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I just LOVE traditions, don't you?
In fact, traditions are my favorite part about the holidays! Each year our family scales back a bit on the whole "gift giving" part to focus our attention on creating memories and engaging in traditions.
Years ago, I was reading a book about family life and the importance of traditions. The author suggested sitting down and listing all the traditions you grew up with, which ones you liked and why. Then she challenged the reader to come up with their own new traditions.
My kids were very young when I read this and the time was ripe to start our own traditions, but even if your kids are older (or if your kids are out of the house!), it's never too late to start something new!
I decided to make an Advent Activity Calendar, a fun way for us to celebrate the season and take the focus off presents, and point us more to an attitude of gratitude and giving.
So many people ask me about our Calendar, so I thought it would easier to show you how I do it step-by-step!
A PEEK AT OUR ADVENT ACTIVITY CALENDAR
1. Find an Advent Calendar:
There are all sorts of Advent Calendar ideas out there, so look around. If you Google search “Advent Calender” or look for ideas on Pinterest, your head will explode in about 2 minutes. There are SO MANY WAYS to make an Advent Calendar. Be creative and use what you have!
Our calendar is made by Kaiser Craft (try searching Kaiser Craft Advent Calendar for all sorts of ideas and inspiration). It comes as plain MDF board that can be decorated or painted as you wish.
I purchased a pad of Christmas themed scrap-booking paper, some letter stickers and glue, and got to work.
2. Make a List of Ideas:
I came up with a list of Advent Activity Ideas that are age appropriate for our family. Each activity is written on a little slip of paper. It might be good to write down a few extra, in case you need to change your plans. I've shared 50 ideas with you below to get you started!
3. Look at Your Calendar
Next, I sit down and look at our calendar for the month (and any community event calendars/flyers I can get my hands on. Try contacting your local Chamber of Commerce!) and do my best to organize the activities on days that would work. I make sure to have back-up plans and allow myself to move the activities around if needed (for example, we can't "go sledding" if there is no snow!).
If you live in the West Michigan area, like we do, be sure to check out GRKids.com, where you can find a full list of all the action in West Michigan.
4. Go Shopping for the Needed Supplies
Make a list of supplies you will need for the activities you are planning. Of course, your "supply list" will vary depending on what activities you choose! A couple things that are usually on my list:
Smores Supplies and Candy Canes
Hot Cocoa Mix
Gingerbread House Kit
Holiday Themed Pasta
Nuts in Shells
Bags/Tissue paper for gifts
5. Choose a Time to "Open" the Calendar
Each morning, my kids get to take turns "opening the box" and discovering what we will be doing that day. The anticipation is sometimes even better than the activity! Choose a time that works best for your family.
A WORD OF CAUTION
I know you are excited! I know you want to do ALL THE THINGS! But... I caution you.
Some days are going to be crazy busy and if you try to fit in ONE MORE THING the Advent Activity might become a chore instead of a way to prepare your heart for Christmas.
I can't tell you how many times this happened to us: My husband and I would make plans for a family outing, with visions of us smiling and laughing and having a great time. Unfortunately, reality sets in and on more than one occasion, we've said to each other through gritted teeth (over the noise of crying or bickering children) "We're having fun, dang it!" Ha!!!! Please tell me this has happened to you too!
Keep the activities SIMPLE.
For example, if your KNOW Wednesdays are insane, maybe you choose a simple activity like eating dinner by candlelight and listening to Christmas music while you eat. Or maybe you read a Christmas story before bedtime.
As my kids get older and life gets busier with homework, church and school commitments, we give ourselves TONS of grace. Some days we simply cannot fit in ANY Advent Activity. It's ok. Truly.
This is not about perfection. This is about being intentional.
50 FAMILY FRIENDLY ADVENT ACTIVITIES
Family outing to cut down a Christmas tree
Pick out Toys for Tots and deliver to dropbox
Choose gifts from World Vision/Heifer International/etc.
Go ice skating
Bring gifts/treats to the neighbors
Make the house smell like Christmas (put whole cloves and a cinnamon stick in a pot of simmer water on the stove)
Make and hang paper snowflakes
Make hot cocoa with candy canes for stir sticks
Paint winter designs on the windows with tempera paint
Visit a live nativity
Decorate a gingerbread house
Christmas movie night (with popcorn and candy canes)
Drive around town looking at Christmas lights
Make an ornament for the Christmas tree
Make a pinecone bird feeder (peanut butter and birdseed)
Make popcorn and cranberry garlands for the birds
Make a Christmas present for teachers/bus drivers/Sunday school leaders/etc.
Pick out a Poinsettia or Christmas cactus
Try a traditional Christmas treat from a different country (visit your ethnic food store or aisle)
Sing Christmas carols
Make tin can luminaries (fill tin cans with water and freeze. Then use a hammer and nail to create designs. Once water has melted, place a tea light in the can and watch the design glow!)
Roast marshmallows in the fireplace
Serve Christmas colored or shaped pasta for dinner
Send a Christmas letter to a relative
Go to a Christmas parade
Make Clove Oranges and scatter them around the house (Push whole cloves into an orange and use them as decorations)
Buy whole nuts and shell them for a special treat (or use a nutcracker!)
Watch funny Christmas carol videos on YouTube
Make snow cones, using real snow and fruit juice or maple syrup
Bring treats to your local librarians
Fill a ShoeBox Gift for Operation Christmas Child
Make a special trip to a store just to put money in the Salvation Army bucket
Read the Christmas story
Make a wreath from foraged greens
Make paper garlands to hang in the doorways
Attend a tree lighting ceremony
Go to a holiday craft bazaar
Make glitter snow globes using mason jars
Create a winter diorama using small animal figurines from the store and cotton balls
Collect pine cones and use them to decorate the house
Put up outdoor Christmas lights/decorations
Make hot apple cider
Decorate the Christmas tree
Go to a candlelight church service
Make origami ornaments for the tree
Eat dinner by candlelight and play Christmas music
Make homemade play dough and color it red and green
Send a care package to a missionary family
SHARE YOUR IDEAS
I would LOVE to hear your Advent Activity ideas! I'm always adding more to my "master list".
Do you have any family traditions you are willing to share?
Please leave a comment below!