Christmas Gift Ideas to Help Your Child Learn

Earlier in the week I shared our Guide to Gift Giving during Christmas

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One of the changes we have made this year is rather than something to wear we are going with something to LEARN!  After all LEARNING is way more fun than clothes!!!!

The Great Outdoors

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Teach your child to fish, to swim, to catch bugs or go camping as a family.  Fishing, Boating and Camping is not only a great way to spend quality time together but you learn many new skills and even make some new friends at the same time. 

Get Wheeling

 bikes

Learn to ride a bike, or a scooter or give roller blades a go.  Keep active and put those ever important gross motor skills to the test.  What an accomplishment it is when you can finally balance on the bike all by yourself!  It’s also a great way to keep fit as a family and enjoy the outdoors!  

Game of Life

 Board Games

Board games teach valuable skills for life.  Turn taking, counting, sharing, compromising and negotiating.  Look for games that involve counting (Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders) matching (Memory, Snap) and building (Jenga, Creationary)  They will be having so much fun they won’t realise the valuable lessons they are learning!

Craft and Colour

Craft 

Little fingers gain strength, control and flexibility through colouring.  Or even better look for craft activities that involve

  • squeezing and pinching (Tweezers to pick up beads, cutting)
  • lacing (threading a needle or using laces to go through holes in beads or buttons)
  • manipulating or rolling (play dough, clay, plasticine)

Especially for pre-school aged children, these are THE MOST VALUABLE skills to master and practice.

Still looking for some gift ideas to help your child LEARN?  

Try….

  • Learning a Magic Trick with a magic Kit
  • Planting a Garden
  • Having a game of Totem Tennis
  • Learning to knit or crochet
  • Learning to the tell time with a new watch or clock

Christmas gift giving doesn’t have to be all about toys!  In fact many of these non toy gifts will last way beyond the novelty value of the latest toy AND teach your child a valuable skills.  Your child will be entertained and be learning at the same time!  

Trust me, it will make gift buying easier and your child’s teacher will thank you for it! 

This is a sponsored post for Big W.  I have been paid for my time and to provide opinion on some great gifts for your family this Christmas. 

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 11 – Sweet Treats

Today was one of those days, that we really needed to pay the house some attention!  So in order to take advantage of some time at home we thought it was the perfect time to make some sweet treats! 

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The elves kicked it off with some Mad Milk!

I have seen this idea all over the Internet, but I couldn’t bare to waste milk!  I wasn’t keen  on green milk in my coffee!  I poured a small amount of milk in each cup and then added a few drops of green food colouring.  Some green and white stripey straws completed the antic. 

The kids asked the elves if they could have a sip of their drink.  For the days activity we made milkshakes! Some ice cream, milk, some green food colouring, a dash of vanilla flavouring and blend it all together.

So not for me!  But they loved it! 

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 10 – Santa’s Wishlist and The Gifts that keep on Giving.

Ten days into our Elf Adventure’s and we are ready to write a Wishlist to Santa. This is an activity I am VERY careful about! Christmas can easily become a time of want, want, want, me, me, me. 

This is how we keep this in check.

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We explain to our children that they can “wish” for four presents.  

Something they want, 

something they need

something to wear

and something to read.

This year we have changed it around a little bit! 

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So kids don’t really like receiving clothes and to be honest I dont really like giving them either!  So instead of something to wear, we are choosing something to learn!  

 Some ideas could be;

  • Puzzles
  • Magic Kit
  • Skipping Rope
  • Dance Game
  • Educational App 
  • Board Game
  • Knitting Set
  • Musical Instrument

The other major change we have made this year….

Something, SOMEONE ELSE, may NEED.

Last year we realised our kids get way too much and give too little.  Even by sticking to our four presents above, once the kids receive gifts from grandparents and aunties and uncles they get way more than they need.  With this in mind, my children live in a family where there is nothing they ever really need.  They have clean water, food, a roof over their head, access to health and good education.  But at this time of year in particular we think of those who really are in need.

We started by showing the kids the Unicef website.

Oh boy were there lots of lessons to be learnt here.

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  1.  Needs Vs Wants. We had a long talk about what “needs” really are.  What do you need to survive.  Water, Food, Good Health, Shelter, Clothes, Love. They quickly realised that all their “needs” have been filled since the day they were born.   We spoke about when we say we “need” something often it is really a want.  We then discussed, how and why many children around the world don’t have their needs met. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 5.40.15 AM2. Their Is A Big World Out There but you can be the change.  Sometimes kids get caught up in their day to day life (as do we) and forget to think about the world greater than them.  We looked at a world map and spoke about countries that may be in need.  Yep the world is a BIG BIG BIG place.  But that doesnt mean we (even kids) can not make a difference. This was easy to relate to for them, as many family members and friends had already spoken to them about the work they do in East Timor, Afghanistan, India and Cambodia.  Their Dad had some great pictures to show them of him delivering medical supplies and medical assistance to very malnourished and sick children. They have seen these photos before, but suddenly it had a context.  The world is a big place but we can do little things to make a difference.  

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 5.38.41 AM3. The Golden Rule.  We talk a lot about the golden rule in our family.  Treat others as you wish to be treated.  How would they feel if they were in need?  What would they want people to do for them? The list is endless and I had to keep bringing them back to “Needs”  We would love to send our drink bottles to them, but if they dont have clean water to fill them with, they will not be very helpful.   

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4. Better To Give Than to Receive.  We imagined what it would be like if you went without something and then suddenly someone presented it to you.  How would they feel?  Imagine if you could to do that for someone? You could trade just one present you will receive for a present you could give.  Now it’s really making sense.  This not just a lesson to be learnt, a discussion to be had, but there is something we can DO!!!

We are back on the UNICEF WEBSITE choosing our present to GIVE.

 SOMETHING SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS! 

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 You can choose a gift based on the amount of money you want to spend, or like my kids something they thought would be really useful! 

 This is by far the greatest lesson to be learnt during the festive season.  It is something I can only hope has not only been learnt by my children, but sunk in and remembered for years to come.  It is so easy to get caught up in the world of want, want, want, buy, buy, buy at Christmas.  But it is the perfect time to remind them to…..

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If you would like to work through this activity with your children, we have included a template below.  

Want, Need, Wear, Read Template

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 9 – Movie Magic

Oh how I love a good Christmas Movie and it looks like our elves do to!

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The Elves bought us a new Christmas Movie (Disney’s “Prep and Landing”)

Looks like they enjoyed a movie snack as well.

After our BUSY Train day this was exactly what we needed, a relaxing, quiet movie day at home BUT…….

The movie lasted less than a hour and did not hold the kids interest!  So it was onto “The Polar Express”  They have watched this movie so many times and yet they still LOVE it!  It is full of many great messages for the Christmas season and for life in general.

There are a few scary parts but my nearly 4 year old and nearly 6 year old were not scared.

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This was the BEST timing!  Lisa from Life As We Know It put together the BEST list of Christmas movies!  This has everything from Kids movies to something for Mum and Dad to cozy up to!  

You can read all about her A-Z of Festive Films on her blog!

So do you have a favourite Christmas Movie? 

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 8 – Train Time

Speaking of traditions…..last year we started a new one.  It has got to be one of my favourites.  The annual Santaland Excursion!

Santa land is a section of the major Myer department stores dedicated to housing Santa.  It is truly a wonderful experience for all involved and a day my kids talk about all year!

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The Elves knew about our plans!  The kids had not seen this train set for ages and couldn’t believe the elves had found it and put it together! Trixie the elf is being ever so helpful and giving Holly Jingles a ride. 

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All dressed ready to go we drove to the train station ready for the adventure to begin.  Getting the train is a special experience for our kids and I sometimes wonder if that is their highlight of the day!  I must admit, however that I was shocked at the price of train tickets!  Nearly $10 one way for an adult and $4.50 for a child!!!  I might have been better off driving in! Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 5.43.33 AM

As we headed into the mall, the festive spirit was alive and well.  All the stores have their Christmas displays in the windows and the mall was decorated ready to welcome the Christmas shoppers.  The kids RAN from display to display!Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 5.43.43 AM

But our favourite display as always was the Myer Christmas Windows.  Each year the windows have a theme based on a childrens story.  This year it was “Gingerbread Friends” by Jan Brett.  Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 5.43.53 AM

The windows are interactive with each display moving and playing music.  Some of it is quite realistic so be warned my kids even got a little scared when a character moved towards them! 

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With the windows done, it was off into Santaland! 

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Myers really knows how to create an experience.  Literally as we walked in the doors,  we found some clues on how to get to Santaland!  Scan this symbol with an app on your phone for an interactive story.Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 5.44.33 AM

On arrival at Santaland, children line up for a ride on santa’s train.  They are presented with a “golden ticket” (which they get to keep) to board the magical train.  The train only starts when the children yell “SANTA”  It ravels a few times around the track, ringing it’s bell. 
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A few families at a time then enter Santa’s area.  There is a movie on for the kids to watch and the cutest santa boot stools! Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 5.44.56 AM

Finally it’s our turn! Santa’s helpers had already asked Mummy what the children’s names are so when they walk into Santa’s house he greets them by name and comments on how much they have grown. 
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Santa is seated in his lounge room complete with his reindeer sleeping on the floor.  The Reindeer is electronic and occasionally his chest rises and his ears twitch! It had Little miss A fooled but not Master O! Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 5.45.35 AMIt is such a great setup.  The kids can chat away to Santa without the hustle and bustle of the other people in line.  Santa really took the time to chat to the kids about their year, and what they wanted for christmas.  This made my Santaphobic Little Miss A feel so comfortable, she happily posed for a photo!  

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After their official photo they had a quick play outside Santas house on the train.

and the finished product…..

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Our last Santa photo of just TWO CHILDREN.

We had all of this done and dusted (including a very thorough browse of the toy section) by 11am!  Right in time for lunch!

Both kids fell asleep on the train ride home, thoroughly exhausted.  This was one of those days that my heart literally burst with joy.  To have such a wonderful time with two healthy and happy children, experiencing the magic of Christmas together.  One tradition I hope remains for many years to come.

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 7 – Tree Trouble

Have you realised how much I love family traditions yet?  Some of these are of our own creating but many have been handed down to us from our respective families.  One of these is putting the tree up on the 1st of December.

As hard as it is each November, to resist the temptation of all those beautiful Christmas decorations, I restrain until the 1st of December.

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Our Elves greet us on the morning of the 1st of December, wrapped in tree, lights and decorations!  A sign of the day ahead! 

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 5.54.28 AMThe decorations come out of storage!  This is a picture from last year, we now have 4 storage bins of Christmas paraphernalia!  We store it all in the roof cavity during the year.

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This embarassing Mother has started her own tradition which requires all children to wear Chrsitmas Tree Shirts.  Little Miss A, is wearing Master O’s hand me down shirt that I made for him when he was 2!!!  Look how little they were last year!

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 With the Christmas carols blaring, the tree goes up! Lights first and then  Little Miss A’s very thoughtful decorating! 

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 5.51.54 AMLuckily Master O is more like his mother and had all the decorations sorted by colour! Check out his shirt!  We have managed for it to fit three years in a row! We are going with the same colour theme as last year.  Red, Aqua and Silver.

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with some careful and subtle rearranging the tree is up and decorated all except for…. THE STAR!!!!  First it was lost, then I found it and in my excitement I snapped it!  Then whilst searching for last years Christmas photos…..

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 I found this picture….notice the top?  We didn’t even use the star last year anyway!  This has given me some new inspiration! and it also reminded me of how I decorated the TV unit!  Note to self, take more photos of the house decorations! 

So are you a 1st of December Traditionalist as well? 

Day 6 – Calendar Chaos and Elf Clue Cards – Set 2

Oh I am struggling to keep up with all these CRAZY Elf Antics!

Day 6 – Is the last day of November so our Advent Calendars have arrived!  This year I have gone with cheap and simple!  Each child got a $3 Chocolate Calendar!  Our Elves delivered them with our hanging fabric stocking calendar and would you believe it they had bought a calendar for themselves and attacked the chocolates!!!!

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I can’t believe we are ready for the second set of CLUE CARDS!

Here they are the next 8 Elf Antic Ideas

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[download id=”10″]

Simply, DOWNLOAD, PRINT and ENJOY!!!!!

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 5 – Reading Rewards (The Book Basket)

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.40.25 AM Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.42.24 AMToday’s Antic and Adventure was timed specifically to coincide with the last day of school.

To reward Master O for all of his hard work at SChool this year we bought him a new book. Books are given for every special occasion in our house.  In the front cover we write  a message outlining the occasion and date.  This is a tradition passed to me form my own mother.  On a recent trip to her house I just loved reading the front covers of books given to me (in the Early 80’s!) detailing “The Loss of my first tooth” “Congratulations on a great Ballet Exam” etc. 

This year I searched for a book with a positive message for children.  I was in luck when I  stumbled upon this “AWESOME” book.

"An Awesome Book" By Dallas Clayton

“An Awesome Book” By Dallas Clayton

You can literally READ the book HERE.

“An Awesome Book”  is all about dreaming big.  About children not loosing sight of their dreams no matter how crazy they seem.  It really bought home the fact that already Master O has begun to dream about material items instead of creativity and imagination.  This book really hit a nerve with me and hopefully with him too.

 I definitely recommend it and its sequels to all readers aged 3-9. 

Of course life intervenes and the book didn’t arrive from The Book Depository in time! So the Book Basket was a surprise enough on it’s own!

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I have written many, many times about our book baskets, but put simply it is a basket of books, grouped together of a similar theme.  We do this for The Start of School, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Anzac Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc.  Usually the Book Basket is a plain white basket but the Christmas one is a little more special!  I picked this basket up last year at The Reject Shop. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.38.37 AMOver the years we have accumulated quite a lot of Christmas Books!  

We try to have a mix of Traditional, Modern and Religious.  A favourite is the Jolly Christmas Postman filled with letters and envelopes to explore and read.

This Basket has now found a home in the playroom for the festive season.  In a place where little hands can easily access and explore reading them. 

Do you have a favourite Christmas Book? 

 

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 4 – Lunchbox Laughs

Part of the reason we start our Elf so early in the year, is that we finish school so early in the year!  Private schools in Queensland finish the last week of NOVEMBER! I love for the kids to be able to share the joy and magic of the elves with their classmates and teacher, so we start on the 25th of November.

One of the ways I love to spice up the last week of school, is by having the elf make a mark on the school lunch!  

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Holly Jingles had gotten into the biscuits, whilst Trixie had the Vegemite! 

The Clue Card read…….

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This leaves it open for you!  You could just pop a “Lunch Box Laugh” card into your childs lunch box. (See Below for FREE Printable)

Or add a sweet treat – We added Marshmallows, but you could add a Christmas biscuit, pretzel, or chocolate.

Or even add your own little note from the Elf! 

Simply DOWNLOAD AND PRINT these 

[download id=”9″]

FREE
ELF ON THE SHELF LUNCHBOX LAUGHS

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It also includes two blank cards for you to write your own joke, riddle or Love Letter.

Enjoy! 

2013 – My Christmas Elf – Day 3 – Passport Photo

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Looks like Holly was trying to send Trixie HOME!

Using this cute Mail Box form The Reject Shop the elves found a new place to hide!

But elves don’t travel by mail!  They need a passport and we have to make one for them!

For today’s activity, we created a passport for each Elf.  We took a photo of them and printed it out, cut and pasted it on to the template and then filled out the questions!  So how old are Elves?  Where were they born?  There were some interesting answers!

Elf Passport

 There is also a blank sheet included in the Printable if you want to use it to write a story about The Elf’s Journey From the North Pole to your home! 

For additional ideas on how to extend the talking and learning for this activity check out last year’s post HERE.