Christmas is such a special time of year for so many families and most of us LOVE the countdown just as much, if not more than Christmas Day itself. We all want our children to have the most amazing magical Christmas memories, which they’ll want to pass on to their own children. The pressure is on to do the best for our kids, shower them with gifts and make each year as magical and as exciting as possible!
The good news is…this doesn’t mean we have to spend much money, because it’s been shown positive family traditions feature more in our memories than actual gifts! Christmas traditions can be big or small and ones, it doesn’t matter but it’s the act of getting together as a family, laughing and having fun that’s so important. It’s building memories as a family, which will be remembered and treasured over the years. So many children and adults report one of the best things being just ‘battening down the hatches and being together’.
There really are so many wonderful things you can do, which just shout ‘Christmas’ without having to spend much money at all. With careful thought, planning and starting early, you can give your children amazing magical memories, which will stay with them for years and they’ll want to pass them on to their own children.
The key thing is to do things around Christmas time you don’t normally do, so they become things the children will associate specifically with that time of year. Little traditions in themselves may seem insignificant to us grown ups, but to a child they are the important jigsaw pieces of Christmas itself. Traditions that incorporate serious sensory stimulation, from smells, tastes and sounds are thought to be more powerful psychologically and have a lot of significance for us, which is why certain smells, foods and music immediately conjure up Christmas to so many of us! Don’t underestimate the power of Christmas music. Whether you’re listening to Carols, Crooners or the latest Christmas hits, whatever you’re doing will feel like Christmas!
Here are some ideas…you only need a few though, and the important thing is that there’s no stress or guilt, and doesn’t cause you to overspend…
Pick a date when you ‘start Christmas’ – a date when you get the tree, or start decorating…believe it or not, many children will call you on it if you look like you’re not going to start Christmas on time. Decorate the house together and have familiar decorations you keep through their childhood. Some families change all the bedding to Christmas bedding, but whatever you do, make an occasion of it and enjoy!
Make Christmas decorations together with Christmas music on in the background. There are so many wonderful and easy ideas on Pinterest. Children love to see their handiwork on display and they make wonderful keepsakes too. Decorations for the tree, for the windows, to send to Grandparents…once they start, they usually don’t stop!
Choose a Christmas tree together as a family, bring it home, get frustrated in a wonderful muddle, trying to untangle last year’s decorations, decorate it with some Christmas music on, marvel at how much
recycling beautiful artwork you seem to have in it, and resist the urge to sort it all out until they’ve gone to bed. You should then have a delicious mug of hot chocolate together when it’s all finished, or carry on drinking mulled wine. If you have an artificial tree, they’ll love all the unboxing and getting it up and ready!
Choose a new decoration for the tree each year – children absolutely love doing this. You just have to sit on your hands when they choose something
ghastly you don’t think you can look at for five minutes, let alone a big chunk of December! Argh!
A Candlelit bath on Christmas Eve is probably one of our kids’ most favourite Christmas traditions. If you can get the candles in the bathroom lit before they go in, the look on the faces is priceless. Even when they’re expecting it, they’re still WOW’d!
Advent Calendar – find something that’s right for you. Of course Elfie’s Christmas Letters are perfect, but how about this wonderful non chocolatey Three-In-One Advent Calendar, which is a simple trail of natural pebbles and rocks. You could have a homemade ‘stable’ at one end and some homemade wisemen at the other (or a gift and lego figures if you prefer!). Each day, the wisemen move forwards by one rock. Whatever you choose, your children will look forward to it each year and really enjoy the familiarity of it.
Bake Your Own Christmas Cake and / or Christmas Pudding together. They’re both very very simple to make and the smells of warm Christmas spices are incredible. This is where my association of smells and Christmas comes from. If you don’t like eating them yourself, pass them on to a friend or neighbour. They’ll really appreciate them and the children will really enjoy the whole process.
Bake special Christmas cookies – again, ones you only make at Christmas time. Each year we make some icing with just the tiniest amount of gingerbread…
Christmas Crafts & Activities – younger children absolutely love doing Christmas Crafts at home, whether it’s making cotton wool snowmen, making snow, making a Christmas House for a soft toy, or colouring in endless Christmas colouring pages. Get the Christmas music on and set them at it.
Go for a walk after dark to look at the Christmas lights – this is such a lovely and magical thing to do. There’s something rather special about being out and about at night time, and seeing all the twinkly lights and Christmas trees in people’s windows. Also near you somewhere there’ll be a Christmas lights ‘switch on’, which will probably also have entertainment and a real Christmassy feel to it.
Listen to Carol Singers – they are often carol singers about, collecting money for charity, or more formally, the Salvation Army. Usually at a regular spot each year such as a shopping centre, or doing door to door singing and collecting.
Create your personalised on-line video from Portable North Pole – a personalised video message from Santa.
Make dried orange slices together and fill your house with the most incredible smell! Use them to make decorations for the tree, to hang in the window, or to make a garland…so many ideas over on Pinterest
Go to the local Carol Service or Christingle Service…
Your local church will almost certainly have a Carol or Christingle service in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Our local ones fill to bursting, and there’s such a lovely community spirit.
See a local theatre production – it could be a local production, the traditional pantomime or a big show ‘in town’. Either way, children will be swept up with the magic of going to see a show in the days before Christmas. A later show and ‘staying up late’ will go down in history as ‘the best thing ever’.
Watch a film on Christmas Eve with a big bowl of deliciously warm homemade cinnamon popcorn. Whether it’s the same film each year, or a different one, as long as you’re altogether the kids will love it.
Play board games by candle light – either on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or on the countdown to Christmas. Children really love playing board games as a family and will remember this fondly. Even if you cheat wildly and distract them during their turn by tickling them…
Wrap Christmas presents in your ‘style’, whether it’s in recycled Christmas paper, newspaper, themed, hand-stamped kraft brown paper, or it changes each year…this detail won’t go unnoticed. Pop them under the tree well before Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or ready for Christmas Day – just so you know…the longer they’re under the tree, the more exciting it looks. If you can bear glitter, how about sprinkling the presents with glitter on Christmas Eve night, ready for them to find in the morning? Wrapping ideas HERE.
Go to a Christmas Market and browse through all the wonderful Christmassyness together. Definitely try to eat a warm cinnamon doughnut and get covered in sticky sugar, or grab something else the street stalls are selling! Even if you never buy anything except a hot chocolate, this will be such a lovely thing to do.
Go to a Shopping Centre – they’re always Christmas’d up with Christmas music and amazing displays. Children’s eyes will be on stalks looking at it all!
Let them buy you a Christmas present themselves – I remember being very young and my Mum dropping hints that she’d really REALLY love a new tea strainer for Christmas. She took me shopping to get something for my Dad and my sister and then when I asked about her, she took us to a shop that sold tea strainers (plus other things obviously), gave me some money (very little!) and asked me if I’d like to go and choose something and pay for it myself. I thought this was the best thing ever, but maybe I had a very sheltered life! It made wrapping it and giving it to her on Christmas Day so much more exciting for me. I couldn’t wait for her to open it.
Decorate the table on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas Day if you prefer. However you decide to do it, do it together! Ideas over HERE.
Light a special candle and put it in the window on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve Box – if you haven’t heard of these, they’re totally magical. You can make one, buy one, or not actually use a box at all. The idea is Father Christmas delivers treats to children to help make your Christmas Eve more magical. New pyjamas, a DVD, a book, edible treats, hot chocolate mix…all wrapped for extra excitement and suspense!
Visit friends or family, or have them round – children love the excitement of visitors when Christmas cheer is (hopefully) running high. There are inevitably cakes and chocolates flying around, which as you can imagine will only help make their day more
sugar loaded fun.
Make Christmas Cards together – give yourselves time and don’t try and do 99 in a day. Homemade cards are so lovely to receive and if your stuck for inspiration, pop over to HERE.
Read Christmas Books together, or listen to Christmas Audiobooks – what a lovely way to fall asleep each night on the countdown to Christmas. Or even just listen to a Christmas audiobook in bed on Christmas Eve each year.
Children perform a short Christmas play they’ve either made up, or you’ve helped them with. This could be just to you on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or saved for when family or friends come round. They could make their own costumes, find Christmas jokes to put in it…
Make a Gingerbread House – either from a kit, or design and build your own. Lots of design ideas to drool over HERE.
Start a new community Christmas tradition – something like making a Gingerbread House Village either at the school, or amongst friends, or start a Christmas Advent Windows Tradition on your street.
Have bowls of Christmas treats that everyone can help themselves to – just from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day: tangerines and apples, a bowl of nuts in their shells with nutcrackers, twiglets, sugared almonds, mixed flavoured crisps, dates, Quality Street…
Chocolate – close to many of our hearts! Whether it’s a chocolate orange, chocolate coins, a perfectly acceptably
obscenely large bar of chocolate, or chocolate in a large net stocking – children will remember having this fondly!
Christmas Eve Fun:
So, assuming you’ve enjoyed our hand-drawn and personalised letters bringing the latest news from THE workshop in the North Pole, you can track Father Christmas on the NORAD Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve, given them a surprise candle-lit bath and put out Father Christmas’ drink and snack. Once they’re in their PJs, you’ve watched a very cosy Christmas Movie together and they’re safely in bed, you must remember to nibble at his snack (ALWAYS leave crumbs)! You could also leave snowy footprints (using flour or icing sugar) and remove the food left out for the reindeer (important!).
There’s still one more thing you can do…
There’s a website called Capture The Magic, which quite simply proves that Father Christmas was in your home on Christmas Eve. You upload a picture of your fireplace, Christmas tree or somewhere else in your house where you think Santa may have been. Then you choose and superimpose one of their images of Father Christmas on to your image, and then download it and show it to them as a ‘webcam capture’.
*Regardless of the size of your budget, a really good thing to do is to start buying little things from NOW. Start early and take the pressure off yourself. Go hunting in second hand shops and for clearance bargains, because children love all sorts of things, regardless of the price tag. Buy things they will need anyway…new pyjamas, toothbrush, a treat snack you wouldn’t normally buy for them…the important thing is there is no stress or guilt and you don’t overspend. See 10 Tips For A Stress Free Christmas and make sure you just enjoy the day!
Magical moments for you and your child to share
Take your children on a magical journey with these unique, hand-drawn letters from two of the most magical places on earth … the North Pole and Fairyland.
Hide them among the bills and junk mail, lay them on the table first thing in the morning, stashed among the toys, or snuggled up in their bed. You choose where your children find the letters, to create a magical family tradition the kids will love!
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