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Looking for ways to keep the kids busy in the run up to Christmas and over the winter holidays? If all you want for Christmas is a five minutes’ peace, here are our top tips for festive fun that will also help boost everyone’s wellbeing at this wonderful but exhausting time of year.

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Christmas crafts

Getting the kids involved in Christmas crafts is a great way of keeping them busy while also sparking their creativity and helping improve their motor skills and concentration. And as an added bonus, you could find your home transformed into a winter wonderland! But don’t worry if you’re not the crafty type, these simple ideas will help get everyone into the DIY festive spirit.

Tip #1: Paper snowflakes

Paper snowflakes are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make the house look Christmassy – hang them from doors and light fittings, stick them to windows or make a mobile by hanging them from wire coat hangers. And the great thing is, once the festive season is over you can simply recycle them!

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Tip #2: Natural decorations

Getting outside is another great way to boost your kids’ wellbeing – so next time you’re out in the park, how about collecting leaves, sticks and pinecones and then using them to make decorations? This video from CBeebies shows you how to make a mobile from an orange and some twigs!

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Tip #3: Feed the birds

It’s not just families who like nice food at Christmas – birds get hungry too! So how about giving the birds in your area a festive treat by getting the kids to make a homemade birdfeeder and hanging it outside your window? CBeebies has lots of ideas here.

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Tip #4: Festive baking

What could be more Christmassy than the scent of mince pies, gingerbread and spices? And it doesn’t need to be fancy baking either – our Christmas pudding recipe takes just 5 minutes to make in the microwave! Or how about trying these cranberry and orange muffins? Perfect for a winter picnic in the park.

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Tip #5: Make salt dough tree decorations

Yes it’s more baking, but this time you don’t eat it! Salt dough is easy to make – you can find a recipe here. When you’ve made the dough, roll it out and use Christmas cookie cutters (if you have them) to cut out festive shapes. If you don’t have Christmas cookie cutters you can make round shapes using a glass or the rim of an empty jam jar. Don’t forget to leave a small hole at the top of each decoration so you can attach string or ribbon to them. When they’re baked and cool, the kids can decorate them with paint or biodegradable glitter. Then add ribbon and they’re ready to hang on the tree! They also make lovely gifts for friends and family.

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Tip #6: Make fake snow

If the kids are looking forward to snow this year, they won't be disappointed – because they can make their own! This video from our friends at Smart Play Network shows you how.

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Random acts of kindness

You may feel you already have enough on your plate looking after your own family. But helping others can also help you feel less stressed and more calm at this busy time of year – and encouraging the kids to be kind is a great way of helping them to make friends. Here are some simple ideas you could try:

  • Send someone a funny cartoon or a picture of a cute animal.
  • Ask the kids to draw a picture to send to a friend.
  • Check in on someone who’s on their own – a simple text or WhatsApp message could make all the difference.
  • Donate to a charity or foodbank.
  • Ask the kids to choose some toys to donate to children who have less than they do, or switch one present on their Santa list to one that can be given to a children’s charity – for example, the Salvation Army and Mission Christmas run a Christmas present appeal every year.
  • Offer to pick up some shopping for an elderly neighbour.
  • Tell a friend or family member that you appreciate them.
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Christmas story corner

A great way to calm everyone down when things get hectic is to snuggle down together for story time – books aren't just for bedtime, after all! 

Plus reading together is a brilliant way of lighting up your child’s brain, helping them make new connections. That's because, when we hear a fact (such as ‘a forest is made up of lots of trees’) a bulb in our brain lights up. But when we hear a story (for example, one set in a forest, like Little Red Riding Hood or The Gruffalo) lots of bulbs light up like a Christmas tree as we make connections between the different characters and ideas in the story and think about what it all means. 

The Scottish Book Trust has some great festive reading suggestions for 0-5 year olds, 6-11 year olds and also for pre-teens and teens.

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