Good morning. With Christmas just 23 days away, we’v begun our Advent Calendar. Since the children were really young, we’ve counted down to the birth of Jesus with a family activity each night. While it was certainly easier when they were little, this has been a long standing tradition in our home and one that we think is important to continue.
In years passed, the kids have said it’s their favorite part of the season. I wanted to share examples of activities that you can add to your own countdown. Knowing that you all have children at different ages, I hope you’ll find some of these useful. And remember you can take things you usually do, and make it a dedicated night. The point isn’t to make yourself crazy but to really be intentional about the time you spend together. And I would go one step further and say no phones allowed.
FOR THE YOUNGER CREW
- Make a fort with blankets and eat dinner inside.
- Read Christmas stories in bed with flashlights.
- Make your own Christmas socks (just use white socks, markers and stickers . . my kids used to love this).
- Write a letters to Santa and put them in the mailbox.
- Make a countdown chain from construction paper to hang in their rooms.
- Make paper snowflakes to decorate the windows.
- Set up a sleeping bags near the tree for a Christmas camp out.
- Fingerpaint – actually fun at any age.
FOR ANY AGE
I started to write separate lists for the older crew but then realized that these can all be adapted based on what you use or how you do it. For example, making an ornament can easily be accomplished with an inexpensive foam kit from Michael’s when they are really young. The older crew can hand paint something unique and fun. Hopefully these suggestions can be adapted to fit your family.
- Decorate the Christmas tree.
- Make an ornament for the tree.
- Set up the Nativity scene.
- Drive around looking at Christmas lights. We always do it with hot cocoa and warm blankets.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood to look at lights.
- Go on a family hike.
- Breakfast for dinner.
- Spend the evening traveling down memory lane with hot cider and old photo albums or videos.
- Make popcorn and string it for the tree. We’ve done this and it’s actually really fun.
- Dance party – all Christmas tunes.
- Set up a hot cocoa bar. Go crazy with the toppings.
- Make a short scavenger hunt around the house.
- Play this “name that Christmas song” game with the family. So fun.
- Decorate Christmas cookies.
- Sing Christmas Carols
- Eat dinner by candlelight
- Paint Christmas pictures and send to a relative.
- Appetizer night for dinner —everyone gets to pick their favorite one.
- Heads Up night – one of our very favorite phone apps. SO much laughter comes from playing together.
- Make s’mores by the fire. Set everything out on a wood board
- Decorate gingerbread houses (so many great kits out there now)
- Head to a local hotel or pretty spot to look at Christmas decorations
- Drive to your favorite outdoor shopping center (if weather permits) to check out the decorations.
- Go ice skating.
- Have a snowball fight (if you have snow!)
- No tech night and play board games with music on.
- Get in pajamas before dinner and cook together.
- Make root beer floats.
- Set up a Zoom call to sing carols with family members.
- Make a silly video together.
IN THE SPIRIT OF GIVING
- Write letters to grandparents and send them off.
- Bake cookies and deliver them to the neighbors (our favorite recipe)
- Fill a shoebox with special items and leave on someone’s doorstep to cheer them up.
- Make or wrap gifts for teachers.
- Adopt a family through your church (this is a big one but very special . . and you can create many activities throughout the season with this).
- Leave a Christmas surprise on a friend’s doorstep. Ring the bell and go!
- Turn on Christmas music and spend time writing down prayers for special people in your life. Place them in a special box or bowl for the season.
- Offer to make dinner for someone in need. Everyone helps make the soup.
- Put together a box of treats and leave out for the delivery drivers.
- Spend 15 minutes writing thank you emails to teachers and sending them off. You would be surprised how much they appreciate an out of the blue thank you.
- Gather food to donate to the local food bank (a great need right now).
- Pull names and make a gift for someone in the family.
My biggest tip from doing this for so many years is to not get ahead of yourself. Slip the activity into the advent calendar the night before so that you can really think about the day’s schedule, sports, commitments, etc. Keep it simple, my friends. It’s not about what you do but about the time spent together. Intentional time and something for everyone to look forward to. Feel free to add to the ideas in the comments below.
And while I have never done this, it would be fun to snap just one photo of the activity each night and make a Chatbook with them (an easy online photo book company). I might even do that this year.