Are you looking for simple ways to create an uplifting [read: not crazy] and wondrous Christ-centered Advent? Read on for a list of 18 ways to do so, ranging from simple enough for toddlers to meaningful traditions for teenagers.
Advent is a time of waiting in expectation for the coming Christ, both as we remember the original wait for the child and as we anticipate his return.
Advent traditions differ from regular Christmas traditions in that they typically include something to do or read DAILY, as opposed to something you do ONCE, like choosing a Christmas tree.
Most of these ideas are for the 25 days of December, leading up to Christmas Day. (The one at the bottom is the easiest – you light Advent candles only once per week!)
This is a long post, I know. Please please PLEASE do not try to do all of these, or even half of these! Here’s how to choose an Advent activity that won’t leave you wallowing in guilt for not doing it:
- Choose something you WANT to do. If it looks like a drag, don’t choose it, even if you think it has deeper spiritual value. If it looks like a drag, you won’t be motivated to do it.
- Choose something you CAN do. If you’ve never done anything for Advent before, choose ONE THING that you know you can commit to. Don’t over-estimate your ability to follow through. Be honest with yourself and choose something you truly CAN do, because then you’ll have success with it! You can always add to it next year, but if you commit to too much, you’ll burn out and never try again.
- To learn how to start LITTLE with your Advent habit, download my “Start LITTLE” guide here.
Fun Advent Countdown Ideas
1. Count down with a homemade Advent calendar full of fun activities!
Last year I glued envelopes to a giant piece of posterboard and had the boys decorate it. We came up with a list of 25 things to do, including baking and delivering cookies, making cards for neighbours, lighting advent candles, singing Christmas carols and watching a Christmas movie. I strategically placed them in the envelopes (based on our schedule and what we could handle each day) and the boys were so excited to pull out their activity each morning.
For the utterly non-crafty in the bunch, you could also just put the ideas into 25 envelopes, or write them on 25 popsicle sticks and allow your child to choose one per day. This is an example of an advent activity that can be easily modified to the age of your children. (Here’s a website with a ton of great activity ideas for your calendar!)
2. Add one decoration to the Christmas tree each day.
This is great for parents who wish to avoid the yearly Christmas-tree-decorating-meltdown! Before you add the decoration, thank God for the gift of Christmas.
2. Add one decoration to the Nativity scene each day.
Instead of setting the whole nativity scene up right away, add one character each day. Talk about that person’s (or animal’s) role in the first Christmas.
4. Use my 20 simple (and fun) bedtime devotions!
There are 20 activities ranging from wandering around your house like the poor wise men searching for Jesus, to creating a manger out of a laundry basket and allowing the baby Jesus to stay the night in your child’s room. Click here or on the picture to download your free copy!
5. Make an Advent calendar made out of leftover candy
Allow your kids to choose their favourites to tape onto a piece of heavy paper, then let them take one off for each day of Advent. A friend of mine does this with leftover Hallowe’en candy.
6. Count down with a chocolate calendar!
If you’re looking for a treat-based calendar that you don’t have to make, you could try one of these this year.
7. Use a fabric countdown calendar.
We have one of these, and my boys LOVE piecing their way through the story!
8. Try a sticker mosaic.
This one-per-day sticker picture is so simple, yet elegant. It’s something you might want to keep on your wall after Christmas!
9. Create a progressive manger for baby Jesus.
Add one small thing to the manger each day (like a twig, a small blanket, or a decoration). On Christmas Eve, fill it with a baby doll!
10. Send some wise men on a search for Jesus.
If you love the silliness of the “Elf on the Shelf” but struggle with the creepiness of telling your children he’s analyzing their goodness, consider trading him in for some wise men searching for their king.
The wise men can be as kooky as you like – traveling through fridges and dirty laundry piles, all in an effort to meet the Infant King.
11. Count down with Christian children’s Christmas picture books!
If you have the budget (or enough Christmas books from previous years), wrap up one book for each day of December, OR one for each weekend of Advent.
Pop over here for a full list of my favorite Christian Christmas books for kids or click on a book picture to check them out on Amazon!
12. Create a paper chain for each day of Advent.
Each day have your child rip one off. Watch their excitement levels grow as they watch the chain become smaller! My friend does this with her daughter, and she find that the chain is particularly great for helping her understand the passage of time.
13. Create a random acts of kindness paper chain.
For older children, instead of a basic paper chain, write a random act of kindness idea on each link. As children tear off each link, they spend time spreading kindness!
14. Involve your children in your Christmas giving.
There are various ways to do this.
One year I cut out all the pictures of things we could afford, and taped them on the wall. Each day our son chose one to remove from the wall, and at the end he had narrowed it down to one item.
Last year we gave our boys the catalogues after our weekly candle lighting and had them alternate choosing something. Last year’s choices really hit home with them, and when it came to birthday time in late march, our eldest chose to raise money for another water filter! (some of our favorites: World Vision, Compassion, Gospel for Asia, World Renew, and Samaritan’s Purse.)
DAILY READINGS for December 1-25
15. Study the names of Jesus
Jesus’ birth will resonate like never before as you study then pin one of his names to your mantel each day. You can find these daily “Names of Jesus” cards inside my Names of Jesus Advent Family Bible Study.
16. Daily Bible reading plan.
You could follow this 24-day reading plan using the Jesus Storybook Bible. It follows the “Jesse Tree” tradition of starting at creation and continuing through Jewish history until the birth of Christ.
17. Daily Jesse tree ornament/reading
My amazing friend Casey illustrated these printable ornaments last year, and I am very excited to use them along with the included readings. My boys loved getting to hang a new ornament on the Christmas tree after each evening reading, PLUS we get to discover how God’s promises in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ!
WEEKLY READINGS to use with lighting advent candles
18. Start a Simple, Weekly Advent Candle tradition.
The tradition of lighting candles on the four Sundays of Advent is an old one. This post has more on this tradition, as well as how to put together your own wreath and a link to free, family-friendly readings.