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24 unique and low-stress ideas for families to countdown to Christmas - #11 is our kids' favorite new tradition.

Our Advent Activity List

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Yesterday, I shared my favorite Advent calendars.  Today, I thought I’d provide some help filling up your calendar of choice.  I’ve decided to bite the bullet this year and go with an activity Advent.

I’ll hedge my bets, though, by including activities that fall all over the preparation level spectrum.  I also fully reserve the right to switch the day’s activity when my kids’ heads are turned. That way we’re sure to have some real memory makers in the mix, but we can also keep it simple if our day is already heading south by 10 AM.

  1. Bake and decorate gingerbread men (because they’re so much more manageable than houses).
  2. Make salt dough ornaments.
  3. Go to a Christmas show – The Nutcracker, Zoo Lights, a Christmas toy train exhibit, etc.
  4. Trim the tree.
  5. Eat a simple snowman lunch.
  6. Take each child Christmas shopping for their sibling/parent/grandparent.
  7. Adopt a family for Christmas and go shopping for them.
  8. Help the kids make wrapping paper and wrap their special gifts.
  9. Make colored ice sculptures.
  10. Have a Christmas movie night, some great suggestions.
  11. Get the kids in their PJs and go on a late-night drive to see Christmas lights.
  12. Have a hot cocoa bar night.
  13. Attend a neighborhood tree lighting ceremony.
  14. Make six-sided paper snowflakes.
  15. Make mason jar snow globes.
  16. Make Candy Cane Play Dough.
  17. Visit Santa and get the kids’ picture on his lap (hopefully not screaming).
  18. Make a gift for teacher.
  19. Make an easy Christmas centerpiece together.
  20. Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  21. Bake something for your neighbors (we carry on my Mother-in-Law’s tradition of making Madeira wine cake – so good).
  22. Make ice bubbles.
  23. Go Caroling (nursing homes are great venues for this!).
  24. Read The Night Before Christmas (we love this pop up version) and bake cookies for Santa.

P.S. If you’re really looking to have the holidays in the bag this year, we’ve got two ways to help. First get the holiday shopping out of the way with all 10 of our 2015 Gift Guides here


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Hands On Holidays eBook - can't wait to use this with the kids this year!





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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin from Frugal Family Times November 20, 2012 at 7:06 am

We are planning the very same thing this year! The hardest part seems to be narrowing down the ideas to 24! (And now I have a few more great ideas thanks to your list, Steph!) The beauty of it is that we aren’t doing anything more than any other year, we’re just creating more anticipation and wonder along with it.


Dani C November 21, 2012 at 7:11 am

Thanks for the ideas! We have decided to do this as well but instead of a calendar we have decorated 24 Popsicle sticks that each have an activity on them. Every day when our “elf” comes he will choose a stick for the day. So the boys have to find Belby Barney to see what we’ll be doing that day :) I will definitely be adding ice bubbles and candy cane play dough to our list!!!


Cat November 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I adore this!! I will totally be stealing this, hope you don’t mind :)
we do this type of stuff in Dec anyway, but like a previous poster said, this brings a great excitement to it!!! totally “borrowing” some of the ideas too. (some we already do, lol)


Gretchen November 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Thanks for posting this great list of ideas. Most importantly, and is seen in this list, is making memories with our children. This is what they will remember for years to come.


Kadesha November 27, 2012 at 12:21 am

These are some great ideas and I want to do an advent calendar with my son, however, how or when do you all find the time to do the activities? My son is only 3 and goes to a half day preschool 4 days per week, however, I work in the afternoons on those days, and sometimes don’t get home until later in the evening.


Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids November 27, 2012 at 12:50 am

Hi Kadesha,

I totally get where you’re coming from. I think the key is planning ahead when you have the time. Designate the bigger endeavors for the weekends and also use that time to plan ahead for the rest of the week – get materials all ready for things like making snow globes or paper snowflakes so you can get right to it in the evening and get it done in 15-20 minutes.

Lastly, don’t feel bad about toning down the list to suit your availability. If you just don’t have time to do a craft most weeknights focus on the activities (making ice bubbles, having a special cup of hot cocoa, or watching a Christmas special). We have a Christmas book list post coming up next week too – you could check them out from the library and make an Advent reading basket. Then substitute some of the more time-consuming activities for picking a book from the basket.

Good luck!



Allen Porter November 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Since several of you have commented on the Ice Bubbles activity, I thought I’d share some other holiday-related experiences you can do at home:

Salty snowflakes:

Ice cube fishing:

And if holiday stress is getting to you, make a few stress balls:


Kyra November 29, 2012 at 9:32 am

This is awesome. I was trying to think up a “December Bucket List” AND do Elf on the Shelf AND do an Advent for my 1.5 year old and I was way over-extending myself. I can kind of incorporate all of the above. Awesome. :) I especially like the popsicle stick idea in the comments above, brilliant.


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