Ingredients: Toys you already own (dinosaurs, playmobile, play dough, cars / trains, arts & crafts leftovers, wrapping paper, throws, cushions, etc…) , all the time you can give, freedom to make mess and have fun for ages 0 – 90.

The Big Sell: Never mind new presents under the tree, the thing most kids want this Christmas is you, your inspiration and focus on play time as a family – so ransack the toy boxes and get busy!

Strategy: Clear a carpet space or table and use the toys most families usually have to create the MOTHER OF ALL FAMILY GAMES! Some ideas include:

Dino Valley

Transform a rug into a landscape using a shallow tray or bowl filled with warm water for a lake on a towel, cushions for hills covered in throws, sand or moon sand in a shallow tray for a desert, plasticine / play dough trees and all the dinosaur toys / play mobile people with jeep, to create Jurassic Park in your own living room.

Towering Inferno  (or any 70’s style disaster movie!)

Combine lego, drawbridge made from string/ wood off-cuts (see Ball of String blog post), playmobile, toy garage & other sundry buildings, and scrunched red tissue paper (for flames) left from presents to create a disaster movie better than any ITV3 re-run. The kids get to pick which Playmobile men play the Jeremy Irons / Sean Connery / Kurt Russell etc… baddies and goodies, perhaps employing your best attempt at impersonating the accents for a giggle? Make a bomb from a matchbox to be placed in a central spot that the goodies have to disable before the egg timer pings!

Constructions with Play Dough

I don’t know about you but I get terribly bored with repetitively making sausage shapes or using cut out shapes with Play dough. For a new approach, cut play dough into small brick shapes and build your own wall or castle. Combine with a toy crane with added play dough wrecking ball to knock down and re-build.

Or flatten long thin sausages of play dough to make networks of roads or train tracks round the dining room table. Combine with your Thomas the Tank Engine or Postman Pat toys to create village life – run play dough roads over folded tea towels to make bridges and cardboard rolls for tunnel, or even attempt a full rollercoaster – be as ambitious as possible!

The Verdict: This is the kind of play which provides unforgettable family memories – get relatives staying for the holidays involved too and everyone regresses into a united fantasy world. The games provide an antidote to the chocolate-fuelled, present overkill, post-Christmas blues that hit any time from Boxing Day onwards. Every year I promise not to buy the kids so much ‘stuff’ and every year I fall prey to the commercial tsunami, before realising too late that it’s these imaginative “let’s see how many toys we can use in one game” activities that really make us genuinely happy and bring us all together again.

Catchphrase: Run, run for your lives – T-Rex is coming from under the Christmas tree!!!

Left wanting more?

Struggling to get the kids to write thank you notes to generous relatives? Why not bump their heads together to write a bespoke Christmas thank you poem or song and email round a short recording of them in full recital to one and all?!

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