Surviving the Preparations for Christmas!

02/12/2015 14:55 GMT | Updated 02/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Now it's December it really feels like Christmas! Sadly however, I can't say I feel prepared. Despite that I seem to constantly add to the to do list - am I getting carried away and setting myself up for a fall or simply doing everything I can to create the magic of Christmas for my family?

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Photo credit: Lucy Gill
For example, in the run up to advent in our family we decided to avoid chocolate advent calendars this year and go for a DIY alternative. However, I found myself scrabbling around on 30th November for something to fill the pockets! Keen not to over-commercialise nor spend a fortune balloons, stickers, wax crayons (all largely discarded from a party bag!) and a 10 pence piece are amongst the contents, and I can't promise that all pockets are full yet! Is scouting around and frantically wrapping tiny balloons in tissue paper the height of mad parenting or a genius way to 'bring in the magic' and help my children appreciate little pleasures? I have to say having concluded I was nuts, it did suddenly seem worth it when at bedtime today my son said "I can't wait for tomorrow, I'll find out what's in the next pocket of our calendar".

That doesn't even get me started on stockings, Christmas presents, decorations, trips to see Father Christmas, Christmas craft and Christmas Day itself. It really is a minefield! So here's the survival guide I'm trying to work to this Christmas:

  • Don't try to do it all: it really isn't possible to do everything, it's better to focus on doing a few things well than a lot of things badly! Easier said than done but definitely something to aspire to.

  • Pick a few memorable highlights for the Children: whether what makes it special for you and your Children is a trip to see Santa, making the local church carol service or a family-team effort in decorating the tree you don't need too many highlights to bring in the magic. It's so easy as a parent to want to give your Child all the experiences we have cherished and more but trying to cram these all into one year is clearly ludicrous. Do you think I can get out of the trip to see Father Christmas on those grounds? Probably not! It's top of my 2 & 4 year olds 'to do' list but my memory is mainly of the long cold queue, disappointing, brief and nervous 'meeting' plus the cheap gift I'd rather not give house room to.

  • Select a few social occasions for you: it's easy to forget as an adult that you should have a chance to enjoy the magic too. It's a lovely time of year to catch up with friends, get to know colleagues socially but equally saying yes to everything can lead to a huge babysitting bill and total exhaustion! We really are allowed to be selective.

  • Focus on the joy of giving not the stress of buying: I really feel Christmas is out of kilter when, in my mind, it's all about buying presents. I envy those people who always seem to have an inspirational, personal idea for every gift - I'm not one of them. Given my job I'm spoilt for ideas on children's presents (if you need some tips try the Good Toy Guide Gift Guide linked below) but for adults I'm struggling more. We've recently debated the merits of Wishlists at Fundamentally Children but I admit for some people it's a relief when a suggestion is offered! Whatever I come up with this year I'll feel it's been a success if I've managed to avoid it dominating and my children have come some way to learning it's more about giving than receiving.

  • Don't go overboard on the stockings: Children's Christmas stockings should be a fun thing for them to open that makes every child feel special and cared for - it should not cost a fortune and lead to playground arguments about whether Father Christmas loves one child more than another. Keep the total low and go for low cost items that will actually get used - apps are worth considering, print out the description, roll it into a scroll, tie with a ribbon (and sneak it onto the iPad at the last minute) and maybe you'll inspire hours of educational play with less than £2.

  • Avoid Christmas card madness: I'm definitely guilty of sending too many cards. A precedent I set some years ago. I do love exchanging personalised news with people I'd otherwise lose touch with but the time has come to shorten the list! Not only does it give me cramp in my hand and cost a fortune in stamps, I'm sure some people would rather we made a pact not to exchange cards. Afterall sharing emails, photos and video messages may be more successful in starting a discussion rather than a once a year bulletin and, in the modern world actually feel more personal to many (it also saves on very expensive stamps)! Of course that doesn't save me from the ones the children want to send to their friends...

  • Use Christmas crafts for Christmas decorations: I keep looking at all those decorations in the shops and veering between buying a ton or none at all (so far I'm on none at all). Until l unearth the box from last year can't quite remember what we have and I'm sure it'll do. This year I'd rather kill 2 birds with one stone and get my children being creative and Christmasy one afternoon to fill the gaps than head out for more baubles!

  • Don't stress that your house isn't spotless: is it just me or is some of the stress in the run up focused on cleaning the house. I actually love hosting people and having guests overnight gives much more time to get into the Christmas spirit and well worth the work - but this year, I hope my family take this as notice that I'm aiming for 'good enough' not spotless!

  • Share the load for the big day: it's my first year hosting Christmas so I'm trying to get my head around the complexity of cooking a Turkey and trimmings in my small oven (and the rest)! For me planning ahead seems to be the key not to mention taking any offer of help going.

Tips and articles from Fundamentally Children that may be of interest: