Help your little ones get into the festive mood by introducing some themed reads into their collection!
Story time is often children’s (and their parents’!) favourite time of the day, but sometimes it may feel like you’re reading your offspring the same books over and over again. One way to prevent boredom is to give the bookshelf a quick refresh every month, by adding or taking away some items and saving them for later. Of course another way to inject some more life into the bookshelf is to add seasonal or themed reads and, with Christmas on the horizon, there’s no time like the present! So here is a list of Sassy Mama’s favourite Christmas books for children (Disclaimer: You can’t hold us responsible if any of these books cause excitement levels to reach fever pitch!). The ages we have listed are just a suggestion and don’t have to be strictly adhered to. It may vary on the reading ability of your child or indeed what mum or dad is in the mood to read aloud!
Best Christmas Books For Babies And Toddlers
“Dear Santa” by Rod Campbell
This colourful offering from the author of the ever-popular “Dear Zoo” (which is still going strong after being originally published in 1982) will appeal to even the youngest of children. They’ll love being able to lift the flaps as Santa struggles to find the perfect gift and there’s even a sensory surprise on the last page! It’s a great way to encourage toddlers to name each present and talk about the colours and shapes on the wrapping paper.
“That’s Not My Elf” by Fiona Watt
Most parents will be familiar with the much-loved “That’s Not My….” range of books. But did you know there are also several Christmas titles in the series, including Santa and a Snowman? We love them all, but if we had to pick a favourite we’d go with these elves. The touchy-feely patches (with fluffy scarves, shiny boots and soft hats all waiting to be discovered) will help develop sensory awareness in babies and toddlers.
“The Christmas Bear” by Ian Whybrow
This is another lift-the-flap offering sure to hold the attention of little ones as they wait to discover if Bear (who got left behind in the workshop) will manage to catch up with Santa’s sleigh in time for Christmas morning. It’s written in rhyme and has illustrations by Axel Scheffler, of “The Gruffalo” fame, so you know the pictures won’t disappoint either! Older children will enjoy the added extras, with wheels to turn and tabs to pull.
“Bear Stays Up For Christmas” by Karma Wilson
This board book also features a bear, but this is a bear who usually misses Christmas because he is hibernating. So this year his forest friends make it their mission to keep him awake no matter what. At its heart, this is a sweet story about friendship and giving. Make sure to buy the board book version as little hands will love being able to hold it and turn the pages themselves, as they wait to discover if the bear makes it until morning.
“Kipper’s Snowy Day” by Mick Inkpen
Kipper the dog books are always a hit in our houses and this seasonal offering is no exception. Follow Kipper as he rushes outside to play in the snow making snowdogs and letting snowflakes melt on his tongue. Although snow is extremely rare in Hong Kong, you can use this book as a talking point to discuss winter weather or to explain to children the type of weather that their friends or relatives in other countries are experiencing.
“Father Christmas Needs A Wee” by Nicholas Allen
As the title suggests, this is a rather tongue-in-cheek book about how Father Christmas needs the toilet as a result of eating and drinking all the goodies left out for him. The problem is, he’s forgotten his house key! Toddlers (and older children) will love the silly humour and rhyme, plus it’s a great way to teach them numbers without them even realising they’re learning.
Best Christmas Books For Children Aged 3 To 8 Years
“The Jolly Christmas Postman” by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
This is an oldie but a goodie. It’s a totally magical book that you and your kids will never tire of reading. Join the Jolly Postman on his Christmas Eve rounds to see which familiar nursery rhyme characters he has post for. Part of the charm lies in discovering what’s inside the envelopes being delivered, which include a game for Red Riding Hood and a jigsaw for Humpty Dumpty (just make sure you factor time in for your child to complete these activities if you’re reading it at bedtime). On the cover it’s described as “first-class” and, despite the pun, we agree!
“Mog’s Christmas” by Judith Kerr
You may well be familiar with Mog the cat books from your own childhood and, in our opinion, they’ve lost none of their appeal over the years. Here we learn about how Christmas might look through a cat’s eyes, as the house becomes a hive of activity and a strange tree is dragged indoors. Mog finds it all a bit much and decides to take some time out by escaping to the roof. Children will be captivated as they wait to find out whether or not the cat can be coaxed down!
Sassy Mama tip: We recommended checking out Twinkl’s excellent free online “Christmas Cat” teaching resources for children after reading this book. Our favourites are the role-play masks and the pencil control worksheets.
“Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers” by Lynley Dodd
This is another Christmas story about a cat, but this one features the slightly more mischievous Slinky Malinki (from the Hairy Maclary series). This funny rhyming story is sure to amuse, as the temptation of the Christmas tree proves too much for Slinky Malinki to resist. This is a lively and light-hearted read that’s sure to bring a smile to the faces of the whole family.
“Alfie’s Christmas” by Shirley Hughes
For those who grew up in the UK, it’s likely you’ll be familiar with Shirley Hughes’ much-loved characters of Alfie and his little sister, Annie Rose. These books have stood the test of time and are just as enjoyable for adults as they are for kids. This one features advent calendars, trees and carols, so may well conjure up memories of your own childhood Christmases. Children will love the simple story and the beautiful illustrations that accompany it.
“Stick Man” by Julia Donaldson
Julia Donaldson books tend not to need much introduction, so let’s just say that you can expect Stick Man to be a hit on your bookshelf! Follow Stick Man on an adventure through the seasons to see whether he will make it back to the family tree in time for Christmas. At its core is a lovely, heartwarming message about the importance of family. Just don’t blame us when you get the rhyming words stuck in your head!
Sassy Mama tip: There’s a great Stick Man website where you can download activity sheets and don’t forget to check out the film on iTunes too.
“One Snowy Night” by Nick Butterworth
This winter’s tale is from the Percy the Park Keeper series and is a firm favourite in many households. It’s all about kind-hearted Percy trying to make sure the animals he cares for are kept safe and warm one very snowy night. It may not specifically be about Christmas, but it’s a very sweet read for this time of the year. As an added bonus, lots of versions contain a pull-out poster so your child can look for hidden items in Percy’s house.
“The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore
Most of us can probably recite the opening line of this classic Clement C. Moore poem without having to give it too much thought:
“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”
You’ll find many different versions of this book, but we love the beautiful illustrations by Richard Johnson that accompany the verse in this one. Whichever you choose, this is the perfect story to read on Christmas Eve when excitement and anticipation is building. It appeals to all ages so try reading it aloud to younger children or letting older children read it themselves.
Best Christmas Books For Older Children
“The Snowman” by Michael Morpurgo
Speaking of Christmas classics, we had to feature The Snowman. But rather than the original Raymond Briggs picture book version, we’ve chosen to highlight this Michael Morpurgo one which is perfect for older readers. It was released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original and stays loyal to its namesake, but reimagines it as a novel. As you would expect from Morpurgo, it’s beautifully written and well considered and deserves to become a classic in its own right.
“Enid Blyton’s Christmas Stories” by Enid Blyton
With 25 Christmas short stories to choose from, young readers will love taking themselves off to bed with this book. It’s a great way to introduce Enid Blyton’s inimitable storytelling (The Famous Five and Malory Towers anyone?) to the next generation and is sure to have them hooked from start to finish. Our bet is they’ll race through more than just one of these tales a night. 11 of the chapters are based around the same family and set about explaining how certain Christmas traditions came about, so there’s also a bit of a learning element to it.
“Letters From Father Christmas” by J.R.R.Tolkien
This great book gives you a glimpse into the mind of the man who brought us The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, and the lengths he would go to for his family. When Tolkien’s children were young he wrote to them every year in the guise of Father Christmas and detailed exactly what was happening in the North Pole at the time. From lost reindeer to a polar bear falling through the roof, the tales are entertaining and vividly described. You’ll notice he tailors the tone and the content as his children get older. It’s a lovely book for young readers to savour and enjoy.
“The Young Oxford Book Of Christmas Poems” edited by Michael Harrison and Simon Stuart-Clark
This book is tricky to get hold of so you may have to satisfy yourself with a second-hand version but if you can track it down for the kids, it’s well worth it. It’s an anthology of poems from famous authors such as Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Christina Rosetti and covers all elements of Christmas from the advent season through to the new year. Expect elements of humour and celebration, amidst some more thought-provoking pieces.
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