The run up to Christmas has been a bit of a weird one this year – for two main reasons really. Firstly, my Dad sadly passed away in July, so there’s not been too much to be happy and jovial about over the last few months – as Christmas is a time for family, I don’t think any of us are looking forward to spending it without him.
Secondly, we’ve been doing home renovation work downstairs since the beginning of October. It was originally scheduled to finish at the end of November, but for one reason or another, it’s taken a few weeks longer and is just about finished in mid-December. This means that the house is unfortunately a Christmas-free zone at the moment.
We usually start getting into the swing of things on 1st December when we put up the tree and decs. However, the house has been upside down – figuratively, not literally, as that would suggest a bad builder – and we’ve not been able to festively jazz up our home as it’s all hidden away in the attic. Even if we could get into the attic, there’s no room to put it up as downstairs is full of boxes and the stuff out of the garage.
Although we’ve done a few Christmassy things like visiting Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm and going to see a panto, I’m well aware that this time of year has probably lacked a little magic for the kids so far. As he’s not yet two, ‘Beetle’ doesn’t really have a clue what’s going on. However, at nearly 5 ½ years old, L is a lot more aware and the most excited she’s ever been for Christmas.
This has led to a fair bit of parenting guilt. Obviously, we’ve not intentionally decided for it to be so low-key and unmemorable – it’s just a timing thing. However, that doesn’t stop the guilt, particularly when the pure, unadulterated magic of Christmas is only experienced by kids for a few short years.
As such, I jumped at the chance when Hallmark got in touch to see whether we wanted to try out some of their Christmas products and add a dusting of magic to our otherwise muted festivities. They directed me to their Christmas store on Amazon and asked us to select a range of products. I tend to think of Hallmark as being just cards, but was surprised at the additional things they also stocked.
A few days later, we received a bundle of goodies that I’d chosen, all with the idea that they’d be used by / with L in an attempt to bring a bit of festive magic to an underwhelming December so far! Since receiving them, we’ve been carving out bits of time in between the drilling, painting and general mess to focus on Christmas specific activities. Here’s some of the stuff we’ve been doing:
Writing Christmas Cards
L’s writing and spelling have come on leaps and bounds since starting Year 1 in September – it’s crazy how quickly young kids learn. Due to this, and because she’s a thoughtful soul, she’s been really keen to write Christmas cards for her family and friends this year. Not one to dissuade her from handwriting practice at home, I was happy to oblige.
We were sent two of Hallmarks’ bumper packs of Christmas cards. Each pack consisted of three different designs on 18 cards and came with white envelopes. The cards not only felt good quality, but they also looked nice, with one set finished with glitter and the other finished with foil for that extra touch.
It took a few different sittings and a lot of arm wafting to stop her hand from cramping, but she go there! She thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of making a list of people, writing the card, crossing the people off and then posting the card. It’s easy to forget how something so simple can mean so much for both the people sending and receiving.
Picking A Present For Her Brother
One of the things L has been talking a lot about over the festive period is getting her little bro a present. Whereas in previous years we’ve chosen a present and wrapped it on her behalf, this year she was adamant that she wanted to do it all herself.
After noticing the Itty Bitty’s on Hallmark’s Amazon store, I planted the seed that ‘Beetle’ might like one, which led her to excitedly proclaiming that “it could be his Christmas present from me!”. If you’ve not seen them before, Itty Bitty’s are 5 inch tall plush toys made to look like famous characters from film or TV. Hallmark have a huge ensemble, with collections ranging from Marvel to Star Wars to Harry Potter to Frozen.
After perusing the website and changing her mind at least a dozen times, L settled on Simba from The Lion King as her present for her bro. This, along with a selection of festive gift bags and wrapping paper, were kindly provided to us by Hallmark. Once they’d arrived, and during one of his naps, L suggested that now would be a great time to wrap his present so that it’s a surprise.
She purposefully placed Simba on the wrapping paper, then used the cutting guide on the rear side of the wrapping paper to correctly cut the required amount. With a little bit of help, she stuck the edges down and proudly displayed her handiwork.
She was genuinely more excited about choosing, wrapping and giving a present to her brother than she was about getting one herself – although, she does like The Lion King and The Lion Guard, so I have a sneaky suspicion that the Itty Bitty will end up in her hands from time to time too!
Making Cardboard Gingerbread House Decorations
L loves arts and crafts. Anything involving cutting, sticking, colouring and generally making a mess gets a big thumbs up from her. For me, like most parents, I’m less keen! However, I decided to put my fears to the side after seeing the Hallmark Christmas Activity Cards as they sounded right up her street.
I really liked the concept behind them – rather than giving a child a normal, and let’s be honest, boring Christmas card, these activity cards also come with a crafty, festive task which involve decorating recycled materials. Using the giant pull out activity sheet with instructions inside, as well as materials found at home, they’re able to do something fun and different for a few hours.
There’s four different cards in total and we were sent the Build A Gingerbread House Design and Build A Christmas Tree Design – L chose the latter to do first. Inside, we found the aforementioned activity sheet, a red envelope and a card.
Making the gingerbread houses basically consisted of finding cardboard boxes (which we had loads of!), cutting triangles for the roof, then turning the box inside out and sticking them back together to resemble a house. You’re then able to decorate it however you like, with the aid of the shapes on the activity sheet which can be cut out and stuck to the box. There’s also a couple of additional activities to make Santa and Rudolph with a toilet roll holder.
I thought that this would occupy L for an hour at most, but three hours later, we were still at it! In total, we made 3 different gingerbread houses and Santa. It was a fun activity for us both and a nice way to spend time together. Plus, the added benefit is that we now actually have a couple of Christmassy decorations in the house and it used up a couple of the thousands of boxes strewn across downstairs!
Our efforts are probably unlikely to get a thumbs up from the crafty Christmas Queen known as Kirstie Allsopp, but we were very happy with our creations. We’ll get more practice shortly though as we’ve decided to save the Build A Christmas Tree Activity Card as a fun thing to do on Christmas Eve.
Driving Santa’s Sleigh
Like most kids, L enjoys imaginative play and will often use things she sees in everyday life, as well as things she makes up in her little brain, to form her own entertainment. So when I spotted the Giant Christmas Play Cards, I thought they’d give her an additional ‘thing’ to use in any festive based imaginative games!
Similarly to above, this is a novel and innovative approach to Christmas cards for kids. Coming with an envelope and a couple of activities too, the card folds out to create a play surround that kids will love. At 34cm x 39cm, these play cards are certainly impressive to receive too – although you might want to save on postage costs and hand deliver them!
There’s four different designs to choose from – we were sent Santa’s Sleigh and the Gingerbread House. Due to current space restrictions, we’ve only opened the Sleigh so far but it’s had plenty of use. For instance, L has been walking around the house in it delivering ‘presents’ with a “ho, ho ho” and has acted out Christmas films she’s watched whilst sat in it!
She also has grand plans to store her presents in it when we finally finish the building work and get the tree and decs up ready for the big day – I’m slightly jealous that my presents don’t have anywhere fun to go. Usually, these things require a Master’s degree and the kids aren’t bothered when you’ve finally finished them, however, this was built within 30 seconds and only required a couple of fold and bends. Very clever.
So those are a few ways that we’ve been using products from Hallmark to make Christmas that bit more special and magical for the kids. They’re all very simple ideas and only cost a few quid, but sometimes there’s nothing better than taking a step back and doing things together and for each other. Which of these ideas take your fancy? Do you do anything similar with your kids at Christmas? Let me know below?
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with Hallmark.
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