Advent Activities: Make the Days Count

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, now that November is here, I am looking at my holiday to-do lists with a critical eye and trying to be very realistic about what can actually, and joyfully, be accomplished between now and December.

My goal is to finish as much of my holiday planning as I can during the month of November so that December can be about more meaningful things. I’m also hoping that a little extra work and thoughtfulness now means more rest and playing later!

This week I’m thinking about Advent ideas in preparation for the upcoming season.

Advent: Counting the Days

It doesn’t take too many days of using an Advent calendar for even young kids to start to understand the idea of a count-down.  The simple, repeated act – be it opening a drawer on an heirloom calendar to reveal a surprise or tearing the next link on a paper chain every day – is a fun way for kids to mark the passage of time.

Something to look forward to every day is a nice way to measure the remaining time toward an anticipated day.

Making the Days Count

Over the years, our family has had Advent calendars with a small toy for each day, such as the Lego or Playmobil calendars.  This year, I have decided that I would like to shift the focus away from things and more toward experiences.

I have been writing a list of simple, but fun things that I would like to do with my kids this holiday season. I’d like to come up with 25 things, but I also want to keep this low-pressure and easy, so I’m not worrying too much about the actual number.

So far, my list has things on it like:

  • make paper snowflakes
  • drink cocoa from our Christmas mugs
  • decorate the Christmas tree
  • bake cookies
  • call Grandma and sing Jingle Bells
  • go for a drive to look at holiday lights
  • take a picture in our Santa hats (the sillier, the better!)
  • make real eggnog
  • color a picture using only red and green crayons
  • watch A Charlie Brown Christmas

Old and New Advent Traditions

A new tradition I hope to start this Advent season is to create a simple scrapbook of the season, inspired by Ali Edward’s December Daily project.  I’m putting together the album now, as Ali suggests, so that once December gets here all I have to do is add my journaling and daily picture.

Some of you think I’m very organized, and your kind words flatter me, but the truth is I just have a talent for locating good resources that take some of the planning and research off of my own shoulders. I appreciate that there are others before me who have already done the work of compiling stories, songs, and craft ideas. All I have to do is gather supplies and follow along!

My Favorite Advent Planners

Last year I purchased the Seasons of Joy’s Advent: Lighting a Path to Christmas ebook.  My kids and I really enjoyed picking from the songs, stories, crafts, and nature table ides and are looking forward to repeating those activities and readings again this year, too.

We’ll be combining the Seasons of Joy ebook with another of my favorite resources: Advent and Christmas with Tomie De Paola from Elizabeth Foss. We’ve used this  fantastic, free resource in our homeschool for a few years now, but I don’t think you have to be a homeschooler to appreciate it.

I’ll also be pulling out my favorite devotional book for this time of year, A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander.

While the Houselander book is for me, I’m still looking for an Advent devotional for my nine year old.  Any suggestions?

Do you have a favorite Advent calendar count-down method or devotional?

This post on Advent was brought to you by Back 40 Life, a beautiful etsy store full of handcrafted signs and wall decals.  Jodi’s dream of Back 40 Life began as a desire for “…a slower pace that celebrated the simplicity of life and found enjoyment in the everyday.”  I can certainly relate to that!

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About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace

Comments

  1. so excited about this post, thank you! I have been wondering what to put in the advent calendar without having so much focus on food. Thanks for doing the thinking for me! :-)
    Annie´s latest post: 30 Days of Thankfulness – Day 14

  2. Yep! Up until last year, we just used a purchased one with little chocolates. Last year I made my own out of little boxes, and I did exactly what you’re planning for this year. I just pulled up my file from last year’s plan and am working on it again. Some of the things on our list are specific to our area (local attractions), but some of the others are translatable to anywhere, like:

    **Make ornaments (a couple of different kinds on different days)
    **Decorate the kids’ room for Christmas
    **Make homemade jar snowglobes
    **Make homemade Christmas glitter playdough
    **Make gingerbread men with our friends
    **Write and illustrate our own Christmas storybook
    **Make beeswax candles
    **Make wrapping paper

    This year we will be repeating many of these, as well as our destination-oriented activities, but I’d like to increase the number of days that we do something that is giving/service/volunteer oriented.
    Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: An Open Letter to Ms Frizzle- Arnold- Wanda- Liz- The Girl with the Red and Yellow Clothes- and the Other Passengers of the Magic School Bus

  3. I was curious if you had thought through helping our kids become more service minded versus consumer minded during Christmas…was curious if you have any idea/posts regarding this topic?

    • There are a lot of great ideas in this post and the comments section…

      http://aliedwards.com/2010/11/weekend-creative-advent-action-cards.html

    • on of our holiday activities is to donate food to the foodbank – that can be incorporated into an advent activity, as can dropping off cookies or goodies at a nursing home, veteran’s home, or at a lonely neighbor’s home if you know of one. Small donations to an animal shelter are always fun for animal loving kids.

      Children can make holiday cards for the same orgs listed above as well as servicemen overseas (those likely need to be done right after Thanksgiving).

      Toy donations, mitten/hat trees are great and many banks and service orgs sponsor “adopt a family” tags – they are usually small items kids enjoy picking out. My daughter picked tags for a girl her age so it will be easy to pick the items out.

  4. Check out Jotham’s Journey and the related books. Story to tell along with some devotional type questions. There are three books – each telling a story of the adventures of a young child on their way to the stable one wonderful night. We’ve been using them for a while now and our kid enjoys them, even though we know what’s going to happen at the end. Check them out at http://www.jothamsjourney.com/ . (Not affiliated with them in any way – we just like the stories and devotions.)

    Related, we also do an Advent wreath each year and let the candles burn while we read the stories.

    I’d love to hear what you pick for a devotion, though. We’re always interested in new ideas and resources.

  5. I know this is a different way of using an advent calendar but you could also have your children put money in the folder or box on the advent day. Then when advent is over they can donate it all to a charity of their choice. Another idea is for children to put a note in on the advent day, listing some of God’s gifts they feel blessed with. Then reading them all together on Christmas day.
    Frances´s latest post: A smarter cell phone without the upgrade

  6. For Byzantine Catholics, Advent starts today! So those cute Advent calendars don’t really work for us- I have made a Jesse tree with extra ornaments and an Advent wreath with extra candles.

    http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/2010/11/psalm-31-philips-fast-advent.html

  7. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I really want to get advent traditions started with my kiddos, so I’ve been trying to start planning early. I have friends that do wonderfully elaborate Advent activities each day of the month, and while they are totally inspiring, it’s also overwhelming to think of tackling something like that. These simple ideas and resources are a FANTASTIC place for me to start.

  8. Thank you so much for the wonderful thoughts and ideas you send regularly. You mentioned finding a childs advent devotional. What if that is the way you spend advent this year? Taking each day to ask the children how they noticed god in the day or a special thought of caring or kindness or an intention to care and serve each day? Then you would have a memory that came from them and they would still be in the quite moment each day.

    Have a wonderful day.

    Julie Freedman Smith from http://www.parentingpower.ca

  9. There is so much great info packed in to this post!

    My son is only 3, but I think I might be ready to introduce some Advent activities this year. For the last 2 years, I’ve done a Christmas Book Advent. I wrap 25 Christmas Books, number them (or let him choose the book), then we unwrap and read the book for the day.

    For your activity advent, I think some homemade ornaments, a popcorn string (or other garland), gingerbread house/men, and some service projects (we’re doing Operation Christmas Child, among others) could all be great ideas. Oh, and what about a birdseed wreath/ornament for the birds and squirrels?

    Thank you for sharing your resources! The ebooks and devotionals sound like just what I’ve been looking for (but hadn’t quite gotten around to actually looking for just yet!) ;)

    I’ve long admired Ali Edwards’ December Daily project. I’m not a scrapbooker, but this project in particular appeals to me.

  10. Just thought of “checking out Christmas books at the library” as an activity that might work for one of the days. Great post! Perfect tradition to start with my little boy and girl. Thank you.

  11. I love these ideas. Here is the advent calendar that I’m working on. I might try and incorporate the two together!

    http://everydayfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Christmas
    Heidi´s latest post: Please Pass the Stapler!

  12. Hi! I really like your site and I come very often for a visit to read your posts. I hope I understood your question about Advent devotional for a 9 years old. In case that was a book recommendation question, my suggestion would be
    Selfish Giant, retold by Fiona Waters. Check the link to see it
    http://www.paperbackswap.com/Selfish-Giant/book/037580319X/
    We live in Argentina and Advent calendars were introduced to our family by my sister who lives in the States 4 years ago. Since then, kids and I make our own calendar every year, generally using ravioli card boxes! They are perfect size, kids paint and number every day and we cut the little windows together. Then I hide a little treat every day (other suggestions are very welcome, my creativity didn´t go that far and I think I´m going to implement your ideas and other poeple´s comments ideas as well, such as baking or calling grandma for “villancicos” (Jingle Bells).
    Lots of love and enjoy your Advent time!
    Fernanda
    Fernanda´s latest post: Paparazzi- Grandpa and Cockroach The games inventors

  13. Oh my friend, you must have been stalking my google searches this week! Perfect timing! :)
    Herbwifemama´s latest post: Why I’ve been away

  14. JOTHAMS JOURNEY!!!
    (& the two follow up stories, as mentioned above)
    our kids are 5 to 15 & the excitement of the story & the curiosity for the story as it moves through Advent is just captivating to watch!

    Please check it out!

  15. Our family really enjoys doing a Jesse Tree for advent each year. So much so, that after not being able to find quality ornaments at an affordable price, my mom helped me design and has made a gorgeous set for us to have for years to come.
    We also decided to make them available to others.
    Here’s a link to our blog explaining what a Jesse Tree is:
    http://jessetreeornaments.wordpress.com/category/what-is-a-jesse-tree/

  16. I am in the middle of making an Advent calendar from felt with pockets, where each pocket holds a felt character or animal and it slowly builds a nativity scene. I found some Advent calendars like this online to purchase, but they all seemed too cartoonish and rather ugly. So I decided to make my own! I’ll let you know how it goes. That’s our “serious” calendar. :) We’ll also do a more fun one, with suggestions like the ones you offered for family Christmas fun, that will be more of a visual kind of count-down – probably something simple like paper chains.

  17. oo loved reading everyone’s ideas! I am working on doing a craft each day.. but I plan to do all of the prep work before Dec. 1st that way I can just grab the whole thing and we can make it. We will also be doing the Jesse tree.
    Lindsay @ BytesOfMemory´s latest post: Menu Plan Monday

  18. Ohhhhhhhh! Great discussion here. SO helpful. I bought some materials to do a Jesse Tree last year (a la Holy Experience) but didn’t follow through. I’m like you – I want to be PREPARED this year for mindfulness (loving the idea of service being incorporated, too) so thanks for the motivation to get going on this!
    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s latest post: Links for 2010-11-12 delicious

  19. My absolute favorite Advent resource is The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman (http://adventbook.com).

  20. I love the idea of planning Advent/Christmas activities NOW in order to fully enjoy the season when it arrives, especially since the calendar seems to fill up so quickly this time of year! I use a felt Advent calendar based on one my mother made when we were young. Inside each pocket is a felt symbol (heart, key, candle, dove, etc.) and there is a Bible verse, hymn, and short devotional tied to each symbol. It helps us keep the focus of Advent on preparing our hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus.

  21. Thank you so much for the mention! We’re looking forward to exploring Advent with two new babies. We may not have a lot in terms of cooking and crafting, but we’ll have lots of songs, stories, and conversation.
    Annette´s latest post: Saturday Sweeps!

  22. My children and I have enjoyed doing Advent Activities every day of December over the last 3 years. I have some great ideas on my website: http://www.alannageorge.com. This year we will be reading a Jesse Tree story each day and creating a coordinating ornament to hang on our tree. The kids are already looking forward to the 1st of December so we can get started!

  23. I love the direction you’re heading in… those activities are simple & meaningful when done with intention. My favorite is “call Grandma and sing Jingle Bells”; I can imagine what a memory that will be!
    Sofia’s Ideas´s latest post: CSA Share 2- Recipes

  24. Hi Kara-
    You do such a great job of getting me focused and inspire me to stretch myself as a mother. I’m linking to you tomorrow!
    abby
    Abby @ abby & her boys´s latest post: Who Wants Chili and a few other things

  25. Hi Kara,

    I love your blog and all your ideas but I’m actually spurred to do something with your suggestion of the Advent activity calendar. Instead of doing the sweets or treats each day I’m doing some of the activities you suggested. I also loved the “call grandma and sing Jingle Bells” idea. I’m not all that crafty and still need some more suggestions for what to do with a 6 year old boy and an almost 3 year old girl during the 24 days.

  26. Our favorite Advent book is The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. We didn’t like Jotham’s Journey as much, but we would love some other options rather than doing The Christmas Mystery every year (we would like for it to continue to be special).
    Kari´s latest post: Dear Atticus- Happy Thanksgiving

  27. We also wrap up 25 books we keep them in a basket and the kids pick one a day to read. I also use a book called The ADVENTure Of Christmas ( Helping Children find Jesus in our Holiday Traditions) by Lisa Whelchel

  28. we are getting ready to try the advent study from Quiet Times for Kids.

    http://quiettimesforkids.com/Products

    I have printed it and looked through it and it looks very good.

  29. try to make homemade playdough! making it at home gives twice the fun!

  30. So many wonderful resources listed here and good ideas. Thank you.

    We decided not to do an Advent calendar this year, but to make a simple purple paper chain. To make it, this morning we brainstormed concrete ways we could show our love for one another, for God or for ourselves and our home. We wrote one on each strip of paper and put them face-in for the chain. On the outside of each piece, we wrote a number and now we are on our way to counting down, having down the first thing on the chain this morning.

    On another note, I wanted to invite you to participate in our weekly Sunday link-up anytime you would like: http://traininghappyhearts.blogspot.com/search/label/Training%20Happy%20Hearts%20in%20Young%20Children

  31. We also use the Jesse Tree advent book and you can get it free by clicking on the link and following the instructions in this post: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2011/11/free-jesse-tree-advent-family-devotional/
    Another good one for younger kiddos is Truth in the Tinsel, found here:http://truthinthetinsel.com/
    MamaJ´s latest post: My Daybook 11/17/2011

  32. Oh, and I like the advent ornaments from confessionsofahomeschooler.com – they are easy to print and use and you can find a post about it here: http://www.roomag.com/advent-ornaments/

    Enjoy!
    MamaJ´s latest post: My Daybook 11/17/2011

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by NJ Family-Lucy Banta, Susan Heid. Susan Heid said: RT @simplekids Advent Activities: Make the Days Count http://bit.ly/9u6oiq [...]

  2. [...] at SimpleKids wrote about Advent Activities and the notion of moving from counting the days to making the days count.  Wonderful ideas to get [...]

  3. [...] a fun list of Advent Activities for you and the [...]

  4. [...] are some helpful links for Advent ideas: Advent Activities: Making the Days Count at Simple Kids Simple Advent Envelope Calendar at Frugal Granola Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent [...]

  5. [...] Focus on Experiences and Create a Scrapbook of the Season [...]

  6. [...] Kara at Simple Kids posted a long list of possible Advent activities [...]

  7. [...] much searching, I came across the idea of filling the little pockets of an Advent calendar with simple holiday-themed activities. I chose the Here Comes Santa Clause calendar from Land of Nod for my toddlers because I thought [...]

  8. [...] bumps are felt pockets that you can put just about anything in. The creator of this version has put daily activities in each of the pockets. Each day an activity is drawn and completed in preparation for [...]

  9. [...] bumps are felt pockets that you can put just about anything in. The creator of this version has put daily activities in each of the pockets. Each day an activity is drawn and completed in preparation for [...]

  10. [...] bumps are felt pockets that you can put just about anything in. The creator of this version has put daily activities in each of the pockets. Each day an activity is drawn and completed in preparation for [...]

  11. [...] Advent Activities: Making the Days Count | Simple KidsNov 15, 2010 … Simple Advent Activities for making the days count. [...]

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