Christmas Eve is a magical night… but did you know that you can also make Christmas Eve educational?
I know what you are thinking: Christmas Eve is a night to put the books away and focus on family and fun and memories and moments.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that. I am certainly not suggesting that you pull out the workbooks and drill math facts.
All I want to do is share our magical, fun, and educational Christmas Eve… and please note that this was my kids’ idea.
This is the honest-to-goodness truth.
Every year, we track Santa’s journey with the NORAD Santa Tracker. Well, we received a gorgeous set of Pin It Maps just before the holidays and my oldest suggested we use them in conjunction with NORAD.
I said yes, because how can you say no to that?
In all honesty, I figured the kids would get side-tracked by holiday tunes, hot cider, and snow… and they did enjoy all those things, but they also kept coming back to NORAD and Pin It Maps.
How to Make Christmas Eve Magical, Fun, and Educational!
*Disclosure: I received a set of Pin It Maps at no cost in exchange for a post. I was not compensated for my time, nor was I required to write a positive review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I only share resources that I would use with my own family and those that I believe other families will enjoy. We love Pin It Maps so much that I already have another post planned. They are that good. Read on to find out why…
Make Christmas Eve magical … and educational with Pin It Maps!
As a homeschool mom, I am a huge fan of strewing. Strewing is the art of sprinkling books, games, and other resources related to a child’s current interest. I know a strewing opportunity when I see one. My kids were so immersed in NORAD Tracks Santa and Pin It Maps that I knew it was a perfect moment to strew. And so I grabbed some favorite geography books from our book basket, added a globe, and stacked two favorite games on the table.
It was Christmas Eve and I had zero expectations. My mind was on family and magic and fun, but sometimes, when you are having a blast, amazing learning can happen!
Pin It Maps provide an amazing hands-on way to learn geography
Before I tell you more about our magically educational Christmas Eve, I should explain Pin It Maps for you.
Pin It Maps is a company run by Sara, a homeschooling mom. Like many homeschool parents, Sara was interested in finding high-quality affordable educational materials that could be used across curriculums and for a wide range of ages and learning styles.
Sara created Pin It Maps, a company that provides beautiful, hands-on, Montessori-inspired pinnable maps. Through hands-on exploration, students quickly learn geography. Each set of maps comes with flags for pinning, large-scale maps for pinning, and a set of control maps. The control maps allow for self-monitoring and correcting, and the maps can be used again and again.
Here are a few reasons why I love Pin It Maps:
- The maps are gorgeous.
- They are durable.
- Pin It Maps allows for hands-on learning.
- This is an incredible way to learn geography. Pin It Maps are so much more fun than any worksheet, coloring page, or puzzle.
- These maps can be used in so many different ways. Here are a few ways we have used them in the past two months:
- Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve.
- In conjunction with Give Your Child the World and Around the World Stories. (I plan to post more about this soon- so much fun!)
- While studying U.S. states and capitals, we have used the US map and the game Scrambled States.
- Pin It Maps can be used with a variety of age ranges. My 5-year-old is having just as much fun as my 8.5-year-old, and I can see our family using these maps for many years to come.
- The maps encourage cooperative learning and collaboration among siblings.
- I could see these maps being used in a homeschool, classroom, or co-op setting.
What do you need to get started with Pin It Maps?
Pin It Maps is an amazing experience that will last for years to come. But, in order to have the best experience possible, I would recommend a few things:
- First, you’ll need to purchase size 28: 1-3/4 inch straight quilting pins. Trust me, you want to get the correct size. I purchased regular ol’ dress pins and they were too small. These pins are easy to find at online or at local craft stores like Michaels Craft Stores.
- I should note that you don’t need the pins. You can use the maps and flags without pins (and this is a great idea for young children), but we loved making the little flag poles!
- If you want to make the flag poles, you will need to assemble them. Assembly is easy and my kids loved helping me. All materials (with the sole exception of the pins I already mentioned) are included with your order. The flag pole is a plastic tube placed beneath the flag label. It will keep the pin from bending and the flag label from slipping down the pin when a child pushes on the flag. For each pin, a soft silicon flag base is provided. It holds the tube in place, makes the pin stand up straight on the map and stops the pin from poking through the foam sheet.
- Finally, if you order a large bundle of maps, you’ll want to think about storage. I’ve already said it, but these maps are stunning. When they first arrived on our doorstop, I was in love… and completely paranoid that one member of our party would lose a piece. I immediately contacted Pin It Maps and Sara was super-responsive. She suggested the following for organization:
- If you want to be super-organized, Pin It Maps also offers labels on the site. The flags are super-easy to sort once you’ve used them because the continent is noted on the back of every flag. The kids can clean up after themselves! You can watch an instructional video explaining how to organize and store the pins here:
Now that I’ve explained the nitty-gritty, it’s time to talk about the fun we had!
Use NORAD Tracks Santa and Pin It Maps to make Christmas Eve a magical, fun, and educational experience
My original Pin It Maps plan was to start with the United States and work our way out, but when my oldest suggested we track Santa on Christmas Eve using both NORAD Tracks Santa and Pin It Maps, I decided to switch gears.
When Christmas Eve rolled around, I had already assembled the flag poles and stored them by category. We were ready to go!
That morning, I had some baked oatmeal ready to go. I put hot cider in our crockpot, turned on the twinkle lights, and put on the Christmas tunes.
Knowing that my kids wanted to track Santa with NORAD and Pin It Maps, I also grabbed my laptop and the Pin It Maps World Map Bundle, along with all necessary flags (neatly organized in the photo boxes I mentioned above).
Then, I grabbed a few of our favorite geography books, a globe, and some geography games.
I want to reiterate that I had zero expectations. This was Christmas Eve and our goal was to spend time as a family, having fun and celebrating the season.
But I’ve said it before: amazing learning can happen when you relax and let it.
When you allow your children to follow their current passions, to jump down rabbit holes, and to pursue delight-driven learning, even non-homeschool days – like Christmas Eve – can become incredibly educational.
Our Christmas Eve was relaxed. It was fun. It was filled with childhood magic. And it was fantastically educational. I can honestly say that I learned a ton of new information, too.
The combination of Pin It Maps, Google Earth, books, and games made for a Christmas Eve that we will never forget!
Books we referenced while using Pin It Maps and NORAD Tracks Santa
We used the following books in conjunction with Pin It Maps and NORAD Tracks Santa:
Here are some other fantastic geography books that our family adores:
Games we enjoyed while tracking Santa with Pin It Maps and NORAD
We picked two of our favorite geography games to use with Pin It Maps and NORAD:
Here are some other fantastic geography games that our family adores:
Are you a fan of delight-driven learning?
Me too! You might enjoy these posts:
- 100 Games and Picture Books for Play-Based Learning
- Gameschool Challenge: Add More Play To Your Day!
- How to Start a Family Book Club
Now it’s your turn. Tell me: Do your kids love to track Santa? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram