One of our Christmas traditions with our kids is to hang an Advent Calendar on December 1st and fill each day’s pocket leading up to Christmas with not one, but two, identical surprises (one for my blue and one for my pink).

We love to surprise them each day with a different advent gift.

With 24 pockets to fill, this is a challenge for me every year. In previous years, I admit that I spent too much money on small gifts that would not only fit inside the small pockets of my advent calendar but would also be something they wouldn’t forget about in a few minutes.

Usually, I did a decent job of this, but several days into advent, I’d be out of ideas and needing to break into actual Christmas Day presents to ensure they woke up with something each morning. Once, I even gave them this hopper bouncy ball – a gift for them each to share.  This was way over what any per-day budget should be since I paid like over $20 bucks for it at the time, intending it to be for Christmas day – ugh!  And, it definitely didn’t fit in any of the small pockets – I had to set it on the floor below the advent calendar.

 

Every year, I say I’m going to do the Advent thing differently the following year. So, this year, I’m getting ahead of my resolve to change my approach.

 

I’d like to take you along with me as I figure out a less expensive and more fulfilling way to honor the advent tradition.

 

So, I’m sharing what I’ve decided to do this year in hopes it helps you if you’re also looking for ways to make this tradition a little easier, cheaper and more fulfilling.

 

Each day, I plan to present my kids with an envelope with the day’s surprise written on a note inside. If I have the time and energy, I will try to make the envelope look festive, like some of the ones in this post with impressive handmade advent calendars.

 

I particularly like this idea for creating your own family activity advent calendar

 

advent_calendar_canadianfamilyca

 

 

OK, AS FOR THE ACTIVITIES INSIDE THE ENVELOPES…

 

DAY 1 (DECEMBER 1ST)

 

This day will set the tone for what’s to come.  This will be important for me since I’m doing things differently this year with so much less emphasis on receiving more stuff.

So, the first advent present of the season will be experiential and geared towards helping others (and very easy to do)…

DAY 1 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Make Christmas cookies as a family, and take them to a neighbor

Because the first day of advent falls on a Saturday this year, there will be more time to make this happen (and the neighbors will be more likely to be home). 

My kids love to help in the kitchen – check!  Tasty result – check! 

This hits on 2 points that I want to set the tone for our advent season: 

–creating memories/traditions, and

–making others happy.

 

DAY 2 (DECEMBER 2ND)

 

DAY 2 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, it’s  “Override Mommy and Daddy Day”  (on one thing that’s important to you)

My husband came up with this and I love this.  They each can choose one thing that is very important to them, and if we don’t agree, they get to over-ride our decision.

 

So, if we say no to TV, for example, they get to veto our decision and watch a quick show.

 

I think they are going to love this and ask for veto power all of the time – this one might get dangerous, but we’re in the giving spirit

 

Update – With the day almost over, I can report that the kids loved this (as we all knew they would!)  My daughter opted to use her credit immediately when I denied her request for IHOP for breakfast.  My son opted for a later bedtime.

Overall, I’m getting no push back from either child; they seem to have really accepted that there won’t be trinkets waiting for them each morning.

Here is a photo of what I ended up presenting to them (clipped to the advent calendar) this morning for the override Mommy and Daddy day.

 

Chrismas Advent NonToy Present Pink and Blue Mom dot com

 

DAY 3 (DECEMBER 3RD)

 

DAY 3 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Watch old family videos / Look at family pictures

My kids love to do this.  They can spend hours watching themselves as babies and toddlers or looking at their baby pictures.  I’d like to watch these videos with them even more than we do, so this is a great opportunity for that.

The videos and/or pictures could be of past Christmas holidays or of any other time.

Bonus of this – It’s a relaxing activity for the end of a busy Monday.

DAY 4 (DECEMBER 4th)

DAY 4 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Make an heirloom ornament for our Christmas tree!

For this, I plan on buying a few empty ornament bulbs (plastic, so they’re shatter-proof) like these plastic top-fill ones from Amazon

 

creativehobbies-clear-plastic-ball-ornaments

 

I’ve also gotten these fillable craft ornaments for a buck apiece in previous years at Dollar Tree, if you’d prefer to get just a few.

I’ll just provide Christmas-colored beads, jewels, pom-poms, etc.  You can even just use holiday-themed tissue paper and stuff it in!

We did this last year and put their name on it.  It was so simple, and it’s become an heirloom already!   Now, we’ll create another one to add to the heirloom collection. Don’t forget to mark the date – I use a fine-point Sharpie marker because most other markers will smudge or be too wide to write finely enough. 

My daughter’s preschool did this; they had the kids place painted fingerprints on the outside of the bulb. There are endless ways to make these and that’s the fun of them!

 

DAY 5 (DECEMBER 5TH)

 

DAY 5 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re going to become part of “Santa’s Secret Service 

This idea from the DatingDivas.com is so fantastic!

The idea is to make the children feel special by letting them know that Santa has chosen them to carry out random acts of service to their family members.

Ideas include folding a sibling’s laundry and putting it away in their room, bringing waters for everyone at the table, etc.

The kiddos write their act of service and leave a small note for the other to find. The Dating Divas website even provides printables for this; click here to see them – wow!

And, this doesn’t need to be just a one day activity; the kiddos can be part of Santa’s Secret Service for as long as they choose.  I’d be thrilled if it even continued after Christmas, but that’s probably too much to ask 🙂

 

Santas-Secret-Service-Dating-Divas-Dot-Com

 

DAY 6 (DECEMBER 6TH)

 

DAY 6 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

Visit Santa and get a picture

This might be played out for your family, but, believe it or not, we’ve not yet managed to get a photo with Santa. The lines get so long that we’ve gotten scared off in the past.

But, now they’re getting older, and I suppose we need to take care of this. We have a local Santa and cookies event (read: easy) scheduled for this day so we’re going to take advantage of not needing to drive all the way to the mall and stand in line!

I just hope we can get a photo with Santa so we have proof for them when they are older that we did visit Santa; if not, I guess we’ll be squeezing in a mall trip during the holiday season (yikes!)

DAY 7 (DECEMBER 7th)

 

DAY 7 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we are having FAMILY GAME NIGHT!!

My kids love game night and probably yours do, too!  I’m scheduling this for a Friday so there’s no need-to-get-bed-asap pressures that come along with a school night.

Here are our top go-to games for our family game nights.  (Our kids are elementary-school age).

We recommend these if you haven’t already tried them with your family.

Click on the image to learn more…

 

Jenga-Game Pop-the-Pig-Game Mancala-Game-for-Family Hungry-Hungry-Hippos-Game  

DAY 8 (DECEMBER 8th)

 

DAY 8 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

Read the Christmas story together

It’s been a year since we’ve read the Christmas story, so we need a refresher. I realized my kids needed a refresher when I found myself explaining the members of the nativity we saw on display at Costco recently. 🙂

Here’s the book we have and we’ve read in the past.  It’s called The Story of Christmas. It is a nice description for youngsters and has great illustrations.

This year, I think I’m going to find a book for slightly older kids, like this one

 

The-Christmas-Story-Book-by-Jane-Werner-Watson-Little-Golden-Book

 

DAY 9 (DECEMBER 9th)

 

DAY 9 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re making popsicle stick Christmas tree ornaments!

I just love how cute, easy and customizable this Christmas tree craft idea is from One Little Project.  Check it out here – great tutorial with clear pictures and steps!

Here is a picture from the One Little Project blog post, awesome-looking, right?

 

Popsicle-Stick-Christmas-Tree-Craft-from-One-Little-Project-dot-com

 

DAY 10 (DECEMBER 10th)

 

(Day 1 of 4 of an Around the World focus)

Ok, today, marks the start of a multi-day theme of winter holiday celebrations from around the world.

Each day, I’ll feature a different country’s Christmas / winter holiday traditions, food, etc. We’ve not talked about this at home before (they’ve done a little of this at school in past years), so I’m uniquely excited about this one.

There are so many countries and cool traditions we could study, but I just decided to pick 4 this year and maybe more next year;  it was hard to choose just 4!   

Resources I will Use for this “Holidays Around the World” Series:

–I really love this Christmas Around the World idea from LyndseyKuster.com and she offers a portion of this resource for free on her website; (when I downloaded it, I received her free resource for Mexico, and it was very well-done with great pictures).  I love this resource for its creativity in presenting customs from various countries to kids.

TeachersPayTeachers.com (TpT) has a ton of Around the World resources – click here for a list of TpT resources.

Here is a link to LyndseyKuster.com to download her list of international holiday celebrations books for kids that I plan to use when I make my library requests.

 

For each Day of this “Around the World” Series, I Plan to:

–Read to the kids about the featured country’s traditions from a library book or from online information, and… 

–Do a fun themed craft or activity with the kids!

Ok, Back to Day 10’s surprise…

DAY 10 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re pretending to celebrate Christmas in another country:  GERMANY

Here’s a FREE downloadable resource about Christmas in Germany from Education.com that I plan to read with the kids, and it even includes an activity – check! 

I was having trouble saving it from Education.com, but I was able to print it out in prep for the day.

TeachersPayTeachers.com has some great resources as well.  Click here for a list.

DAY 11 (DECEMBER 11th)

(Day 2 of 4 of an Around the World focus) 

DAY 11 SURPRISE: 

The note to the kids will read: 

Today, we’re pretending to celebrate Christmas in another country:  FRANCE 

Here’s a FREE downloadable resource about Christmas in France from Education.com that I plan to read with the kids, and it even includes an activity – check! 

I was having trouble saving it from Education.com, but I was able to print it out in prep for the day. 

TeachersPayTeachers.com has some great resources as well.  Click here for a list.

 

DAY 12 (DECEMBER 12TH)

(Day 3 of 4 of an Around the World focus) 

DAY 12 SURPRISE: 

The note to the kids will read: 

Today, we’re pretending to celebrate Christmas in another country:  MEXICO 

Today, I’m planning to use the awesome Christmas Around the World idea from LyndseyKuster.com that I mentioned above.  She offers a portion of this resource for free on her website.  When I downloaded it and joined her mailing list, I received her resource for Mexico for free.  It was very well-done with great pictures. 

After reading to the kids about Christmas in Mexico, we’ll make a poinsettia craft using the poinsettia template from Lyndsey Kuster’s Christmas in Mexico resource.

 

DAY 13 (DECEMBER 13TH)

(Day 4 of 4 of an Around the World focus) 

DAY 13 SURPRISE: 

The note to the kids will read: 

Today, we’re pretending to celebrate Christmas in another country:  SWEDEN 

Here’s a FREE downloadable resource about Christmas in Sweden from Education.com that I plan to read with the kids, and it even includes an activity – check! 

I was having trouble saving it from Education.com, but I was able to print it out in prep for the day.

TeachersPayTeachers.com has some great resources as well.  Click here for a list.

 

If we have time, we might follow this tutorial to make St. Lucy’s crown for my daughter and a Lucia Procession star hat for my son.  More than likely, we won’t have time, so please let me know if you do this. 

Fun note – St. Lucy’s Day in Sweden is actually celebrated TODAY, Dec. 13th!

 

Christmas-Advent-Non-Toy-Gift-Ideas-for-Kids-from-Pink-and-Blue-Mom-dot-com

 

DAY 14 (DECEMBER 14TH)

 

DAY 14 SURPRISE: 

The note to the kids will read: 

Drive around and see beautiful Christmas displays after dark! 

I think the big draw to this one will be the after dark part, which will translate to “I get to stay up late”.  I’ll get credit for this, but not really, since darkness comes earlier this time of year. 🙂

 

DAY 15 (DECEMBER 15TH)

 

DAY 15 SURPRISE: 

The note to the kids will read: 

Spread kindness by sticking money to a vending machine 

I came across this idea most recently over at Coffee Cups and Crayons’s post about a random act of kindness advent calendar.

 

On occasion, we have bought coffee for the person behind us in line, and now my kiddos often ask us to do it again.  I’d love to, but we’d go broke if we did this every time they asked. 🙂

 

So, I think they’ll get a kick out of taping money to a vending machine to make someone’s day.  We’ll probably leave a small note with a dollar bill or two (vending machine prices have skyrocketed since I was a kid!) saying something like, “just wanted to share some kindness to make someone’s day”.

 

DAY 16 (DECEMBER 16TH)

 

DAY 16 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read: 

Surprise our mailperson with a small surprise left for them in our mailbox!

 

Independently, my son recently wrote a sweet note, put it in an envelope, and, without any fanfare, took it to the mailbox for the mailperson to find.  I didn’t know he had done this until he was walking to the mailbox!

Kids just exude love for others, it’s so inspirational!

We’ll leave the mailperson a small gift card to Target or Walmart and, at the store, the kids will love picking out what the gift card design will be! It’s just so natural for kids to want to do things for others. 

So, I know this one will be fun and bucket-filling for them and the mailperson!

DAY 17 (DECEMBER 17TH)

 

Day 17 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re going to “Jingle” one of our neighbors!

Similar to “Boo’ing” neighbors on Halloween, this is a fun idea I read about over at TheDatingDivas.com, and it’s brilliant!

The idea is to put together some treats, small holiday-themed decorations – whatever you want, nothing too pricey.  (We got most of our boo’ing items from Dollar Tree). Then, take the treats to a neighbor – but, don’t get caught! 

The idea is to leave it on their doorstep and surprise them. You include in your surprise a note that says “We’ve been Jingled” that they put on their window so other neighbors know to jingle someone else.

Try it out if you never have!

Youve-Been-Jingled-from-The-Dating-Divas-dot-com

We’re looking forward to adding this to our neighborhood fun! Would love to hear from you if you do this!  Please share in the comments section below.

DAY 18 (DECEMBER 18TH)

 

DAY 18 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re going to exercise with a fun Cosmic Yoga video!

If you’ve never seen these before, you’re going to love how Jaime makes it so fun for kids to learn yoga and even guided mindfulness/relaxation!

We watch ours on YouTube but Amazon also sells Cosmic Yoga DVDs like this one:

Cosmic-Kids-Yoga-Meditation

I’m aiming to use the Minecraft-themed yoga video for my son’s benefit and the Frozen-themed yoga video for my daughter’s amusement.

DAY 19 (DECEMBER 19TH)

DAY 19 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re creating our own Snowman joke teller game to take to school tomorrow to play with your friends!

This one so reminds me of my childhood and I think my kids will also love making this and using this, especially on the  playground with friends at school!

I found this idea at BrenDid.com and it’s wonderful!  She even provides a free printable for printing and creating this!  Here’s what her printable that we’ll be using looks like:

Snowmen-Joke-Tellers-from-BrenDid-dot-com

DAY 20 (DECEMBER 20TH)

DAY 20 SURPRISE

The note to the kids will read:

You’re going to make a special Happy Holidays card/note (with their fave treat) for your teachers!

We’re going to make a special hand-crafted holiday card and include each of your teacher’s favorite candy or treat.  I’ll need to find out what their fave treat is. Sometimes, at the beginning of the school year, the teachers fill out a questionnaire about their likes and dislikes for the class mom, so I plan to see if that exists. 

DAY 21 (DECEMBER 21ST)

DAY 21 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

We’re making our handprints (and maybe even footprints)!

In the past, I’ve purchased a kit to make foot and hand impressions for that oh-so-special keepsake. 

I’ve used this one before and it worked well, however, this year, I’m trying out a good old-fashioned salt dough recipe.

I’m going to try this recipe over at TheImaginationTree.com   I can’t wait!

Salt-Dough-Ornaments-The-Imagination-Tree-dot-com

DAY 22 (DECEMBER 22ND)

DAY 22 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we get to watch a Christmas movie as a family!

The big thing about this treat is that we will watch the movie together as a family.  We’ll choose one from the list from Common Sense Media of the best holiday movies for kids ages 5 to 7.  Click here to route to the list.

Or, if you think you’ll want to own a DVD for a yearly tradition, Amazon is always an option. 

DAY 23 (DECEMBER 23RD)

Ok, we’re winding down now, so today will be very easy, simple and straightforward.

DAY 23 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, we’re doing a holiday-themed coloring activity.

If you need a few to print out quickly, click here for FREE winter holiday-themed printable coloring page options.

DAY 24 (DECEMBER 24TH)  – LAST DAY OF ADVENT, WE MADE IT!

 

DAY 24 SURPRISE:

The note to the kids will read:

Today, you can track Santa whenever you want, to your heart’s content, without needing to ask us for a device first!

With all the focus likely to be on Santa and getting the cookies and milk out for him and the carrots out for the reindeer, well, there won’t be time for a lot more before bedtime.

As we do every year, we will be tracking Santa’s progress across the globe via the Norad Santa tracker. The new thing this year is that they each will be “assigned” a device – iPad or Mommy’s phone – to individually track Santa whenever they want throughout the day.

This way, they get the fun of control over a device for an evening – whoa! – and, they have the freedom to check Santa’s ETA either 500 times or 5 times, they choose. And, you know how kids love to have freedom and to choose!

Oh, and, on Christmas Eve, we’ll read Twas the Night Before Christmas – it’s a tradition I’ve grown up with that I’ve passed on to my kids.

Twas-the-Night-Before-Christmas-Little-Golden-Book

WHEW!  WE DID IT!  ADVENT IS IN THE BAG!

Now, all we need to do is prepare those envelopes and the surprise details inside and then we can sit back and coast through December without nightly “oh no, I haven’t prepared the advent present for tomorrow, and I’m out of ideas!” We can say good-bye to that and just enjoy the Christmas holiday season even more!

I would love to know how you have celebrated advent in the past or plan to this year. And, I’d love to know if you followed along with us and gave similar surprises each day.  How did it turn out in your house for your family?  Please share with me in the comments section below.

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