How to Make a Super-Easy Activity Advent Calendar for the Holidays

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Oh, I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to say it (FINALLY) because it’s almost December or what I like to call “The One Time of Year I Kill at Being a Mom.”

Listen, I’m bad at lots of parts of parenting – I have no idea what we eat most of the time (waffles!), every morning we almost miss school even though we’ve been up for hours, I feel like I’m going to lose my mind if play Legos for too long,  I forget to make my kids practice things…shall I go on?

Then again, there are some things I am AWESOME at – helping them manage their emotions, remembering to have fun, adventuring, having a ridiculous amount of patience for outfit changes (probably too much, really). And, the holidays? Christmas, especially? BRING IT ON, BIG FELLA.

A few years ago, I decided we needed to make the holidays more about doing and less about having, so I started an Activity Advent Calendar with my daughter who was way too young to have any idea what was going on. It was basically me dragging her around to see lights and buy canned goods, but, I loved it and it’s one of the few traditions we’ve continued every year.

The way it works is this. I try to come up with ideas that fall into four categories: Eat/Drink, Make, Give, Do (thank you, Kathryn, for this brilliant organizational system) and I spend a some time researching local events that I throw into the mix.

Before you get all worried about coming up ideas, though, GO HERE —> Free Activity Advent Calendar Ideas! I’ve complied a big ole list and made it pretty so you can literally just print it out and stick it on your fridge if you want and, WAIT, IS THAT YOU, SANTA?

Now, before we get into it, I have a couple of caveats:

1.DO NOT DO THIS IF IT’S NOT FUN. Dude, the holidays are INSANE. I started this because it felt like a respite from the insanity, a chance to refocus during the most crazy pants season of the year. But, if you have too much on your plate, DO NOT ADD TO IT. Or do three things from it. Or do it in March when you have more time. Or do it never. If it’s not fun, don’t do it. Pinkie swear with me, will you?

2. Make it work with your life. I always add a bunch of things that are ridiculously easy to accomplish like “drink hot chocolate” or “listen to holiday music” or “call someone we love” so if we’re having a busy day, it’s no biggie.

3. DO NOT MAKE THIS HARD. The first year I did this, I created a full-on, gorgeous photo envelope calendar and then made one for everyone in my family and all my best friends. This was a BAD IDEA because it meant I cried. A lot. And was super-grumpy about ticking off tasks because OMG, I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ALL THIS FUN. If this starts happening, see #1.

Seriously, you gals, kids don’t care what this looks like. I mean, my kids’ room is decorated in magazine pages torn out of an American Girl magazine so my sense is they’re going to be cool with you buying a calendar at Target.

For your holiday enjoyment, this year, I have THREE versions for you. Yes, I’m a truly magical person who just keeps giving and giving with no expectation of anything in return. Santa? HAHAHAHA. No, I’m a MOM.

The first is my favorite ☝???? because it feels nostalgic and reminds me of sitting around with my mom at Christmas, working on paper chains for our tree. You can easily DIY your own version, but I love the colorfulness of this one from Caravan Shoppe.

It’s super easy – just download the pdf and you can either print it out at home or send it off to FedEx where their magical elves do all the work for you and you don’t have to scream at your printer.

I’m going to keep my list handy and then write on the back what we’re going to do the next day. The kids can add it to the chain once we’ve done it and BEST MOM EVER.

Okay, I lied. Version 2 is RIDICULOUS. Look how cute that little Letters to Santa box is (from the dollar bin at Target, no less)! It’s kind of like the mailbox we did last year (which, apparently, I NEVER POSTED! Omg, my life), but this year I added a memory element for you to add to the pile of things you will “one day” turn into a keepsake.

The beauty of this version is you can wing it because you’re not accountable until after the fact. Personally, I’d put my Activity Advent list up, decide what we were doing for the day, and have the kids fill it out when we get home. Or, more likely, forget to have them do it and then fill it out in the middle of the night when I remember. Take your pick.

You can download the free “Dear Santa” templates here.

Okay, so the final version is also my favorite. WHAT? You wouldn’t make me choose between my children, would you?

I found this adorable calendar in the $3 bin at Target and it would be so easy. The day before I’d write what we were doing the next day and DONE.

So, what do you guys think? You on board with the Activity Advent Calendar? I’m going to be posting daily over on Stories so be sure to follow along!

Free download of Activity Advent Calendar ideas and “Dear Santa” printable (or click here for a version with the links!)
Paper chain printable from Caravan Shoppe
Santa mailbox (they don’t have the version above online, only in store)
-Same with the gingerbread calendar (go to the dollar bin!), but this Santa one is pretty cute.

Photos by my real-life Secret Santa Milou and Olin Photography.


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