I am a freelance writer living in Gloucestershire. I have been writing family style articles in the form of columns for newspapers since 2000 and spent four years presenting an interview chat show on Forest of Dean Radio.
The title is not intended to be just a tongue twister. Although you might have fun trying to get your little ones to say it.
We all know the expense of Christmas, and on top of Christmas are the Christmas holidays. We all love going to the pantomimes, and taking our children on expensive trips, but the truth is that all these things cost money.
My favourite phrase with my children for years was, and for that matter still is:
"It is not a bottomless pit you know."
Children do find this concept hard to understand, naturally.
I can remember being a child myself and seeing my Dad write a cheque. No money appeared to change hands. "It's free money". I thought. So, when he said that he couldn't afford something, I, quite sensibly, (I believed) suggested that he write a cheque. Plenty of confusion ensued, and eventually it ended with my understanding, finally, how cheques worked.
Of course, we rarely use cheques nowadays. Instead we have a clever piece of plastic that goes into a funny machine. How could a child possibly be expected to understand that that is the same as using the hard earned pocket money from their piggy bank? The truth is that young children cannot, and so we have to find ways to entertain the young, that are actually free.
So here it is, part one of how to entertain the children with no extra money leaving the bank account, by cash, cheque, card or even barter.
This is a time honoured favourite with al children of all ages. For me it does have the benefit over play dough, or painting (and they do have their uses too, don't get me wrong), in that you get to eat the dough, once cooked. (And for the kids, uncooked too for that matter).
The best recipes to do with children are ones which do not involve them going near the hot cooker themselves. Excellent recipes include flapjack, marzipan sweets and trifle. All of these can be done with children, without them having to touch hot stuff. This is always a bonus. Jam tarts are good too, but there has to be an adult present to take them out of the oven at the other end of the exercise.
The other thing that you can do is to ice biscuits that you have previously made. Eldest daughter, who is no longer a child, but who has grown up in a baking household, frequently makes delicious biscuits, which look amazing when iced. This is such an easy thing to do with your children and it makes them feel so good to get such a positive end result from their efforts.
And what's more, you can then put your feet up at the end of the day knowing that you have done an amazing job as a parent.
Yes, it is very important to give yourself a pat on the back for doing well with your children. You are after all your own boss, and so you have to praise yourself, just like when you are in a paid position and you expect your boss to praise you.
It's a few more days into the holidays. Your children are champing at the bit, hoping for something more interesting to do than play on the Wii, watch TV or bake more Christmas food.
The Christmas tree is up, but the decorations are looking tired. They are the same decorations as last year, but there are less of them. Maybe the dog ate a few when you were packing them up last year. Or maybe some broke in the box. Either way, the tree is looking barer and the kids are looking bored(er).
So what do you do?
You and your children make your own decorations.
Now this is of course can vary according to the stuff you have in the house, and for the truly creative can be completely free. If however your time is a bit more limited, and, like me and many others, you are actually a bit fussy about what goes on the tree, you can skip a couple of steps by buying some gold stars to start you off. This does then make it not completely free, as the cleverer amongst you will no doubt have spotted, but, it is nevertheless a very cheap exercise. Much cheaper than going to the theatre or ice skating.
So this is how to do it:
1. Either: Make some cardboard stars and paint them, whatever colour you choose. Or: Buy a packet of sponge gold stars from Hobbycraft or similar. (These cost me £1 for 6 stars.)
2. Stick two stars together with string in the middle, for hanging on the tree.
3. Use some glitter glue to write a name on the stars. Or if your child is too young to do that, then get them to make a pretty design, or put pretty blobs on there. They will love using the glitter glue as it is sparkly and fun.
4. Leave to dry for 24 hours. This is the difficult bit. You may need a high shelf.
5. Place on the tree.
6. Once the children are in bed: pat yourself on the back for having had a nice creative day, entertaining your, now happy, not bored, children.
7. Sit down, have a glass of wine and admire the tree.
At this point you will probably think that I have gone insane when I start telling you about our Christmas fairies. But, throughout my entire life these particular fairies have played a large role.
So, why and how would these same fairies help you to entertain your children?
Well, Tinsel and Twinkle actually arrived in our house when my eldest brother was a little boy. I believe that it was down to him not being able to get to sleep one night before Christmas. So, my lovely Mum, from whom I learnt everything about using your imagination and role playing, started speaking to the two resident fairies: Tinsel and Twinkle. Tinsel and Twinkle have amazing qualities. One of their biggest attributes is that they have a direct line to Father Christmas, which can be very useful for both mother and child at this time of the year.
Of course, they can only be seen by adults,and only ever stay for a few minutes at a time. They discuss the activities in the elves workshops and build up the excitement of Christmas. Their presence in the house is very handy in that all the time they are there, they after both enthralled by the fairies presence, and so good that butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.
Tinsel and Twinkle are of course very very old. But, like Dr. Who, they never age. They visited all the family when our children were little. After chatting to our children about what they'd been doing that day, discussing how good they'd been that day and discussing the growing contents of the elves' workshop, they would then whizz off to see the various cousins and check on their progress. Now, the laugh is that some of these cousins were not even aware that they were visiting. But, they were there and were responsible for getting the presents from Father Christmas right each year.
My own children are still benefiting from T and T as they have been lovingly abbreviated. Even though they are more grown up children who don't visit Father Christmas any more, or talk to Tinsel and Twinkle, they are not averse to our cloth advent calendar filling up with chocolate treats on a daily basis during December. The clever thing is that the fairies always know how many children are in the house and always provide for the friends who visit too.
Now, if you have not met Tinsel and Twinkle before and you want to talk to them, you need to just know a few things:
1. They are so tiny that not all adults can see them even. They are quite shy too, so you'll probably find that you will need one family member to be the spokesperson.
2. They can visit at any time of day, but only once a day; only during the month of December; and only until Christmas.
2. They don't always wear the same clothes, but they do take an interest in what they wear and like you to ask them what they are wearing and comment on anything new.
3. They love to hear about the children's day, but bear in mind that if there has been a school play or concert, they will undoubtedly have been there too and will come bursting in to see the children on their arrival back home, to tell them how brilliant they were.
4. They sometimes come back for a brief visit on 25th December, when the children say thank you for anything that they might have received.
5. They might have fairy cousins who visit at other times of the year, for other reasons.
6. No subscription is required and it is a completely free way to entertain your children.
And finally, do tell them that I sent you to meet them, and give them my love when you see them.
We had many happy days making Christmas decorations for the tree,stringing popcorn,using glitter glue on self made Xmas cards and decorating Christmas cookies. The preparation is sometimes the most treasured moments. Merry Christmas