Thrive. This is the word I claimed for 2020. I don’t do “resolutions”, but I do appreciate choosing a guiding word for each new year. In some ways it’s almost laughable that, of all years, I chose “thrive” for what has undoubtedly already been one of the more challenging and unpredictable years for many of us… and it’s only April.
If you’re anything like me, then you always have these grand ideas about what you’re going to do to make Advent super special for your kiddos each year. And then every year, on December 1st, your head pops off the pillow and you think to yourself, “Oh no! That’s today!!!” And you run down to the nearest grocery store to grab a discounted 24-day chocolate calendar for each of the kids and call it good. If this is you, trust me, there is NO JUDGEMENT here, because I have BEEN there so many times!
I also totally get that with the many stunning DIY options all over Instagram and Pinterest at this time of year – I have done my fair share of drooling over some of my favourite DIYs – it’s easy to feel like whatever we have planned or decided to go with, is a little underwhelming.
So – if this is you – keep reading! Because I’ve put together a list of fun, quick, Advent Calendar ideas that you still have time to jump on this year! I’ve selected three of my favourite ideas for this year and have divided them into three categories: The DIY, The Classic Keepsake, and The Reverse Advent Calendar.
IDEA #1: THE DIY
Ok so you forgot about putting together an Advent Calendar for the kids, but you love the idea of a fun DIY. Well – this is perfect because this DIY Advent Calendar idea actually involves your kids in the creative process – so you can use the first couple of days of advent to gather your supplies before actually assembling the calendar, and your kiddos will have the fun of participating in the crafting. My best friend Denille (who is also an early childhood educator) came up with this clever idea which is great for kids of any age! You can follow her on Instagram here.
To create these fun Christmas Characters, we washed out the bottles we already had on hand, and then decorated them with items we had around the house, as well as a few I picked up from our local craft and dollar stores. We used pipe-cleaners, ribbon, string, stickers, gems, google-eyes, confetti, pompoms, markers, and a glue gun.
Once we had created our characters (we went with Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman), we simply added a tag with a number for each day to each character using a piece of sparkly string, but twine or ribbon would work as well. These little characters could then be stored in a basket, lined up on a shelf, or strung up as a garland.
As for the contents – we thought seasonal candies would be perfect if you want to incorporate a sweet treat, or you could also put words of encouragement, or acts of kindness written out and rolled up. There really are so many options with this DIY, and I think you’ll have so much fun creating these characters with your kiddos!
If this DIY isn’t really your style, or you don’t have containers you can recycle, check out this simple DIY advent calendar I did a few years ago using mini-take out containers instead!
IDEA #2: THE CLASSIC KEEPSAKE
Another Advent Calendar option that I really love is the “Book a Day” idea. Obviously I didn’t invent this idea, but I think it’s worth including in this list, because although it can be a bit pricey to buy 24 new books, it CAN be accomplished quickly, and in my opinion, you can never have too many books. You can choose to buy only seasonal books, or you can select a range for your kids to enjoy throughout the year. It’s really up to you!
This year, I decided to go with seasonal books, but because we have four kids, they are appropriate for different age ranges. I even found a Christmas chapter book for Isla, and of course there’s no shortage of cute board books at this time of year for babies and toddlers.
The other nice thing about this option is that you can also use the wrapped and un-wrapped books as part of your seasonal decor. A fun box or basket is perfect for displaying and storing the books all season long. You could even create a fun reading spot near your tree for your kiddos to curl up and read throughout the holiday.
This is such a fun and classic option for an Advent Calendar that will no doubt be a timeless keepsake for your kids as you pull your box of books out each year. I know some families who re-wrap the same books year after year, to be opened on different days, and it’s amazing how the kids look forward to their favourite stories and the mystery of which one they’ll get to read each day! You honestly can’t go wrong with this Classic Keepsake Advent idea!
IDEA #3: THE REVERSE-ADVENT CALENDAR
The third option that I want to include is the “reverse-advent” option, because I think a lot of people are really wanting to do more with what they have at this time of year as opposed to focusing solely on physical gifts and materialism. Don’t get me wrong, we love giving and receiving gifts in our household, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. But we also want our kids to understand how truly blessed they are, and that it really IS better to give than to receive.
So, we love pulling out our Giving Manger each year, which is an Advent concept that encourages children to be actively looking for ways to show kindness by giving back to those around them, whether it’s their immediate family, the friends they encounter at school, or those in their communities.Giving Manger comes with a wooden manger, several pieces of straw, a beautiful wooden Baby Jesus figurine, and a story you can read to your kids each year to outline the concept. Every time someone in your family does something kind and selfless for someone else, they are encouraged to add a piece of straw to the manger. On Christmas day, the hope is that the manger is overflowing with straw, in preparation for the arrival of the best gift of the season – Baby Jesus. Because our family is faith-filled, we love that this idea helps our kids to focus on what we believe is the reason for celebration this season.
However, you certainly don’t have to be religious to appreciate the concept of a reverse advent calendar, and there are so many great ideas on Pinterest for how to set one up for your family! As mentioned above, my suggestion is to take any DIY advent calendar and instead of including candy and treats, try including random-act-of-kindness challenges or suggestions.
Some of our favourites include:
- Baking treats for your neighbours
- Shovelling someone’s driveway
- Giving new or gently-used toys/books to children in need
- Volunteering at a local charity as a family
- Cleaning up without being asked
- Playing with a new friend or a younger sibling
- Writing a special note to someone in public service: teachers, firefighters, etc.
- Collecting food for a food hamper for someone in need
- Taking on an extra chore
- Sharing a special toy or item with a friend or sibling
Alright, there you have it! My top three suggestions for last minute Advent Calendar ideas that you could still pull off this season! OR, if it still feels like a bit too much, you could also consider any of these suggestions for a “12 Days of Christmas” activity leading up to the holiday, instead of committing to the full 24 days. I totally understand that this time of year, with so much going on, 24 days can feel really full-on. To be honest it’s the reason we’ve never had an “Elf on the Shelf” in our family; I just know I would totally mess it up on a regular basis by forgetting to move the elf around, lol.
There is also absolutely nothing wrong with a store-bought 24-day advent calendar either (I got each of my kids one from Walmart for $1.99). There are all kinds of amazing Advent Calendars available for purchase at all price points and for all ages! I have seen everything from the staple chocolate calendars, to daily tea or beer calendars. Honestly, the options are endless!
So, as I said at the beginning of this blog post, there is NO JUDGEMENT if you didn’t plan for a creative Advent Calendar for your kids this year! But, if you did still want to jump on an idea, hopefully you found these ideas helpful! What are your recommendations for the best Advent Calendar ideas you’ve come across for the season? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
The Christmas season is one of my favourite times of the year, and part of the reason is because I absolutely love decorating for the holidays. We typically put up three trees: one in the dining room, one in the living room, and one in the basement for the kids. Unfortunately we’ve never been able to have a real tree due to family allergies, but I’ve managed to find some gorgeous artificial trees over the years… and on the plus side, I can start my decorating a little earlier in the season!