December is almost upon us and in the lead-up to December festivities there is often a degree of stress experienced when planning and organising the food, scheduling family and friend gatherings, and choosing gifts.
Research with young children consistently informs us that rather than the latest gadget or toy, most children want more quality time with loved ones, particularly their parents and family. Certainly, gifts and goodies will be given however consider yourselves your child’s most valued gift.
By making time to be fully available for your child and engaging with them in their play interests is a fantastic way to create wonderful connected moments that become your child’s treasured memories.
Gift ideas more likely to support memory-making are those tailored to a child’s interests, such as:
- an entry pass or membership to a fun attraction like a national park, swimming pool, theme park, skating rink, botanic gardens, zoo or a reptile park
- a storybook that features the child, and possibly their pets, friends, family members, favourite characters or activities
- a children’s cookbook with recipes for the child to pick that you can make together
- simple musical instruments. Drums, bells, triangles, xylophones and glockenspiels are all good options to provide hours of fun without being expensive or needing to be charged
- materials for being creative. Things like playdough, crayons, chalk, packets of (recycled) paper or card, parent-approved pencils or textas can be great-value gifts
- items for the dress-up box. Colourful silks, hats, capes, aprons and so on are versatile and provide an endless variety of role-play options
- imaginative play props—maybe felt puppets or a tea set. These are even better if you are willing to join in!
RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Another way to make this a special time of the year for children is to develop or strengthen rituals or traditions. This can help build a child’s sense of security, identity and belonging. Traditions not only assist children to learn what to expect and how to participate but create excitement and longing to experience these feelings and moments again. For example, you could:
- Visit the Brisbane Christmas lights.
- Make a Christmas playlist
- Place a Gift under the Kmart wishing tree- then place the card you get on your own Christmas tree at home.
- Track Santa all through December and on Christmas Eve using the NORAD app
- Make cookies for Santa and put out reindeer food on the letterbox… (oats with glitter in it is a fun idea (edible environmentally friendly glitter please)
- Watch Polar Express on Christmas Eve
- Attempt to make a gingerbread house every year
- Play festive-themed Christmas Games with Kids
- If you have friends with lots of kids, start a tradition of gifting their family a new Christmas decoration every year.
- Drink cold iced chocolates while opening presents. If you are lucky enough to be having a White Christmas (aka not in Australia) then substitute with hot chocolate.
- New PJs, clean bedding and a bubble bath for everyone on Christmas eve
- On Christmas Eve, give the family a fun new board game
- Decorate the tree together, and choose a live tree just once
- Light a candle on Christmas Day for anyone no longer with us
- Read Christmas-themed storybooks and poems on the nights leading up to Christmas
- Take the dogs to the beach on Xmas day
- Create a fun water slip’n’slide on a hot summer day
- Make your own bonbons.
- Let the youngest put the star on top of the Christmas Tree
- Challenge the kids to do a random act of kindness at some point in the month of December leading up until Christmas
- Bake something from the past like Nanna’s pavlova or Trifle
- Help out a charity by donating some money or your time for their cause, Christmas can be a hard time of year for many
- Open one present on Christmas eve
- Head to a local community carols event
- Bring out the elf and the shelf (or substitute) and have fun moving the elf to different spots every night
- Play your favourite carols or songs in the lead-up to the holidays. Babies love the sound of your voice singing to them and as they grow, they can start to join in. There are lots of collections on YouTube
- Plan some time to visit houses, shops or local government with Christmas displays
- have a photo taken with Santa—most shopping centres offer this but also some community and volunteer groups
- Go swimming in the afternoon
- Watch holiday-themed movies suitable for the whole family, see the Raising Children website for choices –
Website links to some additional Christmas fuss-free, activities and edibles –
From our Mother Duck family to yours this festive season, remember to please be kind to yourself and others, slow down, and enjoy and connect with your little ones. Create some wonderful memories and plan some traditions and rituals fit for your family. Give yourself time to think and plan how you want to spend the holidays. Childhood does not last forever but the memories will live on in hearts always.