Planning Ahead for Christmas - Ideas for Children
Christmas can be a wonderful occasion, but the planning for it can often cause stress and financial worry for the people involved. Therefore, in order to try and allow you the most relaxing time with your family, I’ve come up with a series of articles about how to plan ahead for the many and varied aspects of creating a lovely Christmas for you, your family and your friends.
In this post, I thought it might be nice to share some activities you can undertake with children in the run-up to Christmas. Obviously this is a time of year that children very much enjoy and you’ll find that you create some really special family memories if you’re all sharing in the fun together!
1. Make decorations together
This is a lovely task for children - the sky really is the limit when it comes to the imaginative creations that they will no doubt make to add to your tree. It is possible to buy craft kits containing all they will need (including instructions) from stationers and specialist stores such as Hobbycraft. If you have a bit more time, you can also buy craft supplies separately and let your children make up their own minds about how they should be used. There are also many resources available on the internet - this is a good place to start, but other sites such as The Crafty Crow and The Red Tart are also great. These decorations are likely to be treasured keepsakes in later years!
2. Write to Father Christmas
This is a good chance for children to sit and think about what they would really like and why, without being overawed by the shelves upon shelves of displays in the shops that appear from September onwards. It’s a chance to remind them that, according to legend, Father Christmas bring presents to those children who try their best to behave and therefore that they have a part to play in the process. Writing the letters a little way in advance also means that ‘Santa’s helpers’ will have a chance to select the required gifts in plenty of time! Should you wish, you could even arrange for your children to get a reply from Father Christmas (by making a donation to the NSPCC, who organise the scheme every year - check it out here.
3. Read Christmas stories and act them out
I am a huge believer in the power of stories and of reading with children. Being a huge fan of Christmas as well, it’s no wonder that I love sharing festive stories with my own children at this time of year! Reading a book can provide a few opportunities for calm during what is likely to be a very exciting period, and can also give you some ideas for simple games and activities inspired by the stories. ‘The Night Before Christmas’, by Clement C. Moore (many versions are available) might well be the most well-known story after the Nativity Story itself (which you may or may not want to share, depending upon your religious beliefs). My children also love ‘Stick Man’, by Julia Donaldson and ‘Father Christmas Needs A Wee’, by Nicholas Allan. Raymond Briggs’ classics, ‘The Snowman’ and ‘Father Christmas’ can be read every year without getting boring as there is so much to explore in the illustrations.
4. Advent calendars
Most children will relish the chance to build up to Christmas during the month of December and advent calendars are a lovely way to create anticipation. The chocolate versions, available in many shops, will always be popular, but I also love the simple ones that just have pictures. Maybe you could even make your own?
5. Nativity scenes
If you feel that communicating the religious meaning behind Christmas is important, then setting up a Nativity scene with your children is a nice way to get them involved and to start them talking about the story. You could even use the characters to act out parts of the story. They might find these particularly interesting if they are taking part in a Nativity play at nursery or school.
6. Decorate an outside Christmas tree
My children love spending time outside whatever the weather, so decorating a tree that the animals and birds might enjoy would be an ideal activity for them. Inspired by the book, ‘Night Tree’, by Eve Bunting, you could make popcorn strings for tinsel and then hang apples and home-made bird feed balls for the baubles. You could make a star out of sticks and place it on the top of the tree, then watch and see how the different creatures approach the tree to eat the treats.
7. Make gifts for other people
Recent research has shown that, even from a young age, we actually get more pleasure from giving gifts than from receiving them. This joy is likely to be increased if we’ve made the gifts ourselves, so try and think ahead to plan some gifts that you and your children could make for friends and family members. There’s no need to be extravagant - a simple drawing in a clip frame can be done for a couple of pounds and the recipient will still be touched to receive something so personal. Food, drinks and crafts are also relatively simple to do.
8. Choose games that they will enjoy too
If you have family parties or big meals planned, try and include some games that children can join in with as well. Sometimes these could be simplified versions of classic ‘grown up’ games such as Charades, Consequences or Pictionary, but it’s often equally enjoyable for adults to channel their inner child and play things that are specifically designed for children. Board games such as Operation and Hungry Hippos are simple for children to understand but fun for everyone to play!
9. Allow some down-time so they can rest throughout holiday period
It’s easy to forget that although children are unlikely to be doing much for the cleaning, planning, shopping and other organisation that’s often involved in preparing for Christmas, they are still going to be affected by the excitement and the changes to their normal routine. Giving them some quiet time here and there, along with some simple meals to counteract the increase in sugar consumption, will make everyone’s lives easier. It can get quite frenetic with family and friends around much more often and even teenagers can appreciate a bit of a break sometimes.
10. Write thank you letters together afterwards
Continuing with the idea that it’s good to get children to see all aspects of Christmas and be grateful for how lucky they’ve been, it’s a lovely idea to plan in some time to write thank you letters together. You can help your children by making a note (mental or on paper) of who has given them gifts, then supplying paper and envelopes for them to write the letters. This can be done by themselves if they are old enough, or with them dictating their messages to you if they’re not. Getting this job done promptly after Christmas means that it’s not hanging over your heads and people will be so glad to receive their letter early in the new year.