I don't want to panic you, but there are now only 36 days left until Christmas! And in fact with 1st December approaching soon it's a perfect time to start thinking about Advent calendars.
Today we're going to suggest an idea that you may not have ever tried, but if you have children it can really help add a good deal of magic this festive season. Whatever your religious beliefs, Christmas is still a magical time for children, and many families who aren't particularly religious at all still enjoy having Advent calendars to count down the days left to Christmas.
If nothing else it does help to reduce the number of times young children come bouncing up to you asking how many more days until Christmas NOW? (3 hours less than the last time you asked me dear.) But when it comes to Advent calendars there's really not a lot to choose from. There are the traditional religious ones of course, and there are the Disney calendars stuffed full of chocolates, but beyond that there's not a lot. Today we'd like to suggest something a little different. Grab 24 envelopes.
Any type will do, although postcard sized ones are perfect. Then grab 24 cards that will fit into them. Not Christmas cards (unless you want to), but either plain white postcards or something similar will do. Number the envelopes 1-24, and grab a box, hat, or if you like create your own chimney place using a box and some paint and coloured paper. Next comes the tricky part. On each of the cards write down an activity which the children can do with you, and then place these cards in the envelopes, shuffle them all up and drop them in your box, hat, chimney place, festive post-box or whatever container you choose. Now on each day of Advent your children can hunt through the envelopes to find that day's, open it up, and find out what special activity they'll be up to.
This is a magical way of combining things you might otherwise do with them, whilst giving them a surprise to look forward to every day. The activities are up to you, but here's are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Cut out pictures from last year's Christmas cards to make tags for this year's presents. Pinking shears are perfect for making wiggly edges, then just use a hold punch and some red string to make a beautiful tag.
2. Make mince pies together.
3. Go shopping together for Christmas lights and decorations.
4. Read a Christmas story book together.
5. Write a letter to Santa.
6. Make a paper chain.
7. Make gingerbread reindeer.
8. Go to a Christmas Fair.
9. Visit Santa (at the local shopping centre, garden centre etc.)
10. Watch a Christmas film.
11. Write Christmas cards and deliver them to those who live nearby.
12. Put up the Christmas tree. In a few days we'll try to add another 12 ideas for your activities calendar.
If you have any suggestions of your own, do feel free to add them to the comments section below. Of course, you can adapt this basic concept however you like. Instead of having 24 envelopes you could wrap 24 small boxes up as little Christmas presents with a gift tag on each one with the number written on it. You could get 24 little 'gift buckets' (usually around a couple of inches high and found in craft shops), put some cotton wool around the top for snow, and a number on the side, then hang these from strings across the mantelpiece. Again, if you have any thoughts on how to adapt this idea we'd love to hear from you, so do please leave your comments below.