Planning an activity Advent calendar is quick and easy with my printables and How-To guide! Plus I’ve got tons of Advent calendar activity ideas your family will love!
Merry Christmas!! I’m kidding. Yes, I totally know that we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, BUT – if you’ve been thinking about doing an Advent Activity Calendar (and don’t worry, I’ll tell you exactly why you definitely should!) now is the time to get crackin’!
I wanted to make sure you had absolutely everything you need to plan a crazy-awesome, easy and most importantly fun Advent, including some printables to help plan, a how-to guide telling you exactly how I do it (which is also where you’ll find the printables!) and a HUGE list of activities to get the ball rolling.
“It just doesn’t really feel like the holidays this year”
Has this thought crossed your mind in the middle of the Christmas season before? Or the feeling that “The holidays just fly by these days”?
That was me for so long. Every single year felt more rushed and every single year I was feeling a bit less of that Christmas spirit that had filled me with such joy as a kid (or heck, even 5 years ago!). The fun and the wonder of the season were getting lost in the shuffle of life and I know I’m not alone.
It’s ok, I found a solution:
The ol’ Advent calendar. No, not the chocolate-filled kind (though I used to get those as a kid, and you’ll get no complaints from me about that!), but the kind where you do something Christmas-y every day through Christmas Eve.
We started this tradition with our kids (though the grown-ups in the house like it just as much!) a couple of years ago and I’m being completely sincere when I tell you that it absolutely changed the holidays for us.
Scheduling that quality time with your kids every day for a month can really change your perspective in the most welcome and wonderful way. You won’t regret it.
(It’s also way more fun than moving that damn elf every single night. I’m just saying. 😉 )
My top 5 reasons on why you should do an activity Advent calendar this year (and every year!):
- Feel like a kid again (bring on that Christmas joy!)
- Daily quality family time
- Way more fun than trying to remember to move the elf on the shelf every night.
- A great way to schedule in things that might get missed during the busy holiday season, like talking to your kids about the importance of helping others, giving and kindness.
- Did I mention SO. MUCH. FUN??
Ok, let’s get to it!
How I plan my Advent calendar:
For full instructions, scroll down to my How-To (this is also where you’ll find the links for the printables that are going to be so helpful and make planning your calendar super quick and easy).
The first thing I do is print out the calendar. Then I mark any days that I know we won’t have a lot of time (like when you know your kid has basketball practice or when you have plans with a friend), that way I can make sure that I plan something that won’t take a lot of time on those days.
Next, I do an internet search for any local holiday activities, decide which ones we want to do/spend the money on, and add those to the calendar.
We’ll often find a couple of free local events to go to and then choose one “big” activity to spend our money on, like going to the Nutcracker or a Christmas train ride. Of course this is totally optional, you can totally do an Advent Calendar on the cheap!
Then all that’s left to do is to fill in the other days with things my kids (and me and the hubs) will love, put them on pieces of paper and put them in our wooden calendar. Here are our fave activities:
Advent Calendar Activity Ideas
- Day 1 – write a letter to Santa (my kids like to decorate it too)
- Christmas dance party – bonus points for adding some red and green balloons to toss and kick around!
- Christmas origami – Here are a couple of sites to use for ideas:
- Cookie baking
- Christmas gift shopping
- Christmas movies -you can get a lot of mileage out of this idea, because you’re probably going to want to watch more than one Christmas movie during the holidays. I always add this (with specific movies) to at least 2 or 3 days of our calendar.
- Make puffy paint window clings – word to the wise, there are actually two different sides to wax paper, if you make these, make sure you use the shinier, waxier side.
- Take Christmas pictures – we send out photo Christmas cards every year and taking our holiday photos is always really fun 🙂 We’ve even made our own Christmas photo booth props for them before, the kids loved it!
- Christmas pancakes for dinner – We just make a few different sizes of regular round pancakes and have plenty of fruit, sprinkles and whipped cream for the kids to turn their pancakes into Santa, a reindeer, an elf or a snowman!
- Christmas craft – these can double as family gifts from the kids!
- Make a gingerbread house. I usually just buy one of those kits they sell in stores to make things easy on myself and the kids love it!
- Drive around to see the Christmas decorations/lights.
- We always decorate towards the end of November, but if you don’t, Christmas decorating would be a great thing to add to the list!
- Build a blanket fort while listening to Christmas music (bonus points for pretending to be elves) – also a great place to read a Christmas story afterward!
- Have a candy cane hunt (ya know, like an Easter egg hunt 😉 ).
- Color pages from a Christmas coloring book.
- Have each child choose a toy to donate, this is such a great way to talk about the importance of giving, helping others and the Christmas spirit.
- Play Christmas Song Pictionary!
- Have a gift wrapping party! Kids love to help with wrapping, especially littles, and it’s so much fun to put on some Christmas music, make some hot cocoa and wrap gifts together!
- A special holiday book reading with Mint Steamers or other festive treats. The girls love to picnic on a blanket by the tree, with their warm Mint Christmassy drink while listening to a favorite Christmas story. Some of our favorites are:
- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
- The Crippled Lamb
- ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas
- The Polar Express
- Make paper snowflakes and then hang them from string on the tree or really anywhere in your house for a fun decoration. Can’t remember how? Check out Hoosier Homemade for a refresher on making paper snowflakes and lots of other easy crafts!
- Make fake snow! It’s really fun to play with and you can even shape it like sand!
- Visit Santa
- Sing Christmas carols – check out some karaoke apps for this! I use Yokee for Android.
- Have a crazy-fun Polar Express Family Night!
- Get a video message from Santa.
- Visit reindeercam.com to see live video of Santa’s reindeer and even see Santa feeding them twice a day! (You can also add your child’s name to the nice list and show it to them 🙂 )
- Holiday Sink or Float Science Experiment – easy and fun!
- Christmas Bingo
- Have a Christmas treasure hunt!
- Track Santa along with Norad and get an ETA of when he’ll be coming down your chimney!
- Day 24 -make reindeer food (just oats, colored sugar and sprinkles!) and sprinkle it outside for the reindeer to eat – we usually pair this with a reading of ” ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” because you must, right?! or
- Day 24 – give the kiddos a Christmas eve gift of Jammies, a Christmas book and a snack and then read the new book!
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, right?! Be prepared with a few pieces of Christmas-y candy or even some Christmas themed Hotwheels cars or other small toys that you can put in the Advent calendar if you realize that you’re not going to have time that day to do what you originally intended. – I’ll also sometimes move days around when necessary, which is another reason having that calendar all written out is so nice!
*I got my Advent calendar at Lowe’s (and I’ve included some links to some cute ones in the how-to card) – but here are some great ideas that I found for DIYing it.t
Don’t forget to pin this Advent Calendar Planning and Ideas post for later! ⇓
Here are the full instructions ⇓
How to Plan an Advent Calendar:
- Blank December Advent Calendar - click here to print the pdf!
- Advent Calendar Activity Worksheet - click here to print the pdf!
- An Advent calendar that has something to hold small slips of paper - like pockets or little boxes with doors.
- If you plan to do any local activities, search for those online (Facebook, local news websites and your city's website are all great places to check) and add them to your worksheet in the appropriate columns along with any other ideas you may have that aren't already listed.
- On your printed calendar, fill in any Christmas activities that you already have planned - for example, work holiday parties, the local holiday events that you just looked up, etc.
- Next, checkmark on your calendar any days that you'll have less than 30 minutes for Advent calendar activities. (For example.: I always check the "less than 30 minutes" box on school days, because those evenings are always super packed).
- Fill in your calendar with activities from the worksheet that will fit your time frame for each day.
- Once your calendar is filled in, you can either just write the activities on slips of paper or you can go to Avery.com* to design them instead! Then carefully put the slips of paper in the correct days of your Advent calendar.
- Important (and something I've learned from experience!): Make a list of any materials you may need for every activity on your list and pick them up all together ahead of time if you can. Then you'll know you're ready to go for every activity!
* I always go to Avery.com and use their design tool to make my little activity sheets. It's super easy and quick. I just use the label template #5159, add a cute Christmas-y character (Avery has a ton on their site to choose from) and then type in each activity on a different label. Then I just print them out on regular paper and cut them out. 🙂
* Be sure to have some backups for if you're plans change at the last minute and you don't have time to do your set activity. A fun piece of candy or small toy (like a hot wheels car) are good options. I've also been known to switch that day's activity with a different day that takes less time. Another reason why it's so awesome to have that calendar printed and filled in!
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