Tag Archives: Advent calendar

Word of the Week: Festive

It’s been a bit of a challenging week this week. I’ve still had loads to organise to get to a position where I feel like I’m ready for the craziness of December. On top of that we’ve had lots going on to take us out of the house – what with the rugby in Cardiff last weekend and playdates for Arthur, governors and trustees meetings and chats about possible avenues for researching my next novel, and getting things together for a whistle-stop trip to London this weekend, it’s all been a bit hectic! And then on top of THAT Arthur’s been a bit under the weather – nothing serious (don’t worry mum), but enough that he’s been a bit grumpy and we’ve had three nights now of even more broken sleep than usual.

But in between all of that, the over-riding feeling for me this week is that it’s beginning to look an awful lot like Christmas. And I can’t help but begin to get a teensy bit excited.


Arthur’s music group has been becoming increasingly festive over the past couple of weeks, with yummy Christmas spices, a serious dose of tinsel and yesterday an introduction to decorating the tree!

The tree’s up in Brixham harbour too, waiting patiently for the big Christmas illuminations switch on this weekend. I’m a bit gutted we’re going to miss it actually – there’s going to be a lantern parade and fireworks and everything – but my lovely Barcelona friends are over in London for one weekend only.


An advantage of not being at home this weekend is that it’s meant we’ve had to get very efficient with our own preparations and our tree actually went up yesterday! More on that in another post though…

I’ve got Arthur’s advent calendar all sorted too, ready for when we get home on the evening of the 1st of December. I loved putting all the little treats in their pockets (and am happy to say they all fitted!). I can’t wait to see what he makes of it all.



He’s already enjoyed some Christmas crafting – discovering glitter for the first time as we created the artwork for his Christmas cards.



My crafting is underway too, though I can’t give too much away about that without spoiling peoples’ surprises! I will say though that the little project I did yesterday might be my favourite ‘make’ yet, and I’m already looking forward to blogging about it in January.

So all in all a pretty festive week, and the start of what I think is going to be a very special festive season now that Arthur is old enough to have a bit more of a sense of what’s going on. I have a feeling his mind might be blown by the sparkle and spectacle of the decorations in London. And on that note I’d better get a move on – we have a train to catch!


The Reading Residence


Ten toddler-friendly advent calendar gifts


I posted earlier this week about the advent calendar I made for Arthur last year. I’m really looking forward to getting it out again this December, but before I do I have the challenge of how to fill it.

There is of course the option of something edible: whether it’s sweets or chocolates or homemade cookies this would be a fairly traditional way to go. I’m not sure I want to start every day in December with something sugary but I might slip a couple in along the way.

I love the idea that the little gifts will build the anticipation as Christmas approaches – things to talk about, or to spark off activities to get us in the festive spirit. The tricky thing is finding gifts which are at least vaguely suitable for a nearly two year old, but I think I’ve managed to come up with some ideas that will work.

1) Bubbles


These were a real hit last year and I think will make it in again. Chasing bubbles around is certainly a fun way to start a December morning! There are various mini bubbles in festive designs out there, though I’m pretty sure the toddler in your life won’t be too worried about the package they come in…

2) Bells


This was a bit of a specific find last year – a set of baby-friendly blocks with little jingle bells inside. I separated out the blocks into different days and they fitted together to form an ever-growing musical instrument. There are probably other options you could find for older toddlers – and it was nice to inject a bit of music-making into the build up to Christmas.

3) Crayons

This is a new idea for this year, as Arthur’s really starting to get into drawing. Dapper Baby have some great handmade ones in different shapes – the penguins and angels are particularly festive. I might even get a Christmas colouring book too to add to the fun…

4) Finger puppets


Last year I found a little collection of Christmas finger puppets which definitely put a smile on Arthur’s face. They were handy as December unfolded, providing something to keep him entertained at family gatherings and on journeys to see friends. This year I couldn’t resist a Gruffalo’s child set to spread across several days though this is rather more than I was intending to spend. I think I’ll be making my own next year!

5) Balloons


Again an easy crowd pleaser, blowing up a balloon never fails to get Arthur excited – by the time Christmas came around last year he had a whole collection to play with.

6) Plastic animals

Arthur loves these little Schleich plastic animals, and as long as he’s being supervised I’m happy for him to play with them. They’re a bit more expensive than my other gift ideas, but I might slip in one or two as an extra special treat.

7) Christmas socks


What would Christmas be without some festive socks to keep toes toasty warm? And the ones that fit on tiny feet are perfect for squishing into a pocket on an advent calendar.

8) Stickers

A really easy and cheap solution, little festive stickers (cut from larger sheets) are perfect to slip into the smaller pockets.

9) Tree decorations


I made some little felt decorations last year that Arthur and I could hang on the tree together. He really loved it, so that’s another idea I’m going to repeat.

10) Treasure map

I’ve just come across the concept of Christmas eve boxes, which I think are a lovely idea and a tradition I very much intend to steal. The perfect place for some new pyjamas, a Christmassy book, maybe a couple of carrots for the reindeer… So this year my 24th December pocket will contain a map – and together we can hunt down this final extra special pre-Christmas treat!

So there you have it! Ten different ideas for toddler-friendly advent calendar gifts, many of which can be made or bought very cheaply, and with a couple of variations on each theme easily enough to fill twenty four little pockets.

I’m always on the lookout for new inspiration though, so if you have any other ideas then please share them in the comments.


Mums' Days

Making an advent calendar


This time last year, I decided I wanted to make Arthur an advent calendar. I wasn’t keen on him having a chocolate one – and besides, that’s always been a bit of a minefield with my nut allergy – but I wanted a way to make the countdown to Christmas special.

I looked at the various ideas available online, and whilst there were lots of great designs none of them felt quite right. So the only thing for it was to come up with something myself.

After paying a visit to our local haberdasher I came away with this gorgeous fabric by Makower. It reminded me of the winter skies above Torbay, and that’s what got me thinking… Why not create a design which celebrated where we lived? A Christmas boat sailing on the Devon seas.

I’m going to take you through my process in this post, but you could use it to create any design that suits you and your special little person. A Christmas train was my other main idea, or maybe a wintery woodland scene. As long as you can work out where to fit in the pockets then the only limit is your imagination.

You will need:

– Paper and pencil for sketching out a design

– Sewing kit – I made mine by hand but a machine would be handy too!

– Two large pieces of fabric for the base – mine were approx 110cm x 80cm

– Smaller pieces of fabric for the details – remember you’ll need extra for the pockets!

– Embroidery thread

– Finishing touches (ribbon , bells etc)

– A wooden dowel the width of your calendar with two screw in hooks for the ends

– Cord for hanging

Step one: Sketch out your design

Keep it bold and simple, and remember to incorporate the all-important pockets.

Step two: Create your ‘canvas’


I split my scene into the sea and the sky, and backed it with some sparkly tweed I found online. The thicker fabric was pretty handy to help give the finished product some solidity. Sew around three edges of your canvas but keep the top edge open – that way you can hide all your stitching. Alternatively you could leave the backing until the very end – maybe easier if you’re using a machine…

Step three: Start to add the detail



Depending on your design you may wish to create templates for some or all of it. I freestyled the boat but created paper templates for the smaller elements.

Step four: Create the pockets


Again depending on your design these may be intrinsic to the design elements (for example the sail pockets and the portholes) or added on later (like the stockings and the fish). You will need to decide on the best order to sew the different parts together!

Step five: Add your numbers


I actually left this until the very end, but in retrospect it would probably have been easier to add the numbers before sewing everything on to the base. I looked at various patches/ pre-made numbers, but in the end decided that embroidering them on would be the best way to get the effect I wanted. I just used a simple back stitch, but you could really go to town with this if you have the skills!

Step six: Put it all together


Once you have all of the elements of your design ready then all that remains is to sew them on to the base. This would be way quicker using a machine, though I did find the hand sewing quite therapeutic on dark November evenings!

Step seven: Get ready to hang


Once the design was complete, I folded over the top and created a space for the pole to go through for hanging – because of your double layer, you should be able to stitch the back in such a way that it doesn’t spoil the front of your design (the little robins *may* have come about because I messed this up at first…). Then slip the dowel through, screw a little hook to each end, tie on the cord and you’re ready to go.


The next challenge is to find twenty-four little gifts to go inside the pockets – but that’s a story for another post… Suffice to say, Arthur loved it. I can’t wait to get it out again this year!


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