Beautiful vintage illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith
The holidays are upon us, and with them come a lot of moving parts—cooking, cleaning, hosting, feeding, buying, wrapping, giving—the list goes on and on. While the holidays can be wonderful, they can also be stressful—and not just for the adults. With grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins coming and going, children can also get overwhelmed by it all.
A great way to give the kids some much-needed down time is to set up a cozy reading corner nearby but separate from all the action. That way, the little ones can take breaks to read, either on their own or with each other, and older relatives can also sit and read to them. That’s some true quality time!
Even if you already have a well-loved book nook, a little bit of effort can make it new and fresh for December. Setting up a reading corner is simple. Identify a spot in the house that won’t see traffic, or create one by building a small, fort-like area. Be sure to include some big, comfy pillows or bean bag chairs, soothing lighting (think lamps, not overhead), and perhaps a cozy blanket. If you want a little inspiration, take a peek at our Cozy Winter Reading Nook board on Pinterest.
A simple tent canopy can make any comfy chair or canopy into a secluded niche; here's a great DIY Tutorial from MommyMakesThings which would be sweet stamped with little gold stars instead of dots. Add a strand of twinkling lights to make any space even more special! Another fun idea is to turn a closet (perhaps the one the Christmas decorations came out of?) into a reading nook like these on Apartment Therapy. Whatever you choose, it needn't be elaborate, or permanent.
Now - how about stocking that nook with some brilliant books?
Before the festivities begin, plan a trip to the library with the kids so they can select books that interest them and books they think their relatives might enjoy.
Holiday classics like The Night Before Christmas (we love the Tasha Tudor version) are a hit with young and old. Whatever your family's go-to holiday favorite is, make a notation in the front cover each year of who reads it to whom - your great grandchildren will delight to see they are reading the book that you read to their parents!
If you need to muster enthusiasm for reading, one of my favorite ideas is to make a Reading Advent Calendar or Holiday Countdown Calendar. Find, borrow, (or check out of the library) 25 books and wrap each one in paper. Number each wrapped book 1-25 and place them in a pretty basket in the reading nook. Each day, kids will get to unwrap a book to read with a loved one - a basket of "presents" is hard to resist - and there are few gifts that will serve them as well as the gift of reading! Here some great holiday-themed book choices to add to your collection:
The Snowy Day (brilliant illustrations, great for very littles)
The Secret Staircase (my favorite!)
With all these options for quiet time and quality time, it’s easy to forget the TV—a reading corner will reinforce family connections and forge new ones, which is, after all, what the holidays are all about.
Oh - one final thought - in Iceland, there is a tradition of giving and receiving books on Christmas Eve. Then everyone goes to bed to read with a cup of hot chocolate. Sounds just perfect to me!