Christmas is a magical time for us all – but especially for children. If only we could bottle the innocent joy and excitement they display on Christmas Eve and take a sip from time to time. At the heart of their giddiness is a visit from Santa Claus and the profusion of gifts. So what toys will fill children’s hearts with gladness this festive season?

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Budkins at Le Toy Van

Budkins are, as the company’s web site spells out, “collectable, fun, bendy wooden characters” that live and work in a variety of equally collectable wooden buildings. Fireman Ted works in the Fire Station, Emily can be found at the Appleyard Riding School and Emily is a nurse at the hospital. And that’s to name just three. We think these will delight the younger children in your world, as will the castles, arks, dolls’ houses and Honeybake kitchens on the Le Toy Van website at letoyvan.com.

Charlie Bears

If you are looking for a traditional teddy bear for a child to love for a lifetime, we believe there’ll be a Charlie Bear to win your heart. Prices run from around the £20 mark to upwards of £150 for the more exclusive designer bears. Visit charliebears.com or magpies-gifts.co.uk.

Box World Adventures

You’ve heard of up cycling? TV presenter Kirsty Allsopp is a big fan. She made a whole Channel 4 series out of the concept. And very successful it was, too. These Box World playtime craft kits ‘up cycle’ everyday boxes – like cereal packets and milk cartons – into buildings, vehicles and objects from cities around the world using patterns and stickers. Suzy Ultman is the clever illustrator. There are 15 projects per pack for around £15. Great value, great fun.

Stage and Play: Dinosaurs!

Children love dinosaurs, so we expect they will be rather fond of this three-dimensional diorama from author Bob Barner. It includes double-sided characters, scenery and backdrops. The dinosaurs slot simply into grooves on the top of the box. Just add a child’s imagination. Retail price: £13.

Vilac Wooden Toys

Many quality stores, garden centres and online retailers stock a winning selection of durable Vilac toys, including the fabulous Silver Metal Vintage Car for around £95, Vilac Activity Farm Set for £32 and Vilac Pink Dolls’ Pram for £49. Check out giftsforlittleones.co.uk.

Santa’s Coaster

A charming Christmas Eve gift comes courtesy of Juliet Reeves Designs through notonthehighstreet.com. Santa’s Milk Ceramic Coaster for £10 reads: ‘To Santa. Milk Here – or Whisky.’ Each coaster can be personalised.

Go Retro with Hedgehog

The company is Hedgehog, the website is hedgehogshop.co.uk and the toys are robust and retro. We love the Pull Along Cart for £35 in bright red. This is ideal for small children to load up their 
favourite toys and wheel the beloved goodies through the house – or the garden.

Beloved Festive Books

“The Nights Before Christmas” is a superb hardback collection of 24 Christmas stories, songs and poems. Acclaimed illustrator books grotto children_214448560Tony Ross, renowned teddy book grotto_154857653 for the artwork in the Horrid Henry series, breathes life into each page. Inside the book you will find such delights as Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Fir Tree”, an extract from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, the carol “Good King Wenceslas” and so much more. It is a collection to treasure.

“Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Stories” will warm the hearts of children everywhere. This festive collection in hardback, with splendid illustrations by Andrew Grey, is charming – from building a house in the snow to the arrival of mysterious Christmas letters.

We love all things Gruffalo so how about combining copies of the original book and “The Gruffalo’s Child” with a cuddly character from the stories, like the squirrel for around £10. Gruffalo Junior embarks on his adventure in the deep snow, giving this a suitably festive feel.

“Ten Little Elves” is new for Christmas 2017. The story sees ten little elves set off on a mission to rescue Christmas. Find out what the elves do when they meet a growling polar bear, a yowling yeti and a fearsome Ice Queen. Count from ten to one, and back again, with this festive rhyming romp from the creators of the award-winning bestseller “Ten Little Pirates”.

See a selection of festive books for children on our Storybooks page in Ed’s Grotto.

Books for Bedtime…Books for Anytime

Here at How to Christmas we love children’s books and delight in celebrating beautiful young minds and the imagination that springs from them. Add a few books to that Christmas list this year and spread the wealth.

“The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree” are tales from there land of the Moomins. A new illustrated gift edition of the “The Invisible Child”, a book that includes a second classic Moomins story from Tove Jansson entitled “The Fir Tree”, is a unique collaboration between the Moomins, the charity Oxfam and the book store Waterstones. At least £4 of every £4.99 copy sold will support Oxfam projects that help women and girls around the world escape from poverty, abuse and neglect. Moomin tales are a celebration of humanity, kindness and moments of simple joy.

“The Milk of Dreams” by Leonora Carrington is on our list of stocking fillers. Morality tales and children go hand in kid’s glove. Sinister versions have been deliciously dished up by Roald Dahl and Hilaire Belloc and many stories by the Brothers Grimm were aptly grim. Author Carrington, who would have turned 100 in 2017, painted the walls of her house in Mexico with curious creatures from stories she told her sons at bedtime. The tales were collected in a notebook “Leche del Sueno” and have now become a fiendishly enticing children’s book: “The Milk of Dreams”. Our quirky favourite is the story of “Headless John”, who has wings instead of ears and whose “head flew out the window”. His Mum sticks it back on with chewing gum, but she sticks it on the wrong way round. It’s all a bit crazy, absurd and distinctly odd, but many children will lap it up.

“Oi Cat!” is the deliciously funny follow-up to the humorous and adorable “Oi Frog!” and “Oi Dog!” from the award-winning Kes Gray and Jim Field. All three should have a home in children’s bedrooms across the land. Adults will like them, too. Each story has rhymes aplenty, numbers with which to conjure and a punchline very much worth the wait. Next up in the series: “Oi Goat!”

“Each Peach Pear Plum” books are based on favourite nursery rhymes and fairytale characters and are superb for tots. “Peepo”, by the same illustrator-author team of Janet and Allan Ahlberg, has a hole in each page of the book to give little ones a hint of the picture to come.

“Guess How Much I Love You” is a timeless classic. The snuggle version is so wonderfully soft to the touch – perfect in combination with a Little Nutbrown Hare Rattle for a new arrival to the family this Christmas.

“Billy and the Minpins” is a classic tale by the legendary Roald Dahl that has been re-titled and newly released with illustrations by Quentin Blake. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that Blake has illustrated a new Dahl hero. The title reflects the author’s original name for the book and puts Billy on the same footing as Matilda, Charlie and James. The story tells how Billy saves tiny tree-dwelling people from the scary Gruncher.

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Baby Christmas

There are special tree decorations, ornaments, clothes and other gifts specially made with the baby population in mind across many online outlets, stores and garden centres. The choice is plentiful, if not overwhelming. In particular, Baby’s First Christmas memorabilia is hugely popular.

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Looking for a first port of call? We recommend The White Company and Mamas & Papas.

The White Company

White, white all around and a collection so delightful. The White Company delivers some serious ‘aaah’ factor in its baby department and gifts certain to thrill. The Little White Company is a little box of baby treasures. Check out the full range at thewhitecompany.com.

Mamas & Papas

 The key word for Mamas & Papas’ Christmas collection is magical: winning Santa sacks and stockings, teddy bears and a host of gifts – from baubles to photo albums – bearing the phrase “My 1st Christmas”. Check out mamasandpapas.com.

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Stocking Fillers

See our Christmas Stocking Gifts page under the Gifts & Wrapping category for a wealth of gift suggestions for children’s stockings, bags and sacks.

Christmas Eve Boxes

Christmas Eve has always been the most exciting night of the year. The giddy, sleepless anticipation of a visit from Father Christmas and his reindeer is a feeling rarely replicated. The excitement only grows when thoughts turn to what gifts he might leave beneath the tree. We at How to Christmas love the idea of fuelling that childhood glee with the introduction of a wooden Christmas Eve box filled with treats and essential goods for the night before Christmas. There’s a splendid selection at notonthehighstreet.com, many of which can be personalised. You could also buy your own plain box and paint and personalise it yourself – be it a solid wooden one with a hinged lid, a cardboard box with a lid or an open crate. The boxes should contain a selection of products and gifts to be opened and enjoyed amid the Christmas Eve festivities. The size of box – and indeed your budget – will obviously determine the kinds of goods you can include.

Here are some How to Christmas ideas for inclusion in each box:

The book entitled “The Night Before Christmas – make it an annual tradition to read this marvellous poem every Christmas Eve.

Christmas mug, hot chocolate sachets and mini marshmallows – for that delicious, warming, soothing bedtime drink.

Candy Canes – to stir your hot chocolate and then eat.

Christmas-themed pyjamas – got to have the new PJs at Christmas…it’s practically the law.

Reindeer food – you can buy small bags of glittery oats that have a poem and silver charm keepsake attached. Don’t forget a carrot as well.

Tree decoration – a treasured trinket to dangle from the tree on Christmas Eve.

Santa key – a piece of sculpted metal magic to allow Father Christmas entry to your home, whether or not you have a chimney.

Mince pie plate – a plate with a festive design to lay before Father Christmas and on which his mince pie can sit.

Christmas activity book – to keep youngsters occupied if the excitement is all getting to be a bit too much.

Glitter bags – mini bags of edible glitter to sprinkle outside your house to guide the reindeer in flight.

Christmas card – to leave a thank you note for Father Christmas.