Creating Your Own Advent Calendar Fun for Kids: Tutorials, Visuals and Activities.
The Why and How of an Advent Calendar
Last year began my first quest into the world of Advent Calendars. I started last minute as unfortunately I don't typically think about Christmas until, well, after Thanksgiving. My oldest child was 3 years old last year, and I wanted to start making the holiday season one to cherish. I didn't want to be so caught up in the busyness of the December month that we gave very little thought to the season until Christmas day. I wanted to embark on building traditions for the years to come. My family is young right now, so now is the ideal time to start.
I highly suggest an advent calendar to anyone with children from toddlers to teens. I imagine the earlier you start the better. You can custom fit your calendar to the age of your children. An Advent Calendar can promote family time a midst a hectic holiday scene, and keep your focus on loving and giving despite the rampant consumerism around you. For me, the Advent Calendar, while full of fun family ideas, also keeps me and my family reflecting on my faith in Jesus and His birth.
I did a lot of research for advent calendars gathering ideas of both how to create the actual calendar as well as what to have each day hold. I looked up Christmas crafts, concocted my own ideas, and borrowed ideas from others that I then customized to fit our family. You should most definitely do the same. Here I hope to provide you with some of my favorite ideas in both crafting a calendar and defining your December days.
Once you choose how your calendar will look and what each day will involve, make a master list for yourself to glance at each day or to look at the days in advance. I liked to look a few days ahead and make sure I had any supplies I needed. I had a bag where I kept all of my supplies, gifts, etc. so it was all in one place. I would suggest that bag and a master list to you as well. Then nothing ends up forgotten.
What Should Your Advent Calendar Look Like?
First you have to decide whether you want your calendar to contain descriptions of the days' activities on paper or whether you want it to be like a gift to unwrap with little presents or representations of the days' activities.
When my children grow older, I think simply writing out the days' plans would be an easy possible option. All you need then to create your calendar is paper and a dash of creativity. You can use envelopes, pockets, paper flaps, etc. to create a simple paper calendar.
Buy an Advent Calendar to place a written note inside with the days' surprises.
For my little ones, I wanted to contain visuals and provide them with tactile representations of what we will be doing each day. Plus they love unwrapping the bags like a present.
Here's what mine ended up looking like (below). You can find a tutorial here.
I'm planning to re-use last years materials (still somewhat intact) and create the same calendar again. But, next year I'll probably try out a new look as my recycled materials will probably be on their last straw. I really love the idea of this sock advent calendar (see side picture). I'm thinking of scoping out Christmas socks after the holidays when they are clearanced in order to make this on the cheap.
Here's are a few other visuals for Advent Calendars I like and could imagine creating myself.
Advent Calendars to Purchase that You Can Fill Up with Goodies
Add some decorations to spice up the 25 drawers.
What Do You Plan for Days 1-25?
Ultimately the ideas have to fit your family in both ages, preferences, and priorities for the Christmas season. Here's some ideas broken down by category.
OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE ACTIVITIES
Note: I often don't prefer putting some of these activities on the calendar because some outdoor activities can weather permitted. But, if you live in an area where it's almost definitely snowy all through December, go for it!
- Go Sledding
- Build a Snowman
- Drive around to look at Christmas Lights.
- Go Ice Skating
- Get your Christmas Tree
- Take your kids shopping for the family. Dad takes kids to get a present for Mom and vice versa or get grandparents involved.
- Go caroling in your neighborhood or to close family and friends.
- Watch a Christmas Movie together while drinking hot chocolate
- Have a picnic by the fireplace or Christmas tree
- Have a family slumber party by camping out by the fireplace or Christmas tree.
- Let kids make Christmas cards for their grandparents, friends, or special loved ones.
- Write a letter to Santa or make a Christmas list
- Read a special Christmas book like "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," "Twas the Night Before Christmas," or "The Polar Express."
CRAFTS AND COOKING
- Make Sugar Cookies
- Make Gingerbread House (or the easy version out of Graham Crackers)
- Make homemade Christmas ornaments. Here are some ideas for ornaments preschoolers can make.
- Make snowflakes
- Make a reindeer out of your child's foot and hands. The foot is the face and hands are the antlers. Add a nose at the bottom of the heel part of the foot made of a circle cut from red paper. Draw on eyes or cut out eyes from paper.
- Cut out a Christmas tree from green paper. Give your child (for preschool age) paper of all colors and scissors to cut out shapes. Then let them glue their shapes on the tree to decorate it.
- Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus
- Read Luke 2 and/or other related excerpts from the Bible (see the books of Matthew and Luke)
- Take a day to reflect on various people in the Christmas story and create crafts or activities around these people: Mary, Angels, Shepherds, Wise Man, Baby Jesus. For example, while discussing shepherds we ate candy canes that represented the shepherds' staffs. For angels we made an angel craft.
- Color a Nativity Scene from a Color Page or draw one.
ACTS OF SERVICE
- Go on a grocery run to buy food for a local food pantry
- Purchase blankets or give away old coats and blankets by donating to a local shelter
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen
- Bake cookies to give to family or friends
- Make up a gift for your mail person (gift card to Starbucks for a warm drink, a tin of cookies, etc)
- Choose a child to buy a Christmas gift from a local "Angel Tree" effort.
- New Christmas movies or books
- Snow Globe
Ready, Set, Go!
I hope you take some of these ideas along with a few of your own to create your own Advent Calendar tradition. I believe it will become a tradition you'll treasure. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go pull mine together last minute once more. Wanna join me?
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