Still just about time to pull together a homemade advent calendar and start up some lovely family traditions in the run up to Christmas. If you saw our Homemade Advent Calendars blog post a few days ago, you'll have seen that we've put together a "Kids Christmas" board of images on Pinterest which includes some great advent calendar ideas.
I particularly like the idea of filling the advent calendar with activity cards giving an invitation to a special outing or event that will happen that day, or a little inexpensive gift that is an activity in itself, such as a craft kit. In sitting down to help them with it, it will encourage you to take time out too!
If you're looking for ideas, I've just spotted that yesterday on the Sister's Guild blog they put together a great list of 33 suggestions for such tradition-building activities and small gifts suitable for advent calendars. There's plenty of inspiration here, ranging from simple craft projects like making paper chains and paper snowflakes to invitations for trips out to see Santa Claus, go ice-skating or to the Cinema. A few more ideas I can think of are below, and a quick internet search will yield still more.
You could make the "invitations" and ideas look festive simply by sticking a typed label onto green or gold card or print onto festive paper. The ones below are printed onto recycled brown paper and simply decorated with a piece of Christmas tape and twine. They're from noodle-head.com, where there's a free printable to use (which is full of good ideas too!)
My random thoughts:
1) Give the craft materials needed to make a stand-up Father Christmas, Snowman or Angel, based on a toilet roll and some coloured felt.
2) Provide card and glitter to make Stars or other decorations for the Christmas Tree.
3) On the day you're going to decorate the Christmas Tree, invite your child to help. You could put a clue in the calendar to find the decorations you'd like them to hang or give them their own special decoration each year.
4) If you hang fairy lights inside or have outdoor lights, invite them to your very own "turning on the lights" festivities. Play some Christmas songs, have a countdown and celebrate with a cup of hot chocolate or other treat.
5) Give some marshmallows and allow your child to stay up late to toast them with you.
6) Pick up cheap Christmas craft kits, stickers or card games. "Make a Christmas Tree" packs, Christmas Stickers and Christmas Snap were all half price in the Early Learning Centre last week, and they're the sort of thing discount stores excel at.
7) A visit to a carol concert or nativity play, written as an invitation, particularly if a sibling has a starring role.
8) A visit to town to see the lights-on festivities (if scheduled for December rather than November).
9) Start a tradition of making a Christmas picture each year, that you could frame and put up with the other decorations. You could provide a picture to colour in, or draw an outline and give the materials needed to make a collage or other crafted picture. Over a few years this would become a lovely showcase of their emerging artistic talent!
10) Provide a sheet of paper and a pen to write to Santa.
11) Nearer Christmas, a reply from Santa!
12) A pair of festive earrings or other festive jewellery, for older girls.
13) A cutter to make mince pies or biscuits, and then perhaps a visit to an elderly neighbour or relative to share your goodies.
14) Marzipan and food colouring, to spend a happy afternoon making fruit-shaped petit fours. Another day's activity could be to hand-make a festive box and wrap them in tissue to take to grandparents or other hosts of Christmas visits you're making.
15) Learn the nativity story.
16) Make your own "Santa Please Stop Here" sign to put in the window. Give the instructions in the advent calendar and provide the bits they'll need to make and decorate it.
17) Encourage them to think about others who are less fortunate at Christmas by getting their help with fulfilling a Christmas appeal. Many organisations ask for small gifts and donations at Christmas which your child could help with, perhaps by choosing a toy to give away or going with you to the supermarket if there's an appeal for food for hampers that will be given away. Or you could give them the money you might spend on buying a gift to donate to a children's hospice or hospital and go shopping together to get something, wrap it, and make a special trip to deliver it.
18) On Christmas Eve, a reminder to put out a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph before they go off to bed...
Not long now...