Will’s Culture Corner: December 2022 Edition

For many in our Explore & More community, December means it’s time for the holiday season. However, no matter which holiday is being celebrated, everyone not only in our community but across the globe has their own unique traditions that bring a sense of joy and nostalgia. This month, the ‘Culture Corner’ write-up sheds some light on some fun international holiday customs, to showcase the variety of cultural practices, and perhaps lead your family to start a new holiday tradition! 

One of the most lighthearted international holiday traditions comes from Spain, and more specifically the Catalan region. Here locals celebrate with the “Tió de Nadal,” or Christmas log, “Tio” as it is referred too as, is a log that has a face drawn on it, and wears a blanket, that poops gifts. ‘Tio’ is fed snacks throughout the month of December in anticipation of Christmas Eve when children hope it will poop out gifts. 

Contrasting the lovable Spanish ‘Tio’ celebration is the Eastern and Central European (Austria, Bavaria, Northern Italy, Czechia) celebration of the Feast of St. Nicholas. On December 6th Santa Claus is accompanied by the Krampus, while Santa delivers the familiar presents, the demon-like Krampus comes to punish children who have misbehaved. 

Traveling to Japan one can observe Ōmisoka where on December 31st the Japanese people prepare for the upcoming New Year by cleaning, and tidying their homes and themselves, in hopes to start the year with a clean slate. This New Year’s Eve tradition is often accompanied with a meal of udon or soba noodles, as the eating of the long noodles symbolize the action of crossing into the new year. 

These are just 3 examples of interesting and fun holiday traditions from around the world. Highlighting these holiday customs was intended to be a lighthearted showcase of global cultural traditions while encouraging reflection on the oddities that our families may partake in during the holiday season. 

Happy Holidays! 

Explore Even More: Holiday Scented Playdough

Playdough is an invaluable tool for creative, open-ended play. Children can engage in sensory play with playdough, building nerve connections in the brain, and developing language and fine motor skills during the process. You and your child can make December-themed playdough together with this special no-bake playdough recipe. What makes this recipe special? For extra sensory play, we’ll be adding cinnamon, peppermint extract, or cocoa powder for a winter-scent sensory experience.

  • 1 bowl, measuring cups & spoons, 1 mixing spoon  
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup salt 
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar.
  • 1 tablespoon oil (vegetable, baby oil, or coconut oil)
  • A few drops of food dye (optional)
  • ½ to 1 cup hot water 
  • Now, for the extra sent I would add: 
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, OR
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon, OR 
  • ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract 

To be clear: I do not recommend mixing all these smells in one batch!

Mix all dry ingredients: flour, salt, cream of tartar, (cocoa or cinnamon). Then add oil, food dye, (peppermint extract) followed by the hot water. Mix the water in. If your dough is sticky, add a little extra flower. If your dough is too dry, add a little extra water. Kneed the dough once the consistency is ideal for a minute.

I’ve also made a tray with cookie cutters, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and different spices to expand play as well. Learning how to use scissors with playdough is great too!

Have fun!

-Ms. Jackie

A Letter from Lisa: December Edition

Dear Friends,

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so take time to PLAY! Research shows that play helps relieve stress for both kids and adults, which is why making time to play together as a family is so important. In addition to spending quality time together, family play helps to reduce stress, strengthen relationships, and encourage creativity and imagination. If you’re not sure how to get started, here are some easy ways that you can incorporate play into the time your family spends together and eliminate your kids using that dreaded ‘b’ word – I’m bored!

  • Have some winter fun – Put on your favorite pair of snow pants and warmest winter boots and head outside for an activity like sledding or ice skating at Canalside. Take a trip to your local park and play on the equipment in the frigid weather. Blow bubbles – yes! – Bring your bubble mixture outside and let the fun begin! Let the bubble sit on the wand after you blow it to see it slowly freeze and transform into a crystal ball up close. 
  • Make some art – Gather supplies and do a group art project. Give each family member a blank canvas and create some new wall art or take turns drawing portraits of each other.
  • Host a game night – Are you the all-time Monopoly champion? Challenge your family to a game night. Be sure to rotate who gets to choose the games played each time. I suggest that you play the latest and greatest, Monopoly City of Buffalo. Who will be lucky enough to own Explore & More?
  • Take a nature walk – Play can be calm and low-key. Explore the outdoors as a family while walking around your neighborhood or strolling the Boardwalk at Canalside.
  • Make chores fun – Turn everyday tasks, like cooking or cleaning, into a bonding moment by doing them together. Find opportunities to make tasks fun and silly to get everyone laughing.
  • Build a fort – Grab the couch cushions, some carboard or even a stack of pillows and blankets and build the hideout of your dreams. Don’t forget the flashlights!
  • Dance – Put on your favorite tunes and let loose with the family. Bring back some of your favorite dance moves, like the robot or the moonwalk.
  • Have a family photoshoot – Grab some props and costume pieces and let kids direct a family photo shoot.
  • Sing – Share your love of music with a karaoke sing-along. Everyone can pick their own tune or have a theme for the night, like 80’s music or songs about summer (Oh, how we miss you!)
  • Support imaginative role play – Let kids take the lead by letting them plan the fun. Have them choose what characters everyone will be, then play along as a superhero, doctor or whatever else they’ve dreamed up. I personally, will choose Wonder Woman every time!

It doesn’t matter how your family chooses to play, as long as you’re spending quality time together and having fun. Play has important benefits for people of all ages, so take the time now to make it a priority and see how your family benefits. If you need more convincing that play isn’t just for kids, experience all the fun that we have in store for you at Explore & More throughout the month of December as we celebrate “Holidays Around the World.”

Looking forward to seeing you soon,

Lisa Chrapowicz

Director of Strategic & Community Initiatives

Annie’s STEM Lab: Outreach Programs

New STEM Outreach Program: Race Car Rollers! Did you know Explore and More offers Program Outreach? This is an opportunity for your class, group, or gathering to have Explore & More come to you! Our programs range from 45-60 minutes in length, and they are taught and guided by a member of our wonderful Education Team here at Explore and More. These educational experiences are hands-on, engaging, and fun for all elementary level students (PreK-5th), all while aligned by the New York State learning standards!

As the new STEAM Educator of the Education Department here, I wanted to highlight one of our newest Outreach Programs- Race Car Rollers! You will find this on our Outreach Sheet listing under options for First & Second Graders.

This program will begin with some creativity and building! Students will receive all the materials to create their very own car, where they will decorate, construct, and add the wheels themselves. When the cars are ready, it is time to move on to the next step! The students then get to perform an experiment with the cars they just created. Students will be asked to perform two tests with their car, with two different height ramps. The class will be introduced to the topic of force and motion and will be asked to run tests to see which ramp causes the car to move faster! Students will be introduced to new vocabulary, will be able to participate in conversation, create (and of course keep!) their cars, and get an introduction to creating and analyzing data to prove a theory.

At Explore and More, we like to play through learning, and this experience is just that! Any questions about this lesson? Feel free to reach me at [email protected]!

Did You Know? School Age Camps

Holidays are right around the corner which means students have some upcoming breaks from school. Did you know that Explore & More has just the solution for families balancing work and break schedules for their kiddos? Come check out our Day Camps and Break Week Camps! We have everything from Art Explorers Day Camp to a Drop & Shop – Stay & Play Camp day (parents, drop off your kids for fun in the museum while you get some early holiday shopping done!). We even have a Winter Kids Camp where students will explore a different theme each day related to “Holidays Around the World” that is guaranteed to shake off the winter blues and keep kids engaged during their winter break. Click here for more details!

Here are some other fun Thanksgiving facts:

  • Did you know pumpkins are native to the western hemisphere and have been cultivated as a crop long before foods such as corn and beans?  Native Americans have been farming pumpkins for over 9,000 years.
  • Did you know that an estimated 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed for Thanksgiving every year in the USA?
  • Did you know that the largest pumpkin pie ever made was 20 feet long and weighed a hefty 3,699 lbs! It was made at the New Bremen Pumpkin fest in Ohio in 2010.

Now that’s a lot of pumpkin! We hope you and your little “pumpkins” will join us for play at Explore & More this November!