Christmas today

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.

 

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?

Aussie Jingle Bells – Christmas book review

Aussie Jingle BellsBook cover of 'Aussie Jingle Bells'

by Colin Buchanan
illustrated by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, Lindfield, 2006

Age group: primary school

Obviously based on the traditional Christmas song, this book gives the words of Jingle Bells adapted for an Australian Christmas.

The story

A drive through iconic Australia is a fun interpretation of the old Christmas song, Jingle Bells.

My review

This was a fun read for me and my kids, and it is very much an Aussie version.

So instead of a sleigh racing over the snow, we get a rusty holden ute bumping over the sand with thongs, kangaroos, swaggies and an esky in the boot! I can’t help but read the words in the tune and smile as all the Aussie imagery unfolds.

The pictures in the book are gorgeous – simple and very evocative of Australia. I love the little details like a lizard frying an egg on a rock as it is a scorching Christmas Day.

A lot of fun, this book could be read or sung to the very young but it probably takes a mid-primary aged child to fully appreciate it.

Christmas lights in Melbourne, 2015

I love walking around on a summer evening looking at Christmas lights!

This year, we walked around our local area with a group of friends which was a lot of fun. The biggest hassle is juggling going out when it’s dark enough to appreciate the lights with getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour (given how tired they were for the end of school year anyway).

Anyway, I didn’t get my photos edited in time to share them before Christmas. So here are some of them now…

collage of Christmas lights

 

front yards and fences with CHristmas lights

 

 

Lego Advent calendar roundup

So we are about to end the year so this seems like a good time to wrap up the Lego advent calendar review we run across all of December.

Overall, we had fun with both advent calendars and know that we now have more quality Lego in the house (rather than cheap chocolate in tummies or other tokens to deal with).

2015 Lego advent calendars in full

Calendar content

I wrote about the content of the calendars each day, and quite a variety of items were received. You can see images of each day’s calendar in the following reviews:

Lego Santa beside two Christmas treesMy five year old says her favourite items were Santa’s head (city) and “from Friends, the rabbit and Christmas tree the same much”.

Her seven year old brother’s favourites were Santa and the catapult.

I may be biased but I also loved Santa, especially on his chair beside a Christmas tree.

Overall thoughts

“Great! I liked them because we have to open them up and build for each. And I love chocolate. I like the Christmas tree because it’s like our Christmas tree. I love the Lego calendar because you can mix things up and put them in a different order, “says my five year old. Note she was given a chocolate advent calendar so was also doing that each day, thus the chocolate comment!

My son’s summary was “It’s awesome!!! It was cool to have it as a theme and I like City more than Friends (but I’m not really sure why!)”

So going back to the original questions, I think there is value in these calendars – buying them on special certainly helps as they are not cheap (especially if buying more than one). But given there is real Lego to keep forever, the kids are practising counting and number skills, it is fun, each day involved fine motor skills, and we had a family activity, I think it was worth the money.

I admit I had previously thought of buying Lego in other ways and making my own Lego advent calendar to get greater financial value. That would mean a lot of time and effort on my part, and would not have 24 little self-contained sets so any money saved in the upfront cost would not be worthwhile.

Repeat advent calendars?

The real test of how good the calendars were is whether or not we’d do it again next year…

Personally, I think we will do them again next year (unless the kids completely lose interest in Lego between now and then which is extremely unlikely!)

Mr seven replied with “I would like another one next year, but would be even happier if it was a ninjago calendar!”

Miss five answered “I want to do it again, too, but I’d like it to be a Frozen baby theme calendar.”

What do you think – would you have a Lego advent calendar next year based on our reviews or your experience of them?

And importantly, if we use advent calendars in 2016, would you enjoy another set of daily reviews? Or maybe just weekly updates…

Santa’s busy night – Christmas book review

Santa’s busy night

Cover of 'Santa's Busy Night' picture bookThe Five Mile Press, Scoresby, 2015

Age group: preschool

The story

Santa prepares at home then heads out to deliver gifts before celebrating with reindeer at home.

My reviewSample illustration from 'Santa's Busy Night'

I like this board book. While it obviously needs to be simple for young children, it covers a lot of ideas through the text and images.

For instance, it includes colours, numbers and shapes within the story and introduces the idea of Santa being tired out by all he does on Christmas Eve.

The sleigh on the front cover in inset and texture for young children to enjoy feeling – it makes the sleigh shiny, interesting and special.Sample illustration from 'Santa's Busy Night'

I like the happy images of the reindeer, and I like the humour of Santa giving the dog and cat the wrong gifts. On the other hand, I’m not so sure it’s a good thing to give kids the idea that Santa may confuse gifts…

It is a happy story and sure to be enjoyed by any youngster, just as it was by my three year old nephew on Christmas Day!

 

Lego advent review for day 24

The Lego advent calendars have gone so well with the children enjoying them and actually managing to leave the Lego with the calendars to complete the sets!

All the previous reviews are still online – jump back to read about day 23 or read them in order from day one.

But tonight was the big one, flap 24!

To complete the icy winter theme, the Friends calendar gave my daughter a cute little penguin on an ice-berg which she was very happy with.

Lego Friends advent calendar penguin collage

But Lego City delivered as expected – Santa! Complete with a sack and a spare beard!), Santa was behind flap 24 and has since been put in his rightful spot of Santa’s chair beside the Christmas tree. Actually, he was also put between it and the Friends Christmas tree.

Lego City advent calendar Santa collage

If you have been doing any sort of advent calendar, I hope you have enjoyed it and are excited by opening this last one!

Merry Christmas for tomorrow 🙂

Lego advent review for day 23

Moving onto day 23 of the Christmas count down! Remember you can read introduction to our Lego advent reviews or catch up on day 22.

But onto tonight’s calendar…

My son’s Lego City calendar gave him what we took as a space ship which nicely matched last night’s two rockets. Then my son realised that it actually attaches to last night’s tower and creates a space craft. Considered as one or two items, my son is quite happy with it 🙂

Lego City advent calendar spaceship

Sticking to the a Christmas sentiment, my daughter was very pleased to get a Christmas tree! Not surprisingly, the City and Friends trees were compared – Friends has a taller tree but no presents, and it has lights rather that just ornaments on the City tree.

Collage of Lego Friends Christmas Tree

With only one more flap to open, we’re getting close to Santa’s arrival… It will be an interesting climax to find out what we get tomorrow night 🙂

Lego advent review for day 22

Day 22 and another Lego City surprise – two rockets with a launch tower! I didn’t see that coming 🙂

Collage of Lego City rockets and people

Lego Friends produced a little stall with three coloured bottles on top. This has been happily added to the cupcake stall and table area 🙂

Bootle on a stand (Lego Friends)

Jump back to the start of our Lego advent reviews or catch up on yesterday’s.

 

 

Poinsettia Christmas wreath

When I got the BHG Christmas magazine, one of the things I decided to try was the wreath made out of Poinsettias – the aim being to make it with my five year old as a fun Christmas activity.

So, I have made it and the five and seven year olds both helped a little, and I think it looks ok. Once I got it figured out, it wasn’t too hard to make but it did take some thinking as the instructions were lacking in some areas.

Making the wreath

Ok, to make this wreath, you need a few things. In the magazine, the instructions are actually divided into two as you can just make the poinsettia flowers to hang or you can use those flowers to make the wreath.

Putting the two lists together, you will need:Requireemtns to make a poinsettia Christmas wreath

  • red felt (about 12 cm by 90 cm in total – it can be in different dimensions)
  • a 23cm flat bottomed polystyrene wreath (it took me time to find a large one and mine is actually 29cm thus the extra felt and bells I used)
  • Christmas ribbon
  • string (I used Christmas coloured rope instead)
  • 21 small bells (I used 27)
  • a hot glue gun and glue

Making the flowers

This is the trickiest part of making the wreath and certainly is not child friendly because of the hot glue.

First step is to cut out eight tear-shaped petals and one circle for each of the seven (or nine in my case!) flowers. The pattern in the magazine needed to be made larger so I free handed it.

My hint is to cut out a few of the paper templates so you don’t have to pin the templates quite so often! I certainly folded the material in half so I could cut two at once – there are at least 56 petals to cut out!

The magazine told me to glue each petal like a cone. With some experimenting, I can tell you that you need to keep the pointed end of the petal outwards and fold the curved end over.

fingers folding red felt to make a petal

Then add some glue and fold over the other curved side.

fingers holding red felt petal

It is fiddly and I had my fingers in hot glue a number of times so please don’t give this to young children to do!

The next part if much easier – glue eight curled petals onto a circle of felt. You can lay them out perfectly around the circle by doing them in pairs on either side of the circle, but I found it much easier to add them side by side when the kids helped me as they had trouble getting the points centred otherwise.

Little hands gluing petals onto a felt circle

Add three dobs of hot glue in the entre of the flowers and stick a bell on each one. This my five and seven year olds did manage and enjoying.

small hand adding bells to a felt flower

By now, you can clearly see the flowers and my daughter called them amazing! The big advantage of the hot glue gun is how quickly the glue is set – no wasted time waiting for things to dry.

Putting the wreath together

The next part is easy – lay all the flowers on your wreath, adjusting the spacing until they all fit nicely and cover most of the wreath.

Foam wreath partially covered by red felt flowers

One by one, hot glue a flower onto the wreath until all are in place. Then, glue a bow of the ribbon into the gap between the last two flowers. You can tie a bow then just glue it on (or glue on the ribbon then tie a bow), but I glued it into place and to form a bow so I know it won’t come undone.

Ribbon glued onto wreath to form a bow

Turn the wreath over and hot glue a length of string onto the wreath to form a hanging loop.

View of the back of the wreath where handing loop is attached

Attaching the loop is simple

All that’s left to do now is hang it! Or wrap it to give as a gift I suppose.

Felt poinsettia wreath handing on a blue wall

The finished product is quite good I think

 

Lego advent review for day 21

So we’re up to day 21 now, and everyone can count the number of sleeps until Christmas!

If you missed what the calendars gave us yesterday, you can catch up on day twenty. Read introduction to our Lego advent reviews or for the whole picture.

So tonight’s finds were quite interesting and unexpected, to my thinking anyway.

The Lego City calendar produced a campfire and marshmallows on sticks – something I love but don’t associate with snow or Christmas!

Lefo people toasting marshmallows on a campfire

And for some unfathomable reason, Lego Friends gave my daughter a catapult with a ‘snowball’ to fling at Lego things. It is so far from what I was thinking, especially in the last days of the advent calendars, but nice to see such things are not reserved for boys! The back of the flap carries a warning (to not fling the ‘snowball at people’s faces) as well as instructions, too.

Snowball catapult and warning from lego Friends advent calendar

What do you think – is a campfire and a catapult unexpected, or do they fit the overall themes we’ve been seeing in the calendars?

 

 

 

Melbourne’s Myer windows

Growing up in Melbourne means visiting the Myer windows for Christmas.

Collage of Myer windows, Christmas 2015

A long standing tradition

As I mentioned last week, this is the 60th year that Myer has been providing this festive delight to Melbournians.

Like many Melbournians, I remember heading into the city (and going by train just added to the excitement!) to view the windows as a child and again with my friends as a teenager. Now, I get to take my children in and share the experience with them.

All but a few years had moving parts to the displays, and all years have a theme linking the six windows.

60 years

To celebrate the fact that the Myer windows are 60 years old, one of this year’s windows was very special. It showed the back of a typical scene so we can see the mechanism allowing for movement.

On either side of that scene was a bookshelf containing items/characters from old window themes. That is one window I wish I had been able to spend more time at, but it went quickly and was of less interest to my kids.

2015 – the little dog story

Little dog sitting in front of a gate in Myer windowSo this year, the theme behind the Myer Christmas windows is the book Little dog and the Christmas wish by Corinne Fenton.

Each window has a little dog at the front of the window looking into the scene of the story. The story can be heard and read as you move along the series.

As the little dog move around the suburbs and city of Melbourne, the various scenes show Melbourne from the 50s.

Changes over time

When we visited the windows last week I noticed a few changes from when I was younger.

  • there are structured queues so everyone gets a turn and starts at one end of the windows – and the doorways into Myer are kept free for shoppers! I remember crowds of people in front of each window, and you just saw them as you could.
  • the displays are behind a curtain. The curtain goes up, the story and movement starts, then the curtain goes down again to signal it’s time to move onto the next scene. There’s nothing to really stop you watching a particular scene more than once, but it is a good way to keep things moving smoothly
2015 Myer windows with 60th sign and little dog

The Little dog looking at the closed screen

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