There is clearly no definitive list of the best kids Christmas books. However, one story tends to dominate this time of year. Despite those who claim that Jesus is “the reason for the season”, and the tale of the birth of Jesus is a great one, there are plenty of other wonderful yuletide stories to expose our children to at this time of year.
Some of the other best kids Christmas books also involve magic, mystery, the promise of a better world, and the power of love & family.
We read a lot to our daughter, and at this time of year we bring out our yuletide big guns to add to our arsenal of great Christmas books to read aloud.
So, in no particular order, this is our selection:
A writer whose children’s books I enjoy reading aloud as much as any Dr. Seuss is anything by Julia Donaldson. Famed for the Gruffalo, her rhyming prose is once again teamed with Axel Scheffler’s delightful illustrations for Stick Man – about a father who longs for nothing more than to be reunited with his stick family at Christmas.
This is an easy one to read again and again, but I warn you that before too long you’ll be able to recite off by heart.
“Stick man is lonely, stick man is lost, stick man is frozen and covered in frost”
More lovely rhymes and illustrations are abundant in Madeline’s Christmas, set in the charming Parisian life enjoyed by the young girl. It is one of the much-loved series written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans.
Despite being set in a Catholic boarding school, this adventure take inspiration from the likes of Arabia and Persia.
In this story, Madeline is the only one in her exclusive girls school to not be bedridden with a nasty Christmas eve cold – yet somehow she manages to engineer a magic carpet ride adventure.
For some, Mog’s Christmas may bring to mind this already classic christmas commercial, marking Judith Kerr’s wonderfully endearing feline’s screen debut.
However, the original book of Mog’s Christmas is a nicely realised tale that explores the disruption that Christmas can bring.
Mog – being a simple cat – has trouble understanding why all the extra family are staying, why there’s a talking tree walking into the house, and why everyone is too busy to play with her. Basically, it reflects what a lot of young children may be experiencing at this time of year too. It all comes right in the end though.
A delightful read, with great illustrations as always from the author.
The story is more well-known as the 1993 animated movie, but this book is not an adaptation. It is in fact director Tim Burton’s original poem, with illustrations by him, that he put together in the 1980’s (before he hit the big time) as a potential TV project.
The plot is broadly similar, but very streamlined, focussing on the main story of Halloween Town’s Jack Skellington who – bored of scaring people – opens a portal to ‘Christmas town’ and is inspired to celebrate the season – only he doesn’t quite know how to, and things go a bit awry.
While revelling in the ghoulish trappings of Halloween, this is an ultimately heartwarming tale of Christmas redemption. It is a really fun way to introduce the story and concepts to little children.
Do be warned – this is an American book, so there’s the occasional rhyme that makes no sense, e.g. rhyming ‘job’ with ‘macabre’ :s
Choosing great gifts for girls shouldn’t be that difficult.
But it seems that it is. While you may know what your child likes, others may not and often they will revert to the same tired stereotypes of “what girls like”.
One of the things I want to achieve with my blog is broadening the spectrum of what people think will appeal to girls. So I thought it might be handy to detail some of the great things my daughter has enjoyed over the past year, as potential new ideas for gifts for girls.
These suggestions are of course fine for boys too, but I just wanted to counterbalance some of the traditional gift guides I see aimed at girls. However, as a former boy – and I love all the things on this list too, so I have no doubt they will appeal to them too.
I’ve mostly used Amazon affiliate links, but all these items are available from a variety of other retailers too.
1. Kano – the DIY Computer Kit for Kids
If you and your family purchase only one present for your child, I would strongly urge it to be this one.
Kano is a fantastic build-it-yourself computer and coding kit. While intended for kids age 6-12, younger (like my daughter) and older (like her parents!) will love this too.
This is a wonderfully simple yet complex product. As opposed to the pretend computers that kids often have, this is an actual bona-fide computer for kids.
With this, your child will have a wonderful journey of discovery, and will also be engaged in the fundamentals of our increasingly digital culture.
The kit contains:
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, ARM 900MHz Quad-Core CPU and 1GB RAM
8GB micro-SD Card preloaded with the latest Kano OS full of projects and games
Kano books, illustrated and intuitive
Wireless Kano Keyboard and mouse (USB RF & Bluetooth)
Custom case, stencils and stickers!
Mini-USB power supply (UK plug)
You put the computer together in LEGO-like fashion (no soldering required), connect it to a screen (via HDMI), fire it up, and you’re ready to go.
It is also a great family activity – my wife and I are as excited about using it as our daughter.
If there was any justice in this world, the Kano would be the number one toy this christmas.
The RRP is £119.99 – but you can get it for a holiday price of £89.99 until 31 December 2015.
Everyone loves LEGO, right? It’s probably one of the greatest toys ever invented, LEGO is certainly a perennial plaything at our house. When considering LEGO gifts for girls, please don’t assume you have to limit yourself to LEGO Friends.
We’ve had some exciting new sets this year, but our highlights were these ones that also featured some great female characters.
We loved Rey’s Speeder from The Force Awakens. It’s a simple set with a really funky looking vehicle.
Other LEGO Star Wars sets we had included the Imperial Shuttle and Imperial Assault Carrier. Both were wonderful sets that each featured important female characters – Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels, and Leia in her non-slave Return of the Jedi look.
With a little LEGO invention, you can also make this Leia look a bit like General Leia from The Force Awakens. (Han looks pretty good with a beard too.)
But our top set is Jokerland. It gets played with the most and also has the most female minifigs.
Jokerland is a wonderfully loopy LEGO Batman set that features a theme park taken over by the Joker and his criminal pals. The set features 8 minifigures, and the female ones are Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Starfire. As well as Joker, you also get Batman, Robin, The Penguin, and Beast Boy.
Having female figures in these sets is important. For my daughter, it helps hook her into playing with these sets. But once she does, she enjoys both male and female characters alike. She’s a big fan of Batman and Robin at the moment.
3. Lottie Dolls
We love Lottie Dolls. From their childlike appearance to the range of outfits and accessories , my daughter is constantly playing with them. The other day she professed that they were her favourite toy!
Choosing a favourite Lottie Doll is like choosing your favourite child (though I only have one of those to choose from), but my top ones would be Pirate Queen and Rockabilly.
To be honest they’re all great, and the key for us is the range of outfits and accessories you can get. They lead to great imaginative play, and show that girls can be dancers, engineers, athletes, or whoever they want to be.
Lottie is a doll that isn’t defined by being one thing. That is a great message for children to learn.
If you haven’t seen them, I cannot stress enough how utterly magical and glorious these films are. I am immeasurably grateful that they exist, and that my daughter gets to experience them in her childhood.
Some are more age appropriate than others, but bear in mind I will happily watch any of these with my 3-year-old daughter (who adores them).
We also have story books of Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro, which have been excellent ways for my daughter to engage with these stories without constantly watching the movies (it would be every day if I’d allow it).
While it’s simple, it’s a high quality outfit (unlike most kids fancy dress outfits).
The dress is nicely tailored in cotton, and the bow is delightful.
My daughter always gets smiles whenever she’s out wearing this – mostly from people who have no idea who she’s dressed as.
You can top the outfit off with a Jiji cat toy too.
5. Katie Morag – books and TV show
My daughter was actually the one who introduced us to the wonderful Katie Morag books, stumbling upon one at a charity shop.
These delightful picture books, written and illustrated by Mairi Hedderwick, are all set on the Isle of Struay, off the coast of Scotland, and center around the independent minded Katie, and her family and friends.
So far there are three books in the series, and in them the hero of the title explores the likes of being a pilot, and engineer, and a doctor.
They are fun to read and have already sewn the seeds of big ideas in our little girl.
7. Star Wars – Little Golden Books
Like many parents of a certain age, Star Wars has been something I have introduced my daughter to from an early age.
However, I know some parents – while wanting to introduce their child to Star Wars – feel that the films are inappropriate in terms of action and violence for very young children.
These Star Wars Little Golden Books are a perfect solution. With pared down narratives, simple prose, and cute illustrations, this series of Star Wars books for kids is a wonderful way to introduce a small child to the galaxy far, far away…
These Star Wars books for kids are available individually or as a boxset.
8. LittleLife Gruffalo and Spider-Man Backpacks
A cut above the usual cheaply made kids backpack, the LittleLife collection are well made, with thoughtful designs that look great and are comfortable for your child to wear.
The Spider-Man Kids Daysack is a great looking bag, that has enough room for the essentials a 3+ yr old would need to carry.
We also had a Gruffalo Toddler Daysack, for kids age 1-3, with a rein that some parents may find useful, plus there is a Gruffalo Kids Daysack for children age 3+. Both are wonderfully designed bags that will please any tiny Gruffalo fan.
9. Clothes from Sewing Circus
We are big fans of Sewing Circus, who have a great range of skirts, dresses, tops, and accesories. The themes include dinosaurs, science, space, superheroes, and much more.
Founded by Francesca Cambridge, as a campaigner for unisex clothing (Let Clothes be Clothes) she would likely balk at being included on a gifts for girls list. Just to be clear – boys can wear her clothes too.
My daughter is the proud owner of the Star Wars skirt pictured above, that was the basis for a ‘How to make a Star Wars skirt‘ tutorial Francesca guest blogged here. I think it must be the most worn item of clothing in her wardrobe this year.
Captain America: Civil War features the first appearance of a much-anticipated icon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). No not Black Panther, but Black Widow’s new hairstyle.
Black Widow made her first MCU appearance in Iron Man 2 (2010), and that was followed by The Avengers (2012),Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and now the Captain America: Civil War (2016). She has sported a different hairstyle in each movie.
I don’t recall any such attention to detail being paid to the locks of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, or even Thor.
This scenario of constantly updating the hairstyle of Scarlett Johansson’s female hero, reminds me of Star Trek: Voyager. The show aired between 1995-2001, and starred Kate Mulgrew (now more famed for playing Red in Orange is the New Black) as Katherine Janeway – the first ever female captain lead in a Star Trek show.
Kate has frequently lamented that ‘the suits’ spent more time worrying about her hair than they did about her character development. She grew increasingly frustrated at the constant messing with it. For those not familiar with the show, this video sums up pretty well how it was.
Is messing with Black Widow’s hairstyle sexist?
Kate Mulgrew reflects that this is a scenario that a male actor is unlikely to face, but female actors constantly do – especially in films and tv shows that have a large male fanbase.
The tinkering of Black Widow’s hairstyle – compared with her fellow Avengers – appears to be further evidence of this. It implies that – as far as the creatives and ‘suits’ are concerned – appearance is more important factor for a female character than a male one. And by extension, a female actor has to be more concerned about her appearance than a male one does.
I also wonder, like Captain Janeway before her, if Marvel Studio execs spend as much time talking about Natasha’s character development as they do about her hair?
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “Action is character.” Perhaps, for female characters, we need to amend that to “Hair is character.”
What do you think Black Widow’s changing hairstyles tell us about her?