Simple, Meaningful, Un-Busy Advent Activities for Families

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Let’s not do “all the holiday things”.  Let’s do less so we can enjoy each other more. Let’s savor our parenthood and their childhood.

Let’s simplify.

Let’s make this holiday season the season of un-busy. 


I was feeling pressure about our Advent traditions. It’s Thanksgiving. November is ending. Time to plan the Advent calendar.

My kids love opening those little doors on our Advent calendar but I felt pressure to make each day exciting and fun and magical for them in a frenzied lets-do-all-the-things kind of way. 

advent calendar for kids

When really, what I wanted to do was just enjoy the season together.

Simple. Meaningful. Un-busy. 

advent calendar activities

Let’s say no to…

  • Rushing to 20 Christmas activities in one month (and the money they cost)
  • Having to prepare days and days of crafts and baking ingredients
  • Trying to fit more things into an already busy life
  • More sugary sweet treats in a month that is overwhelmed with sugary sweet treats

Nope. I am feeling pulled towards slow-down-and-enjoy. 

enjoying the holidays

This year, I’m imagining a different kind of Advent, a different pace to the season.

Gathering in a cozy place– we’ll be in our big chairs by the fireplace and we’ll flip on the magical wall switch that lights our gas fireplace (I love the simplicity of that; although I sometimes long to have a wood burning fireplace, I suspect the work of it may be overrated).

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Take a deep breath. Sip a cup of tea. Get in the mode of un-busy. 

I made a list.  Three themes emerged, as I wrote it. 

  • Fun things we’ll do together
  • Some surprises
  • Making magic for others

Simple, Meaningful, Un-Busy Advent Activities for Families

Get out all the Christmas books (or get new ones from the library) and read as many as possible, from your place of cozy, until the kids say stop or the voice gives out. 

Go for a winter hike. Where should we go? Bundle up and go to the woods, the park. “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”, as Rain or Shine Mamma reminds us.

Tell stories of Christmases when you were a child, and the ones when they were babies and toddlers. Look at photo albums together.

Have a simple picnic by the Christmas tree. Spread a blanket and take lunch there. 

Have Christmas Poetry Tea Time. Get out Nana’s Christmas table cloth and the fancy teacups and read Christmas poetry, easily found thanks to Google. (Here’s how we have a simple weekly poetry tea time.)

Bundle up one evening and take a walk in the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and the moon and the stars. Marvel at how much easier it is to spot the moon when the leaves are off the trees. Take the car if it’s too cold or you live far from neighbors. 

Teach them the White Elephant gift exchange game. Watch as everyone scrambles to find and wrap something they own that will make others laugh.

Who do you know who plays beautiful music? Invite them over to play Christmas carols, then have hot chocolate together. In our family, this is Grandma. Her short-term memory isn’t always perfect but she can play every Christmas song by heart and we love this any time of year, but especially at Christmas.

Pop popcorn and teach kids how to string it with a dull needle and long thread. Making it for the whole tree seems intimidating. I think we’ll just make little strings and hang it on our bird feeder or the Christmas tree that lives in the doll house. Or around our fish tank. That feels manageable. 

Make mini wreaths. Use pine branches, holly leaves or whatever is still growing in your garden. We have lavender in the yard, still.  Years past we had rosemary that lasted through winter. Make little wreaths with wire. Hang them around the house to make things look or smell good.

christmas crafts kids can make

Make dough and bake bread sticks. This is simpler than most holiday baking, mainly because I have a bread machine that makes the dough. Then we just get to play with dough, twisting it into braided shapes. Don’t have a bread machine? Try this easy, almost-no-knead recipe.

Call a relative far away and sing a Christmas carol together. Let them know you are thinking of them from far away.

Put out the craft supplies you have with no particular goal in mind. Just create something. Invite friends over to join you, if you like. Go slip what you made into someone’s stocking or leave it for a neighbor, the one who needs to know the most that you are remembering them at Christmas. 

Pajama Day!

Collect three things each to donate to a charity–toys, clothes, books, whatever we no longer need but would make a nice gift for someone. We drop ours at a thrift store that gives vouchers to families in need so they can shop for their kids. We drive past it weekly, so it’s easy to stop there.

Look up quotes from your kids favorite books. Google “Harry Potter book quotes” or “Calpurnia Tate book quotes”,  and read them together. Savor the well-worn, well-loved words. Write them down. Hang them up. 

Fill a bag from the kitchen and drop it off at the food pantry. The one that we drive by often. Teach them that families in need look just like us, live where we live. 

Read extra bedtime stories.

Allow extra time to stay up late with all the lights off except for the Christmas tree.

Camp out in the living room. 

Eat bread and cheese and fruit for dinner. Cooking every day is not a requirement. 

There aren’t 25 things here, I know. Allow a few of those other things to fill in the remaining days: The Christmas play, the party, the cookie exchange, the tree trimming. Those things are wonderful, too, of course. I’m going for balance here. 

How will you celebrate the holiday season in an un-busy way? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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advent calendar activities