I have fond memories of advent calendars when I was a kid. Little cardboard boxes with plastic forms behind perforated cardboard doors that held precious pieces of hidden chocolate. It was a treat that I looked forward to every day. Candy!!
But when my girls were young, I was totally anti-candy. I mean, really, what reason is there for a two year old to get candy every day? Now that they’re growing up, I’ve relaxed on a lot of my parenting hang ups. (Remember all of those “I’ll never”s that you said when you were pregnant? Yeah. Everyone else was right. They go out the window at some point.) But there’s one tradition that has remained from that era and my girls absolutely adore it: our advent calendar.
Besides being anti-sugar when the girls were young, I was also disappointed by all of the advent calendars I found. The chocolate ones I saw were cheap, waxy chocolate. The Lego ones just added more clutter to our house. The perpetual ones with the little drawers to open like you find at the craft store required me to find stuff to put in them every year and then -again- we still had all of the junk cluttering up our house.
So years ago, I went in search of a activity based advent calendar instead of an junk or sugar based one. And this is what I came up with. It’s super easy because that’s what gets done around here and it’s not all that expensive either.
Curling ribbon. I used this curling ribbon because it’s shiny and matched the red and green theme I had going on but really, you can use anything that you have laying around: ribbon, twine, yarn, gimp, ornament hangers, twist ties. Anything that will create a hanger.
The only thing that we had to buy was the shapes because we’re a pretty crafty household and we have lots of stuff laying around but really, this could probably be an under $10 project even if you had to buy everything new. Under $5 if you get lucky at the dollar store.
Now let’s get to work!
Seriously, you’re going to laugh at how easy this is! Punch a hole in the top of each of your shapes. Add some ribbon and tie a knot. Lay the shapes out somewhere where they won’t be disturbed for a few hours or overnight. Write letters in glitter glue. Allow to dry.
When it comes to adding your activities, you can take the simple route and use small post its and stick them on the back of your shapes. Or you can take a more advanced route and print up a table from your computer, cut out the pieces and add them using an adhesive roller. Inevitably, I end up using a combination of these two methods every year. I start out with nicely printed ones but as things pop up and I realized that there’s no way we’re going to have time to do a Christmas craft with Mommy that night, I can slap on a ‘Go out for Chinese’ post it on before the girls check the advent calendar.
Conveniently, 25 items makes an awesome Christmas tree shape and we always hang ours on our kitchen door. So far my girls haven’t gotten sneaky and looked from the outside to read all of the activities but I think this year I may have to cover them 😉
Typically, we look at our advent calendar when the girls get home from school but on weekends it’s the first thing they want to do.
Take a little bit of time to look at your calendar and see where you can fit in your advent calendar activities. Your kids will love it, I guarantee! I’ve broken down some of our past activities into ‘quick’ and ‘more involved’ items so that you can hopefully find something to fill every day of your calendar.
Quick (usually at home) activities:
- Write a note to a family member and put it in their stocking. For older children, they could write a note to everyone in the family. This is a nice little treat at the bottom on a stocking on Christmas morning.
- Make paper snowflakes
- Sing Christmas Carols in the car (awesome for nights when we’re back and forth between classes or scouts.)
- Do a Christmas color by number (or other coloring if your kids are too old for color by number)
- Read and watch The Polar Express
- Decorate the Christmas tree
- Write letters to Santa
- Make reindeer cookies
- Make a Christmas card for Nan-nan and Pop-Pop
- Make a glue snowman
- Have snowman soup (hot chocolate or chocolate milk) with dinner
- Make reindeer food for our friends at dance class, girl scouts, school, etc.
- Bake cookies and give them to our neighbors
- Learn about another country’s Christmas traditions. A book from the library is perfect for this!
- Kiss under the mistletoe (for those oh so busy nights!)
- make a special card for your teachers to say thank you.
- Picnic dinner by the Christmas tree
- Call relatives and sing Christmas carols
- Make a paper plate craft
- Play board games by the fireplace
- Help put up decorations
- Wear new jammies to bed (We always save this for Christmas eve of course)
- Open presents (Easiest activity for Christmas morning.)
- Candy cane hunt (This is also a great one for Christmas morning when we’re trying to keep the kids occupied while we get the breakfast casserole in the oven and the coffee made before we opened presents. All you do is open a box of candy canes and hide them all around the house. When the kiddos find them all, hopefully coffee’s ready and breakfast is in the oven!)
More involved (usually outside the home) activities:
- But a gift for a child who may not get one
- Pick out a new Christmas book and read it as a family. We do this at the book store but if you’re watching your pennies or just don’t want to add to the massive stack of Christmas books around the house, this can also be done with a borrow from the local library. When the girls were very young, this started out as a book that I picked out for them and wrapped.
- Go see Christmas lights. For us, the big one is Longwood Gardens but even driving around to look at neighbor’s displays is fun. You know there’s always ‘that one house’ 😉
- Buy a Christmas tree
- Go Christmas shopping with daddy
- Go Christmas shopping with mommy
- Go out for cupcakes
- Go out for Chinese
- Go see The Nutcracker
- Go to a tree lighting
- Give your teachers their presents
- Watch a Christmas movie with a peppermint sundae (Vanilla ice cream with crushed up candy canes works great!)
- Go ice skating
- Visit daddy at work (great for when the holiday break starts.)
- Make pretzels (Don’t think I’m making my own pretzels here. There’s a local pretzel shop that offers a monthly pretzel making event.)
- Ride a steam train with Santa. This is an annual tradition that we have as a family. If you don’t have a Santa train where you live (or just don’t want to ride a train with Santa) you can just visit Santa. 🙂
Well I hope this advent calendar has made your holidays easier. What else would make your life easier at this time of year?