SavvyPicks: Christmastime Favorites

Eliza Clark
December 11, 2008

We've gotten our Christmas ornaments down from the closet and hung them on the tree. Now it's time to bring out all of our favorite Christmas stories and toys, and perhaps add a few new treasures to our collections. And let's also remind ourselves of the best Christmas crafts and activities for the little ones. What fun lies ahead!

Books and Toys

The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry.

If you had this book when you were young, you know why we adore it: it's unforgettable. Little ones love Christmastime because it is a feast for the senses - the lights, the decorations, the music, and yes, the sweet smells. This story captures the delicious childhood anticipation of Christmas like no other. Little Bear knows that Christmas is coming - he smells the apple pie, the piney tree, hot chocolate, minty candy canes, and more. Little readers share his excitement through scratch-and-sniff scents. This book will become bound up in your little one's memories of Christmas and reminds us, amidst all the hubbub, of the kinds of things young children truly cherish about the season.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore and Gyo Fujikawa.

Most of us have a preferred version of The Night Before Christmas. All we can do is humbly tell you about our own favorite, the loveliest we've ever seen! The pictures are sweet and old-fashioned, yet fresh and lively too. Children were never so snuggly as they are in Gyo Fujikawa's illustrations, sugar plums never so dreamy, and St. Nick was never even nearly as twinkly. But whatever edition of this classic poem you choose, do be sure to read it, and read it often to your preschoolers this month - they will just love it!

The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet by Deborah Hautzig.

This enduring Christmas fairy tale comes in many editions for young and old. For preschoolers, we like this sweet and simple version. The story retains its magic and drama, but is easy for younger readers to follow. Any little would-be ballerinas in your midst will be especially fascinated, but this story adds to the enchantment of Christmas for all. Wait for your little ones to start wondering whether their Christmas tree will grow in the middle of the night!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss.

Have you had any grinchy moments yet, this holiday season? Those days when you'd like nothing better than to toss all the cards, presents, wrapping paper, groceries, trees and decorations over a cliff? It's okay - you're not the only one! And unlike Mr. Grinch, you've got your very own Cindy-Lou Who to look up at you with darling, soulful eyes and remind you that whether or not the preparations go smoothly, Christmas will be wonderful so long as you can snuggle together and read this amazing classic, and sing a few carols too!

Beachwood Nativity Set by Haba Toys.

If you are introducing the story of the Nativity to your preschoolers, there's no better way to bring it to life for them than to give them their own creche to set up and play with. Haba is a trusted toy-maker of the highest quality, and we love the design of this set. It's sturdy and child-friendly, yet these wooden pieces are lovely enough to do justice to the tale they tell. Long after your children have grown out of playing with them, you and they will still enjoy seeing these angels, shepherds, wise men and holy family set up beside your tree.


Crafts and Activities

Handprint & Footprint Angel

Here is a sweet way to remember the holiday season! Dip the sole of your child's foot into white tempera paint and place it down on a piece of blue paper. The heel should be at the top of the paper and will become the angel's face. Then dip the palms of both your child's hands into the white paint and place them on either side of the footprint, fingers pointing downward. These will be the angel's wings. Use a marker or paint pen to add eyes to the face and a halo on top of the head -- older kids can do this part by themselves. Optional but cute: Cut out the angel figure, laminate it, and place a magnet on the back to display it on the refrigerator.

Materials Needed: Construction paper, tempera paint, markers

Handprint Wreath

Trace your child's hand onto green construction paper or card stock. Cut out 10 - 12 individual hand shapes, allowing older children to help if they are able to use scissors. Gently fold a paper plate in half and cut out the center, leaving a circular outer ring. Glue the paper handprints around the paper plate rim. Decorate with glitter glue and a red ribbon. Be sure to write the year and the child's age on the back.

Materials Needed: Green paper or card stock, scissors, paper plate, glue, glitter glue, red ribbon, pen

Dough Ornaments

These ornaments are great holiday gifts that children can give. Make the dough ahead of time by combining baking soda and cornstarch in a saucepan. Pour cold water in and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cover with a wet paper towel until cool. Once cool, get your child involved in the next steps. Knead on a waxed paper covered surface until dough is smooth. Then roll out dough to about 1/6 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. You should end up with 2 to 3 dozen ornaments. Make a hole in each ornament for ribbon. Let air dry for 2 days turning ornaments over periodically. Now it's time for your child get creative by painting the ornaments and gluing on sparkles. (Note: The dough is also fun to play with but doesn't keep long.)

Materials Needed: 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 1/4 cup cold water, wax paper, rolling pin, cookie cutters, ribbon for hanging ornaments, and decorating materials such as paint, glue and sparkles

Kind Thoughts Christmas List

This is a simple activity to get your kids' minds off the commercialism of Christmas. Ask each member of your family to think of something that they wish for someone else for Christmas. Place the list on the refrigerator and add to it each night. You'll be surprised at what you can all come up with, and none of them require a trip to the store!

Materials Needed: Paper, pen, kind thoughts

Beaded Christmas Ornaments

This is a fun holiday activity and also promotes hand-eye coordination. Take colored beads (red, green, and white are nice for Christmas), and string onto a pipe cleaner. Bend into desired shape. For specific ideas, try alternating red and white beads and shaping into a candy cane or use green beads, adding a red bead after every 4 or so and bend into a wreath.

Materials Needed: Pipe cleaners, colored beads

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We all have our own Christmas favorites. Our Savvy City Editors want to tell you about theirs:

Atlanta's Favorite Christmas Books

Charleston's Favorite Christmas Books

Silicon Valley: Indoor Christmas Activities

Vancouver BC's Father Christmas Letters and Other Holiday Favourites

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Thanks for the dough ornament recipe! Would love to try this at home!

    over a year ago

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