With the glittering lights, tasty mince pies and magical secrets (how did all those presents get here?), Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Especially if you have little ones in the family. Those early years – when they wait excitedly to meet Father Christmas and try to stay awake to hear the reindeer – are so precious.
In our house, we've created our own family Christmas traditions that my little ones look forward to. For starters, it's not Christmas if we haven't made our own mince pies, or cut out paper snowflakes to decorate the house. While some tasks are a little technical – like stringing up those fiddly fairy lights – others are perfect for children to join in with. Here are a few of my favourite festive fun ideas for your family.
I don’t know about you, but I love every bit of the festive season – as soon as December's here, I can't wait to crack out the stockings! To make the most of the festive build-up, have a look at what's on in your local area and create a family calendar of activities. Pantomimes are always great fun for little ones, while a nearby fair or grotto might have a rosy-cheeked Father Christmas for your children to meet (or to shyly hide from behind your legs).
Then there's the all-important task of decorating a Christmas tree. Pop on a cheery CD and string up the baubles and tinsel. You could even make some homemade decorations from paper, pine cones or gingerbread to crown your masterpiece.
It's almost here! By now, you’re sure to have some seriously excited children on your hands. To burn off a little holiday energy, plan another festive activity. Ice skating at your local rink is both seasonal and a good source of exercise. Or you could take them carolling in your area or at a nearby service for a traditional feel.
As the sun begins to set, it's time to hang the stockings and get your little ones ready for bed. Christmas eve boxes have become more popular as a way of keeping children entertained the night before. Pop a little game or small toy in their box that they can play with before bedtime, or give them a book you can read together. Christmas bedtime stories help to make the magic of the evening come to life: tell your children all about Santa's workshop in the North Pole and watch their faces light up.
Don’t forget to leave out a mince pie and a tipple for Father Christmas – and let your little ones leave a carrot outside for Rudolph. Or maybe – if you have suspicions that he might not like mince pies (cough, cough) – you could convince them that Santa would appreciate a change. Maybe a slice of chocolate cake instead?
The day itself can be quite hectic, so creating traditions can actually help you set a routine. To keep early risers in bed a bit longer, pop the stockings outside their bedroom door instead of on the hearth. Once you’re all around the tree, give one little elf the job of handing out the presents.
Christmas dinner might not be the main event for children, like it is for grown-ups. Make it engaging for little ones by setting a separate table for them, with crackers and table presents they’re not allowed to open til after lunch. Games everyone can join in on, like charades and ‘guess what’s in the stocking’, will keep spirits high all afternoon.
After a whole day indoors, your children might be climbing the walls (especially if they had too much Christmas chocolate!). Get the whole family outdoors with some Boxing Day activities. This could mean taking a football to the park for a friendly kick-around, or going on a country walk or bike ride. While the children enjoy the fresh air, you can work up an appetite for yet another mince pie...