As a child, the days leading up to Christmas became some of my most magical memories - probably in some ways filled with as much magic and happiness as Christmas Eve and Christmas morning themselves. I can still vividly remember the wooden advent calendar I eagerly looked forward to setting up every year. Old and hand made, each day I got to open a new tiny window and reveal a little picture, something like a manger or a tree, a star or some doves - every window one day closer to Christmas. It was a thrill in itself to just to open the tiny wooden shutters - a task I savored doing every night or morning - the simplicity being what might have honestly made it so magical to me.
I'd been wanting to do some sort of advent calendar for Sawyer (age 2 and almost a half) this year, something small - different than a tiny toy, trinket or candy each day - but something a bit meaningful for her, for me. For us. The original advent calendar with a simple window or pocket will never grow old in my heart - a tradition that I certainly could never do Christmas season without - but this year I wanted to add something new for us as a family. I decided 25 small activities, wrapped in tiny packages would be perfect.
In about 30 mins, with just the loose odds and ends in my Christmas wrapping bin I had created this darling little advent activity calendar that may even be too cute to open.
Here's the supplies I used and needed but you really can do this with almost anything :
string or twine, in different colors
a long piece of driftwood or a branch, anything to hang your packages on
Wrapping paper, plain brown paper, white paper
Small bottle brush trees and wreaths
I started writing my activities down on a sheet of white paper, I tried to think of a variety of different tasks that were realistic - a mix of something that would occasionally get us up and going - something different than our normal routine - but keeping them tasks that would be easy to accomplish.
A few of the things I came up with :
watch a Christmas movie with popcorn
Go on a walk and collect something
Paint our nails
Read a book about the birth of Jesus and meaning of Christmas
Have a spa day and paint our nails
Decorate Christmas cookies
Make a Christmas card for grandma and grandpa
Pick a toy to wrap up and bring to charity
Take a bubble bath just for fun
Go somewhere fun we don't usually go
Build a fort and have a snack inside it
Make hot chocolate with marshmallows
Grab a book and let's cuddle on the couch
Draw a Christmas picture
Make some paper Christmas snowflakes and listen to Christmas music
Have breakfast for dinner - waffles!?
Make a card for dad to read when he gets home
Bake a birthday cake for Jesus
Drive around and look at Christmas lights after dinner
A few of the activities are a little more time consuming than others - decorating cookies and even "going somewhere fun" are a little more of a commitment than making hot chocolate or drawing a Christmas card - but let's be honest I know I do not have the drive to do something elaborate every single day. The goal is intention here, small or large I just aim to slow down - even if for only 10 mins during the day and concentrate on being focused and present with Sawyer.
After I had all 25 activities written down I cut each one out in a little strip of paper and folded them up into tiny pieces. After they were all folded I mixed them up on the floor so that way neither of us would know what we were doing that day and then I got to wrapping.
Here's where you get to get creative! Last year I went nuts in the dollar section of target - because the dollar section is basically the free section and I got all sorts of these cute clothespin Santas, trees and reindeer, some of these cute little cloth gift bags and some red and white twine and string. I never ended up using any of it so they were all still in the packages. Everything I used came from my bin of gift wrapping. The rest of what I used was some brown packing paper crumpled up and softened for a weathered look and I did the same to good old plain white printer paper. A few of the packages I just tied up with string and I cut a few tiny pieces of cardboard to make a box structure that would give the package more of a shape to wrap. I used ribbon on some to cover and the clothespins held the last of the paper slips perfectly. I hung two of the tiny bottle brush trees and wreaths that I got from hobby lobby for less than $2 a pack and I threw in those corresponding "activities" into the cloth bags. I figured that day she can do the "draw-from-a-hat" pick.
Lastly, I took down one of my driftwood pieces and got to tying. This may be the only tricky part for some, finding the right branch or piece of driftwood isn't always easy but you can use almost anything if you can't get out to nature hunt. Even a piece of twine secured on the wall would hang your tiny packages. If you've been to my home you'll know 70% of my decor is driftwood that Taylor and I collected on all the beaches we've been to since we moved to Seattle. Some are from our vacation to the coast in LaPush but most are just from our beach at home. I'm absolutely addicted and Taylor usually has to talk me out of filling the car with my finds every time we go.
I didn't number them but you could do that if you want, so far I've just been letting her choose which little package she wants to open. I'm sure another idea would be to plan each activity and then number them out for each day.
No matter what you do though, it will be special. I'm so excited to make this into a tradition that I imagine and I hope will be memories forever - a way to make December just a little more intentional, a little reminder everyday the magic in this beautiful Christmas season.
"Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth, and mercy mild.
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Glory to the newborn King"
For Sawyer who will only be two and half in January I tried to keep the activities simple, I'm hoping in the years to come as she gets a little older and can understand more, that I can add a few more activities that are more giving to others: a few of my ideas for older kids are :
Make a Christmas care package for a soldier deployed
Write a letter or card for a soldier
Shop for a giving tree angel gift
Make a meal for a neighbor
Volunteer some time at the Salvation Army or ringing the bell
Volunteer at a shelter donating meals
Make some treats for someone you'd know would make their day