Does the pressure of Christmas-related expenses ever get to you? Because it does to me. Between nativity costumes, Christmas parties, Christmas jumper charity days, fancy craft materials and baking ingredients, all the things everyone else seems to be doing (Christmas markets, ice skating, Lapland…) and ridiculously overpriced advent calendars, it can be massively overwhelming. That’s even before you’ve considered present buying and food shopping.
It can be easy to look at everyone else’s social media feeds and think that you’re the only one who tuts at the thought of buying a jumper that you will wear, at most, twice a year. That you’re the only one sticking to the four-present rule not because you don’t want to spoil your kids, but because you have to.
Luckily it’s easy to create Christmas memories on the cheap, at home, whatever the weather. Forget standing in a queue for two hours to see a Father Christmas of questionable authenticity. While your kids are young, embrace it.
Here are ten ideas – all £3 or under – to keep the Christmas magic alive this year:
1) Make Christmas collages from old Christmas cards
This one does require forward-planning. Every year we file away our Christmas cards along with tags. And every year, we cut out the pretty bits and use them to make Christmas pictures. Christmas catalogues are also good for this.
2) Make fake snow
For this, you need two ingredients: any white hair conditioner (any £1 conditioner from a supermarket, or whatever you have at home) and a pack of baking powder (roughly £2-£3 on eBay for a big pack). Mix them together (roughly 3 cups of baking powder to ½ a cup of hair conditioner) to make snow: cool to the touch, super soft, and mouldable. Put it in a tray and let your little ones make snowmen (while they cross their fingers for real snow).
3) Bauble Drop
Free from the tree, or £2 for two packets of red and green baubles from Poundland
Separate your baubles into different colours, and lay out two large baskets/bowls right at the other end of the room (we usually use a big mixing bowl and a laundry basket). Shout ‘GO!’. The children have to try and fill up a basket with their chosen colour bauble. The quickest one wins, the kids let off steam, and you get to feel like you’re hosting Fun House.
4) Christmas ‘Sensory Play’
Free from the tree, or £3 – £1 for a pack of baubles and £2 for some tinsel, also Poundland
We used to do this with the babies when I worked in a nursery. Fill a large, shallow tray (or if you haven’t got one, just use the floor) with baubles and tinsel. Watch your baby’s dreams come true as you allow them access to the sparkliest objects they’ve ever seen.
5) Make paper snowflakes
£1 for a pack of plain white printer paper, Poundland
Get on YouTube for a huge variety of paper snowflake tutorials, ranging from the extremely easy to the ridiculously fiddly and complex. Hang them on some string or cotton, or stick them up somewhere with blue tack. Or let your kids draw on them. Or, if you’re feeling brave, spend another pound on some glitter. Just don’t blame me when you find it in the carpet every day for the next six months.
6) Christmas lights walk
We do this every Christmas Eve. After tea, wrap your kids up in so many layers that they’ll waddle rather than walk, and then head out the door and to find Christmas lights. Get them to pick their favourites, or let them have points for spotting things like reindeer and snowmen. Hopefully, they’ll remember magical Christmas Eve walks when they’re grown up. It also exhausts them just before bedtime, which is a bonus.
7) Snuggly reading time with Christmas biscuits
£1 for a pack of Festive Friends
Gather up your cosiest stories. Grab a duvet and some pillows from upstairs and create a nest on the sofa. My daughter absolutely loves this. For some reason a duvet on the sofa = exciting, whereas duvet on the bed = boring. Work your way through a stack of books (check out charity shops for Christmas books – I’ve found some good bargains there before. If not the library might have some) and fill your belly with Festive Friends. This is a particularly good one if you’re feeling a bit rough from excessive seasonal partying and/or a hideous pre-Christmas cold.
8) Make salt dough decorations
£1.50 for plain flour and salt, £1 for a bottle of sparkly gold paint, Sainsbury’s
There are a million salt dough recipes floating around on the internet and it’s super easy to make Christmas decorations with them. One idea is to use a mug to cut a circle, and press your child’s hand into the dough. Bake, then paint in shimmery gold. For older children, use a glass again, bake, and then let your kids draw the recipient. One of my Dad’s favourite possessions is a canvas drawing my niece drew when she was three. It’s him, as a potato person, with a beard. A potato drawing on a salt dough ornament would definitely be appreciated by most grandparents.
9) Throw a Christmas Dance Party
Clear a space. Turn the music up and dance to the light of the Christmas tree. Sing so loudly that one of your children tells you ‘PLEASE BE QUIET MUMMY.’
10) Make paper chains
£2 for paper chains, Wilko
This has to be one of the simplest but strangely mesmerising crafts for kids. Lick, stick, repeat.
If you have to buy everything on this list, it will cost you, at the most, £20. I appreciate that’s a lot for some people, but it’s still cheaper than a visit to Lapland…
Hi! I’m Meg – wife to Chris, mother to our three year old daughter and five month old son. I am a writer, bookworm, Christian, feminist, and sleep enthusiast! You can read my blog and follow me on Twitter!