Thursday 20 November 2014

Waterstones The Place to Go For Children's Christmas Books and Advent Calendars Without Chocolate

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser: Waterstones. All opinions are mine alone.
Christmas Books Shopping List for a 4 year old boy
I went shopping to Waterstones yesterday for Christmas books for Aaron, with advent more than Christmas itself in mind.

I didn't necessarily plan on buying 5 books, but I did, which meant I ticked every single one of the items on the shopping list I had in my head:
Waterstones Christmas Books Haul including pop up advent calendar
  • 1. Something for advent. A beautiful pop up calendar Dream Snow by Eric Carle (the author of  the much loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar) became the thing that is going to steer our advent (with the help of our Card Factory ELF). We've done chocolate ones in the past, and all that happens is Aaron is so enjoying the chocolate that all windows are opened in 1-2 days. I have bought a chocolate one but it is hidden in the cupboard. THIS pop up calendar will be our thing this year. Start of some *new* beautiful family traditions, and the start of making advent something really special and *magical* for Aaron. Hopefully Mummy and Daddy will enjoy the magic too. I can't find it online, but then you can experience the festive feel instore if you go shopping to buy it the traditional way like I did. It's hard to give you an idea of the size of it, but hopefully you can see that the tree is taller than "my" ;-) Faraway Tree paperback. Yeah, it blew Aaron away, and there's a Santa next to it which is again quite large, but slightly smaller.
  • A wish list book. Stick Man by the people who brought you The Gruffalo - Julia Donalson (Author) and Alex Scheffler (Illustrator) - has been on our wish list since the beginning of September (I must confess I had not heard of it before). I knew it was just right for these festive times and just had to have it. We read it last night and Aaron said "there's the fox from The Gruffalo". The Illustrator has made him identical which was incredibly cute. It's almost like seeing an actor from a show in something else LOL. It also taught me that when Aaron is listening to a book, he is taking everything in, visually too if it is a picture/illustrated book.
  • Something I (Mummy) would like to read. The Magic Faraway Tree Collection - Three Books in 1 by Enid Blyton. This was an easy decision. I adored The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton when I was little so I was thrilled to see Waterstones selling a 3 in 1 book.
  • An educational book. I got a "Fun With Phonics" pack that contains 5 books and a CBeebies DVD so that I could do phonics with Aaron. Not necessarily my best idea but we'll get there. It's for ages 3 and up and is superb value at 9.99 pounds. Aaron's never been a huge CBeebies fan, but if your child is, then this is incredibly GREAT value for money.
  • A bedtime story book. For this I got The Puffin Book of Stories for Five Year Olds by Wendy Cooling and Steve Cox. Last night we read the short story about the elephant. The stories are short enough that they are perfect for bedtime, but detailed enough that the concentrating little one gets exhausted from taking it all in. PERFECT to get a busy mind to focus and doze off ;-)
The reason I bought more than I intended and spent more than I had planned is because firstly it is SO festive in there. There is a buzz from both staff and fellow customers. Two, the store is merchandised SO beautifully and three, there are so many good ideas in there like the advent calendar, which Aaron and I ADORE. The proof that he is that bit older and wiser now, is I did manage to convince him not to open any windows, and he understands that he can't until 1st December, although he doesn't fully appreciate how far away that day is.
Dream Snow pop up advent calendar by Eric Carle
Aaron's favourite thing out of the 5 things I bought was by far the advent calendar. He adores opening and closing it (that's to make it pop up, NOT the doors themselves). LOVES the Santa and the tree! The advent calendar had another fan after Aaron went to bed. Our Elf was snooping trying to see what's inside the 5 gift (pop-up) boxes that surround the tree:
Card Factory Elf investigates the advent calendar
There's currently nothing in them, but I have a plan. The Elf himself will be tasked with putting little gifts for Aaron in those boxes during advent. Because the brilliant thing is, not only do they pop up and surround the tree but they also have little lids on them that ACTUALLY open!

The Elf was quick to catch up with Santa once he'd checked out the calendar and the gift boxes it includes. They needed to have a good chinwag to make plans for advent and Christmas:
Pop Up Santa from Eric Carle's Advent Calendar and our elf
I did the shopping in Waterstones yesterday while Aaron was at school. When I collected him, I told him about the books as we cycled home. I began by saying "I bought lots of things for you today" to which he bombarded me with questions as we cycled: "is it toys?" "is it something to eat?" "WHAT is it?"

When I eventually gave in and said books, he said "no, not books, books are boring" which is an odd thing for a boy who adores reading, and has a huge book collection to say. Anyway, we were near home when he said it, and I knew the advent calendar would soon change that, but in actual fact he came across the phonics book first as he went straight to the TV when home, and as I'd been watching the DVD he found it. He sat on my knee and we read one of the books and watched the DVD but I think it'll need to be one for the weekends or holidays as it reminded him too much of school I think. Don't get me wrong, he is extremely happy at school and adores both of his Teachers, BUT after a long day, it's nice for all of us to unwind, no matter our age! Hey?!??!

Shortly after, we went to the advent calendar, and just as I'd hoped, he ADORED it. At first he was in awe of it, and then he just couldn't stop exploring it.
Large pop up advent calendar by Eric Carle
He must have opened and closed it 50 times last night, but that won't be nearly as exciting as the 1st December when we actually get to open a window AND, it isn't chocolate that is inside...

*Here's the magic *

...but rather each window contains a decoration for the large pop-up tree. By the big day 25th December Aaron's cardboard tree will be fully decorated. I know he'll have so much fun doing that, and it will mark the beginning of each day. Technically Advent starts 30th November this year.

If you love the Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child as we do, then you will adore Stick Man. I bought it yesterday in the same small size card hardback book that the other two we already own are in (beautiful gift those two were from Siobhan, my friend, for Aaron's birthday), and we've wanted it for ages, since we read it at school in September. It's been on my wish list, as I love the Christmas ending that makes it so perfect for THIS time of year:
The Perfect Christmas read from the people who brought The Gruffalo
The small cardboard hardback one is so perfect for handling when you're curled up with a little one in bed. Once the excitement of the advent calendar had died down Aaron straight away wanted me to read Stick Man and then we read it in bed again last night.

I then moved straight onto the Story Book for 5 Year Olds, and read one short story from there. It was a real fun tale about an elephant. 

Then my kind boy said "Mummy don't you want to read your favourite book" - thanks Aaron :-) so I quickly, with glee, moved onto Enid Blyton and was immediately transported back in time. At first he said he was frightened (by the Gnome) but I soon cheered him up. As the book has quite flowery language, he went dead quiet taking it all in (and by osmosis extending his vocabulary at the same time) and I thought he was nodding off, but about 10 pages in, he asked me a few questions, and I could tell he'd listened to everything. It's a real experience when you read a non-picture book to a child for the first time. They listen in a much more focused way, as the words form pictures in their minds, which I think is wonderful for firing off imaginations. Shortly after his questions he did indeed nod off as it was 20:30 and he gets up for 07:30 and his ideal sleep time is 11 hours, so like clockwork he went to the land of nod, and Mummy? Well Mummy was in her element reading the favourite book of her childhood, so I may have carried on and read another chapter. I even kept reading out loud so my voice would sooth him as he went deeper into the land of slumber. The book is a trilogy and I hope Aaron lets me share it all with him! In order to fit this much story reading in at bedtime, you need to schedule it as part of your routine. No point starting when they are already tired, as only two things happen: (a) they get grumpy and frustrated keeping their over tired selves awake to hear the story or (b) they nod off and miss it, which although is great, so you can crack on with other things, means you've both missed out on the beautiful quality time that a bedtime story brings. I am so glad we did this #CollectiveBias "shop" as the last few weeks we'd dropped our bedtime story routine, which we'd got so good at, but I won't let that happen again - it's just too magical.
Christmas instore merchandising at Waterstones UK
If you like books and you like shopping, I'd get yourself to Waterstones. I honestly felt like I'd walked into a Christmas Grotto of sorts and the reminders that it's Christmas are everywhere, with the tasteful signage you see above. I felt so obliged to get something educational, my first stop was this section (below), where I spent a large proportion of my time looking at the "school" type reading/phonics books. Thankfully to the left and right of them there's lots of fun. To the right is where I found the Faraway Tree trilogy in a lovely Enid Blyton section.
Layout of the childrens corner of waterstones
The front facing The Magic Faraway Tree Collection you see below is the one I purchased, but sadly there was a piece of racking behind it, to hold it forward and I couldn't see a copy from the shelf to replace it with. I didn't like to think that it wouldn't be there for another customer until it was replaced from either out the back or a delivery. Ah well maybe I am a unique customer, but I like to think everyone likes a bit of magic in their stories.
Enid Blyton on the shelves of Waterstones
The store was incredibly busy. A lady next to me was choosing three different books for triplets. Unlike us, kids haven't got into Kindles, so books really are the perfect gift. 

Please let me know, what are your favourites? I say you, because don't we enjoy them as much as they do? Having Aaron opened up a whole new world of magic and literature for me.
Waterstones Loyalty Scheme for purchases instore
Bedtime's been a dream (forgive the pun) since we've had our new books :-)


  1. That advent calender looks so much fun! We have chocolate ones but they are put out of little people's reach (not that I trust Archie not to climb!). We love Eric Carle and Julia Donaldson too

    1. I think I bought 2 x chocolate ones a few weeks ago and hid them in the cupboard so I might do both - chocolate and this new one. I can't wait to see what his little cardboard tree looks like as we decorate it x

  2. The Stick Man! He's a favourite in our house - we love reading him at Christmas. And Waterstones...ahhhh, I would spend forever in there.

    1. I went without Aaron and still spent too much and bought too much. I was like a kid in a toyshop but I just ADORE the advent calendar. Can't wait for 1st December now x

  3. We love the Stick Man here too. And I was a big fan of Magic Faraway tree - when I cleared out my mum's attic, I found my old books, so we now have them stashed away ready for N when he's a bit older.

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