Happy Kids, Happy Christmas

Emma Oliver’s conjured up some great ways to keep the children amused throughout the festive period.

Wondering what to do with the children over the Christmas holiday? Think no more!

Here are 24 cracking ideas for how to spend December’s run up to Christmas day (and happily ever after) with some fuss-free fun for your little helpers.

1. Write a letter to Santa
Your child can send their wish list to Father Christmas at Santa, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, SAN TA1. To receive a reply make sure your child’s name and address is included. Royal Mail (on Santa’s behalf) tries to answer every letter, but it can’t be guaranteed. Alternatively, you can email Santa at www.emailsanta.com

2. Showtime
Get the kids to make simple puppets and put on a Christmas puppet show. Or think bigger and get the kids to write and act out a play. Make sure you sit down to appreciate their efforts. If you have a video camera they could even film themselves in their very own play, it will be brilliant fun watching it back!

3. Get them animated!
If you like that idea, you’ll love the Hue Animation Studio. Suitable for children from ages 4, it gives kids the chance to create their very own animation. Priced £49.95, the studio contains everything needed for kids to create a story and characters, design and make sets, and, compose or select soundtracks. Your budding animator will soon be creating stop motion animation videos. Available from: www.hueanimation.com

4. Want to try ice skating?
Then Winchester offers an open air real ice rink with the Cathedral playing host; such a spectacular backdrop. There’s also a traditional Christmas market alongside. From 21 Nov through to 31 Dec 2013 book tickets online at: tickets.winchester-cathedral.org.uk

5. Host a sleepover
This will probably mean you have a sleepless night as parents, but it is another thing to do with the kids that is bound to put a smile on their faces. It’s the stuff happy memories are made of! Why not go one step further and theme it?

6. Wrap it up!
Get the kids to make the Christmas wrapping paper. Potato printing is fun and using red and green paint will make a bold festive statement. Not to mention, give your family gifts the personal touch.

7. Premiere Time
Close the curtains, make some popcorn and put on the kids’ favourite DVD. It’ll bring a sense of excitement to watching a film and is far cheaper than the cinema.

8. Edible decs

Make gingerbread men and assorted iced biscuit decorations for your Christmas tree. Or why not ice initials or names on them to make placemats? This recipe is so easy. What’s more it makes absolutely loads of edible decorations. Children will love it too, as the dough is easy to handle and rolling and cutting out festive shapes is such good fun.

Here’s how:
✱ Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF/Gas 5)

✱ 350g (12oz) plain flour
✱ 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
✱ 2 tsp ground ginger
✱ 2 tsp ground cinnamon
✱ 100g (4oz) butter, cut into pieces
✱ 175g (6oz) light muscovado sugar
✱ 1 egg, beaten
✱ 4 tbsp golden syrup

For the icing

✱ 1 egg white, beaten with 150-200g (5-7oz) icing sugar (adjust the quantity slightly, depending on the size of the egg; the icing should be smooth).

1 Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl. Rub in the butter to make breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
2 Add the egg and the syrup, then mix to form a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead well.
3 Divide the dough into two batches. Roll each batch out with a lightly floured rolling pin to an even thickness of about 5mm.
4 Cut shapes with biscuit cutters, make a hole in each with a skewer, place on a greased baking tray, and bake for approximately ten minutes; keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn

9. Baking mad
If you like the gingerbread men idea, here’s a great website with loads of simple Christmas recipes, as well as crafty food ideas. Just perfect for the kids to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into! Go to www.bakingmad.com/kids/crafts

10. Santa and the Christmas adventure
Would you like an alternative to traditional panto? Guildford’s plush new theatre G Live is running an interactive Christmas show from 10 to 24 December. Especially for under 7s, it’s a grotto and show combined that includes being greeted by the elves as well as meeting Santa afterwards. Tickets are available online at www.glive.co.uk

11. Indoor camping fun
How about making a camp indoors? No doubt about it, your lounge will be turned upside down, but as long as they know to put it all back afterwards, then why not let them play dens.

12. Colour me happy!
Kids love colouring… and eParenting is a great website that offers free printable colouring pictures, puzzles, and competitions to keep the kids quiet.

13. Music maker
Put in your earplugs and ask the children to form a band. From making up a cool name to writing lyrics and singing them, this could be very entertaining for all concerned. Just make sure you sit down and appreciate their efforts. How about a judging panel X Factor style?

14. Handmade natural Christmas cards
Elegant and simple, these can have rather a stunning effect. Using a piece of card (recycled looks great), stick on found objects such as dried flat leaves, along with star anise and cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices and bay leaves.

15. Tiny Ballerina
Perhaps the Christmas ballet is for you and yours? G Live hosts Swan Lake and The Nutcracker as 2013’s festive options. And the girls are invited to come in their tutus. Ah! Tickets start at £36.50 and are available at www.glive.co.uk

16. Baby bunting
How about making pretty angel bunting? Use a template and follow instructions from the ‘what can we do today?’ blog whatcanwedotoday.co.uk

17. Bring your bricks to life
Here’s a book that really ought to be on every playroom shelf in time for the holidays. The brand new LEGO play book contains more than 500 build and play ideas for children to bring their LEGO bricks to life. It’s available at all good bookshops and dk.com

18. Dressing up creatively
Colour-in design specialists Eggnogg have a range of colour in fancy dress templates  perfect for rainy days and Mondays. Choose from a Knight’s Tabard, a Super Hero Colour-in Cape, Cuffs and Mask, or Fairy Wings, Tiara and Necklace. Priced at £4.99 available from www.eggnogg.co.uk

19. Toddler friendly decorating
Help the children to complete the festive look in your home with easy to make paper chains. Using strips of red, green and gold paper, all you need do is cut strips for them, and with a glue stick, join circles together. It’s great fun watching the chain grow!

20. Little treasures
Guaranteed a winner in each and every household, hide and seek gold coin style, can be played over and over again to keep your little ones amused. It doesn’t have to be with chocolate either… why not hide a favourite toy? After all, the big fun is the finding right?!

21. Boredom busters
Helping hold a child’s attention at the dinner table between courses are the really good colour in placemats that double-up to become play items. From a colour in Santa hat to a Paper Plane, a pack of 2 is priced at £3.99.

22. Get in tune
Listen to the kids’ radio station ‘Fun Kids’, broadcasting over the holidays. It’s full of stories, music and competitions. Find it at www.funkidslive.com

23. Oh yes we do… fancy panto
Then why not head to Southampton’s Mayflower to enjoy Robinson Crusoe & the Caribbean Pirates? Pantomime veteran, Brian Conley leads the cast in the swashbuckling adventure alongside TV and stage star, Lesley Joseph. Running from 14 December 2013 to 12 January 2014. Tickets are on sale from the Mayflower Box Office: 02380 711811, and online at www.mayflower.org.uk

24. Can’t make do…
Then why not invest in a book that has more creative Christmas ideas for kids than you could ever dream of? With the Big Book of Christmas things to make and do the kids need never say they’re bored again! Priced at £9.99 and available online at www.usbourne.com