For years our family has done a countdown to Christmas using Christmas storybooks. The way we do this is by wrapping our Christmas books and spreading them out under a special Christmas Book Tree. Then, we open one wrapped storybook each day and read it together as a family. While this is special to our family and has become a tradition over the last seven years, I wanted to find a way this year to update this tradition to align more with our children’s ages, 9 and 7 years old. The trick was trying to come up with a way to keep this same tradition in place, but add an educational element to it wrapped up like a little present from Santa’s workshop. Thus, this Christmas Book Tree was born in our household!
The key element in this activity is to select 24 Christmas themed storybooks. If you do not own 24 Christmas themed storybooks you can always search garage sales or Craig’s List for used books or you can borrow 24 Christmas storybooks from your local library (just make sure to not go over the due date at your local library) or you can shorten the number used. Next, you will need an artificial tree that you and your children can pull out of storage every year and look forward to decorating together. This could be a live Christmas tree; however, for our children our tradition is using an artificial tree for our book tree and going to the Christmas tree farm to get a live Christmas tree for our family tree.
The first step to creating this fun project is to assemble your materials. I used the following materials:
- Christmas Tree
- 24 Christmas Books, Wrapped
- 24 Heavy Duty Paper Clips
- 24 Small Ornaments
- 24 Index Cards
- Shower Curtain Hooks (Only two are needed)
- Thick poster board (2 brown, 1 white)
- Hot Glue
- Tree Topper (print out graphics of your choice)
- Craft Scissors
Once your materials are assembled it is time to start from the top of the project and work our way down. Set up your tree like normal and place your lights on it. Our book tree is an artificial tree that is pre-lit so this was a simple matter of my husband and Beck getting the wires lined up and the various parts of the tree placed in the proper order. Once they were done it looked like this:
Next it is time to create the tree topper. Cut out a pattern or design that your family has created on the computer and glue it to one of the brown poster board. Use craft scissors on the edges of the white poster board and glue it between the two brown ones to make it look like an old book with the printable graphics that your family created as cover art. Allow the book to dry for several hours. I used paper clips to help my book dry without bending like this:
Once your tree topper is dry then, use glitter to jazz up your Book Tree Topper like this:
Once the tree topper is dry, flip it over and use hot glue to attach the two shower curtain rings to the back of the tree topper. You do not need to use shower curtain rings, but I found that they worked the best. The goal is to find some way to attach the tree topper to the tree safely. Mine looked like this once it dried:
Now that the tree topper is assembled, it is time to create the book ornaments. Use the index cards to create your clues and use glitter to make them stand out. Each card should be uniquely associated with only one book. On each card you can focus on things such as setting, plot, characters, author, illustrator, etc. from the books. I would wait to see what direction you are inspired to go in with each storybook to try to make sure to keep a wide variety in your clues so that your children can be both engaged and challenged each day after you read the storybook. Once you have all the clues you should also place a family reward on the back of the clue cards. The rewards can be anything you want from watching a Christmas movie together to going caroling to making cookies. The clue cards should look something like this:
Once all your cards are completed it is time to hang them up on the tree. Spread them out as much as you can, but make sure that your children can see them all in a similar fashion as this:
The added objective of the clues is that once you unwrap and read a storybook they must correctly identify the clue that matches up with the storybook they just read. Now that all the cards are hung it is time to wrap all the books and get ready for the fun.
Now that your book tree is all complete it is time to start having fun with it. In our family, each day, beginning on December 1st, the children will take turns opening one wrapped storybook. After I have finished reading the story to the children they will, as a team, head back to the tree to read all of the clues to figure out which clue matches the storybook that we just read. Once they find the clue they will earn the reward on the back for solving the correct clue as Christmas storybook sleuths. Again, the activities that I have selected will range from watching a specific holiday movie, to going to visit Santa Claus, to making hot chocolate, and so on.
I hope that this creative literature enriching project can bring some of our family’s HO-HO-Holiday storybook fun to your family by sharing our Christmas Book Tree Activity Countdown fun this December!