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Santa excitement tends to reach its peak on Christmas Eve. If you struggle to stop the kids bubbling over on the 24th, a Christmas Eve box might just keep them occupied on the sleigh bells countdown.
What is a Christmas Eve box?
A Christmas Eve box is a box full of small, festive presents that’s gifted the night before Christmas. This is a tradition that has suddenly grown over the last few years and is likely inspired by the fact that, in many European countries, presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.
It’s often also seen as an extension of the Advent calendar – we all remember the anticipation of the double door on number 24, after all. Christmas Eve boxes are a bit like that: a prize for your patience all through December.
What is the point of a Christmas Eve box?
A Christmas Eve box is not compulsory and lots of parents feel like there’s enough going on at Christmas already. But there are also many good reasons to join in with this modern festive practice if you feel up to it.
Firstly, it’s something that you can hopefully become a tradition year after year. Secondly, on a more practical note, it offers a bit of distraction on a day when most children can barely contain themselves, and parents have a to-do list as long as Santa’s Naughty and Nice lists put together.
Finally, it also helps in calming the Christmas mania. Waiting for the big present-opening of the 25th can be really tough, especially on younger kids, so receiving a few presents on Christmas Eve can help take the pressure off.
What should I put in a Christmas Eve box?
Traditionally, a Christmas Eve box contains things like festive pyjamas or a Christmas DVD. The idea is to get them ready for bed early and keep them busy – rather than them running rampant until 11pm, high on the promise of Santa – while you get on with heroically knocking festive jobs off your chores list.
But a Christmas Eve box can include anything you like, from craft projects and Christmas books for bedtime to more quirky ideas that may provide inspiration for a new Christmas tradition.
Here are the best Christmas Eve box ideas kids of all ages.
Christmas Eve box ideas for babies
1. Plate for Santa's snacks
“We have a wooden box we use every year. In it goes the personalised Santa plate we’ve had for years, the 'magic key' we’ve had for years and the believe bell we’ve had for years!”
It’s never too early to start leaving something out for Santa and older babies will certainly enjoy the magic of finding Rudolph’s nibbled carrot in the morning. We like this wooden board, which won’t smash when it’s inevitably dropped.
2. Christmas tree decoration
“I do Christmas Eve boxes. I make a poster of what Christmas movie we are watching that night, and give matching PJs and a new tree ornament, usually personalised.”
Children of almost any age will enjoy seeing their very own decoration on the Christmas tree. A new bauble or ornament each year in their Christmas Eve box means that, by the time they leave home (perish the thought!), they’ll also have a good collection.
3. Festive sleepsuit
“For a very first Christmas, I'd be inclined to get a nice festive sleepsuit or outfit for the big day.”
Everyone needs a special Christmas outfit, no matter their age. And, let’s face it, there are only so many years you’ll get away with dressing your baby up like a Christmas pudding, so you might as well make the most of it while you can.
4. Bath toy
“I’d suggest festive rubber ducks or a bath toy.”
Make bath- and bedtime a little more festive on the night before Christmas. Whether it's a rubber duck dressed as Father Christmas or one of these best bath toys as recommended by parents, this is a gift that's sure to bring some Christmas cheer to the bathtub.
5. Soft plush toy
“I would invest in a soft toy that he can keep.”
A furry bedtime toy is not only comforting for a child, but is also a friend that they can babble at while waiting for Rudolph. You could go festive with a plush toy that they have out every Christmas Eve, or choose one that might become a more day-to-day fixture.
Christmas Eve box ideas for toddlers
6. Christmas touch-and-feel book
“For a Christmas Eve box, I would recommended That’s Not My Snowman or any of the other Christmas editions of the That’s Not My series.”
A Christmas book with a festive story they can interact with is the ideal Christmas Eve box choice for children who love stories at bedtime.
7. A Christmas DVD
“A DVD of a short Christmas film, eg The Snowman or Stick Man. They're only 30 minutes so easy for little ones to watch.”
Sitting down for a Christmas film is a lovely way to spend Christmas Eve. But remember to keep it short for little ones, whether that's with a Christmas animation or Christmas special from one of their favourite characters. There’s plenty of time for Home Alone in years to come.
8. A key to let Santa in
“We have a 'magic key' so Santa can get in because we don't have a chimney.”
If you don’t have a chimney (or even if you do and just fancy the fun), a 'magic key' to let Santa in is a must for your Christmas Eve box and will soon become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.
9. Reindeer food
“Add a little tube of bird seed – I just took the sticker off an empty pot of oregano! – for reindeer food.”
Believe it or not, you can buy special reindeer food for children to sprinkle outside to attract Rudolph, but it often contains glitter, which is no good for the environment (and makes a helluva mess). A little bit of seed in an organza bag labelled ‘Tasty Reindeer Grub’ will go down just as well and the robins will thank you too.
10. Christmas PJs
“We’ve been doing this a few years. The only new thing they get (kids are 14, 12 and six) are Boden PJs – not Christmas-themed, so worn all year."
A pair of new festive jammies will encourage kids to get ready for bed on the most wonderful night of the year. If you’re lucky, they’ll agree to settle down in front of a DVD and an early dinner at 4pm in their nightwear, which will make an easy transfer up to bed later.
Christmas Eve box ideas for young children
11. Baking set
“A baking set is good so they can make something to put out for Santa.”
Making Christmas tree biscuits or a few mince pies for Santa is a favourite way to pass Christmas Eve and, by bedtime, the house will smell deliciously festive too. Their own baking set will make this extra special, including a variety of baking utensils.
12. Blanket to snuggle under
“Places like IKEA and Amazon sell small fleece blankets in nice colours and patterns that could be folded up small.”
A cosy throw or blanket is the perfect accompaniment to a festive film. It also fills a Christmas Eve box nicely if you want to avoid using shredded paper or other forms of gift wrap.
13. Craft kit
“Include a craft set, like Paint Your Own Baubles.”
Christmas Eve boxes are mostly about distracting the kids and keeping them busy, so a craft kit is always a good shout.
14. Festive picture book
“Always a Christmas-themed book – Mog's Christmas this year.”
Choose carefully because whichever Christmas picture book you pick might well be demanded every Christmas until they’re 18 (or even beyond). We think you can’t go wrong with the classic Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr where Mog escapes onto the roof.
15. New bedding
“We always do a new duvet set, PJs and book.”
Whether you go festive or pick an all-year-round duvet set, brand-new covers to snuggle under will make the wait for Santa go much faster.
Christmas Eve box ideas for tweens
16. Chocolate or sweets
“Just PJs, a book and sweets or chocolate. This year it’s Harry Potter PJs, Quidditch Through The Ages and a chocolate frog.”
Christmas is all about stuffing your face with sweet treats. Whether it's chocolate coins or a colourful candy cane, why not let the kids start a day early?
17. Gingerbread house kit
“What do you put in a Christmas Eve box? A gingerbread house!”
Any Great British Bake Off fan will be more than happy to spend the day putting together and decorating this show-stopping gingerbread house. We reckon it should give you a clear three hours. Worth every penny.
18. Jigsaw puzzle
“We put in a family puzzle which we all do in shifts over the Christmas break.”
Something that will amuse the whole family is always a good idea for a Christmas Eve box. This way, you and your children can get a good start on it before the mountain of presents is opened and you’ve lost their attention for at least the next fortnight. Jigsaws have gone super-cool this year so there are plenty to choose from that will appeal to all ages.
“Over the past few years, the pyjamas my children have had on Christmas Eve have been: Spiderman onesies, Stormtrooper onesies, Marvel superheroes onesies, Harry Potter soft velvet hoodie and lounge pants."
A onesie is a bit more grown up than PJs, and every Christmas Eve box needs something cosy and comforting.
Price: From £9.89
20. Sprudels (yes, sprudels!)
“I will definitely include sprudels and bath foam. They're very popular for a Christmas Eve bath.”
If you’ve not heard of one of these, a sprudel is essentially a bath bomb that won’t forever stain your tub (praise be). They’re aimed at younger children, but older ones will love watching them fizz, dissolve and release a little bean character as they colour the bath water.
Christmas Eve box ideas for teenagers
“I'm thinking some nice toiletries this year.”
We all like to smell sweet for Santa. If your teen is a fan of an unfeasibly long bath or shower, treat them to something delicious-smelling for their Christmas Eve soak.
22. Hot chocolate spoon
“Hot chocolate spoons – the lump-of-chocolate-on-a-wooden-spoon type usually. I get a different one for everybody.”
A more grown-up take on the classic hot chocolate kit, this budget-friendly addition will ensure chocoholics are satisfied on Christmas Eve.
23. Scented candle
“I've got Christmas scented candles this year.”
Properly posh candles go down a storm with teens keen to Christmasify their own space and St. Eval candles smell particularly beautiful.
24. Board game
“Mine are teenagers now, but we still do a family Christmas Eve box. These days it's new PJs and a board game to play while watching a film.”
A board game in front of the fire while you await the arrival of the man in red is a very pleasant way to spend an evening with teens. A game that gets them talking really makes you remember what lovely young people they are too (when you’re not picking up three weeks’ worth of breakfast bowls off their bedroom floor).
25. A Christmas movie from your canon
“As a family, we always have to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I know it’s ridiculously cheesy, but we've always watched it together, so it's part of our family tradition now.”
When your years of watching The Snowman or Elf have passed and your kids hit their teens, now is the time to crack out the properly funny Christmas movies – the ones with a few adult jokes in. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a festive must-watch. Next year? Die Hard.
How to make a Christmas Eve box
Your Christmas Eve box can be as lavish or as simple as you like. A simple shoe box, covered in festive paper will do the job admirably, but if you want it to last for years, you could buy a plain wooden lidded box or apple crate and then paint and stencil it, or decorate it in other ways.
If your art skills are limited, things like Scrabble tiles and stickers are an easy way to personalise the box. But remember that it doesn’t even have to be a box: a sack, basket or similar will work just as well and can be reused year after year.
- Grab an empty box, sack or basket
- Decorate it on the inside and outside or personalise it with your child's name
- Fill it with a handful of thoughtful presents
Where can I buy a Christmas Eve box?
If you're not the crafty type and would rather buy a ready-made Christmas Eve box than decorate and fill one yourself, you'll find them on sale almost everywhere, including popular supermarkets like Tesco and ASDA.
And if you want one to embellish, a craft supplier like Hobbycraft sell wooden boxes and hampers that you can add your own stickers, stencils and more to.
How we chose our recommendations
We surveyed Mumsnet HQ parents for their best Christmas Eve box ideas, and scoured the internet to find the most creative and Christmassy buys as well as the most fun and festive boxes themselves.
We then trawled the Mumsnet forums for ideas about how to fill Christmas Eve boxes for every age group and whittled those down to five of the best ideas in each age category.
All you need to do now is sit down with a sherry and wait for the big guy in red to arrive from the North Pole. Oh, and peel four million sprouts, wrap 63,000 cubic square feet of presents, locate the trestle table, buy the emergency Aunt Bessie's and finish writing your Christmas cards.
Why you should trust us
Mumsnetters and Mumsnet HQ have lots of experience in making Christmas special on a budget. We’ve seen what goes down well in Christmas Eve boxes and what piques less interest, and we’ve put together more reindeer hot chocolates than you could shake a candy cane at.
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