Secular Advent Calendar Ideas

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The Creek Kids love our Advent calendar, almost as much as I enjoy filling it’s little doors.  Sometimes we do very elaborate activities, but mostly it is one simple, but fun, thing each day.    I fill only a few days of the calendar at a time, and put easy things on the days our schedule is busier, more complicated activities on the days we have more time at home.

Each morning, after everyone is dressed, breakfasted and ready for the day, the kids open that day’s door and see what our Advent activity is for the day.

In our family, Christmas is a time to focus on family, helping others and the fun traditions that we do year after year.  Our Advent activities are designed with those three things in mind.  Here are some examples of things we’ve filled our Advent calendar with over the past several years.

  • Call a relative we haven’t spoken with in a while and sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
  • Call or visit a grandparent or similarly-aged relative or family friend and ask them how they celebrated Christmas when they were growing up.
  • Call grandparents and ask them how Mommy and Daddy spent their Christmases as children.
  • Make a card, or choose one of the many already-made holiday crafts we always seem to have about the house, and send it to a relative we don’t usually buy a Christmas present for. Include a note that we are thinking of them and wishing them a Merry Christmas.
  • Bake cookies or other treats.  We’ve even taken a day to make dog biscuits to give to our canine friends.
  • Go to get our Christmas tree.  In our family, we go to a tree farm and choose and cut our tree.
  • Go to a holiday show.  Every year, we go to a high school production designed especially for kids. It’s inexpensive and it truly is a great show with music, acting and fun costumes.
  • Go visit Santa at the mall.
  • Each child invite one friend over for hot cocoa and an afternoon play date.
  • Listen to Christmas music all day. Have the kids pick one or two favorites and help them learn the words.
  • Elf Yourself!    Put your face on an elf that dances. Such silly fun. You can then email it or post it on your facebook.  We love to add other family members too, like grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even the family dog.
  • Read a book out of our Christmas book basket.  I go around collecting all the books we have in the house with a Christmas theme and put them in a basket for the kids to choose when this comes up on the Advent calendar.  And I use this one more than once throughout the month.
  • Play with red and green play dough.  Get out the cookie cutters and make Christmas  themed play dough cut outs.  For older kids, make some clay Christmas-themed items.
  • Watch a special Christmas movie.  ABC Family network has a different Christmas movie each night.  DVR the ones you like and play them when you want to.
  • Help each child fill a bag from your pantry or from the grocery store and drop it off at a local charity collecting food donations in your area.
  • Adopt a family through a local helping agency.  We couldn’t afford to buy all the things on a family’s wish list but we emailed a few friends and before we knew it, we had lots of people wanting to help!  We request a family with kids close in ages to our own so it has extra meaning. The kids are very involved in selecting what our family donates and since we coordinate it, they are there when we pick up donations from others and deliver them to the agency.
  • Take each child shopping separately for their siblings. You can do this at the dollar store or limit the gifts to $5 or whatever, but this has been a wonderful thing for my two older kids who fight a lot. My oldest especially gets invested in picking out a gift for his sister, wrapping it and giving it to her.
  • Decorate holiday cut-outs and hang them up in a window.  Make an easy template of a tree and a star, give the kids markers or paint. Hang the finished product in a window to decorate any room of the house.
  • Make smaller sized cut-outs and let the kids color/paint them. Use as gift tags for family.
  • Make wrapping paper.  Cut open brown paper grocery bags. Coat each child’s hands with red and/or green paint and make prints on the paper.  We’ve also done this with feet when they were toddlers. Spread the grocery bag out on the floor, put a chair at either end. Paint bottoms of pudgy toddler feet and have them walk from one chair to the other across the paper. Use washable paint in case they veer off course. 🙂
  • My kids each have a “First Christmas” ornament that has a photo of them and the details written on a little fold-up card about how they spent their first Christmas: where they were, who was there, what gifts they were given, what they wore.  Maybe you’ve written this is a baby book.  Or maybe you can tell them the story of how they spent their first Christmas.
  • Get into pajamas one evening and drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.
  • Make paper chains and let them decorate with them. So easy. Cut strips of red and green paper. Let them tape them together or older kids can staple.  Let them decorate their rooms, the bathroom, the back seat of the car.
  • Make a card for Daddy and put it in his stocking.
  • Make reindeer food to sprinkle on the lawn on Christmas eve.  Mix dry oatmeal and colored sprinkles together, put into zip lock bags. Make a few extra and share with some neighbors.
  • Deliver some Christmas cards by hand. The kids love being the one who gets to ring the doorbell of a local friend whose card we might otherwise mail.
  • Help Daddy put up the Christmas lights outside.
  • December 24th has multiple activities:  We have a special Christmas dinner with extended family, leave cookies out for Santa, sprinkle reindeer food on the lawn and read Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  • Christmas Day is usually a clue to find a special gift hidden somewhere in the house.  They work together to figure out the clue.

We are also trying something new, a second Advent Calendar for positive character traits that we are focusing on in our family.  You can see those calendar ideas here.  

Hope everyone is enjoying their own holiday traditions!