring in the kitchen. Learn more by visiting America’s Test Kitchen Kids and following them on Instagram.

 

 

Making Paper Snowflakes: Cutting paper snowflakes is a fun and simple indoor winter activity.  Tip: For younger kids, keep the designs simple to avoid frustration. Here’s a great video showing you how to cut some of your own.

 

If you’re looking to get out of the house, the Winter Fun for DC Kids (2018-2019) blog post from has the rundown on DC-area adventures.

2018/2019 Winter Vacation: Tips for Success

Photo: m01229 (Flickr)

During the last week of December and first week of January, many host kids will have between ten days to two weeks off from school for winter vacation. The thought of having the kids home for multiple days during the winter can send even the most seasoned childcare giver into a panic. Cold weather, shorter days, extra sugar, later bedtimes, and visiting relatives can be a challenge, but with some pre-planning, you can provide your host kids with a vacation to remember.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Tip #2: Dress the Part

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Winter has finally arrived in DC. It’s important to dress for cold weather and to make sure that your host children are dressed warmly too. If this is your first experience with really cold weather, ask your host parents for advice on staying warm. For more info, read this blog post from October: It’s Cold Out There! A 2018 Guide to DC Winter Weather.

Tip #3: Plan a Cozy Day Indoors

  • Staying home for the day? APIA’s Pinterest boards have loads of winter fun and holiday crafts and activities.
  • Help the kids organize their toys and rooms with these suggestions. With mom and dad’s permission, perhaps your host kids can donate some of the toys they have outgrown. This will create more room for the new toys from Santa.
  • Looking for a fun baking activity? Gingerbread is a delicious way to celebrate the season!

Tip #4: Make a Date

Playdates can be a great way for kids to socialize and work on the important skills necessary for being a good friend. Talk with your host family about planning a playdate over winter vacation. With their permission, you can use our cluster list to find an au pair who lives near you and has host kids who are compatible ages with your host kids. If hosting doesn’t work, you can also make plans to meet up at the library for a free story hour or crafting session.

DC’s Winter Lights

Looking for something fun to do on a cold winter night? Check out these free events designed to help you enjoy DC ~ even with the earlier sunsets.

Light Yards

Light Yards DC

Dec 7 to Jan 4 | 6 – 10 PM

#LightYards has two must-see, worldwide traveling light installations:

  • The Pool (by Jen Lewin Studio) invites visitors to hop, skip, and jump across 106 interactive circular pads of light.
  • Angels of Freedom (by OGE Group) aims to reveal the inner beauties of everyone by visually turning visitors into real-life angels.

ZooLights

Photo: Jim Jenkins, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Nov 23 to Jan 1 (except Dec 24, 25 and 31) |5 – 9 PM

#DCZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with two dazzling laser light shows set to music.

New this year:

  • Gingerbread Village
  • Reindeer Game Fun Zone
  • Interactive Light Display
  • Grump Holiday Market (Dec 6, 7, 8)

National Christmas Tree

The 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting at The Ellipse in President’s Park on November 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi)

Nov 29 to Jan 1 |10 am-10 pm weeknights/11 pm weekends

The National Christmas Tree will be lit every day starting from approximately 4:30 p.m. as part of the “America Celebrates” display at President’s Park (White House). The walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with handmade ornaments that are unique to each tree. Please visit the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.

US Capitol Christmas Tree

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, December 6, 2018. (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)

Dec 7 to Jan 1 |Nightfall-11 pm

This year’s 80-foot-tall #uscapitolchristmastree traveled over 3000 miles from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon to Washington, DC,  aboard a 106-foot-long truck and trailer. Seventy smaller companion trees from Oregon also decorate government buildings and public spaces around Washington, DC. Oregonians contributed 10,000 handmade ornaments celebrating the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife. Click here to learn more.

Georgetown GLOW

Image: Bekah Richards (Flickr)

Dec 1 to Jan 6 | 5 – 10 PM

#GeorgetownGLOW invites visitors to reimagine the season of light through outdoor public art. Click here for more information about this year’s art installations and to download a map.

 

Looking for more fun ways to celebrate the holiday season in DC?

Fun with Gingerbread

Gingerbread boys and girls and a history of gingerbread cookies. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Gingerbread boys and girls and a history of gingerbread cookies. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Gingerbread is an important part of many cultures’ holiday celebrations. Gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and even gingerbread-flavored coffee are just a few of the yummy treats available this time of year. DC-based cookie guru Meaghan Mountford details the history of gingerbread cookies on her fabulous website, The Decorated Cookie.

Gingerbread Books

The story of the Gingerbread Boy has been retold in many versions.  Head to your local library and check out a few of these fun books:

  • Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.
  • The Cajun Gingerbread Boy illustrated by Berthe Amoss
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
  • The Gingerbread Man: An Old English Folktale illustrated by John A. Rowe
  • The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Karen Schmidt
  • The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Pam Adams
  • The Gingerbread Man by Eric Kimmel
  • The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth

Make Your Own Gingerbread Cookies

A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie

A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Excited to make some of your very own gingerbread? Below is a recipe for gingerbread cookies. (Don’t forget to use American measurements and temperature settings!)

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, sift together:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

In a smaller bowl beat together:

  • ¾ cups brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup of molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out cookies.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool.  Decorate.

Gingerbread Fun Without the Baking

If you aren’t a baker, head to almost any store (Target, 5 & Below, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter are just a few) to buy a kit to make a gingerbread house, It will include everything you need ~ just add your imagination!

Even More Gingerbread Ideas

Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Or if you’re ready to take your gingerbread to the next level, The Decorated Cookie has loads of fun ideas. If you decide to try any of these projects out, be sure to post pictures on our cluster group page on Facebook.

 

Christmas 2018

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

 

History

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)

Christmas Traditions in the US

Infographic: History.com

Infographic: History.com

In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.

  • The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
  • Decorated Christmas trees begin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
  • Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
  • Children write letters to Santa Claus requesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
  • Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
  • On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
  • On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
  • Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
  • Source: Moo.com

    Source: Moo.com

    Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”


The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)

Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Hanukkah 2018

You can visit the world's largest menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Photo: Ted Eytan (Flickr)

You can visit the world’s largest menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Photo: Ted Eytan (Flickr)

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some host families celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Hanukkah and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

Hanukkah is the Jewish Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication. The holiday begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew Month of Kislev and lasts eight days. Hanukkah usually falls in the month of December, but occasionally can start in November. This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 2, 2018, and ends the evening of Monday, December 10, 2018

How Do You Spell Hanukkah?

According to Judaism 101, the process of writing Hebrew words in the Roman (English) alphabet is known as transliteration. Transliteration is more an art than a science, and opinions on the correct way to transliterate words vary widely. This is why the Jewish festival of lights (in Hebrew, Cheit-Nun-Kaf-Hei) is spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanuka, and many other interesting ways. Each spelling has a legitimate phonetic and orthographic basis; none is right or wrong.

History

The books of the Maccabees tell the story of Hanukkah which occurred in 165 B.C. After three years of struggle, the Jews in Judea defeated the Syrian tyrant Antiochus. The Jewish people held festivities in the Temple of Jerusalem and rededicated it to God. After removing all Syrian idols from the Temple, the Jews found only one small pot of oil to light their holy lamps. Miraculously, the small pot provided oil for eight days. Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish leader, then proclaimed a festival to be observed by Jewish people. (Source: www.apples4theteacher.com)

Hanukkah Traditions (Source: www.bhg.com)

  • The Menorah

The centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration is the Hanukkah or menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles. Eight candles symbolize the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed; the ninth, the shamash, is a helper candle used to light the others. Families light one candle on the first day, two on the second (and so on) after sundown during the eight days of Hanukkah while reciting prayers and singing songs. The menorah — either store-bought or homemade and crafted of metal, wood, papier-mache, or clay — is filled from right to left, but lit left to right so each new candle is lit first. (Source: www.bhg.com)

  • Singing Songs

Hanukkah — one of the most family-oriented of Jewish holidays — comes with its own set of carols sung around the glowing menorah. These celebrate everything from the glory of God and the ancient Temple of the Jews (“Maoz Tzur”) to the simplicity of a dreidel (see below), as in “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel/I made it out of clay/And when it’s dry and ready/Dreidel I shall play.”

  • Yummy Treats
Photo of Sufganiyot (Donuts): Avital Pinnick (Flickr)

Photo of Sufganiyot (Donuts): Avital Pinnick (Flickr)

There’s nothing low-fat about Hanukkah – many of the traditional foods of the holiday are deep-fried. In honor of the oil-y miracle people celebrating Hannukah like to eat foods that are fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and different fried breads.  Want to have a go at making something?  There are lots of recipes for yummy treats here.

  • Spinning Tops 

    Photo: Marina Shemesh (Flickr)

    Photo: Marina Shemesh (Flickr)

It’s customary to play with dreidels (spinning tops) during the holiday, even wage gambling games in which players guess which side of the top will fall face up. Legend has it that during the Greek-Syrian dictatorship in Israel of yore, Jews got around the ban on reading the Torah by bringing spinning tops to study sessions so their oppressors would think they were just playing around. The Hebrew characters carved into the four sides of today’s dreidels are the first letters of “Ness Gadol Haya Po/Sham,” which roughly translates to “Great Miracle Happened Here/There” (depending on whether you’re in Israel or not).

Directions to play the Dreidel game

More fun and educational Hanukkah activities for children


Celebrating Hanukkah in Washington, DC

 

The lighting of this menorah – the world’s largest – is attended by thousands every year and seen via media by tens of millions across the nation and around the world. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment and menorah kits and dreidels to take home. Tickets are free but must be ordered in advance.

A very Happy Hanukkah to all!

It’s Cold Out There! A 2018 Guide to DC Winter Weather

Reality Bites

When I moved to DC from the warm South Carolina coast for graduate school, I refused to believe that winter weather would actually arrive and (even worse) stick around for several months.

In September, I was confused by the empty hooks hanging in the back of all of the classrooms. I couldn’t imagine that in a few short months each hook would be holding a winter coat.

In October, I ignored the racks of coats and stacks of sweaters displayed in all of the stores. My lightweight jacket and jeans seemed to work just fine.

In November, I dashed to and from the car, grateful for the warmth and heat inside my house and university.  “It’s just a cold snap,” I told myself.

And then it snowed.

I watched my neighbors shovel their sidewalks and head off to work. I checked the university website and was shocked that classes hadn’t been canceled. December had arrived and I was living in DC without a hat, gloves, scarf, or boots. I slipped and slid my way to my car, carefully drove to Nordstroms (marveling at the snow plows clearing the roads), and bought the only pair of snow boots left in the store.

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Embrace Your Experience

Two decades later, my closet is fully stocked with coats and everything else necessary to live, work, and play in the winter. Because that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned about living in a city with winter weather- unless we have a blizzard, people go outside in the cold weather. In fact, they even have fun outdoors.

Children love to play in the snow- and they need the exercise. Staying cooped up inside only leads to grumpiness and fights. It’s much more fun to stay outside and build a snowman. Au pairs need to be prepared to join in the excitement.

For those of you not used to this weather, I understand your dismay. However, I encourage you to take advantage of this unique experience. Embrace the cold weather months as a chance to wear sweaters, try out a pair of gorgeous boots, and experience the snow. The au pair year is over very quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be home again showing your friends and families pictures of the first snowman you ever built.

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Important Tips*

Dress in Layers – Consider buying sweaters, jackets and long underwear.  If you wear several layers, you can take off things to be comfortable. For example, when it might be too warm for a heavy jacket, but too cold for just a sweater, you can combine different pieces of clothing.

Set a Good Example – Host parents will expect you set the example for your kids by wearing a coat when it’s cold outside. You should have a winter coat, hats, gloves, boots, and scarves.  Your host kids will fight wearing a coat if you don’t wear one. Think of yourself as a celebrity and everyone wants to look like you — especially your kids.

Check the “Emergency Change of Clothes” – With young children, we often keep an emergency change of clothes in the car, diaper bag or at their school. If you haven’t already switched out the shorts and t-shirt for something warmer, now is the time to do it.

Buy Cold Weather Clothing Now – Many stores have sales this time of year. Target, T J Maxx, WalMart, and Macy’s have lots of outdoor gear in their stores. DSW has tons of warm and stylish boots and has many DC-area locations, including Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. Lands End and Amazon are great online alternatives. An even more affordable option would be to go to a thrift shop. There are many in the area and you can often find a very warm jacket for a small price compared to buying one new.

Monitor School Closings and Delays– DC doesn’t get as much snow as other cold-weather places, and school is often canceled or delayed when it snows just a little. Au pairs from Germany, Poland, and other cold-weather countries will laugh at the DC area’s dysfunction in the winter ice and snow. Talk with your host family now, so you can all understand the plan for these inevitable schedule changes.

Fashionably Winterized

It’s possible to look great and still be warm. Here are a few articles to inspire you:

(*Important Tips includes information first posted on Christine Connally’s Au Pair Chatter blog. )