I should start out with my disclaimer that I do not claim to be a Crafty Mom or a Pinterest Mom. I equate Pinterest with the hot guy in high school…nice to look at, but I don’t get too close. Regardless, about twice a year, I get an idea in my head that only Pinterest can solve. Two Novembers ago, I decided that I would make my own reusable Advent calendar. I was eight months pregnant and had the energy of an arthritic sloth, so it seemed like a perfectly reasonable undertaking. After one evening spent searching “advent calendar” and thinking myself to be Crafty Crafterson, I was off to Michael’s the next day armed with my ideas. To be fair, I willingly admit that I did NOT take my toddlers to Michael’s for this brainstorming event; that would have been insane.
My main reason for crafting my own advent calendar was my intention to reclaim the holiday season as family season. Commercial pressure on the season is all around us, and our children easily soak it up. I am partly responsible for my children’s expectations, as once September hits I find myself freely saying, “Why don’t you ask Santa for that?” when they remark that they want something new. Creating my own Advent calendar gives me a sense of much-needed control over the holiday season. Due to our hectic schedule and my displeasure with scheduling surprises, I schedule out the entire Advent calendar in my iCal. Of course, I have friends who make their own calendar and are capable of totally winging it day-by-day. That’s the fun of making your own! It fits your personality!
One of your main decisions will be: Will you count DOWN from 25 days to Christmas or will you count UP from December 1? You can’t go wrong either way. I chose to start at the bottom and count down the days from 25.
So, what does one put in the tiny boxes you ask? Anything that fits your family! Side note: depending on what calendar you make, they could be boxes, pouches, branches, envelopes, gloves, reindeer hooves, tree ornaments….you get the picture. I do my best to emphasize FAMILY togetherness as well as giving to others, then I like to mix in various treats for the kids. Weekends can be more involved family fun, while weekdays need to be simpler things. Many activities on our calendar are things that we would be doing anyways during the holiday season, but having them on the Advent calendar just makes them extra special. I recommend getting together with some friends to share ideas and try to plan one or two things with other families. In no particular order, here are some adventures that usually appear on our Advent calendar:
- Cutting down OR decorating the family Christmas tree (depending on schedules this could be 2 separate adventures!)
- Making paper snowflakes to hang around the house
- Pizza dinner with friends
- Family game night
- Decorating windows
- Toys for Tots (Stamford Toys will have a box at the store, so the kids each pick a toy and place it right in the box)
- Going to the bakery together for a holiday treat
- Stamping and mailing Christmas Cards
- Setting up train tracks around the Christmas tree
- Library trip for holiday books
- Making cards for family members
- Visiting the Lego exhibit at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center
- Sharing what you love about each family member (perfect dinnertime conversation!)
- Taking donations to the Fairfield County Food Bank
- New Christmas book at bedtime
- Making candy cane ice cream together
- Indoor water table play (put an old sheet down in the kitchen and let them get wet!)
- Enjoying hot chocolate after dinner
- Making Christmas cookies
- Santa Train at the Danbury Railway Museum
- Attending a children’s production of The Nutcracker
- Watching Charlie Brown Christmas together
- Counting our blessings (this is a fun one I found online – how many blessings do you have in your house? Sinks? TVs? Light switches? Chairs? Forks? Kids love counting, so the sky is the limit)
- Family drive to view neighborhood Christmas lights
- Christmas Eve = Christmas Jammies and family movie night
- Christmas Day = Go see if Santa was here!
As you can see, I have lots of easy peasy thing to do during the week with more exciting outings that can be for weekends. I also like to have a “giving” day come before a “treat” day to feel balanced. We are lucky that we can afford treats, but I want my children to understand that this is a treat. My parents raised me with an understanding that other families were not so well off and it is important to me that my children also understand how they can help others.
My kids are pretty young, so many of these adventures are very simple. As they get older, we can start to do more creative projects and more involved ways of giving to others. These are just ideas that work for my family. A quick Google search for “making your own advent calendar” will yield many more ideas of what others have put into a family Advent calendar. Looking up local holiday events in your area (tree lightings, Santa visits, children’s productions at local schools) can really help you plan as well. Ultimately, you know what works for your family. Invent your own fun things help you savor the holiday season together!
How do you incorporate family into the holiday season?