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Make a Reading & Art Advent Calendar with the Kids

With two toddlers running around the house, I’m all for the trend of ditching the candy and filling the Advent calendars with Christmas activities instead.  I’m a little scared, however, of actually committing myself to a project or outing each day before I get a chance to see how it’s shaking out.  After all, I do have a very young toddler who’s nap schedule is still a bit of a moving target as well as an older toddler who inspired the recent “How to Maintain Your Zen When the Kids Have Lost Their Ever-Loving Minds” post.


So instead of making morning promises we may not be able to keep that afternoon, I opted for a more flexible “reading and art” Advent calendar.  I think our family will still make lots of holiday memories with it.  Plus, I love that the kids will get a double dose of art in both the making and using of our calendar.


To start, we dug up lots of white butcher paper and all the green and red art supplies we could find: paint, markers, crayons, colored pencils and glitter.

Then I told the littles to choice their weapon of choice and get creating.


Paint was the preferred medium of the day and we eventually ended up with rolls and rolls of hand-crafted wrapping paper. (You can probably tell by the low light quality of these photos that it was pouring outside and, thus, the perfect day for this activity.)



All that creativity tired out the tots, who slept it off while I headed to the library to hoard some Christmas reads.



When I returned the kids were still sleeping so I used my time to wrap the dozen or so books I found in our pretty new paper.  Then I added some gold number stickers to mark which day in December to open each package.


I also picked up a special coloring book for C while I was out.

Generally I try to limit the use of coloring books and lean more towards plain paper to stimulate lots of creativity. This, of course, makes coloring books all the more exciting when they do make an appearance.  I cut this one up and slid the individual pages into large white envelopes that also had gold number stickers on top.


I could have done only books but I decided to mix it up for a few reasons:


  1. The checkout period for library books is only 28 days and I didn’t want to get stuck with a bunch of yet-to-be-opened books that were overdue and racking up the fines.
  2. I didn’t want to use sub-par books just to make sure I had enough.
  3. Even if I could get my hands on 24 high quality books that I was allowed to keep ’till Christmas, I wasn’t sure we had enough paper to wrap them all.
  4. I liked the idea of mixing it up a bit.  C seems to get a little more excited when he’s not exactly sure what to expect.

Finally, I lined everything up on the mantle and – viola! – an Advent calendar was born.

I mixed up the order of everything to keep C wondering what would be coming each morning: a story or some art.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

JDaniel4's Mom November 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm

This is a really great idea! I have already started to check out Christmas books from the library.


Louisa November 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I love the idea of using books and art activities for an Advent calendar!


Karla November 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.


Karla November 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm

This is GREAT! So simple but so practical and creative! I’m going to adapt this to include other small activities and books for each day that I already have on hand. I’m discussing advent calendars tomorrow on my blog and am adding yours! http://chasingchalk.blogspot.com


tristan November 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm

this is such a great idea! simple and interactive! i love it!


Cecilia November 22, 2011 at 7:19 pm

incredible! nice way to mix it up.


Love and Lollipops November 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I absolutely love your Advent idea! It’s fabulous!


Cat November 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I’m fairly new to your blog but can’t thank you enough for all your inspirational ideas. I have a 5 week old baby & a 3 year old & am using your ideas almost daily to keep Mr 3 happy. We are having a blast and spending some great time together. I have wanted to get a book advent calendar going for a while but not wanted to buy all new books and this is a fab idea! Thanks so much. X


Lauren {sippinglemonade.com} November 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Love this! Stumbled on your blog from Parents.com Blog Awards — so glad I found it :) Happy Thanksgiving!


another donkey design by kate November 23, 2011 at 3:08 am

What a great idea. Will def be keeping this in mind for when my little man is slightly older.


Darcy November 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I love this idea!!


miamihoney November 24, 2011 at 7:08 am

I love this idea. I think I will modify it a bit but certainly will be using it as the foundation of our advent calendar this year! Thanks!


Kelsey@inspirationthief November 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I love this idea. We are starting the tradition this year at my house. If you want to see what we are reading you can check us out here: http://inspirationthief.blogspot.com/2011/10/christmas-book-advent-calender.html


Mhairi February 13, 2012 at 6:22 am

Hi. I love this idea and will be doing it next year. I have a massive wish list of Christmas books on http://www.awesomebooks.com/
The bargain bin is brilliant. I also love http://www.betterworldbooks.com/ as for every book you buy they donate one to someone who can’t afford books. A great way to build your Christmas selection and help others.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea.


Emma April 13, 2012 at 8:36 am

have just found this!! I love love love it!!!!
cant wait to try it this christmas!!


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