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It's no secret that I LOVE Christmas.

Spending time with family and friends, a few days away from work, exchanging presents and celebrating the real meaning of Christmas.

It's also the only time of the year you get to witness grown men wearing snowman sweaters and fighting back tears as they watch over-sentimental festive movies with the kids.

Christmas is never more special when you have, or work with, young children. 

It's a joy to share in their excitement and anticipation and brings back fond memories of your own childhood.

In the run up to the big day itself we've got a couple of suggestions for festive craft projects and some great books - including those featuring the nativity story - to share within an Early Years childcare setting.

Christmas Crafts

Fingerprint crafts are not only extremely simple but something parents will treasure.

Christmas tree cards are a perfect example. 

Children dip their thumb in green paint, or you could use an ink pad, and create a triangle shape by applying six thumb prints in a straight line for the bottom of the tree, five in a row above, then four, three, two and one until they have a Christmas tree shape.

Then it's just a case of adding two thumbprints in brown paint to make the trunk. 

Jazz up the tree with a bit of sparkle by gluing on sequin 'decorations'.

The finger printing technique can be also be used to great effect to make snowmen and reindeer.

Not only will little ones create impressive personalised cards, they are also honing their fine motor skills and coordination.

Candy Cane Decorations

With just red or white pipe cleaners and a few beads little ones can create an eye-catching candy cane ornament.

Twist a 'knot' at the end of the pipe cleaners and then ask the children to thread on red and white beads in a repeating pattern to the end.

Twist the other end, so the beads stay put, and then bend into a candy cane shape.

While extremely easy, this rewarding craft encompasses repeating patterns along with counting and more fine motor skill practice.

Festive Reading

Usborne Nativity flap book introduces little ones to the Christmas story. Featuring warm and friendly illustrations it focuses on the journey of the Three Wise Men and shepherds as they follow a shining star to a Bethlehem stable.

Jesus' Christmas Party, by Nicholas Allan, is a best-selling interpretation of the nativity story, funny and charming, and told from the grumpy innkeeper's point of view.  When a night of angels, shepherds and bright stars keep him from his sleep, will anything cheer him up?

Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr features everyone's favourite family cat.  Mog is not happy when her house is full of strange noises, peculiar smells and a tree indoors, so she escapes to the roof.  There she stays until, unexpectedly, she returns with a bump.

From cats to dogs...and loveable Kipper, created by Mick Inkpen.  In Kipper's Christmas Eve our hero wonders which is best...Christmas Day or Christmas Eve? Presents? Or expecting presents? Kipper's joined by friends Pig, Arnold and Tiger and manages to give little Arnold his best Christmas Eve ever.