Counting down to Christmas is always so much fun.. especially for kids. And an Advent Calendar really helps to make that lead-up time to Christmas more tangible, more comprehensible. It also means that you don't have to answer the ongoing question, "How long until Christmas? When can we unwrap all the presents?"
Why use an Advent calendar?
Sure, an advent calendar looks great as part of your festive decorations as you gradually add, day by day, to the finished calendar. It can add to the Christmas fun. It can be used to keep the focus of Christmas on the birth of the Saviour. And, depending on your choice of calendar, it can help your kids focus on the joy of giving and serving others, too.
What do I need to consider when choosing an advent calendar?
Well, there are plenty of commercially prepared advent calendars. Some would make lovely gift ideas for friends or family. Some commercially prepared advent calendars present small gifts for each day leading up to Christmas. Some are simple thin boxes with perforated windows with a hidden recess for a small chocolate for each day leading up to Christmas. Others are books with windows or flaps to reveal something of the nativity story as Christmas approaches.
Create a family tradition- your own advent calendar
An advent calendar is even more meaningful if you can make it yourself and personalise it as a family legacy. The treats and activities created for and added to your advent calendar can revolve around the interests, activities and favourite choices of your family.
And you can create variations for each year.
So, here are a number of such suggestions listed below that you might like to consider.
The Dainty Bauble Advent Calendar (find the link for this advent calendar below) is easy to print and create. Use the back of the decoration to either: a. write a Scripture verse on the reverse b.include a fun activity c. provide instructions or clues to find a hidden treat or d. include all ideas.
You might decide to just attach a small wrapped chocolate or treat to the reverse of the decoration. Or you may keep it simple and glue a second copy of the decoration to the reverse for extra strength and durability.
However you decide to personalise it, this advent calendar combines the elegance of the past with the energy and minimalism of the future. It's sure to become a family treasure.
What you'll need:
*Download and print the files for the 25 decorations. (Print onto a good quality card. You might also want to consider a good parchment or linen textured card.)
*silver cording for the hanger and perhaps paper clips.
* double-sided tape and normal tape.
*small Christmas tree that will look attractive on the table or side table.
1. Download, print and cut out each of the 25 advent calendar decorations. Use a good quality card and it looks even better if it has a light texture. Print and cut out a second copy if you intend to back each decoration with its twin. It means that it looks great even if the wind blows the decoration to reveal the back. Leave the back blank if you intend writing something on the back or attaching a small treat.
2. Cut a hole in each tab and thread a small piece of silver cord through the hole as the hanger.
3. If you prefer to have a hanger that's a big more substantial (especially if your kids will be hanging the decorations) you might like to use a paper clip for each decoration. Just tape the paper clip on the back with the loop just visible above the rim of the decoration.
Use a second copy of the decoration and attach on the back to cover the taped paper clip. I used double-sided tape. it's just a bit neater. Sometimes glue can cause the card to slightly buckle. Now slip a piece of thin cord through the loop of the paper clip as the hanger.
4. You don't have to add anything else but if you want, you can write a Scripture verse on the back or a clue to where to find the day's treat. You can also decide on a fun activity for each day: sing your favourite Christmas carol, go out for ice-cream, decorate a gingerbread cottage.. If you don't want to add that info on the back of the decoration, just use slips of paper with the activity or treat written on each piece. Pop all of the papers into a small bucket or container. Your kids can reach in and choose one each day to read and complete.
5. Set up your small tabletop Christmas tree and start adding one decoration each day leading up to Christmas Day. I found an inexpensive tree at Kmart for about $10. There was a lovely natural-looking bare tree at another store but it was expensive. I think you could make something similar with a good sized branch set into a pot of plaster of Paris.
So.. that's about it.... pretty simple... and you can check out the summary slideshow below.
Oh... and you can find a FREE pair of Christmas decorations to download and print for your own Christmas tree. Normally, these vintage-inspired decorations would cost $4.95 but they're free for you to download, print and use. See below.
Here are some more ideas that you might like to consider.
FocusontheFamily has produced a free advent calendar, O Holy Night, plus instructions for an advent wreath.
Download and print the calendar. Then highlight each day leading up to Christmas with a character from the nativity story plus a Scripture reading and devotion. Beginning December 3, your advent calendar builds a nativity scene with the daily characters from the advent calendar.
You'll also find a suggestion for creating an advent wreath to remind your family of God's never-ending faithfulness.
Find it here...
Share the love advent calendar: this resource from iMom focuses on building a legacy of giving with your family.
Each day you'll find sweet and selfless ideas to help your kids experience real Christmas joy through the spirit of giving.
Find it here..
This Christmas countdown is also a puzzle and provides a daily treat and activity idea.
Download the printable calendar. Then use the instructions to create an advent calendar that must be assembled day-by-day to reveal a beautiful Christmas decor piece. On the back of each card, you'll hide a treat and an activity.
Find it here...
This advent pack includes 5 weeks of family devotions that focus on a different carol each week.
There are 5 colouring pages that combine to tell the story of Jesus' birth and the advent calendar with fun family activities.
Instructions for creating and illustrated advent wreath with paper candles complete the fun family advent pack.
Find it here...
Help your family discover the Light of Christmas in a new way!
(Yep... affiliate links are included which means, if you buy through me, I get some coffee money ...
though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
Every year, Christmas seems to arrive in the stores earlier than you expect. Beautiful Christmas displays appear mid-October, Christmas gift ideas fill store catalogues, and glittering ornaments are hung in the specially created Christmas-theme areas.
And that's fine... although I never seem ready for Christmas despite the early reminders and displays. But the Christmas proclaimed in the department stores and shopping centres is not the Christmas that's important to me. And it's not the legacy of Christmas that, by and large, I want for my family. It doesn't reflect the humble stable of the Saviour's birth or the gift of that first Christmas.
The store-bought Christmas is filled with music and joy and fun and feasting and unwrapping endless gifts. I want to help my family unwrap the real joy of Christmas. And I believe that families, like mine, can hear the Christmas story in a new way using creative family-focused devotions.
So I looked at just five such devotional resources and you can check them out, too, below:
So.. first up..
1. All the Colours of Christmas Advent Calendar
Focus on th Family has produced a beautiful Advent colouring and devotional book. It will help you focus on the anticipation, preparation and celebration of Jesus' birth.
The ongoing enthusiasm for colouring by all ages means the your whole family can be involved.
You'll find beautifully detailed colouring pages with peel-and-stick ornaments, 28 days of faith-filled activities, Scripture readings and an Advent calendar Christmas tree. (You can find a free Advent calendar, too.)
All the Colours of Christmas Advent Calendar.
2. All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Colour your Way to Christmas
Yes... this is another colouring devotional for Christmas. This publication is by Nancy Guthrie. It includes bonus activities, discussion starters, and kid-friendly colouring pages- Christmas ornaments and decorations.
All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas
3. Made by Me Nativity
This kit starts by making a great nativity keepsake set. It's included in the kit. But there's so much more...
There are gifts to make and give to friends, family and neighbours. Other faith-building activity suggestions are included: field trips, a Christmas movie makeover and other fun!
And yes, there's more...
Simple kitchen-based mission ideas (cookies, nut baskets, Christmas morning mix) will get your kids up and serving others and discovering Jesus.
Made by Me Nativity
4. Christmas Movie Night Kit for Families
Host a kid-friendly Christmas family night with the Christmas Movie Night Kit.
You'll find a read aloud picture book, activities, puzzles and games. The animated Story of Christmas dvd includes sing-along videos of Christmas carols and behind-the-scenes production footage.
Celebrate the real meaning of Christmas with this creative Christmas kit.
Christmas Movie Night Kit for Families
5. Advent Journey Colouring Posters
The birth of the Saviour on that first Christmas was news that was shared. This is a big part of the Advent Journey Colouring Posters, too, sharing the Christmas story with friends, family and the community through colouring.
The posters are big.. supersize. Four of the posters measure 3' x 2' and the other two are even bigger- 6' x 2'. So they are wonderful to colour together in groups. It also offers plenty of opportunities to talk and share together while colouring.
Using these posters requires some out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to using them. Sure, you can use them for children's ministry groups or teen groups. You can take them to nursing homes to colour in together. Use them following your Sunday services for your church family to colour and enjoy while having morning tea. Schools may wish to use them. Your family might invite friends over for a colouring evening. There is also an accompanying Advent Journey Devotional Guide. So start thinking now... how will you use these wonderful resources for sharing the Christmas story?
Oh.. and the finished posters make beautiful display posters, perfect decorations for large walls, hallways and even stage areas.
Advent Journey Colouring Posters
Take time to explore the real meaning of Christmas with your family with these creative resources. Explore the events surrounding the first Christmas and learn how this season can bring us hope, love, joy and peace.
Disclosure: At Grandma's Place is committed to high standards of integrity and quality. I do not promote any brand I do not believe meets these standards, and I only promote brands I would purchase myself. If I don't love it, and don't think you'll love it, it won't appear on my blog.
Family life is so unpredictable, isn't it?
My granddaughters were visiting for the week and we'd enjoyed a great day at the beach. Dinner plates were piled in the sink and I'd just finished reading the next exciting chapter of The Pet that Never Was. Koti had headed to the bathroom for the final time for the evening, I hoped, when I heard her frightened call..
I raced to the bathroom and found her crouched on the floor, a fountain of water spouting skywards from the tap. There were some frantic moments, let me tell you, as we tried to stem the flood.
When, finally, calm was restored and I settled the girls again for bed Koti was still stressed and upset.
"It was all my fault, Nannie," she sobbed.
"That's not true, honey. It could have happened to anyone."
"Yes, but it happened to me!" I talked with her for some time and told her I was very proud of her.
I reminded her of how calm and helpful she had been. But she was still upset.
So... I smiled and told her how thankful I was that she had run so fast to get Jacob, her cousin. He had arrived like a hurricane with a big armload of towels and had jumped in to help. I laughed and reminded her how the water had sprayed up to the ceiling and then splashed on his head. He had looked so surprised.... and so wet! She smiled, too. And then she mentioned something else that had happened.. something that was funny now, in retrospect. Soon she relaxed and we were laughing and talking about our wet adventure.
The importance of laughter
'Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.' - Bob Newhart
Laughter has the ability to brighten your mood, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress levels, boost your immune system and so much more. Plus, laughter causes your brain to produce more endorphins, which are neuro-transmitters that ease pain.
Certainly, one of God's most precious gifts is the gift of laughter.
'A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.'– Proverbs 17:22, NIV
Dr Caroline Leaf states, 'Having fun is one of the most powerful antidotes to stress you will ever find. And it's free.'
And you can embrace the gift of laughter with your family when you…
Watch funny videos.
Use a website like YouTube or GodTube to find funny videos. You may want to look up search phrases like ‘babies laughing’ or ‘puppies playing’.
If you like comedians, look up Ken Davis, Tim Hawkins or Bob Smiley. These are Christian comedians that keep their routines clean and family-friendly.
Put on a funny song and dance.
Don’t be afraid to do your biggest, silliest dance. Your kids will love to join you.
Some songs that will make you want to dance along include Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, Happy by Pharrell Williams, Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay.
Let your inner kid out.
Do something that reminds you of being a kid. Run through a sprinkler, splash in a puddle, jump in a pile of leaves, or build a snowman. And your own kids will love doing it with you!
Create some amazing family memories. Enjoy some simple moments that matter. Include laughter in your daily life and make it a family priority.
This updated article 'Creating a New Christmas tradition' was previously published November, 2014.
"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time." -- Laura Ingalls Wilder
Christmas, for most families, is a time of family traditions.
What Christmas traditions does your family hold to and treasure?
When my children were young, our Christmas traditions involved bright Christmas carols playing while decorating the tree, setting up the nativity scene, the advent calendar activities and daily Bible readings, the train trip to the city to view the department stores' animated displays, Christmas in Story & Song at our church and more.
Yes, it was a busy time but, in many ways, it was simple and unhurried. And the emphasis was definitely on the birth of the Saviour.
But times have changed and my kids are grown.
Fun Family Christmas Traditions
Now, as a grandparent, the traditions of Christmas are just a bit quieter. Maybe you're the same. Maybe you're looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a bevy of grandchildren. Hey, there's no reason why your time with your grandkids now can't be every bit as memorable and meaningful as when life was bursting at the seams with Christmas excitement and activity.
But how? What can I do?
But I guess you're wondering how, amongst all the frenetic activity of Christmas can you, as a grandparent, create a family tradition that will emphasise the real message of Christmas?
I was asking myself the same question when I happened to watch the latest clip from the SkitGuys...You can watch it below or via the link: see here.
The Search for the Saviour
The idea is simple: hide the Baby Jesus from your nativity scene and create a set of clues to help your grandchildren find the Saviour. Tailor your clues to the age of your grandchildren. If they're quite small, draw pictures with hints of where to look. Add some simple directional signs- large cards with printed arrows or footprints. Provide more cryptic clues for older kids or use Scripture verses for added levels of difficulty.
But, don't stop there...
Read the Christmas story together
Once your grandkids have found the Saviour, read one of the many wonderful storybooks of the Christmas story. Here's a couple of suggestions with links to where you can find them.
* Read Aloud Bible Stories Vol 3. Award-winning publication for young children filled with simple stories with big illustrations.
*The Jesus Storybook Bible.... where every story whispers His name.
*Jed And Roy McCoy.. One of the Lost Sheep series. A Bible storybook that the whole family will enjoy.
* If you're Missing Baby Jesus.. A true story that will unwrap the warmth of the real meaning of
Also, check out the review of Friends with God StoryBible. I think you and your grandkids will enjoy it.
You may be wondering about other tradition-building Christmas fun
Well, how about
There are so many other fun family ideas for building Christmas traditions.
If you're looking for other ideas, download and use this Christmas activity checklist.
Begin a new tradition this year with your grandkids that is not only fun, but places the focus on the real meaning of the festive season.
If you're looking for even more ideas, download and use this Christmas activity checklist to make more moments that matter for your family.
Do you know how to create a regular storybook time with your kids or grandkids that will have them demanding more?
Reading provides so many more benefits than just a time-filler before bed. And it can be so much fun if you do it right! Not only will you help create wonderful family memories, your kids will develop a delight of books and reading. But there are plenty of other benefits, too.
So... why is it important to read to kids?
You may think it's just something that you do at bedtime when your kids are small. Or maybe, you're thinking that it's something that teachers will do with your children so you can just forget about this activity as your kids get older.
Reading to your kids, at any age, has so many benefits; in fact, reading will help children:
And, don't stop as your children grow. It's still important and something they will continue to enjoy as you share books, reading and adventures with them. You'd be surprised how a regular reading time creates one of those amazing 'moments that matter' activities that your kids or grandkids will remember and treasure.
But you may be worried about how to do this storybook time, or how to make it interesting for them.?
How can I improve my reading aloud to my kids?
Let's run through some simple ideas as we look at Fearless, by Colin Thompson; a wonderful book for kids 4 years and up. You can find a small intro clip for Fearless below.
Choose a good book. In this case, it's Fearless; but find something that will appeal to the age and interests of your kids.It should be fun, and you should enjoy it. Remember, if you're enjoying it, so will your kids. Books are usually displayed in libraries or bookstores according to age groups so that will help with selecting something suitable.
Read it through a few times before you read aloud to your kids. If you're planning to do some activities after reading, prepare your resources beforehand. The book, Fearless, deals with emotions and in particular, fear. Print off the free emotions cards below to use during and after your reading time.
Make sure everyone is comfortable. You might decide to set up a special reading area, and that's great, but it's not essential. You can read on the lounge, on the bed, toss some beanbags on the floor and read there... whatever works for you. If you're reading to little ones, they need to see the book. They will probably want to sit on your lap or lean against you. Remember, as they watch you read the book, they are learning important aspects of reading: books are read from left to right, the printed words correlate to spoken words, pictures provide context clues and more.
Display the cover of your book and discuss what the kids think it might be about.
Read the book more slowly than you would normally speak. Add expression as you read: lower your volume for scary parts or when the character is being careful, whisper when a character is trying to hide, smile while you're reading fun parts (listeners will hear it in your voice), use different voices for different characters etc.
Gauge the content you read for the listeners. In other words, you can leave things out. The book, Fearless, has a couple of pages with a lot of text. For smaller children, I'd probably skip some of the sentences and just read the important ones.
You can stop and ask questions while you're reading if you think something needs clarification. For instance, you might ask, "How do you know that Fearless was happy?" "What was making Fearless scared?"
You'll probably find that you'll be asked to read it again, as soon as you finish. That's fine! But first, spread out the emotions cards and talk about the different feelings. Ask your kids about times when they have felt sad, happy or scared.
Now this time, as you read the story of Fearless, ask your kids to locate and hold up the emotion pictures that show how Fearless or the family might have been feeling. (You can reuse this activity and cads for other books, too.)
Now, ask if any of your kids would like to read the story. Don't worry if they can't read, yet. Show the pictures and they can tell you what was happening in the story. It will be a simple paraphrase, but that's fine. It's a great way to develop a grasp of story sequencing.
Finish with a game of memory with the emotions cards.
On their own
The book, Fearless, also deals with the importance of names. Fearless seems to be an inappropriate name at the start of the story but he lives up to his name at the end... sort of.
Use this book to talk about names, and why each child was given their particular name and what it means. There are plenty of activities listed below that encourage kids to learn about names, letters and how to write their own name. Choose a couple of these activities for your kids to work on themselves.
So now, you're a pro. You have the skills to create wonderful moments that matter at bedtime or whenever you choose to schedule regular reading time with kids. And... you'll be setting up your kids for a life-long love of reading and learning. Jacqueline Kennedy once commented: 'There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all.'
You also might like to download the FREE GUIDE- Early Reader Essentials from ReadBrightly.
For more creative family ideas, get your free access to At Grandma's Place library below.
Anne specialises in helping you create moments that matter for you and your family.
Grab more simple family ideas and resources now.
Originally posted June 2014 and updated July 2017
Sunshine, warmth, blue skies... beautiful weather for fun in the outdoors. Enjoying the outdoors with kids doesn't have to be a daunting all-day activity. But sometimes it's difficult to encourage the kids outside and away from the screens. Or maybe you're looking for inspiration for handling those "I'm bored!" complaints.
What you need is something that will turn outdoor activities into an adventure.
Encourage even the most reticent nature walker outdoors with the thrill of a nature scavenger hunt.
It won't take much preparation time for you but will definitely provide loads of fun for your grandkids.
Start with a scavenger hunt list. You can always create your own but why reinvent the wheel when there are great ideas already done for you?
Make a list
Take this list from Chrissy Taylor, for example. Print the list, laminate it for durability and so that you can reuse it. If you have small children, your list might have to be in picture-form.
Ideas for pre-readers
If you do have pre-readers, there are plenty of options and ideas readily available. It's a wonderful way to explore the senses and encourage them to locate things that feel or smell. Check out this scavenger hunt for little ones- it includes a simple printable list to download and use.
Teams or individuals
Decide whether to run your scavenger hunt as a team contest or individuals. This will probably be determined by the number of kids you have and whether they've included their friends.
Don't forget the prizes
These don't need to be difficult or costly but, since most kids are fiercely competitive, it will add another level of excitement if they're striving for the prize at the end of the hunt. Don't forget consolation prizes for those who miss out.. especially with little ones.
It's also a good finish to any scavenger hunt if you conclude with a special snack or treat. Something as simple as an ice-cream for everyone to conclude the scavenger hunt can turn a fun adventure into a memory-making event, a simple moment that matters.
Leaf shape scavenger hunt
A simple option for younger ones, is something like a leaf shape hunt. Give each child a list of leaf shapes to look for and a bag to collect the leaves in once they find them. Design your own checklist of leaf shapes or download a ready-made one.
Try a photo scavenger hunt
If your kids are older and complain, "Oh, we've done this," be ready for them. Hand out a photo adventure scavenger hunt. Not only do they have to find the item on the list but take a photo. It's amazing how the addition of a camera or smartphone can change the interest level from ho-hum to extreme.
Alphabet Photo Scavenger Hunt
How about an Alphabet Photo Scavenger hunt? It's nice and easy. The kids will need to find and photograph items for all the letters of the alphabet, or as many as they can find.
Backyard, beach or bush
Your scavenger hunt can be held in your own backyard, at the beach, at a park or, if you're very adventurous, you could take them all for a bushwalk.
Hand each child: a bag to collect the found items, the laminated list, a whiteboard marker (use on the laminated list) and a rations pack. (They're always hungry and a trail mix should keep them happy. Don't forget some water.)
The fun needn't end once you're home again. Create a beautiful nature light with the kids as a colourful reminder of your day out in the great outdoors.
Create a nature light
* glass jar or container
* small battery operated tea light
* items collected from your scavenger hunt and walk
* small stickers
1. Carefully arrange all the items from your adventures outdoors in the glass jar.
2. Nestle the tea light amongst the items in the jar.
3. Add some small stickers or decorative tape to the outside of the glass container... and you're done.
The nature light jar looks equally attractive whether it's filled with leaves, pebbles, sticks and flowers or with items from the beach- shells, sand, seaweed and driftwood.
Use the day's activities to generate some discussion and to talk about God's creation, made for us to enjoy.
And, every time you or the kids look at the nature light, they'll remember the fun adventure you all had together as a family.
Seriously.... it helps a lot with the growth of this blog.
I know most people don't share because they feel that we bloggers don't need their 'tiny' share. But believe me... you matter! Each and every reader is important and appreciated.
I've built this blog piece by piece, one small share at a time. So thank you so much for your support.
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.