Christmas by Mrs. Smith

Posted on: 07/12/2018

Whatever your religious beliefs, Christmas is such a huge part of British culture that it’s almost impossible not to take part. It is most special as an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends and to reflect upon how lucky we are to have so much love and warmth in our lives.

Your children have worked very hard at school this term; they have had to adapt to new year groups, routines and academic demands. They have completed a lot of learning, inside and outside of the classroom, and have stretched themselves intellectually. They have made new friends, established relationships with staff members they hadn’t come across previously and embraced new, interesting and challenging concepts at every turn. They have been busy outside of the classroom too, taking part in co-curricular clubs, playing sports and games, learning musical instruments and giving performances. So we hope that Christmas will be a time of rest and relaxation for them and for you, too. In the hope that you will have the chance to spend some quality time together, I would like to share with you some suggestions for things to do together which should help to make the most of your Christmas family time, while keeping your children’s intellectual and creative curiosity alive. You may already have planned to include some or all of these into your Christmas holiday – I hope so!

Visit some Christmas lights

The UK lights up at Christmas and it can be a magical, peaceful experience to visit Christmas lights. You might like to visit ‘Kew at Christmas’, the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park, London’s South Bank or the Oxford Street/Regent Street lights. Or you might simply walk around your own neighbourhood, appreciating the effort your neighbours have put into lighting up the world! Why not get creative and make Christmas lights pictures back at home afterwards, using paints or colouring materials, glitter, sequins or anything else you can find.

Help your children to buy Christmas presents

It is lovely for young children to experience the joy of thinking of others and giving gifts, and to learn to budget, by choosing Christmas presents for their family. You could give your child a small budget and help them to divide it up into a budget amount per recipient, and then to work out how much they will spend in total and how much change to expect. Help them to wrap their own gifts and write their own gift tags (don’t worry if they don’t look perfect!) – wrapping can be a tricky skill to master and doing it for themselves will help children to develop their fine motor skills, as well as being such a happy and loving experience. They might even like to make their own wrapping paper by stamping plain paper with Christmas shapes, or drawing a pattern.

Write thank you letters

It can be tempting nowadays to send emails, texts or messages on social media to thank family members for presents. But if you encourage your children to sit down and write thank you notes/letters by hand for any gifts they receive, you are helping them to develop their handwriting, their English and communication skills and their presentation skills. I still remember the ‘formula’ my mother taught me for thank you letters:

1. Thank the person for the gift and tell them why you love it/what you will be doing with it.

2. Tell them what a lovely Christmas/birthday/event you had and what made it special.

3. Express your wish that they have also been having a great time and that you will see them again soon.

Being able to plan a letter or simple piece of writing is a great skill and writing thank you letters is a great way to practise! As children grow older, their letters can become longer and more sophisticated.

Bake Christmas goodies together

Gingerbread, Christmas cookies, mince pies, sausage rolls, trifle….there are many, many treats to make at this time of year and cooking them together can be great fun! Weighing and measuring skills, creativity/artistic skills, practising telling the time and working out how much time is left, fine motor skills…all of these are developed during baking. And if you pop on some Christmas music while you bake, you can have a sing song together too (or maybe even encourage your children to practise their recorder or other instrument while the baked goods are in the oven!). Your children might like to write out recipes or create a homemade recipe booklet, practising their handwriting, spelling and creative skills. You could even gift baked goods, with handwritten recipes, to friends or neighbours (see below). If you haven't yet tried making 'stained glass' biscuits, which involve melting a boiled sweet into a cookie, why not try those this year - there's a recipe here and these look brilliant hung on the Christmas tree!

Selfless service

By giving your time selflessly to help others, you can show your children the true meaning of Christmas. You could offer to volunteer with a charity, or perhaps take an hour one morning, with your children, to go through your kitchen cupboards and take out a few items to donate to your local Foodbank. There are collection points now in many major supermarkets, or you can find details of your local Foodbank online. If you have an elderly neighbour, why not knock on their door and ask them if they need any assistance with shopping, cooking, decorating etc. in the run up to Christmas. Small acts of selfless service can be incredibly meaningful and rewarding.

Play board games, Charades etc.

Board games are the perfect way for a family to spend time together. There are many superb family board games available; my favourites are the traditional ones like Snakes and Ladders, Frustration, Monopoly (and there is an excellent card version, Monopoly deal) and Cluedo, all of which develop counting/maths skills, gameplay and critical thinking skills. There is a really wide choice of games on the market for all ages and many are educational as well as fun. If your children enjoy puzzles, Christmas is a perfect time to do a really big one together as a family. Charades is another great family game to play at Christmas. You don’t even really need to buy a game. Just think of songs, films, books, plays and television shows that all of the family will know, and write them on pieces of paper. Stick them in a hat and take it in turns to mime them to each other without speaking.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

If you do one thing with your children this Christmas, I urge you to read them ‘'TwasThe Night Before Christmas’, a traditional poem about St. Nicholas visiting a home to fill stockings with gifts. This poem, suitable for children of all ages, is responsible for many of our modern day ideas about Santa Claus and Christmas gift-giving. 

If you have older children who already know ‘The Night Before Christmas’, you might like to read them Carol Ann Duffy’s superb modern re-imagining of the poem, ‘Another Night Before Christmas’. 

Reading together is the most important thing you can do with your child. We hope you will read to them and with them every day over the Christmas holidays, and that they will see you reading lots of books/newspapers/magazines/journals too. Do pop a few books on those Christmas lists, if you haven’t already.

Merry Christmas one and all!

Mrs. Smith