The 24 Days Of Christmas

Make Christmas Magical for the kids by building up to the big day with a month’s worth of fun activities.

1st > Make an advent calendar with a difference. Secure baby socks on to string with clothes pegs, add numbered luggage tags and fill with chocolates, sweets or baubles.

2nd > Put up the tree. Give each child a job such as being in charge of tinsel, or lights, or baubles to avoid squabbles. Then have a grand switching on ceremony with mulled wine for the adults and lemonade and biscuits for the kids.

3rd > Help them to write a wish list to Father Christmas, then “post” it to the North Pole. You could write a reply on Santa’s behalf because he’s very busy or receive a personalised letter from the man himself, Mini Marvellous 0044 845 458 7407.

4th > It’s time to book a panto it’s just not the same after Crimbo. So round up the kids and ring your local theatre for a festive treat.

5th > Put your kids in the festive picture with themed photo frames from the Early Learning Centre. Put a photograph into the snowman, star, tree or circle frames and decorate with the enclosed pom-poms and ribbons, ELC 0044 870 535 2352.

6th > It’s time to enter snow business. Buy a snow-making kit, create the flakes together, then sprinkle them around the kids’ windowsills or have snowball fights. Snow in a box, Great Little Trading Company 0044 870 850 6000.

7th > Make Christmas cards. Coloured card and cotton wool makes great fluffy snowmen. But if you want some helpful hints, The Usborne Big Book Of Christmas Things To Make And Do is very useful.

8th > Stroll in the park and collect fir cones and leaves for some artistic picture making. Or see who can spot the most robin redbreasts. Many parks offer guided Winter Wonderland walks: check noticeboards.

9th > Deck the halls with… bunting. Use a triangle template and crimping scissors to cut a dozen flags from old fabric and glue on to a long strip of gingham material or ribbon.

10th > Time to go sledding – pray for snow or find a dry slope near you. For a selection of sleds see www.urchin.co.uk or call 0044 870 112 6006.

11th > Teach them the true meaning of Christmas by digging out the tea-towels for Mary and Joseph costumes and staging a nativity play. Or set up a nativity scene. 16- piece wooden sets are on sale at Urchin.

12th > Make cookies. Use a simple cookie dough (mix 280g plain flour, pinch nutmeg, cinnamon and spice, 200g butter, 100g sugar, two egg yolks) then use festive cutters (Christmas cutters, Urchin 0044 870 112 6006). Make a hole for a hanging ribbon then bake at 2000C for 20 minutes.

13th > Sing-a-long-a-shopping when you go to the supermarket for the festive provisions with the Christmas Car-i-oke CD complete with lyrics and 17 modern takes on favourites like Jingle Bells including hip-hop versions! GLTC 0044 870 850 6000.

14th > Crackers are simple and fun to make. You’ll need two cardboard loo rolls (one for the body and one cut in half for the ends). Pop in a gift, favourite joke, and sweets and cover with crepe paper.

15th > Make a festive display. Spray twigs and branches with metallic paint (Plastikote 0044 1223 836400). Pop them in a vase or plant pot with soil and tie on small decorations or chocolates.

16th > Get wrapping. Colour photocopy favourite or silly photos on to A3 sheets or do potato prints on to brown paper. Presents look wonderful tied with string and a sprig of holly.

17th > Candlelit carol concerts are magical. Check your church for details. Everyone’s welcome.

18th > Festoon the kids’ rooms with homemade paper chains. Cut coloured card, old wallpaper or magazines into strips, loop and glue together.

19th > Go iceskating. Spin under the stars and imagine you’re Torvill and Dean. Visit www.thisistheatre.com to find an outdoor rink near you.

20th > Ride the Santa Express! Many steam railways run Santa Special days throughout December where little ones can meet him and his reindeer. Look online for your nearest, or visit one of the UK’s best services such as www.kesr.org.uk

21st > Create angel handprint pictures. Press both hands into white paint then lay them on to black card. Put a pink handprint between them, turn the picture upside down and you’ve got two wings and a dress. Paint on arms and a head and tinsel for a halo.

22nd > Truffles make a great gift. Heat 100g of chocolate drops and 25g butter over a pan of water, sift in 25g icing sugar and mix in 50g cake crumbs. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, dip in chocolate strands and serve in paper cases.

23rd > Snuggle up on the sofa and watch Christmas DVDs together. Miracle On 34th Street and The Muppet Christmas Carol are always guaranteed to warm those cockles.

24th > All good boys and girls go to bed early if they want a visit from Father Christmas. Bake mince pies and leave one out with a glass of sherry, and a carrot for Rudolph. Then hang out the stockings and wait for the Big Day.

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