December brings the obvious festivities, and is a time for celebration and plenty of nostalgia. Jan Millward, one of our regular activity coordinator columnists, shares her top tips for a happy, hearty December.
December can be an activity coordinator’s nightmare – there are so many crafts, cooking sessions, plays and productions to get through that you may feel rather stretched this month! Try and pace yourself and don’t feel you have to do everything.
Keep It Simple
In early December, get down the decorations and let your residents sort them out. Untangle the strings of lights, sort out the baubles into colours, smooth out the tinsel. This gives everyone a purpose and is an activity in itself. Use the time to reminisce about how they used to get their tree and decorate it.
Reverse Advent Calendar
Every day of the month, choose a resident to make a wish of something they would like to achieve in the New Year. For example, Betty may choose to go out for tea, George wants to go to the seaside etc. Write these down in a notebook and, when you get to Christmas Day, you should have 24 wishes and ideas to build on in the New Year. If you have a large care home, allow for two residents a day, and if your care home is smaller, maybe get some of the carers involved – what would they like to do with their residents?
Christmas events don’t have to be expensive. Try approaching local scout and guide groups, schools, WI groups and the Mothers Union to see if they would like to come in and sing some carols.
Do It Yourself Pantomime
Not every home can afford professional pantomime companies, so a great way to involve staff and to keep within budget is to put on a DIY pantomime. There are plenty of simple scripts available online, or if you’re feeling up to it, write your own! As a general rule, keep it simple. Half an hour is long enough with carols afterwards. Involve the residents – give them small parts or give them fairy wands to wave.
This year I am helping a home put on our version of the ‘Wizard Of Oz’. The residents will have wands to wave when the good fairy makes an appearance and they have been learning the songs. No-one expects it to be perfect, residents love seeing staff dressed up and making a fool of themselves, and remember if you want Snow White and the seven dwarves in your version of Cinderella, that’s fine – anything goes!
Mince pies, cake-icing, gingerbread men and sweet-making are the old favourites for Christmas. (Little tip – if you are making chocolate truffles or peppermint creams, make sure to use recipes that don’t contain raw egg.)
Get Involved In The Community
If there is a Christmas tree dressing competition in your area, why not have a go! You could make your own ornaments to decorate the tree. It’s a great excuse to get out and about as well.
Don’t Forget The Birds
The birds in your garden may well be very hungry, so keep your feeders well stocked up. Another job for your residents.
Arts And Crafts
Make gift tags out of old Christmas cards, make your own table decorations out of cones and fir, make sock snowmen (instructions here), paint fir cones, make paper chains, Christmas wreaths and door hangers and paint your own tree.
One very effective craft I have seen lately, is to draw a loopy string in black on paper and then get your residents to press their thumbs in paint and press on to the string to make a picture of very effective Christmas lights!