a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Dec, 2009

25 Days of Christmas: day one!

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

I made my envelopes last weekend and pulled together our list of activities just last night. I’ve decided to wade into this Christmas thing nice and slow.

Today’s envelope revealed:

Enjoy a cup of marshmallows with a bit of hot chocolate

We’ll be indulging after school today. I’ll upload a pic to this post as soon as I snap one.

Advent day one

Some backstory: Last summer we spent a few days with friends at their summer camp, the girls participated in camp activities and we all ate in the dining hall with a couple hundred campers and camp staff.

The mornings were hilarious – full of bedraggled kids and bowls of cereal and toast and jugs of juice being passed around. We drank coffee, and the kids had the option of drinking hot chocolate.

Mark and I watched in awe as kids stuffed their mugs full of mini marshmallows and then ladled hot chocolate over them, slurping the sugary mallow muck that resulted.

So that’s where today’s advent comes from. :)

Good news: I’ve been chatting with someone from the media about this project. She was really interested in the bloggy participation angle of this story (which I think is very cool too). The word is out! Woo hoo!

Participants (if you’re reading this), can you use the comments below to tell us a little about why you decided to do the family advent this year? Thank you!

This post is part of the 25 days of Christmas challenge. It’s never too late to play along!  You can check out the Flickr group too.

25 Responses to "25 Days of Christmas: day one!"

1 | Melissa

December 1st, 2009 at 9:27 am


I’ve suffered Christmas burnout and the last couple years have been about decomplicating the holiday and bringing it closer to what I feel it should be about — not a gift grab, not a parade of “wants” and “have to’s”.

This dovetails nicely with things I’ve already been doing.

Today the boys opened one instructing them to open a Dec 1st gift from their grandmother — 2 made-by-Grammie Christmas pillowcases for their bed!

2 | Sue1788

December 1st, 2009 at 9:30 am


We are participating this year, and every following year, in order to bring some quality family time to this extremely busy month. I too want the kids not to focus so much on the gift part of the month but rather the whole essence of Christmas.

3 | Christine LaRocque

December 1st, 2009 at 9:34 am


I’m so excited that it’s finally December 1st and we can get started with this. There are many things about this that appeal to me but mostly I wanted a Christmas project that would bring us together rather than keep us running in a variety of different directions. This not only does that, but it also helps me cross some to dos off my holiday planning list.

Our day 1 is to write letters to Santa!

4 | Betsy Mae

December 1st, 2009 at 9:37 am


Day 1 at our place is decorate the Christmas tree!

5 | Jane

December 1st, 2009 at 9:46 am


We’ve been doing the advent calendar with family activities since my oldest child was three. (She’s 11 now.)

The calendar has been up for a week or so and my kids were SO excited this morning to actually get to open the note.

It said “Make paper snowflakes for the windows. ”

This is our after school activity today. Maybe with marshmallows and hot chocolate. :)

6 | Gwen

December 1st, 2009 at 9:51 am


I have really fond childhood memories of Christmas. I have been trying to find some new ones( to add to the old) with my girls. When I read of this activity on the blog last year, I was a bit late and remembered it this year. We’ve done our envelopes, they are all hanging and with excitement, my oldest opened up envelope #1 today.

Today’s activity is to bring up her Christmas bin from the basement, open it up and play! (her bin contains all of her Christmas books, her mini christmas tree for her room and an entire binful of Christmas stuff that I always forget about until we open it up each year! :))

7 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

December 1st, 2009 at 10:01 am


Day 1 for us is decorate the Christmas Tree. The Pea (who’s 5) is very excited about the next 25 days. She helped make the envelopes. Five is such a good age to start appreciating all the beauty and meaning behind Christmas. I want my kids to be excited about the holidays and know it’s more than just gifts. Having kids to celebrate the holidays with allows you to step back and enjoy the hustle and bustle and relax a bit.

8 | Brenda (@ottawamom)

December 1st, 2009 at 10:09 am


I love the Christmas season but it always seems so busy. I thought the calendar was a perfect way to slow down and enjoy the season and to remind/teach my kids what Christmas is really all about. I have very happy childhood memories from Christmas traditions and I am hoping this one becomes a happy memory for my children. It’s been a real family effort and they are so excited to get started! First up, tonight we are writing letters to Santa.

9 | Queenie

December 1st, 2009 at 10:54 am


I love this idea. I’m going to pass it on to my two daughters who still have children young enough to be impatiently awaiting the big day!

10 | Ginger

December 1st, 2009 at 11:07 am


My twins boys are only 15 months old but we are starting the advent calendar this year. I want it to be something the boys grow up doing and look forward to every year. But I also want my husband and I to slow down and enjoy the holiday season as well. We had trouble coming up with 25 things since the boys are too young to really take part in many things. But we did it! We have traditional holiday things like baking and Christmas movies planned. But we have thrown in several service things as well. We want our boys to grow up learning that while it is nice to receive during the holidays it is especially nice to give to others who are in need. Tonight is all about decorating the tree!

11 | Nicol

December 1st, 2009 at 11:48 am


We started this new tradition this year to. Thanks to your post you did a few years ago with your mini envelopes. I finally put together my advent and our activities.

Today we wrote our letters to Santa. I blogged about this today. http://classyandsophisticated.blogspot.com/2009/12/one-first-day-of-christmas.html

12 | Nicol

December 1st, 2009 at 12:18 pm


I forgot to put why we are doing this. I want to have traditions that results in fun memories for my children. I want them to remember Christmas as a fun time spent together as a family. Not running around shopping or busy with other things.

13 | Betsy

December 1st, 2009 at 12:28 pm


This is our first year and I’m so excited about it. My mother-in-law made a set of numbered bags a few years ago for my oldest 2 sons and filled them with candy and small gifts. Fast forward a few years and now we have 4 boys. We don’t need to be buying little token things that get used for a few days and then thrown away and they don’t need candy everyday either. When I saw this idea last year, I knew I had my answer to what to put in the bags.

Today we’re making snowflakes too :) Cutting paper ones and starting sparkly ones with pipe cleaners and Borax.

14 | karen at virtually there

December 1st, 2009 at 12:43 pm


I decided to participate (this is my second year) because I find December goes by so quickly and it is always rushed with baking and gift-buying and school events that we don’t easily slow down and savour the Christmas season. I found last year that this was an ideal way to do just that. The kids look forward to each day and I slow down and spend time each day doing something special, or even oridinary, with them.

15 | Hege

December 1st, 2009 at 12:53 pm


We’ve been doing advent calendar with family activities for some years now, and the ids love it!
Today have we been making paper snowflakes :)

16 | Lynn

December 1st, 2009 at 2:10 pm


We did the advent calendar last year because I loved the idea of doing more activities with the kids in December. The holidays are so often all about the presents — spending time together as a family and focusing on making some memories sounded exciting and fun. And it was!

Now I’ll definitely do it every year. It’s not nearly as much work as you might think and so, so very worth it.

17 | Judy

December 1st, 2009 at 3:43 pm


We are giving it a go this year as part of our ongoing push to start our own new traditions as we live in a new city away from extended family.

It was tough to come up with activities for a 14 month old. So some of our activities are for the adults (eggnog and rum anyone?)

18 | Rae

December 1st, 2009 at 6:13 pm


I’m really not a holiday person /at all/ because my family never did anything – and I didn’t want to pass that along to my family. We did the 20 days of Yule last year, and are doing it again this year because it made us all come together as a family instead of a day of gimmies!

19 | Jess

December 1st, 2009 at 6:30 pm


With being handed the challenge and devastating news that one of the 6 children in the house has a fatal disease, I felt that we needed something to pull us together as a family. This little boy will only participate every other weekend but the effects of this disease have rippled through every member and we each feel it’s effects. What better time to concentrate on being a family and being greatful of the blessings we have in life! This is bringing us closer together as we explore time together away from the world.

20 | Sherri

December 1st, 2009 at 8:57 pm


This is our first year doing a family advent calendar. My girls are 3.5 and 2 – I think the perfect age to start a tradition like this. I really want my girls to grow up with lots of happy memories of the Christmas season. I think this will help create just that!

21 | Shan

December 1st, 2009 at 10:39 pm


I think it really helps us to focus on making family the most important thing. Plus I think Christmas is just such a magical time and this way I get to celebrate and enjoy it for 25 days. I know we are making some incredible memories for our girls to carry with them.

22 | Valerie

December 1st, 2009 at 11:14 pm


I’m glad I found your post about this in time to set it up. We added 2 days to make it truly for Advent and are really enjoying it so far. The kids each got something similar at church (a list of activities), so I guess we’re meant to do this!

Like other posters, I like that it makes the kids focus on something besides gifts. But my main reason for doing it is to force ME to spend more time doing these little but special things with them. Too often I send them off to play on their own and this helps me focus on them during this Christmas season (maybe it will become a habit). :)

23 | Valerie

December 1st, 2009 at 11:15 pm


p.s. love the marshmallows with hot chocolate idea! Will have to try that even if it’s not on the list!

24 | darkenssblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 1:09 am


I like the cute picture.

25 | Tricia

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:17 pm


My friend Marnie (and your friend too) told me about this idea. I loved that this particular advent calendar didn’t involve eating a crummy piece of chocolate every morning or assembling a Lego or Playmobil toy every morning either.

I wanted something that would connect our family more and the ideas that you shared are fantastic. I finally got my calendar sorted and hung up tonight and my girls have already enjoyed the activities that we did the past two days.

Thanks for such a fantastic idea and for inspiration!


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The Obligatory Blurb

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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