Planning toys and games for Christmas Eve takes up way more of my organisational time than it should! I have always loved playing with my children’s toys (with my children, of course) and games in which everyone can participate are a family favourite. Even though my children are older, they will still let me corral them into the living room on Christmas Eve for the Box. Let me explain!
I come from a mixed cultural background, half of which is Austrian, so Christmas Eve has always been a big part of the celebrations. When I was a child, the tree wouldn’t go up until Christmas Eve, decorated by my Oma. There would always be a small toys and games left for me by the Christkind (cute little cherub!). This tradition evolved as I became a parent and we began to celebrate mainly on Christmas Day.
We do have a special Christmas Eve tree under which will be the Box – when the children were younger this was full of the toys they had stopped playing with throughout the year and I had surreptitiously gathered! They would spend hours playing nostalgically – perfect for food prep and a cheeky glass of something! These days it always has new pyjamas, socks, books and a family game which we then have to play.
Orchard Toys are brilliant for family games that allow even the youngest to play. Our favourite has always been Pop to the Shops (I may have talked about this before!) as both of mine would become deeply engaged it the backstories of the shop keepers. It’s a game that can be accessed at different maturation levels. My daughter would love just collecting items whereas my son (several years older) would link in his school learning and work out percentage increases in the cost of loo roll against freshly baked bread! We once tried to play just speaking French – we didn’t get far and my son was called Les Onions for months after.
Building something together is great fun for a family. I can talk for hours about the developmental benefits of wooden train tracks (in fact, I wrote a blog entry about it). I can talk for longer about the fun that working together to create the best track formation can bring. There are so many incredible accessories available to make the stories come alive. I have kept all our train sets from over the years and am secretly excited about being a grandparent so I can legitimately play with them!
Marble runs are also super collaborative toys, much in the same way as train tracks. Problem solving to ensure the best route for the balls can bring all ages together although we have had a couple of moments in the past when patience has been sorely tested due to my daughter pouring all of the marbles in at once before the run had been completed. Lots of learning to be had (I’ll let you decide what sort!). When you have built a working run though – what joy! Try building two that culminate in the same space and race your marbles. You can even chuck in some science with the tech and see which sized marble works best then question why!
When in doubt, sit down with a good book! We have incorporated the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod into our Christmas Eve. Once we have played our games, we change into our new pyjamas, snuggle up on the sofa or in bed with a hot chocolate and read our new books. Absolute bliss!
by Allie White, educational consultant to BrightMinds
As a parent and former-teacher, Allie has a hands-on approach to home learning, believing that the best learning is done together in a relaxed environment.
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