Tag Archives: Christmas

Fun Kids sites for Christmas

White Christmas album cover

Image via Wikipedia

Hey just in case you need to get the kids in the mood for Christmas (yeah, right), here are a couple of fun kid friendly holiday sites you might want to check out.

  • Track Santa with NORAD. The animation is a bit cheesy, but still fun to check out on Christmas Eve to see where Santa is. This year they have added an iGoogle Gadget and the ability to track the big guy via your mobile phone and in Google Earth.
  • Write Santa with Canada Post. While it is getting tight to get a letter back from the big guy, it’s still fun to write a letter to him. And, for my 4 year old, a great excuse to practice letters and words. The Canada Post site also has a fun podcast (called Santacast) interview with Santa.
  • Create a custom Santa video for your kid. This is really well done. Sit down ahead of time and answer a few questions about your kid (what they want, their name and so on) and a custom greeting from Santa will be created for your child. No animation here, this is live action (aided by a well placed beard to hide Santa’s mouth). If your kids name is on the list, Santa will say their name in the video. If not, then Santa will still have your kids name appear in his “Nice” list. Very fun.
  • Stream nonstop Christmas music. If you are tired of your Christmas collection, check out one of the dozens of custom Christmas music channels from AccuRadio. Turn it on and let er run.
  • Elf Yourself! You may have seen these fun elves with friends heads making the rounds last year. This year they have added more themes and tweaked the dancing a bit to make it a bit more slick. Take some photos of your family and stick them on some disco dancing elves heads. The kids love them, but we’ve avoided sending these around as e-cards as I suspect this is the kind of thing that, for most people, a little goes a long way. Receive one and it’s fun. Receive 10 and you’re cursing those damn JibJabbers..

Got any favorite Christmas themed websites you can recommend for kids?

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9 tips to enjoy The Nutcracker with your kid

A Nutcracker for Christmas
Image by clickykbd via Flickr

On Sunday The Girl and I took in the Alberta Ballet‘s (fantastic) production of The Nutcracker. It has been many years since I have been to a production and I was looking forward to it as much as The Girl.

She had a wonderful time, and has since been carrying her nutcracker around the house, pretending she is Clara, with me playing the part of Herr Drosselmeyer.

It was an expensive gamble. Money in our house (like many homes) is tight and my wife and I talked about whether the $100 was money well spent. So, if you are thinking of shelling out the dough to take in this annual Christmas tradition in your neck of the woods, here are a few tips that might be handy to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

As with any “parent tip”, results may vary – greatly – depending on your kid. Mine is going to be 5 in January, so these are written with that age in mind.

  1. Know the story before you go. Knowing the story, and what to expect, ahead of time prepares them for what will come. For some kids, the fight scene between the soldiers and the mice can be especially frightening and confusing. YouTube has clips from various productions of  The Nutcracker. There is also a full length production (about 90 minutes) available online, and PBS has a nice synopsis of the story.
  2. Pick a matinee. Chances are it will be loaded with kids and a bit more kid friendly.
  3. Take the opportunity to dress up. A few days before we went, my daughter turned to my wife and said, “Is Dad going to wear something distinguished?” Of course, I couldn’t disappoint a request like that, so out came the old suit and tie. She (being 4 and a girl) had no problem getting decked out in appropriate attire. It added an extra element of specialness to the event. But be sure whatever you wear is comfortable.
  4. Avoid the temptation to bring a friend. Friends can be distracting, and it is challenging enough to focus one preschooler, let alone 2. It also avoids the potential problem that could arise if one wants to leave and the other wants to stay.
  5. Explain theater etiquette beforehand, but don’t be ruled by it. Explain that theater is different than a movie. The people are real, and they people in the audience like to listen to the music and pay attention to the dancers. People clap when they like something on stage, and there is a break 1/2 way through the show. But it would be impossible to expect a preschooler to be completely still and focused for 45 minutes, so don’t get on their case if they start getting fidgety. Instead try to refocus them on what is happening on stage. Chances are, they may have lost the plot and are confused as to what is going on.
  6. Bring a small booster seat. Check with the theatre beforehand to make sure this is okay.
  7. It’s okay to talk (okay whisper) to your kid during the show. Hardcore theatre goers may disagree with this, but some whispering to explain the plot is okay with me. Keep it brief, and keep it focused on the show. My girl loved that I would occasionally lean over and whisper in her ear, drawing her attention to things she might like on stage or in the orchestra pit. I also tried to explain what was going on if she looked lost.
  8. Be prepared to bail. If, after the first act, your kid is bored and you sense the second half isn’t going to be fun for either of you, leave and console yourself that you had a nice first act together.
  9. Make it live on. Talk to them about the show after it is over. Ask them what they liked, didn’t like. What they thought of the dancing.  Save the tickets and the playbill and display them around the house for a few days.

Finally, if you still want to give your kids the joy of The Nutcracker but are worried about attending a live performance, Cineplex will be carrying the National Ballet’s live performances this holiday season, live in HD at a movie theatre near you.

The Epic Correspondence

Dear Santa

Letter to Santa

The Girl finally finished her letter to Santa today. It was a long haul. A seemingly simple project that began 10 days ago has finally ended, letter sealed up and ready to mail to Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOH OHO.

It started with a simple question.

“What do you want from Santa this year?”

Long pause. “I don’t know?”

Not the answer I was expecting. Considering that Christmas has been in the air in our house since the end of Halloween, I was expecting a laundry list of items. Not so.

So, the seeding began. After a few days, she decided upon a Leapster because her friend George has one and she had fun playing with it one day at his house.

Okay then, Leapster it is. Over to the Canada Post website we head to find the perfect stationary to create our epic masterpiece to the big guy. Thank goodness Canada Post limits the custom stationary options to 9, but they happen to be broken up in 3 groups of 3 items that you can mix and match in various ways. So long to an hour as we try out different versions of stationary until we find the perfect one.

Then the dictation. We thought it would be fun for The Girl to practice writing her own letter since she loves writing. So, we coaxed a letter out of her, her Mom painstakingly documenting it word for word.

Finally, the hard work began as The Girl sat down with various writing implements in hand to transcribe the letter, word for word, letter for letter from her Mom’s page to her Santa stationary. Credit to her, she has worked hard on it, putting a bit of time into it everyday before getting sidetracked by whisps of air.

But today, before I walked ou the door to teach my night class, she proudly handed it to me to inspect, seal and mail off.

Godspeed little letter.

Scared (or should that be scarred) by Santa?

Santa freaks the hell outta the kidsI know it is a bit past the holiday season (and with the credit card bills coming in, the last thing you probably want to be is reminded of Christmas), but I couldn’t resist linking to this photo gallery called Scared of Santa.

Judging from the look of some of those Santa’s, I think the kids have every right to be freaked out. For example, this one clearly does not spend the Santa off season in the Bahamas. Then there’s Man, I Had a Bit Too Much Eggnog Santa, Fugitive Santa, and I Don’t Know What The Hell It Is, But Please Make It Stop Looking At Me Santa.

Thanks to The Tiny Revolution for the lead!