by Laura Sussely-Pope
Christmas Eve has finally arrived. The excitement level at your house is reaching the maximum load. Unfortunately, it's only 7:30 a.m.
The kids are already bouncing off the walls. You're pulling out your hair. Even the dog's in on the action, flying around in crazy circles.
If Santa doesn't come down the chimney soon, you'll go through the roof yourself!
Here's how you can help them survive -- and enjoy -- these final hours 'til "ho-ho-ho" arrives!
Counting down to Santa
Getting through the morning
Build an igloo: Help the kids pile snow into a large mound. Pack it well and then take the snow shovel and carve out the inside. Several igloos together can create a village, a castle, a fort or some other house-like structure. Watch for collapsing snow if you can enter your igloo.
No snow or bad weather? Not a problem! Create a sandbox village outside or a sugar cube igloo in the comfort of your living room. Warm up with a steaming cup of hot cocoa topped with mini marshmallows.
Lunchtime and beyond
See what's happening around town. You're apt to find loads of fun-filled, festive activities and entertainment to connect you to the spirit of the season.
Make last-minute presents. You need something for the kids to do. They need an activity. How about a plan that can serve triple duty? Choose a craft project that can double as a gift, like a hand printed towel or a unique tote bag.
Share with others. Research ahead of time to find a local organization where your entire family can volunteer. That good feeling when you help others will stick with you all through the year.
5 activities to get them through the evening
5 hours left -- head to the kitchen for creative play. Make dough for cookies or breads. Like play dough, baking allows a child get right in there with both hands as they knead, roll, braid, shape and decorate.
4 hours left -- cotton ball race: Pass out a straw and a cotton ball for each child or kid-at-heart. Start at one side of the table with your cotton ball. See who can blow his "snowball" off the table first. Just a warning...expect this activity to explode. It won't be long before cotton balls and giggles will be floating through the air.
3 hours left -- movie night: Pop up a batch of popcorn and put one of your favorite Christmas classic films. We suggest Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Polar Express.
2 hours left -- decorate a cookie plate. Get out a few craft supplies so your child can transform an ordinary white paper plate into original piece of art. Paint, color or draw on the plate and then make it even more festive with stickers, glitter and ribbon. Add cookies and place by the stockings for Santa to find.
1 more hour -- your Christmas Eve bedtime routine: Hang up the stockings, put out the treats and then it's bath time, jammies and a bedtime story. Hop into bed for a (hopefully) long night's sleep. Which will awaken you -- hooves thuds on the roof or the early morning patter of tiny feet?
Do you leave out a snack for Santa? What about the reindeer?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.