How to Do a Family Activity Advent Calendar


I’ve been doing a December advent calendar for my kids since they were very, very little. It started off as something I thought we would do for a year, or maybe two, but easily morphed into the thing we love most about the holidays. As proof of my kids’ adoration for this tradition, my 15-year-old son sent me the following text from his grade 10 business class last week: “Can you please do a Christmas Advent Calendar again this year?” I think he thought that I was going to phase it out now that he and his closest-in-age brother are teenagers, but the truth is there’s no chance I’m ready to give it up either, so this week I’ve been compiling my list of fun for the month to come.

Our Advent Calendar is really nothing more than intentionally scheduled seasonal activities, and I began it as a way of making sure we didn’t miss out on doing some of the things we enjoy the most about December. Baking cookies? Check. Driving around to look at the Christmas lights? Check. Donating non-perishable foods to the food bank? Check. We also have a few activities that are specific to our family like a holiday dinner party, our family snowflake competition, and the gift opening on Christmas Eve morning.

I’ve noticed in the past few years that some of the advent calendars have become Pinterest-perfect, but I can assure you that mine is no such thing. It’s meant to be fun, and simple, and if it had to look like the Queen of Crafting made it, it would never get done. Here are some other ideas for keeping advent season sane:

  • Because I’d like to think I’m a somewhat savvy mom, (Editor’s Note: Jan is the savviest of us all) I schedule things into the calendar that will keep the kids busy on the days I know I’m going need them totally occupied (read: out of my hair). This is usually done by suggesting via the Advent Calendar that they can watch a holiday movie on a random Wednesday night, or offering up an extra hour of computer/TV/video game time (great for those nights when you need to wrap gifts).
  • Some years I’ve been busier than others, and I’ve kept the activities limited to the weekends, and filled the weekday advents with small chocolates or Calvin and Hobbes comic strips printed from the Internet. Other years, I’ve included jokes instead of activities.
  • Before I plan the activities, I consult the calendar and work around social and work events, hockey schedules, and anything else that might pose a conflict. Then I put each day’s activity in the calendar on my phone so I know which activity is scheduled for what day (you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget what you’ve planned).
  • If you plan on making an Advent Calendar don’t forget to do it early — as in, before December 1st (this week is the perfect week to put it together).
  • Advent Calendars can hang in the form of garland (mine does), but others can be placed on a shelf, on the fridge, etc. Consult Google for ideas on how to construct yours based on the amount of space you have.
  • Don’t stress over making it perfect. Your kids will love it, regardless of how it looks.

Lastly, if you’re looking for ideas for your own family Advent Calendar, here are 35 of the ones I’ve used over the past eight years:

  1. Find and decorate a Christmas tree.
  2. Spend the morning in our PJs watching Christmas movies.
  3. Enjoy an extra 1/2 hour of video game time after homework today.
  4. Make hot chocolate after school.
  5. Bake cookies!
  6. Have a paper snowflake competition.
  7. Walk to Starbucks or Tims for a hot drink.
  8. Surprise! Stay up an extra ½ hour tonight.
  9. Mail a greeting card to a family member or friend who lives far away.
  10. Hang some mistletoe and give out kisses.
  11. Make a paper garland to hang on the tree.
  12. Enjoy 1 extra hour of computer, TV, or video game time today.
  13. Family movie night! Pick a classic Christmas movie to watch.
  14. Surprise! No chores today! Leave your bed messy and skip out on table-setting duty.
  15. Go shopping and donate canned foods today.
  16. Go find the wackiest Christmas light displays and drink hot chocolate and eat cookies in the car while you do it!
  17. It’s time for some outdoor fun! Go sledding, skating, or for a walk in the snow.
  18. Have a family story night and read all your Christmas storybooks while enjoying a plate of cookies and milk.
  19. Snuggle up in mom and dad’s bed and read The Night Before Christmas.
  20. Take a family photo.
  21. Have a bubble bath by candlelight with Christmas songs playing on the stereo.
  22. ‘Help’ Dad put up the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations.
  23. Have a living room dance party to a fun Christmas album.
  24. Everyone in the family chooses a country and then Googles to see how they celebrate Christmas there.
  25. Unwrap and read a new Christmas book.
  26. Invite another family to come over in their jammies to watch a favourite Christmas movie.
  27. Write Christmas cards.
  28. Decorate a Christmas card for your teacher or favourite babysitter.
  29. Color a Christmas picture or make a Christmas craft.
  30. Make paper snowflakes to hang from the kids’ bedroom ceiling.
  31. Write letters to Santa.
  32. Make a red and green-themed meal.
  33. Make gingerbread cookies.
  34. Decorate a gingerbread house.
  35. Invite a few friends over for a cookie decorating party.


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