Happy New Year! The Christmas decs are down, gross over-indulgence is no longer simply the only way of life but is now considered to be hideously letting yourself down (a transformation that disconcertingly takes literally 24 hours over New Year's Eve) and the evenings have suddenly got a tiny bit longer. Despite all of this, I insist on briefly taking you back to the lovely weeks in the lead up to Christmas to recommend the advent calendar we did this year. It was BRILLIANT, and really made the whole time so completely special and lovely.
I have followed for ages (and probably mentioned on here before) a blog called Babyccino Kids, which I absolutely love for its recommendations for crafts and recipes and beautiful baby bits that I can't afford and don’t need but derive immense pleasure from perusing. They have very generously come up with the idea of this calendar AND created it, so all I had to do was download it and organise it in to our lives. The concept is that every day the kids open a little envelope which contains a suggestion for a special thing for the family to do together. I think in the whole 24 days I maybe spent £6 funding the stuff we did (on cloves, glue and cinnamon); it's not about massive experiences, but little everyday magic that adds a special feeling to the whole month. We had breakfast for dinner one night, we had a picnic on the floor by the Christmas tree, we made Christmas biscuits and decorations, we went for a torch lit walk in the woods after teatime, we had a candlelit dinner (of mac and cheese) with proper table settings and crackers etc. Some days all we had to do was listen to carols and drink hot chocolate, or eat pizza and watch a Christmas film, but somehow opening the instruction in the morning and knowing that's what we 'had' to do that evening made it all the more special. I cannot recommend it enough, and I can definitely say it will be a Christmas tradition in our household from now on*.
(*Obviously we had a chocolate calendar as well - I'm not a monster!)
In terms of Christmas presents, one of our very best ones was the gift we gave Sam - I have been meaning to recommend these for ages. When we were on holiday in France in the summer with our 'commune' of university friends (we have 11 children between 8 of us), one of my mates bought some Playmags; a set of magnetic tiles that hold together so effectively you can build brilliant towers and constructions out of them. The kids played with them together all week long, never growing bored. Other than swimming and ball games they were by far the most popular activity for all of them, aged 6 down to 2 years old. We got a full set for Sam for Christmas and the kids have played with them every day since. Highly recommended here (bit of specialist chat here - they are also compatible with the magnatiles etc so if you already have some of them the buildings are even better).
In terms of books, the big favourites were The Book with No Pictures by B J Novak, which is ridiculous and wonderful (and a friend has since recommended watching the video of the author reading it to a group of school children on YouTube which is brilliant), and a pop-up Peter Pan by Robert Sabuda. I must also add that I got the idea for that from two incredible books that Sam was given by his auntie for his birthday: ‘Dinosaurs’ and ‘Pre-Historic Sharks and other Sea Creatures’ by Matthew Reinhart. It is impossible to describe how wonderful these books are! You really have to see for yourself. They are one of those things in life that you can continue to marvel at every time you look at them. All the kids are (rightly) obsessed and so I continued the theme with the Peter Pan and it didn’t disappoint.