We are big fans of the Olivia series but were very disappointed with an earlier purchase, Olivia Claus, which is not written by Ian Falconer but rather written by someone affiliated with the TV show version. I’m not really sure what Falconer’s involvement or opinion is of these lower-quality books, but they somewhat devalue the Olivia “brand” for me. We enjoy the show occasionally, but like most Disney spin-off books, the quality of writing just isn’t present.
I was really happy to find out that Falconer had created a new Olivia book for the holidays, Olivia Helps Out with Christmas, and this one definitely lived up to our high expectations of his Olivia series — so much so that we decided to make our own Olivia Christmas Mini-unit!
The book features Olivia’s characteristic enthusiasm and honesty. She is eager to help her family get ready for Christmas, and of course, gets into a bit of unintentional mischief while she’s at it. The traditions that the book features are similar to our own and the drawings are cute but minimal. Olivia’s missteps are relatable to children whose own intentions don’t always go the way they planned, and her books are always great conversation facilitators — keeping the tone humourous and light.
Reading through, I was so excited by the many possible lesson extensions that Olivia Helps Out with Christmas provides, but I think what I was most excited about was making Ella her very own Olivia scarf to top any dress — especially an Olivia-red one!
Twice in the book, Olivia and her brothers are looking out of their window and a real picture of weather is super-imposed. This was a great opportunity to start encouraging Ella to help with the weather section of her calendar board (which I will be sharing in the new year). On mornings when she wakes up early enough, I encourage her to look outside and observe the weather, and then we go online and look up the symbols for our day’s weather prediction before discussing and updating our board with the appropriate weather card.
Ella and I are working on various dressing endeavours, so I took the “knots” opportunity from Olivia getting tangled in the Christmas tree to focus on tying and untying knots on our “shoe lacing board” (which I personally think looks a bit risqué…)
Ella has been enjoying this felt tree that I made with a wooden tree cut-out from a dollar store. We use a eco-reusable tree (I didn’t grow up with pine trees so I don’t know what I’m missing) so there really isn’t an opportunity to trim that… it could be an opportunity to prune any household plant, though.
You could talk about nutrition (Olivia feeding William blueberry pie for lunch) or teach your child how to set a table.
We’ve been learning some traditional Christmas carols, yet I hadn’t thought about Angels We Have Heard on High, so it was lots of fun for Ella to learn the song that was referred to in our book.
At one point, Olivia looks up to the roof expecting to see reindeer — only to be greeted by a raccoon! I thought this would be a really fun opportunity to make some “snow” play dough and break out our Safari Toob of North American animals and compare the footprints that they made in the snow-dough. After playing for a bit, we tried to mix things up and match animals to their footprints.
As with the Gift of Nothing, a great opportunity for grace and courtesy lies within this book during the page where Olivia opens some gifts from Santa that are “better than others.” I love the idea of wrapping up “less than desirable” presents and playing a game to come up with nice things to say about that item. This will be an activity that we do before Ella’s third birthday.
Olivia gifts her parents a large, green self-portrait and Ella has just recently begun experimenting with representational and figure drawings, so I thought it might be fun to see where a self-portrait session took us. I set up a mirror beside her easel, and both became canvases for her art.
And, finally, the book ends with Olivia dreaming of being in a Christmas-themed ballet, which might be a fun segway into a Nutcracker unit, or just an opportunity to put on some ballet videos and imitate the dancers.
Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! We’ll see you after the holiday 🙂
I am still holding out for an amazing version of The Night Before Christmas, and until I find it, Ella and I will be enjoying this new classic, Olivia Helps Out with Christmas.