a peek inside the fishbowl

26 Nov, 2008

Activities for your family advent calendar

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy

Subtitle: Because memories last longer than a sugar high.

I’ve had a couple people email me, wondering what kind of activities would be best for the Family Advent Calendar.

I like mixing it up with things we need to do anyway – like pick out our tree and decorate the house –  and others that just make for some easy (and cheap!) holiday fun.

Off the top of my head:

  • write and mail our letters to Santa
  • cookie baking and decorating
  • share some of our baking with our neighbors
  • buy/set up the Christmas tree (this counts for two days for us (1) picking the tree (we get a live one) and (2) decorating it the next day (it always needs to defrost first!)
  • a neighborhood night walk with our DIY lanterns
  • buy a gift for charity (we like Toy Mountain)
  • choose a gift from the World Vision catalogue
  • write/decorate our Christmas cards
  • Christmas crafting! Marble magnets, beaded bobby pins, paper chains, paper snowflakes etc.
  • toboganning
  • ice skating at the local arena
  • rent snowshoes and feed the birds
  • “fancy dress” at dinnertime
  • paint toenails
  • host a tea party
  • visit Santa
  • find some puppets and make up a bedtime story
  • write a story and “publish” it
  • Is the sky clear? Do some star gazing.
  • make edible gifts for the squirrels and birds
  • make a list of ten things you are thankful for. Hang it where you can see it every day.
  • dessert before dinner
  • go for a drive to see the Christmas lights downtown

Looking for other kinds of events? If you’re in Ottawa-Gatineau you may already be familiar with Kids Ottawa? This website is an excellent resource for events/activities in our region. If you can’t find something to do in their extensive holiday pages, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

As for the big days, the 24th and 25th, I think I’ll keep the same activities as last year:

24. Unwrap one present after dinner (mum and dad get to pick which one).

25.  It’s Christmas Day. Remember you have a family who loves you. And that’s the most important gift of all.

What say you? Anything else to add? Help me brainstorm and come up with some really good ideas!

15 Responses to "Activities for your family advent calendar"

1 | porter

November 26th, 2008 at 10:02 am


When we take down our tree every year my hubs complains that we didn’t spend enough time hanging out by the tree so in our advent calendar I’m including lots of ‘around the tree’ activities.

– dinner in front of the tree (picnic style)
– games in front of the tree
– stories in front of the tree
– ‘Snowman Soup’ in front of the Christmas tree (make packages of ‘Snowman Soup’ for your kids to help prep…google it if you haven’t heard of it before.

I liked your candle lit bubble bath idea..my girls will love that. Since my kids are still fairly young, I’ve also brought bowls of snow to the tub and let them play with the snow in the tub (the hot bath keeps them warm!)

We might not get snow before Christmas but I want to inlcude making a snowman so if we don’t get snow I plan on doing a craft where we make snowmen with cotton balls or something similar.

We always sprinkle a mixture of glitter, oats, etc on the snow (if there is any) at the front of our house to help Santa and the reindeer to find our house!

My kids are really looking forward to this plan.

2 | Lynn

November 26th, 2008 at 10:38 am


You talked me into this advent calendar thing, too. My list of what we’ll be doing is here:


3 | Stacey

November 26th, 2008 at 11:53 am


We have a couple different ones on our list:

-make a donation to the food bank
-find the Christmas CDs and have a Christmas dance
-watch a Christmas movie
-go to a Christmas party
-pick out a book at the library and read it together (I have young kids)
-make Santa-men cookies (gingerbread men dressed up like Santa)

4 | ImogenSky

November 26th, 2008 at 12:26 pm


Excellent! thanks for posting more ideas. I am working on my 25 ideas today. Thank you too Stacey too because I have a 2.5 year old and a 13 month old so I needed something simpler to do too :)

I will be posting my ideas later on today.

5 | Jennyjag

November 26th, 2008 at 2:05 pm


What a great idea. There are so many super suggestions here for activities, this is one tradition I will gladly adopt – what fun! I even have one idea to add – how about celebrating Christmas traditions from another culture or country. Example: My family is Dutch and we celebrate Sinterklaas on Dec. 5 & 6. We indulge in the traditions of this event with speculaas cookies, chocolate letters, treats for kids in their shoes, and sinterklaas songs (all of these readily available at Dutch Groceries here in Ottawa’s Bleeker Mall by the way). Thanks again – you make parenting fun :)

6 | porter

November 26th, 2008 at 7:23 pm


I came back to see what else people added…Jennyjag gave such a great suggestion of celebrating Christmas traditions from other cultures.

7 | Pages tagged "calendar"

November 27th, 2008 at 5:35 pm


[…] bookmarks tagged calendar Activities for your family advent calendar >&gt… saved by 5 others     ktetis bookmarked on 11/27/08 | […]

8 | karli

November 28th, 2008 at 1:19 pm


i copied your idea with the envelopes and activities and they are so cute! (pics on my blog) http://yawnkiss.blogspot.com/

thanks again for such a great idea!

i got my kids to help think of things to do and co ordinated it with the real calendar to make sure there was time for things. in no particular order, here’s what we are doing:

Drink hot chocolate together.

Decorate the Christmas tree.

Make sugar cookies,
decorate with icing and sprinkles.
Share some with neighbours.

Make and hang up sun pictures or masks.
Eat sun cookies.
It’s the longest night of the year!

Merry Christmas!
The best gift is being together as a family!

Make paper snowflakes for the window.

Family Game Night

Stay up late and watch a Christmas movie.

Mom and Dad pick out a present
for the kids to open early!

Candlelit dinner with Christmas music.

Make paper chains and popcorn garlands.

Go to the beach and collect sea shells.
Too rainy? Then do Easy Baking.

Listen to a Christmas story.

Wrap presents for each other.

Make Christmas wrapping paper.
Pack up Grampa and Abigail’s presents.
Nana and Jenna’s package, too.

Christmas Concert!
Give Presents to teachers.

Make cards for teachers.
Wrap presents for teachers.

Make cards for friends at school.

Give cards to friends at school.

Do puzzles together.

Use old Christmas cards to make collages.

Christmas Story with Dad.

Make goodies for Christmas Concert. Egg nog sugar cookies!

Make Christmas place settings.
Name tags and napkin holders.

Last day of School!
Stay up late
and watch a Christmas Movie.

9 | Scattered Mom

November 29th, 2008 at 12:22 pm


It gets a bit hard as the kids get older, because with Jake there’s lots of homework in the way and he doesn’t necessarily have the time to do crafts or things on school nights. I’ve had to try to keep things a bit more simple for those nights and lots of things are up in the air iffy just in case.

Plus we’re leaving for Calgary sometime after the 19th so I’m not sure what to put for those days, but we’ll see! :)

10 | Scattered Mom

November 29th, 2008 at 1:55 pm


Ooo…I actually was going to post what I plan to do, then realized that Jake would read it and spoil the whole thing.

So I posted some of the things that we did when he was little. :)

11 | Ingrid98684

December 1st, 2008 at 12:52 am


I loved the idea of the envelope advent and am about three quarters done with ours. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some photos to show off my hard work. It’s taken a lot longer than I originally anticipated but I’m hoping it will give us years of fun Christmas memories.

One idea I had that wasn’t on your list and might be fun for families is to make and decorate a gingerbread house together. I did this when I was a kid and of course I thought it was fabulous. You can buy a kit at the store, or do it from scratch (probably more of a two-day activity if you go that route.)

Thanks for sharing this idea!

12 | Cathy

December 1st, 2008 at 5:07 pm


Thanks for the ideas! What a great way to bring the family together. I can’t wait to do this with my kids.

13 | Tales of life with a girl on the go » Blog Archive » Advent calendar activities

December 1st, 2008 at 10:42 pm


[…] read how some other people are tackling these activity advent calendars, visit Andrea’s post on the activities she has included and read all the way through the comments, even follow links to folks like Porter […]

14 | Joanie

November 28th, 2009 at 10:04 am


Thanks for all the neat ideas! Since my kids were small we’ve always read Luke chapter 2 , a verse a night and had a Birthday cake for Jesus. My kids are now grown and can still quote the Christmas story from Luke 2 from memory- even my autitstic son! God bless you all.

15 | Jane

November 30th, 2009 at 7:05 pm


I love this idea! It’s so easy to get caught up in all the requirements that we forget to spend time as a family.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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