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The Christmas Countdown: Keeping the Kids Engaged and Excited

The Christmas Countdown: Keeping the Kids Engaged and Excited

The festive season is upon us! If you celebrate Christmas as a family, this month is likely to be a joyful, busy whirlwind of family get-togethers, yearly traditions and memories made. Along with this magic, however, comes the potential for overwhelm - and perhaps disengagement from overstimulated kiddos.  In this piece, we’ll be sharing simple, wholesome activities to get your little ones eager for the big day, without tiring them out before it arrives!

Don’t worry if your family does not celebrate this holiday. We’ll be sharing fun activities for Hanukkah, Orthodox Christmas, and general winter activities, all season long. Stay tuned!

The run-up: Advent calendars

We all love a chocolate advent calendar, but why not use this fun tradition to encourage your little ones to enjoy simple, calm activities throughout the month? We love making a homemade advent calendar with connected, festive activities written down for each day of the month. Think a winter walk, handmade decorations, or perhaps creating a craft Christmas list! We have a fantastic collection of stocking fillers here, and we have a real soft spot for Cotton Twist, a brand creating beautiful craft kits that allow a moment of connection, not just entertainment.

Alternatively, a book-themed advent calendar is a lovely tradition to add to your repertoire. We love to thrift Christmas-themed picture books, wrap them up, and open one a day throughout the month. Cuddle up with your little ones each morning with a cosy, festive themed book and get excited about the day to come. If your children are older, perhaps read a chapter of a festive middle grade book each morning over breakfast, or listen to a chapter of an audio book with magical or festive themes. This is a lovely cost-effective way of setting a calm, connected atmosphere for each day. 

Crafty Christmas lists

Another joyful way to set the season - make pictorial Christmas lists with catalogues! This may be a memory from your childhood past. Collect catalogues and advertising magazines, add glue, scissors and a simply drawn stocking, and encourage your little ones to make a mood board of presents they would love for Christmas. This is a particularly common activity for children in France, where our founder Clo originates from! Alternatively, little ones could draw their dream gifts on their stocking, or work with your support by just gluing with an adult doing the cutting. Either way, this simple activity inspires excitement, as well as supporting fine motor skills. A real win-win! 

Winter walks

We loved sharing our ideas for a cosy autumnal day - so why not recreate this activity in the winter? Don your all-in-ones, wellies and cosy winter clothes and head out on an adventure. Children may like to compare how the trees look in the winter to the autumn, and where the leaves have gone. They might explore what has happened to the animals - where have they disappeared to? Can you find their houses without disturbing them? They may even find some frost, frozen puddles, frozen spider webs or icicles. Make sure to collect pine cones while you are out for festive decorations, and be sure to come home to a cosy blanket, hot chocolates, and perhaps a game afternoon like we outlined in a previous post

Handmade decorations

Nothing says childhood memories like homemade Christmas decorations. These can be simple, inexpensive, and perfect for treasuring for years to come. If you have collected pine cones while out and about this is a fantastic place to start. Simply ensure they are dried out and attach a colourful ribbon. Similarly, why not try making dried fruit decorations by drying out slices of orange, lemon and apple in the oven with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon, threading them together and tying them to the tree? You might also try making card decorations with eco-friendly glitter and ribbon. Cut out festive shapes with card from cereal boxes or package wrapping, paint, add glitter and thread with a ribbon! Humble decorations like this will stay in your family decoration box for many years and will remain a bittersweet reminder of the hands that have gone from little to large as children grow. 

Christmas baking

Another lovely simple memory made is festive biscuit baking. Use an easy biscuit recipe and add festive cooking cutters - little ones will love creating Christmas cookies with you. This works wonderfully as a gift too! You might even add small holes to the cookies and hang them on your tree - just see how long they last with eager fingers through the month!

Festive playdough

A final cosy activity is getting stuck in with festive play dough. If your little ones love biscuit making and want to keep playing with the dough, this is a great way to keep the fun going (just make sure they know not to eat it!). Follow Clo’s simple recipe below, just add cinnamon and nutmeg to the recipe.

Ingredients:

2 cups of white flour (T45 or T55)

1 cup of fine salt

1 cup of room-temperature water (prevents initial stickiness)

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (the secret to no-cook drying)

Instructions:

Combine the flour, salt, water, and vegetable oil in a large bowl.

Mix well. If the dough feels a bit sticky initially, that's normal. The texture will improve as you continue to mix. Add a bit of flour if necessary.

Mold your creations and place them gently onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Store the baking sheet in a dry room, away from humidity and drafts. Ideally, the room temperature should be between 18°C and 22°C.

Allow the creations to dry for 24 to 48 hours, depending on the size.

Thanks to the vegetable oil, there's no need to bake this playdough. Enjoy crafting with this smooth, pliable dough!

Happy festive season!

We hope you enjoy our ideas for cosy, simple activities to see you through Advent. Whether you keep things simple or add in some extra events and activities, we hope you enjoy the season with your family. Remember to tag us if you try any of these out, and keep tuned for more festive content throughout December at Eeny Meeny!

Emily Hanson

Freelance Writer, Education and Play Specialist

Emily Hanson is a freelance writer with specialisms in education and play. Emily holds a PGCE and M.Ed from the University of Cambridge - although her proudest achievements are her two beautiful daughters.

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