Make Santa letters a family tradition

Boy writing letter to SantaWriting letters to Santa is a long standing tradition in many places around the world.

It is a lot of fun and has many benefits for children, but it can also be a family event that is lots of fun.

Writing letters as a family

So how can you make it a family activity?

Basically, you just have to make the time to sit down together and write letters to Santa. But to get you moving, here are a few tips…

  1. make a date and time to do this so it will happen. if you make a date like ‘the first Saturday in December’ or ‘the third Friday in November’ it is easier to become a tradition that will last for years with little effort.
  2. get things set up first – have paper, pencils, textas, crayons and even special things like glitter and stickers. Spread them out on a table, turn on some Christmas or other loved music, and maybe have a yummy snack on hand so the letter writing time can be truly dedicated to being creative.
  3. let everyone ‘write’ their own letter. For very young children, you may write the actual words, but let them draw and write on the letter as well, and make sure they tell you what to write rather than deciding what to write for them.
  4. have a rule that nobody has to share their letter as they write, although encouraging sharing the finished letters can lead to some lovely times together. If someone (usually an older child) wants to keep secrets, maybe they can just read out part of what they have written instead.
  5. let everyone be creative – kids can draw pictures and decorate the letter, anyone can use different coloured pens/pencils for each sentence or even each word, and so on. This is for Santa, not a bank manager or lawyer, so make the letter beautiful!
  6. remember to include something nice for Santa in the letter, it shouldn’t just be a list of gifts you want
  7. have everyone write a letter, not just the kids. Parents can have fun, too, and it may help tip kids towards gifts you want instead of another pair of socks!

Lessons to be learned

Smiling little girl writing a letter to Santa

Writing to Santa makes children happy! Writing with family is even better.

Writing Santa letters together has a number of advantages, including kids learning some useful lessons such as

  1. how to structure a letter!
  2. why it is nice to write letters and how people enjoy receiving letters. And in modern times, a letter takes more effort than an email or text so receiving a letter is even more valuable so it is a social gift to be able to write letters.
  3. practice writing, spelling and using grammar/punctuation.
  4. about other members of the family – want they may want, what they think is important to tell Santa, and how they use their creativity
  5. using good manners (eg “Santa can I please have…” rather than “I want …”)
  6. about Christmas and Santa – it is a great time to chat about what these things are and how your family celebrates them, and to answer any questions your children may have at that time of year.
  7. how to address and envelope and mail it – unless you leave the letters under the tree or in stockings instead of course!
  8. how to relax, have fun and enjoy tradition and magical moments. Remember the kids are given facts and goals all year so it is nice to have some magical and imaginative time, too (as stated by Michael Grose).
  9. having traditions like this help connect the family and set some rhythms that give kids certainty and security over time.


Has your family (present or in your childhood) ever written Santa letters together? Are they special memories?

Lego Advent calendars 2016

2016 Lego Friends & City advent calendar boxes

2016 Lego Advent calendars

Yesterday, I bought two Lego advent calendars – the City Advent calendar and the Friends Lego Advent calendar.

So for anyone in doubt (like Clair02), Lego is definitely doing advent calendars again in 2016!

My kids don’t know we have them yet but I’m sure they will be very happy on 1 December when they come out of the cupboard! I hadn’t really planned to get them yet but I saw them both in the shop on the weekend and cheaper than I’ve seen them before so…

I especially couldn’t resist when I saw how Christmassy the City calendar this year is – featuring Santa in his sleigh won votes from me

The question…

So now the question is whether or not I do a daily review of the calendars this year?

Last year, I did an (almost) daily review of the calendars which was fun. But would it better to just do it every second day, or once a week? What would you prefer to read?

Back of lego Friends & City advent calendars for 2016

Lego Advent calendar boxes give a sneak peak of what’s inside – and the Friends calendar has special surprises on a few days, too.

Creating Santa in wood

I just came across a news article that is wonderful so I am sharing it here 🙂

Carving Santas

Ken Miller lives in the USA and literally carves Santas for a hobby and profit!

art of carving in wood with a carver working on the background

Carving wood takes patience, perseverance and practice.

He carves Santa’s face and body into wooden objects such as rolling pins, bowls and shoes (clogs), and then paints them. Some are given as gifts and others he sells at craft markets – what a pity none of those markets are in Australia as I’d love to see his work!

But what I think is really special is that he sometimes carves Santa into old wooden objects that have sentimental value to people. For example, taking the rolling pin of someone’s great grandmother and turning it into a Santa statue that can be placed on a mantelpiece with price each year – rather than keeping the treasured rolling pin locked away in a cupboard.

Do you have any old objects that could perhaps be given new life by being turned into a Santa? Are you game to try the transition yourself?


Aussie kids can get inclusive Lego now!

Back in April, I shared the news that Lego was bringing out some inclusive Lego – and hoped that it would soon be available in Australia, or at least here in time for Christmas. I think showing our kids how diverse human life can be is a great start for making our society more tolerate and happy.

Well, yesterday, I was in our local shops with my kids so we had to visit the Lego aisle. And to my delight, I spotted a Lego playing in the park set*.

the box of a new Lego set which has a wheelchair and a baby.

Inclusive Lego is now available in Australia!

As you can see from the box, this set includes:

  1. a child in a wheelchair
  2. a man pushing a baby in a pram
  3. a man playing in the park with kids
  4. a woman mowing lawns
  5. a woman painting

And it wasn’t just me who liked this set.

My eight year old son was happy about the wheelchair and bike, and said he wants this set.

My fifteen year old daughter loved it – her own words were that it is great to see inclusive Lego and it was her who noticed the women working and a man caring for children. She nearly bought it for herself and left thinking about getting it next time…

My six year old was over the moon about there being a baby and a pram (she is obsessed with babies, as noted in her preference for a baby Lego advent calendar!)

I am proud my kids appreciated the value of this set – I might just have to give it as a combined Christmas present this year!

Would you look for this set to give any Lego fans in your life?

* I still can’t find this set online in Australia, but hopefully it will come to Aussie online toy stores soon, too.o

Christmas trolls ~ recipe

This is based on a recipe I used for my daughter’s Frozen party last year. We thought it would be fun to create some red and green trolls to help us have a delicious Christmas, and it was worth the experiment as they tasted yummy!Christmas trolls on a plate


Christmas trolls


ingredients for Christmas trolls400g chocolate chip biscuits (about 2 packets)
250 g cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons dried cranberries
200g white chocolate (a bit more would be easier but 1 packet will just make it!)
red jelly crystals (most actually look pink or purple)
green jelly crystals (we used lime)


Crush the biscuits into crumbs (use a rolling pin to smash them or a blender – I used my red hand blender from Tupperware).

Add in the cream cheese, cranberries and 1 tablespoon of green jelly crystals, and mix until they are all blended together.mixing ingredients for Christmas trolls

Form the mixture into balls. Ideally, put them in the fridge for a little while as it makes them easier to work with if chilled.Rolling dough balls ot make Christmas trolls

Melt the white chocolate in a small bowl.

Roll each ball into the melted chocolate until it is covered.

transferring balls from chocolate to jelly

using a spoon to transfer the troll balls from the melted chocolate to the jelly plate.

little figners coated in melted chocolate

Rolling balls in chocolate can lead to messy little fingers!

Roll the ball in jelly crystals – you can make some balls red and some green, or use both colours on each ball. This is the messy bit, especially if little hands get involved 🙂

chocolate coated troll sitting on jelly crystals

Pop each ball on the jelly crystals then roll to coat – it doesn’t look this neat for long!

Pop them on a plate and the leave the plate in the fridge for half an hour or so to set.

Four chocolate Christmas trolls on a plate

Four chocolate Christmas trolls on a plate

Gently break off any dripped chocolate to make the tolls look nicer. remember to store these in the fridge (if they last that long!)


To add more Christmas colour to the balls while eating them, you could also mix in some cut up green lollies (spearmint leaves would give a minty taste, while jelly babies or snakes would add sweetness and texture).

Instead of rolling the balls in jelly crystals (which give colour and glisten), you could try

  • adding food colours to the melted chocolate (use cake decorating quality dyes or it will set the chocolate)
  • using red and green sprinkles (1oos and 1000s) to roll the balls in
  • leaving the balls white and sticking some red and green on top like holly (as we did in the Christmas Royal puddings) and call them Christmas presents or Christmas puddings!

These are yummy so I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Rover saves Christmas – Christmas book review

Rover saves Christmas

by Roddy DoyleCover of Rover saves Christmas - a kids' book
Scholastic Press, Southam, 2001

Age group: mid to late primary school

A fun novel for children about Santa, a dog and an adventure!

The story

Rudolph is sick so can’t lead the reindeer and Santa is staying home on Christmas Eve. But along comes Rover the wonder-dog and maybe he can help Santa

My review

Definitely a book aimed at children – many adults will find it a bit too silly at times (and perhaps a little predictable) while seven year olds think it is hilarious!

This is actually a sequel to The Giggler Treatment (a New York Times best seller) but I haven’t read that and did not find it a problem. Having said that, if you can get both books I think it would be fun and you may as well read them in order! There is also followed by The Meanwhile Adventures (and you can get all three together in The Rover Adventures).

The book is written as a story but has comments directed at the reader – for example, there are interruptions occasionally and a chapter that progressively gets older
 inside pages of Rover saves Christmas

As for the actual story, it is fun. Roddy helps Santa out (even if it took a little convincing), Santa learns he is more important to kids than the presents, and they travel the world in a very logical manner (moving north and south along timelines!)

I laughed at how many sandwiches were made for (and eaten by) Santa, and I loved the idea of elves having sleighs around the world to top up Santa’s main sleigh as he travelled. I might have to ask Santa if that is how he really manages to get so many gifts to so many children!

To keep adults somewhat entertained, there are also various side references that kids won’t fully understand – like borrowing an owl from some Harry kid or getting a bandana from a “very old singer called Bruce Springsteen”!

When I dream of Christmas – Christmas book review

When I dream of ChristmasBook cover of 'When I dream of Christmas'

by Oakley Graham
illustrated by Patricia Yuste
Hinkler Books, Heatherton, 2012

Age group: preschool primary secondary school

My children chose this book from our local library – and I must say I’m glad I didn’t buy it or have to store it long term.

The story

The book is based on the concept of 27 aspects of Christmas. Each aspect is given a page of text opposite a lovely illustration. 24 or 25, or even 31, would be a more logical number to my thinking but the overall concept is good, I think.

My review

The book it titled ‘when I dream of Christmas’ but the words and idea are only mentioned once in the book – on the last page. Noting else in the book is about dreaming so I find the title misleading and irrelevant.

Of course, the book is focussed on a winter Christmas – right from the first page, children in more than half the world are excluded as ‘sledging’ is not part of our Christmas at all.

However, it is the actual text that I really don’t like. I think it is meant to be funny on a number of pages, but it seemed lame to me and my children didn’t laugh or smile once. Comments like “sledging is fun at any time but best with snow” is a little patronising rather than funny. Likewise, dirty socks making gifts smell like cheese and Christmas lights causing kids to ride into snowmen are just not necessary.

The only page not so silly was the last page when it talks about baby Jesus (of course, for the non-religious that raises other issues!)

On the other hand, Patricia Yuste has done some lovely pictures for the book. She has matched them to the story well and used bright colours and simple characters to make it look delightful.

So, obviously, I don’t recommend buying this book for anyone. My three and five year olds listened to it all and said it was ok – but have not asked for a second reading which says it all I think.


Making Christmas masks – reindeer

A close up on the reindeer mask over a faceAs I posted last Friday, I recently made some foam Christmas masks with my daughter – one of Santa’s face and one of a reindeer face.

Neither took particularly long and did not require a lot of my input, but to keep the blog post a reasonable length I separated out the reindeer mask for today.

Whilst my daughter and I made these masks, it is my husband modelling the reindeer mask in the photo here, much to my daughter’s delight 🙂











Like the Santa mask, the kit was complete and consisted of a piece of elastic and foam shapes.

Foam pieces from teh reindeer Christmas mask set

It was easy to make – some fine motor skills are needed to align the pieces correctly but otherwise it is not too challenging. And my daughter loved putting on the pink ear pieces!

COllage of images of a child making a foam reindeer mask

My daughter was intrigued when she found that the antlers were a little different to the other pieces of foam – instead of peeling off the back of the foam, the antlers just had small bits of adhesive attached. Obviously, this is so that you don’t end up with a large sticky surface above the mask!

Image fo reindeer antlers with adhesive and then being atatched to the mask

Again, this was a simple, fun activity to do and my six year old did most of it herself. My input was mostly some attention and tying the knots (like for Santa, I poked the elastic through from the front and tied it at the back of the mask).Back cover of the package the foam Christmas mask set was in

Now we just have to keep the masks in a nice condition so they can be word at a Christmas event or two later in the year! Are masks part of your usual Christmas celebrations and traditions?




* I purchased this set and receive no rewards (money or otherwise) for reviewing this kit – I have no contractual or business arrangements with Kmart.

Making Christmas masks

I recently had a short time with my daughter when we had nothing planned so we pulled out a Christmas craft set and enjoyed making some masks.

A packet for making two Christmas masks

The Christmas mask set (from Kmart although the packaging doesn’t show it)

The kit was complete  – most of the decorations were foam stickers so no glue was required and allowed us to make both masks quite quickly.

COntents of the Christmas mask set

We decided to make the Santa mask first – and I’ll do a separate blog post for the reindeer mask.

They are very simple to make – start with the biggest pieces, peel off the backing paper, align it on the mask and stick it down. Depending on the child’s fine motor skills, the aligning part may be challenging and need some assistance – while things not being perfect is fine for kids’ craft, any sticky bits that are not attached will remain sticky and be a magnet for dust and fluff!

Child's hands peeling the bakcing of Santa's hat to make a mask

Child sticking a beard otno a foam santa mask

Adding Santa’s beard took precision to get it straight

The pom pom on Santa’s hat is the hardest part – there are many little bits of foam to remove and then aligning all the lines takes some skill. I would expect adult help is needed with this for most kids under 10.

images of the pompom on Santa's hat

The pompom on Santa’s hat requires fine motor skills to create

Then tie on the elastic and you have a mask to wear straight away – no need to wait for glue to dry! Note to add the elastic, poke it through the holes from the front and tie it behind the beard so when it is word, you can’t see the knots and there is less force on the edges of the holes.

Foam Santa mask over a girl's face

ta da! My daughter proudly wearing her Santa mask

Once the mask is finished, there is a reasonable bit of foam left over – certainly enough to keep my daughter happy with additional stickers to make something else with!

Completeed Santa mask with the left over foam pieces

Do you like our fun Santa mask?

It’s a quick and easy kit to have in the cupboard to pull out when you need some brief entertainment – or if you need a quick costume for a Christmas party!

If you can’t find the kit to buy, you could just buy a sheet of foam to cut out the face and then some adhesive foam to cut out the beard, hat, etc – but you may want to find a pattern for that if your drawing skills are anything like mine!


* I purchased this set and receive no rewards (money or otherwise) for reviewing this kit – I have no contractual or business arrangements with Kmart.

Inclusive Lego is on the way :)

Lego presents udner a Christmas tree beside Santa's chair

The stage is set for Santa… {from the Lego City 2015 Advent calendar}

So this isn’t really a Christmas post, but I thought it was something worth sharing anyway!

And who knows, maybe it will have an impact on this year’s Lego Advent Calendars as well…

Lego’s new characters

I haven’t been able to find these on the main Lego site, the Lego Facebook page or at any online toy stores but at a toy fair in Germany, Lego has shown two new Lego characters in their City range. One is a boy in a wheelchair and one is a stay at home Dad (complete with pram and baby bottle!)

So what’s the big deal?

Having toys (as well as books and other media kids interact with) include the variety of human situations is important to my mind. For one thing, if kids can see themselves in their toys, they feel normal and accepted – why should all dolls be white skinned and blonde for example when there is such a range of skin and hair colours amongst us? Just like it’s ok for kids to see a Dad caring for a baby and non-nuclear family types.

And even for those kids who already represented by their toys, seeing other people represented helps those kids accept differences in real people, too. Teaching kids acceptance and tolerance is really important – and a key step towards peace.

Giving the new Lego

As I said above, I can’t find the Lego online so I’m not sure when they will be generally available to purchase – hopefully they will be around in time for Christmas though. According to CNN, they will be released in June and hopefully that includes in Australia.

I also don’t know what the set is like, so it may not appeal to lots of kids (eg a wheelchair bound witness in a cop set will probably sell better than a wheelchair kid washing dishes!) but I hope we do get a number of disabled people turning up in general sets from now on.

I won’t make a big fuss about the wheelchair; rather, I will just give the relevant set to my kids in the way I’d give them any other Lego to make the point it is normal.


Easter comes to Victoria – book review

Happy Easter!

I spotted this book in a shop recently and noticed the connection to some of the Christmas books I have read and reviewed, like Santa comes to Australia. It also looked cute so I grabbed it and will add it to my book reviews here.

The Easter Bunny comes to Victoria

Book cover of 'The Easter Bunny comes to Victoria'by Lily Jacobs
illustrated by Robert Dunn
Lake Press, South Melbourne, 2016

Obviously, this is a bit of a trend as when I looked it up, this book doesn’t just cover the states of Australia and other countries (eg Ireland and Wales), it also covers cities such as Bendigo, Canberra, Newcastle) and areas like the Gold Coast.

Age group: preschool to early primary school

The story

Two Victorian children get a new pet bunny who is actually the Easter bunny for Victoria. The bunny travels the state delivering eggs before returning home with baskets of eggs for his new friends.

My review

Not surprisingly, this is a cute little story with some nice cheery pictures. It includes rhymes so will enthrall young children.

Of course, I have to say it’s a pity the story is about a bunny rather than a bilby, especially as the Easter bunny in this book only had to cover Victoria (implying one bunny doesn’t do the whole world). True, bringing a bilby home from the pet shop is quite unlikely, but in fiction all is possible!

The rhymes are carefully done so specifics can be changed in each version of the book – for example, “Melbourne and Portland and Ballarat got treats” is easily changed into cities or suburbs in other places. And things like visiting a ‘tall building top’ can suit anywhere with a different picture – although I can’t see “He smashed a quick Easter six” suiting everywhere outside of Australia!

Having said that, as long as you don’t get books set in multiple places, that flexibility won’t be noticed.

So if you are after a cute little Easter book, this one does tick a lot of boxes and is a nice addition to a seasonable bookshelf.

Shows a page from the book 'The Easter Bunny comes to Victoria'

Dealing with left over Christmas wrapping

I went for a walk yesterday and was surprised to see a roll of Christmas wrapping paper sticking out of a bin.

Christmas wrapping paper in a rubbish bin in February!

Christmas wrapping paper in a rubbish bin in February!

Obviously, being towards the end of February, I was surprised to see something Christmassy in the bin – I would have thought left over Christmas rubbish would be long gone by now!

But I was also surprised at someone throwing out a roll of wrapping paper – it seems like such a waste to me. It could easily be used to wrap presents next Christmas, so why throw it out?

Many people feel obliged to use new wrapping paper (that is, not so many reuse wrapping paper), but this was a new roll someone had put in the rubbish.

I guess if you like having all your gifts wrapped consistently each year, a small amount of one year’s paper may seem less useful for the next year. But there are other ways to use it…

  • give it to a kinder or childcare centre – they can use it as wrapping or just give it to the kids as a craft material
  • keep it as a back up in case you run out next year
  • use it for some surprise Christmas in July gifts!
  • use it in various Christmas crafts – or give it to someone crafty so they can use it
  • donate it to a charity that provides Christmas gifts to the needy – the less paper they buy, the more they have to help people in other ways
  • use it for wrapping pass the parcel items at a party
  • recycle it! Rip it up and put it in the compost, line a bird cage with it or just put it in the recycling bin (to be fair, this picture does show the roll in the recycling bin)

So what do you do with left over rolls of wrapping paper after Christmas?

Do you have any other ideas on how to use up old wrapping paper if you don’t keep it for next year’s wrapping?

Share your Christmas story