How to Create the Perfect Advent Calendar



Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I love the carols, the lights, the decorations, the cheerfulness, the nostalgia, the traditions.  Last year, we were still getting used to having a child and I knew better than to have big plans for ALL OF THE THINGS we could do.  But being Type A, my wheels were turning the whole time coming up with elaborate dreams of what the next Christmas season would hold. 

Enter “the next Christmas season,” and I’ve once again had to come to the realization that I am a real person with a real life and a real toddler. 

Time to get realistic and prioritize what things we really want to do this year. On the top of that list is starting an Advent Calendar tradition with Caroline.  I managed to find a really nice calendar on clearance at Target last year, and had been dreaming about all the wonderful activities we could put in each drawer for each day in December.  When I sat down to write out my list of 25 activities, I made a rather obvious discovery: we get home at 5:30 PM, and our child goes to bed within 45 minutes.  That leaves precious little time for all the adorable ideas on Pinterest, and even for several of the ideas I’d thought up. 


Not wanting to completely give up on the Advent Calendar idea, I decided to set some ground rules for myself:


Rule 1

Acknowledge that there are 17 work days in our Advent Calendar, which means I need to have 17 items that can be done with no mess and in 10 minutes or less.


Rule 2

Try to combine things I already know we’re doing with an Advent Calendar activity.  Going to the Children’s Pageant at church already because it’s on a Sunday morning?  Hello, activity for December 18th!


Rule 3

Be realistic.  As much as I would love to go and do a special destination activity or a heavily involved craft each weekend, I know that’s not going to happen.


Rule 4

Let go of perfection.  This one is incredibly hard for me, because I am a perfectionist.  I struggle with choosing to do something that I know I can’t do perfectly.  But if I give myself permission ahead of time to, say, push some activities to the weekend instead of doing them the day they’re in our Advent Calendar, then I’m good!


Pssst, this also means that just because it is a few days past December 1st and you want to do an Advent Calendar but haven’t started it yet,  Do it anyway!  


Rule 5

Be flexible!  If the card says “make a pinecone bird feeder” and I don’t have 1) birdseed or 2) the mental fortitude necessary to let a toddler loose with peanut butter, then the glory of a toddler is she won’t know if I change the activity!


Taking those rules into consideration, here is my realistic list of Advent Calendar activities:

  • Help Mommy decorate
  • Read “Who Is Coming to Our House?
  • Do a craft (sorry, Grandma and Grandpa, no spoilers here!)
  • Make a pinecone bird feeder (this may turn in to “take a walk and look at Christmas decorations”)
  • Listen to our Christmas station on Pandora
  • Color a Christmas picture
  • Read “The Polar Express
  • Color Christmas cards
  • Do a Christmas puzzle
  • Buy an ornament for the tree
  • Do another craft (still no spoilers!)
  • Pick a gift from the USO Wishbook for a soldier (all donations from November 1 – December 31 are being matched!)
  • Read Isaiah 9:1 – 7
  • Record a Christmas video for our family and friends
  • Take a picture in front of the Christmas tree
  • Read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Wrap presents for daycare teachers
  • Go to the church Children’s Christmas Pageant
  • Sing Christmas carols at the piano
  • Go visit Grandma and Grandpa
  • Read the Christmas story in Luke 2
  • Read “The Night Before Christmas
  • Have a Christmas dance party
  • Go to Christmas Eve service
  • Sing “Joy to the World”

How do you “do Christmas” with a toddler in your home? We’d love to hear from you!


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