Dear Santa, We Won’t Be Sending You Wishlists Again

I’d be hard pressed to accept being called a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. From the 1st of December I throw myself heart and soul into it and aside from a few tough years there, we’re back on track. Last year we had three advent calendars on the go for each child (Lego/Playmobil, Book Advent and chocolate!) and this year we’ve make a big song and dance about advent, with everything from interactive movie nights to Christmas Tree Festivals to tea with Disney Princesses. We go all out and end with a lovely (hopefully) Christmas Day.
This year we did something different and new: I had each child write or dictate their Christmas letter to Santa, filled with everything their little hearts desired. This is something I will never do again.

Admittedly, previous years the children were smaller, but they also had TV which exposed them to more advertising than they have now with Amazon Firestick (no advertising) or Netflix (little to no advertising). Of course, in previous years they’ve still mentioned things they wanted, but it’s never been a formalised list, and this year, with this list looming at me from under the Christmas tree, I feel thoroughly deflated, because I know that there’s no way I could possibly provide everything on it, so it feels like I’m a failure as a parent, and I am already awaiting their disappointment come Christmas day (actually, I’m not – I told them straight out that they wouldn’t be getting everything on the list!) but they still have hope!

Ameli’s (7) list included a bunch of toys she’s obviously seen on YouTube, including the £59.99 Hatchimal (are you kidding me?) and a new camera since the battery on hers has stopped charging.  There’s a request for some Dan TDM books (the girl is obsessed), so I’ve happily obliged and was pleased to find them reduced on Amazon. Bonus.Read more: Dear Santa, We Won’t Be Sending You Wishlists Again

Book Advent Calendar With Activities #Bookmas

Every year we do a book advent calendar to get us in the mood for Christmas. While we might have a chocolate calendar too – immediate gratification and all that – and sometimes a Lego, Duplo or anyone of a number of no-chocolate advent calendar options, the book advent is the big thing.book-advent-calendarRead more: Book Advent Calendar With Activities #Bookmas

Christmas Stories With Matching Activities For A Book Advent

Life gets away from me sometimes, so here we are on the first day of Advent and I’m only now posting the books we’ve put up for our advent calendar this year, which doesn’t really give anyone a chance to do the same, but never mind: you can still do a 12 Days of Christmas book calendar, which means next year you only have to get 12 books. Silver linings, eh?

The way I’ve done it this year is to attach a book to each day of our string advent. I’ve made a note on the wrapping so I know which book’s inside too so that I can swap it around if I need or want to.

DSCN4389Read more: Christmas Stories With Matching Activities For A Book Advent

20+ Non-Chocolate Advent Calendars For Him, Her And Them!

I love chocolate. Really, I do. But I don’t like cheap chocolate much, and unless you’re going to fork out a fortune for a decent quality chocolate advent calender, which is quite frankly wasted on kids, it’s worth going a different route on advent calendars.

Whether your reasons are that you don’t want to start each day with chocolate, or that you need a dairy free alternative, or just that you want something a little different, there are a plethora of ideas for Christmas Advent Calendars that aren’t bad for your teeth, your waistline or your taste buds.

For me and my family, Christmas is a time of togetherness and fun. That might sound strange, since we home educate, which means we’re together pretty much every single day anyway, but there’s a difference between together and together. To me, Christmas is a time of drawing in, staying in, cosying up, and having as much fun together as we can.

*Many, but not all, of the links in this post are affiliate links. Buying through them will not cost you any extra, but will send a few pennies my way. Thanks for your support. 

Advent Calendar

Activity Advent Calendars

There are about as many empty box advent calendar ideas as there are people who celebrate Christmas, I think! Pretty much every store that sells Christmas items has their own versions and designs, so it’s up to you to decide what you love best. Keep in mind what you want to use it for (strips of paper? home made cookies? what needs to fit INTO the box)

We use a peg string that I can attach a slip of paper to, or an organza bag containing a chocolate coin and an activity, or the first clue in a treasure hunt, or whatever it is.  It’s a similar idea to this Christmas Tree Advent String (£4.95) and it allows us fantastic flexibility – for example we can put a note on it to find *today’s* advent activity in the airing cupboard, for example.

On a similar trend, and something I’ve seen done as a DIY project, are Advent Buckets. Like the pegs and the boxes they can be filled with sweets, small toys, notes, tickets (to Santa’s Grotto or a pantomime, for example). Unless you happen to have 24 buckets lying around though, I think the £21.99 for this, to be used year after year, is pretty reasonable though.

Another popular idea is the Wooden Advent Calendar, and this pre-lit one from QVC is both beautiful and stylish. (£22.96)

Home Reflections Pre-lit Decorative Wooden House Advent Calendar

Another version of the same, and more colourful and child like is the Gingerbread House Advent from Born Gifted (£34.99) – I love this one – I think it’s one of the prettier of the ‘house’ style advent calendars.

Gingerbread House Advent

And on the topic of what children will love, there are other ‘themed’ advent calendars, like the Advent Train (£34.99), which is just beautiful. I’m a grown woman and it makes me feel all Christmassy – I can imagine a child being over the moon with excitement collecting something from one of these boxes every morning.

Finally, Picture Advent Calendars have a place on the market too. Ideal for someone who doesn’t need/want anything, but wants to be part of the daily excitement too, art calendars are really sweet too. Not only do you have a lovely wintery or Christmassy scene to look at every day, but open your daily door and there’s a mini picture inside too. These calendars by Alison Gardiner (£7.25) are sure to put you in the right mood!

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 Toy Advent Calendars

Another really popular alternative to chocolate is a toy advent calendar, where you normally build a ‘scene’ from the toys in the calendar. In my experience from previous years, while these toys may be Christmas themed, they are played with and loved all year round.

This year we have a Playmobil Advent Calendar for our 3 year old.   We’ve gone for the Santa’s Workshop Advent Calendar (£19.99) which contains twenty-four items, one for each day of Advent. The set includes a Santa figure, two elves and one angel, reindeer with sleigh, gifts, assorted toys, wheelbarrow, basket, and additional accessories to build a complete Santa’s Workshop and a ‘scene’ which can be set up to build it through the month.

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Aside from Santa’s Workshop, you can also choose from Fire Rescue, Princesses and other Christmas themed Playmobil Advent Calendars too.

There’s also the Lego Advent Calendar, which is always popular and the price pretty much never drops particularly much lower.  There are Lego Friends calendars, Lego Star Wars and Lego City calendars – pretty much something for every Lego fan out there.

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When my kdis were smaller I really liked the WOW Toys Advent Calendar as the girls were able to get involved – (specially when one had Lego and the other wanted a toy too) but I didn’t have to worry about small parts.

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And if you’re a sucker for punishment, there’s always the Play Doh Advent Caldendar (£14.99) too! 24 days of cleaning the carpets. Yay! (But the little people love it. My daughter asks me for Play Doh all the time)

For Her Advent Calendars

This year I’ve done something I’ve never done before. I’ve got an Advent Calendar for myself. Well, no one else was going to, so now I can join the kids every morning! I’m not much of a beauty blogger (at all) but I have the Just My Look Beauty Calendar (£14.99), and I’m really excited about it – not least because I’m actually running out of most of the make up I have. What’s not expired is just about done, so this is both practical and exciting. At £14.99 delivered, and containing 7 nail polishes, 3 eyeshadows, 4 lipglosses, 6 lipsticks, 3 glitters & one mascara, it’s going to be a fun month for me too!

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There are a few others on the market, and some really posh ones from super stores, but those are beyond my beauty needs, but I did also quite like the look of the Find Me A Gift beauty calendar (£19.99).

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And while I know this is a huge ’cause women love stationary’ generalisation – you’ll know if the person you’re buying for does or not  – but Smiggle has a brilliant looking Stationary Advent Calendar (£28)  which is perfect for older girls who may not be into toys anymore either.

For the Yankee Candle lovers the Yankee Candle Advent Calendar is popular.

For Him Advent Calendars

Men get the raw end of the deal when it comes to gifts sometimes, with the options pretty much involving something to eat, and something to drink. Gift makers – there’s a gap in the market here! Never the less, here are a few advent calendars for men that play to all the stereotypes.

Not On The High Street have beer, sweets, seeds, and coffee advent calendars to choose from.

The Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Advent Calendar (£99.95)looks pretty cool actually. Behind every window is a 3cl dram of naga chilli vodka, except each day they get hotter so by the end of advent he’ll pretty much be getting his head blown off before breakfast. (Yes, I’m aware of the unintended innuendo there.)

The Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Advent Calendar (2015 Edition)

On the same trend, but a little more long drink after work, and a little less quick shot than the vodka, is the Craft Beer Advent Calendar (£60) from Ails By Mail.

Craft Beer Advent Calendar 2015

Have a very happy and fun fill Advent!

Chilly The Snowman – 24 Days Of Christmas Crafts

I bought the book Chilly the Snowman a few years ago when it was just a Pound in a local shop. I kept it in the bookshelf because I realised that Ameli was too young for it, but this year she’s just right for it! Chilly the Snowman is an activity book with mazes, spot the difference, match the shadow, colouring bits, and most important to a 4 year old, stickers! I particularly loved the press out snow scene, which now decorates our faux-mantle-place. 

I was really surprised by the fact that not only did the activity book engage Ameli from the front cover to the last page, but it kept her busy solidly for 3 hours! Absolutely worth every penny, if you ask me!

One of the activities in the book is to make a snowman paper chain, which we did. Another is to decorate a snowman. Finally, there’s a ‘board game’ page as the final activity, giving you chance to play together.  It’s such a fun book.  We’ve since cut out pictures from the now completed book to use in other crafts and card making too!