I have been thinking about traditions, and family, and how to make the effort lately.  It’s easier not to make the effort.  You feel the desire not to make the effort right through to your bones when you’re a sleep-deprived zombie, for whom stringing together a sentence that is more than a few syllables is a challenge.  You run from effort when your kids have been at home sick for a week, like mine have lately, and you think putting a festive TV show is about as much effort as you can muster in the celebration department. 

But I guess I’m realising that there is always something else to do (or that I would rather do, at least), and these years of small people around home whose eyes fill with the wonder and potential of a celebration will actually pass.  One day tripping over tinsel and picking up pine needles will be as much of an annoyance to them as it is to you now.  So somehow, maybe you’ll join me in pushing through the ‘can’t be bothereds’ this year, and making something of a festive spirit throughout your home this Christmas.  Or at least through a room or two.  Heck, in a corner of a room – just something.  Something so you can see those little eyes light up.

My aim here is to give you some basic ideas for different areas of your home and how to make them a little magical; a little festive.  These are not projects designed to take hours or break you.  Keep it simple at all times!  My favourite quote at the moment is from Voltaire – “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.  At all times, keep it simple!

Dining Room

IMG_5393This strikes me as something entirely manageable, if you have a light above your dining area.  This could also work on lighting positioned over an island bench – or really anywhere.  Key thing to think about: are any of the materials flammable?  It’s pictured working with a wreath made of tinsel, but you’d want to think twice about doing something with crepe paper here.  And probably not on a light that is always left on, either.  But in this sort of situation (as pictured), you can use some simple and relatively cheap decorations which will hang above your heads and cheer everyone up over the meals in the lead up to and during Christmas.






easy-christmas-centerpieces-2015-nqgoezwrHere’s a way to involve children in an easy and fun project.   Find a few different sized jars or glass vases, and fill them together.  Options are endless – use up decorations that haven’t found anywhere to hang yet, find foliage from your garden (or grandma’s), go fossicking for pinecones.  A base of sand or shredded paper etc. adds a nice effect.








Similarly, find a bunch of twigs.  Painting them is entirely optional!  Arrange them in a tall vessel such as a jar or vase.  String a few baubles from them and place it in the middle of your table, or on a hall table or similar.  #letsfaceit – there’s an age of child for whom this project will drive you crazy, as they won’t be able to leave these items alone.  If it’s going to drive you crazy, just don’t go there.  Do only the projects that will remain out of reach!





tableDon’t let cost or effort stop you from making a table setting the whanau will love.  Kiwi Families shows you how to set a festive table on a tight budget.  Simplicity is beautiful.








Deck the hall(ways)

garlandThe hallway is just ripe for garlands, and kids can make garlands.  Lots of them.  To the left are some made with lollies.  Don’t expect them all to make it to the garland if your kids are helping with this project(!)  Other fun options are popcorn, red/green & gold/silver crepe paper or tinsel, Christmas lights, pictures the kids have drawn (like Christmas stars and trees) stapled to string – or see what else you can come up with.  See above about small children and their inability to leave things like this alone… consider carefully before proceeding if this will bother you!






christmas-art-500x333Did your child bring home Christmas art from school, kindy, preschool or Playcentre?  You’ll be amazed at how cool it can look in a frame.  Pinch a frame from something you don’t need hanging up right now, or buy a new, festive one and re-use it each year.  Stick some baubles in complementary colours in jars nearby, and your hall will scream Christmas cheer.





Living rooms

You spend most of your time together here, so it makes sense to have something particularly festive around you.  The tree will probably be the focus of this room – what else can you do?

Christmas-Dining-Table-decorating-ideas04Candles – what responsible parent would have these around?  Me!

I love candles at Christmas time.  You can of course buy ones worth zillions of dollars in every concocted Christmas fragrance possible – but simple, inexpensive tealights can be very effective.  Light them when you’re all in the room, make sure they’re on something that holds them, ensure they’re out of reach from littlies and make it your habit to blow them out when you vacate the room.  Sooo pretty when you turn out the lights and the room is lit by just the tree and a few candles.





stockings-3Hanging mini stockings with little Christmas treats in them is so cute.  In fact, your child will be delighted if they’re allowed to open this stocking on Christmas eve.  Yah!  Find the simple pattern and instructions here.






Nativity Scenes

woodenI adore this set.  It comprises pieces that you can add each day in advent-calendar style, and you make the Nativity scene by Christmas day.  So much fun and such a special thing to bring out for the festive season.  I wonder if I could make something similar, or if I even have the time to do something like this…!?







wooden-nativityHere’s a site that has 25 options for DIY Nativity Scenes.  What a great option for working on a project with older kids.







Christmas decorations

Be they for the tree, or elsewhere: make your own decorations… aim for adding one or two to the collection each year.

homemade-ornaments-for-christmasThere are 26 Homemade Ornaments here, and all are suitable for making with kids.  Find something your family will treasure.








tree+ornamentJust perfect for the child learning to use a needle and thread – gather up your spare buttons (or buy a jar at a jumble sale) and sew them onto cut out Christmas trees.  A simple ribbon around the top makes them hang-worthy.








Other projects

I have been thinking that it would be great to have a way to demonstrate to the children how they’ve grown through Christmases over the years.  Perhaps I would put together a series of photos in frames that come out at Christmas time; pictures of children holding their favourite gift or together in Christmas hats (or similar).  But then it occurred to me I could keep it simpler – personalised window decals.  I wouldn’t even have to buy frames.  Upload a photo, then record the year and other details in the text printed on the decal.  Easy to put up, easy to take down, and the novelty will hopefully stay around if they only appear in December.  I think I’ll do it!

merry treesIf you’re anything like me, you were a scrapbooker in a former (read: before kids could destroy anything you lay out on a surface) life.  You might have pretty papers just sitting in a pile in your basement.  Or you could pick up a pack at The Warehouse or similar store.  This is a great, effective and simple project with school-age kids – turn those papers into an array of lovely trees to put on a mantlepiece, table, or all around to add cheer.  The link below has a template you can work to.






54eb4048c94fb_-_crafts-map-honeycomb-wreath-0114-xlnWreaths can transform a space.  But golly, they can be expensive.  So I just love this idea – upcycle your cardboard tubes of different sizes from everyday household items, cut them and glue them into a wreath shape.  Fill with festive looking cut outs from old Christmas cards, baubles, small pieces of tinsels, stars etc.  Beautiful!

Another idea is simply to create a wreath out of old Christmas cards arranged in the right shape, or photographs of your family from the year stuck together in a similar way.






I’m sure you can find endless inspiration to make your home magical this Christmas.  It’s impossible to do it all – but when you see those little eyes light up, you’ll know what you’ve done is enough.  Enjoy!  And feel free to post comments below with other links or photos of projects your family got involved in this year.

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Sally is the Community Manager here at Kiwi Families. She fills her time with her handsome, busy boys and her handsome, busy husband; trying out new recipes and researching and writing about family life in Aotearoa.

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