Looking for a truly simple way to kick start your holiday season? Try an activity advent calendar! It’s a sweet way to create family traditions and make the season a bit more magical and exciting without spending lots of money or prep time!
The activity advent calendar has been a staple in our home for several years. When planning, I include things we already have on the calendar (like a school holiday concert or Daddy’s birthday) and add in simple holiday fun (like a special pack of stickers, making cinnamon ornaments, or making cards to send to Great Grandparents). I’ve put together a list of 40 activity ideas, ranging from creative play to family traditions to giving back.
I love an activity advent because you don’t have to buy fancy supplies, and you limit the amount of things coming into your home - and you can focus on what you want your family’s priorities to be during a busy season. Scroll to the bottom of the post to learn how to make your own activity advent calendar, complete with a FREE printable list of activities, plus blank cards so you can write your own. Just print, cut, and celebrate!
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Play and Create
Make cards and mail to loved ones
Make a Christmas countdown chain
Make paper snowflakes
Cut ornaments out of cardboard and decorate them with paint
Make gingerbread playdough (my photo)
Make luminaries by gluing tissue paper to recycled jars (my photo)
Use Epsom salts to make a winter sensory bin (my photo)
Make a special Christmas craft (like a purchased craft kit or pick one from this list of 50 Christmas Crafts for Kids)
Take a flashlight walk after dinner
Snuggle around a campfire with hot cocoa
Take a nature walk and see how animals are adapting to the winter
Paint winter/Christmas rocks and leave them on a favorite trail
Go on a nature hunt! Pick one item (like icicles, birds, or a certain kind of Christmas decoration) and count how many you can find as you walk through your neighborhood.
Paint the snow - fill a squirt bottle with water dyed with food coloring and spray!
Have a snowman building contest
Festive Snacks and Food Fun
Pop popcorn and watch a festive movie
Bake Christmas cookies
Make snowman shaped pancakes
Drink hot cocoa with marshmallows
Decorate a gingerbread house
Make Grinch kabobs
Make snowman pretzels
Make fruit candy canes
Check out winter books from the library. See our favorite winter books here.
Read stories by twinkle lights
FaceTime grandparents or other loved ones to read a special story
Put on pajamas and drive to see Christmas lights
Build a fort and hang twinkle lights
Have a Christmas music dance party
Write a letter to Santa
Have a family game night
Visit a Christmas tree lighting
Open Christmas Eve Boxes (a special box with items to celebrate Christmas eve, like new pajamas, a special story, or a movie or game to share)
Purchase cookie making supplies and donate them to a food bank
Write a thank you note to the mail carrier/delivery person
Make cards for kids spending the holidays in the hospital - check out Cards for Hospitalized Kids for more info
Donate pet supplies or old stuffed animals to a local shelter
Donate a gently used toy to a toy drive
Deliver cookies or a treat to a neighbor
Make art for a local senior center
Make a card for your bus driver or school secretary
Making your Own Activity Advent Calendar
Ready to assemble your own Activity Advent Calendar? First, click the button below to get a FREE activity advent printable sent to your inbox. Simply print and cut out the activities you are interested in trying. There are even blank cards for you to fill in with your own ideas!
I use seed envelopes and twine with festive clothespins as our advent calendar. I love that this doesn't take up much room to store and that it can be used time after time! You could also grab a more permanent option, like this colorful felt calendar from World Market!
When assembling the Advent calendar, I write the numbers 1 - 24 on a piece of paper to make a master list of what I have planned. Then, I go through and mark any special days (like my husband's birthday, or the days that we will celebrate with family out of town). Then, I add in something special for the Winter Solstice (make ice lanterns), and mark days I know we could have a movie night or something like that. I fill in the rest of the days with simple ideas BEFORE I stuff the envelopes. This way, I know which day hold which activity and I can easily switch things out if I need to!