Sweet Pea is 5 years old.
From: A couple of years ago, I saw several ideas for advent calenders that contained activities instead of candy or toys. I loved the concept, but found it overwhelming to get the entire thing organized, especially considering how busy the holidays usually are. I found tons of idea to include in this sort of calender, but not many specifics about how to actually set it up. I wanted to share the details of how exactly I put mine together so you would be able to create one quickly. You should be able to make one of these in about an hour, plus some shopping time for your chosen activities supplies (which doesn’t even have to get the done until after your advent calendar is completed). I especially like the way this calender is designed (with the activity ideas writen on paper and put in bags) because it is easy to change things around afterwards (even in the middle of December).
- Blank December Calender (.pdf file requires Foxit or Adobe Acrobat)
- Several Pieces of Paper
- 25 paper lunch sacks. If you don’t have them already, Target sells a package of red ones for $2. You may also want a few larger Christmas gift bags to contain larger craft kits.
- 5-10 Cheap Christmas craft kits, candy or toy trinkets. (Optional, but it will make things a lot easier for you. Micheal’s Craft Store sells a ton of little $1-2 craft kits that work perfect for this. You can find the same sort of thing at Hobby Lobby or Target, but I have always found the most variety for craft kits at Micheal’s. You don’t need these until your advent calender is set up, and you probably won’t even need them before Dec 1st.)
- Write the numbers 1 through 25 on the paper lunch sacks. (Or print out some pretty numbers from Confessions of a Homeschooler, eighteen25 or HGTV and attach them to the sacks with tape or clothes pins.)
- Review your schedule for December and fill in the corresponding squares on your blank advent calender with your holiday appointments. You also might want to put an X on any day that will require a very quick activity. For example, if Sweet Pea has swimming lessons on Wednesday, I would put an X on every Wednesday to remind myself we will need a quick activity. (Since I don’t feel like revealing exactly when we will be out during the holidays, all of these dates and events are made up.)
- On scrap paper, make a up a quick list of all the activities that your family traditionally does during the holiday season.
- Assign each of your normal holiday activities to a day on the calendar. You do not have to be 100% accurate here, because you will be able to shuffle things around later. Just make your best guess and pick a day that looks good.
- Now use scrap paper, MS Word, or pinterest to create a list of 10-20 additional crafts or activities that you want to do this year. (You can find some great ideas at Meet Penny, Code Name Mama, Confessions of a Homeschooler and Monkeyin Around Times Two.) Don’t forget to either print or make a note of where to find recipes and craft instructions later if you need them. Pinterest is great for inspiration, but don’t get lost there. This is supposed to be superfast, remember? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Make snow dough.
- Go ice skating.
- Make a gumdrop tree.
- Create cinnamon ornaments.
- Create salt dough ornaments.
- Cut out paper snowflakes.
- Watch a Christmas movie. (How the Grinch Stole Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas)
- Drink hot cocoa and read a new Christmas book. (Dream Snow by Eric Carle or Snowmen at Christmas by Caroline Buehner)
- Bake a new type of Christmas cookie or treat. (Meringue Mushrooms)
- Learn a new Christmas Carol. (Martha Stewart has a printable song book here.)
- Create a handmade Christmas card for the grandparents and mail it.
- Decorate a gingerbread house.
- Write down each of the new crafts or activities that you want to do on your calendar. Again, you are not looking for perfection. You may discover that you don’t have enough time to do them all or you may have a few blank days left over. If you have blank spaces, that is where you will use the cheap craft kits.
- In notepad or another word processing program, type the numbers 1-25.
- Use your calender to copy each activity to the corresponding day on your typed list.
- Print 2 copies of your typed list.
- Take one of the copies and cut it up so each activity is listed on its own strip of paper.
- Using your calendar to help you, put each strip of paper into its appropriately dated bag.
- Put the cheap Christmas craft kits into the remaining empty bags.
- Place your bags on a shelf or table. I like to mix up the numbers and have Sweet Pea search for the correct one each day, but you might want to put them in order instead.
- Don’t forget to go shopping for any supplies you need for the activities you have scheduled! As you buy or print the needed items, stick them in the bags so you be able to find them when you need them.
- Each night before you go to bed, review your typed list. Make sure that your schedule still allows time for the assigned activity. The best part of this advent calendar is that you can switch things around. If something comes up (as it often does during the holidays) and you don’t have time for the scheduled activity, then just move the strip of paper to another day and replace it with an easy craft kit, candy or small toy.
Observations: We had a lot of fun with our advent activity calendar last year. I always like to have Sweet Pea make a paper chain on the 1st day of December.
Notes from the Trenches:
Keep a good sense of humor about the activites. I always have to remind myself that the point is to have fun and not to produce great works of art. In particular we had some spectacularly bad pinterest fails last year. Don’t try the seed bead ornaments. Half of our beads fell off within a week. What a mess!