As I write this post I can see our Christmas tree twinkling out of the corner of my eye, with beautifully wrapped parcels underneath. I know that there are some amazing presents inside – just waiting to be unwrapped and played with throughout the 12 days of Christmas. I can’t wait to see the joy on my girls’ faces.
However, Christmas Day can actually be incredibly overwhelming for children. For some the unknown aspect of the surprise gift can be a trigger, for others the overwhelming excitiment can cause tempers to fray. Eating at unusual times as the turkey takes so long to cook, and the lack of normal routine can make the day of festivities into a day of tears!
In writing this blog post I hope to share a few ideas on managing the day and the giving of gifts, and in particular introducing a new doll to your child.
When I was a child myself, in the mid 80s, I often found that I was gifted far too many gifts from my well-meaning loving family, and Christmas morning would become a flurry of present ripping and quick acknowledgments before grabbing another one. I actually wanted to treasure each thing and play with the toy I had just unwrapped but the moment would get to me and I would turn into a crazy unwrapping machine!
Before I go any further I am aware that there are many families who would wish that they had the priviledge of too many gifts – especially this year. I wish there was a way to share out the gifts evenly between the children!
Does the overwhelm sound familiar? If so, my top 5 tips on giving at Christmas are below. Hopefully they will prevent the beautiful handmade doll that you had custom made for your child lying forgotten under the wrapping…
1. Str-eeee-tch out the giving – but not the expense.
We love Christmas in our house. And we make it last from the first of December right through to the end of the 12 days! This is what we do to stop overwhelm and still be able to give lots of joy:
- On the first day of Advent the Christmas Eve elf delivers a chapter book to share over Christmas.
- During advent we have chocolate coins in the homemade advent mittens with the occasional surprises – that are reused every year. The joy from the same clockwork mouse, bendy dolls and festive badges reappearing on an unknown day is amazing!
- I pop a small stocking filler gift in their shoes on St Nicolas’ Day, and surprise them with festive craft activities at the weekends.
- We have a Christmas Eve box with PJs, homemade hot chocolate and a board game – we’ve found unwrapping their pjs on Christmas eve means that they have opened one gift and the pressure eases off.
- That sounds like a lot to do doesn’t it? But on Christmas Day the girls have just one small stocking each full of gifts from Father Christmas and one ‘main’ present from Mum and Dad. We open the stockings together before breakfast and then they can enjoy their stocking gifts for the rest of the morning.
- After lunch we open the main presents round the tree and this is when I would gift a handmade doll to my child, in the calm quiet after a lovely meal and lots of fun.
Don’t worry about opening all the presents on Christmas Day either. This year I won’t be seeing my mum and dad (due to Covid) and they have posted down gifts in advance. On Boxing Day we shall get together on Zoom and they can enjoying watching the girls open their presents. This means we can take our time and enjoy being together.
To prevent that anti-climax after the 25th we also have a 12 days of Christmas ring – a bit like an advent calender – with little surprises inside. For example one day will be a couple of sweets, another day a ticket to a family disco in our living room, another day a family pizza tea and movie on Netflix. Things we would have or do anyway but with a little twist to keep the magic of Christmas going!
2. Stick to a routine.
It is a different day to normal. Talk to your child before hand and let them know what the plan is the day before. In my experience children accept the fact the presents are in the afternoon with no issues as long as they know in advance. Make sure that the rest of your family agree to the plan to save stress on the day too.
One thing that really helped for us (when the girls were very little) was to have a nice breakfast, have a ‘starter’ at lunchtime, and have the roast turkey at their teatime (5pm). It takes the pressure off trying to cook at roast for lunch when you have small children and sticks to their regular eating and nap times.
3. Get outside.
When you are planning your day make sure you have some time to get outside – the children need to feel the fresh air on their cheeks and so do you! We have a dog so daily walks are part of the daily routine anyway – come rain or shine!
4. Give the dolly when your child has chance to connect.
The power a doll has for your child is amazing. The right dolly becomes a life long friend. Some children make an instant connection with a doll, nuturing it immedietly and holding them tight. Others need a bit of help.
The way you give a dolly can make all the difference. Try to give the dolly in a quiet time, when you can sit together and just enjoy opening the box and discovering the dolly inside.
5. Finally, show your child how to play with the dolly.
Talk about what the dolly likes, or how excited they must be to meet you, build up a character for them. Show your child how to care for the dolly – maybe feed them some pretend food – and then take your child’s favourite book and read a story to dolly.
With your dolly you will have a name certificate – I don’t name the dolly as it is so important for a child to do this themselves to claim ownership. Help them fill this in and then you have a helpful reminder of dolly’s name too!
It is up to you to teach your child how to play with their new friend. We wouldn’t expect a toddler to know how to play football or build a tower from bricks, but often I find that if a child doesn’t automatically know how to play with a doll its presumed that they don’t want too.
I hope these five tips help you – have a lovely Christmas!