We've talked before on these pages about how the excitement surrounded by Christmas can create some very hyperactive and sleepless children. However, the flip side to this is that the festive season sometimes ends up feeling a little bit boring, especially in the last week or so before the big day arrives.
Mums and dads across the country will know how it goes: little ones are frustrated that the jolly St Nick hasn't been yet and doesn't seem to be scheduled for arrival in the foreseeable future; adults are frantically trying to get all of their to-do list ticked off before hordes of relatives descend on them; and to cap it all off, school, playgroup and kids' clubs end for the holidays, leaving no structure to anyone's days whatsoever.
It's really only a matter of time before someone throws a paddy (it could easily be Mum, who's probably quickly approaching the limit to her patience), starts rooting for their presents, or simply utters that dreaded phrase: 'I'm bored!'
This is the last thing any family wants when the last of the preparations aren't finished. So, to ensure you retain your sanity and children have maximum fun without getting under the feet, try some of these festive-themed anti-boredom solutions.
Get creative with salt dough
You can never have too many Christmas tree ornaments and even homemade gifts to give away to grandparents, so make a swift batch of salt dough, get the biscuit cutters out and ask children to create you whatever they like. The recipe is easy - two parts flour, one part salt, one part warm water - and it doesn't matter too much if some 'accidentally' gets eaten. This should give you chance to wrap some more presents.
Make Christmas Day place cards
Okay, so you might not actually need these unless your gatherings are Downton Abbey-esque in terms of formality, but kids love making place cards and adults will appreciate the work that's gone into them. A few craft materials or even just crayons will suffice and the time taken could allow you to peel some festive vegetables.
Produce a Christmas play
With most children having appeared in Nativity plays at school you'd think they would be bored of amateur dramatics, but you'd be surprised. All you need to do is set up a cardboard 'theatre' (or a stage area), give them the brief of writing a new Christmas production and performing it on Christmas Day afternoon, and they'll be occupied for hours.
Start a Christmas scrapbook
Most families have digital cameras and printers these days and older children usually like taking photos, so make the most of this by giving them a blank exercise book, handing out a camera and asking them to document their Christmas holidays this year. Not only will it get them on a mission, but it could also create a lovely keepsake; sometimes this time of year can be so busy that photos are forgotten altogether, which is a shame.
Tidy up like Mary Poppins
If you've used up all the really good ideas, then you could always get your offspring to help you out with household jobs that need doing before the big day by convincing them the tasks are fun, just like Mary Poppins. Show them how comical a feather duster can be and they'll have swept the embarrassingly dusty banister rail in no time, while a competition can be made between siblings over who can box up clutter the fastest so it can go away into the attic until January - just make sure it's not breakable if speed is of the essence. Your home will be tidier without you having to lift a finger.
Any of these tasks should help to ensure family harmony as Christmas gets ever-closer, so why not give them a try?