Bookishness, Mamaishness

A few last-minute Christmas selections…

Thanks to those of you who read yesterday’s crazy post and told me that I wasn’t the only one. You know who you are…

Onward into the breach – let’s figure out some fun Christmas gifts for those of you who, like me, might have forgotten a kiddo or two in the shuffle of the season. (And by that, I mean a kiddo for whom you need to buy gifts, not one of your own personal kiddos, because I think even the Duggars don’t actually forget one of their children.)

county your chickens game review

First up is a gift that Bethany received last year: [amazon text=Count Your Chickens&asin=B004HVKAAS], by Peaceable Kingdom. I am NOT a big board game person, and would rather have a root canal than play cards, but I’m trying not to pass on my anti-social tendencies to the girls. This is a cooperative game, meaning all the players work together to accomplish a common goal, which in this case involves getting all the baby chicks safely into the coop. You spin, move the assigned number of places, and put that many chick chips onto a designated ‘coop’ on the board.

You don’t have to be able to read to play this, but you do need to have some sense of counting. It’s great for building one-to-one correspondence, actually. Since everyone is working together, you don’t have as much stress with younger siblings not being able to count properly. We play this with the girls, and Clara has to have significant help, but they love moving Mama Hen along and putting the right number of chicks in the coop.

We have other Peaceable Kingdom games, and we adore them. They are great for this pre-reading age, and they don’t take all day to play. This one is probably my favorite, though, just because I like the idea of helping baby chicks. You can find other choices here.

christmas book for kids

[amazon text=Who is Coming to Our House?&asin=0399234101] is a great book for Christmas Eve. The colored woodcut-style pictures are beautiful, and the simple repetitive story tells about the animals waiting for ‘someone’ to come to their house. In the end you see Joseph, and a very pregnant Mary, shortly before baby Jesus’ arrival. The story is basic enough for little ones who aren’t ready to listen to a full-length picture book, but there’s plenty of room for discussion with older children.

Personally, I like this book because it helps children understand that the stable in Bethlehem wasn’t decked out like the Waldorf Astoria, just sitting empty, waiting on Mary and Joseph to arrive. Sometimes, I think children’s books wander too far in that direction in an attempt to be pretty.

If you like an animal emphasis to the Christmas story, or if you have an animal lover in your house, these are other great choices:

children's christmas bookTomie dePaola’s illustrations for [amazon text=The Friendly Beasts&asin=0698116615], one of my favorite carols.

children's christmas book

Another repetitive book with gorgeous illustrations is Cynthia Cotten’s [amazon text=This is the Stable&asin=0312384211], which builds upon itself in the tradition of ‘This is the House That Jack Built.’

children's nativity story

[amazon text=Room for a Little One&asin=141692518X] is becoming a modern classic. The animals come one by one to the stable, and then welcome the Holy Family. It’s lovely.

And finally, the sleeper hit of the holiday season…

children's christmas gifts

Yeah, you saw that right. [amazon text=Tinker Toys&asin=B00CTJOGOG] are awesome. We lucked into a vintage wooden set at the thrift store, but if you’re in a pinch, this plastic modern version works exactly the same way. The wooden ones online are wicked expensive. Not worth it, and I love wooden toys.

We have always had plenty of open-ended things around here, but these have really sent the girls to new imaginative heights. As I was typing this, they brought me a sun and a dog house made from Tinker Toys. (They also spilled a glass of water and had two fights, just in case you’re getting the impression it’s all sunshine and puppy dogs.) They also seem to occupy the girls much more independently than other toys, so that’s a plus when you need to fix a meal, clean the bathroom, or write your blog.

If you’ve already done your shopping, and if your gifts have been wrapped and stored neatly in labeled Rubbermaid bins since August, then you probably don’t need this advice, but hopefully, the rest of you found something useful.

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