Advent is one of the most special times of the year in our family. I grew up using traditional Advent calendars to count down to Jesus’ birthday. And although these beautifully illustrated calendars were special, I wanted a more active way to get to Christmas.
When the kids arrived, I started using a daily Advent activity countdown calendar. I wrote down an activity to do each day as a family on a card. Then, I strung these up using baker’s twine. In front of each card, I placed a printable number card. Everything was hung up using mini clothespins. (affiliates)
Over the years, I got away from doing activity based Advent calendars. Between school events and extracurricular activities, the Christmas season was too packed with just the expected responsibilities. And completing an activity each day – no matter how small – seemed like too big of a task.
Until the Pandemic hit. Suddenly, with the kids homeschooling and my husband working from home, we had tons of extra time. So, I brought back the activity Advent calendar. We relished in completing the activities together as a family. It gave Advent the sense of purpose that I craved and a time each day to spend together.
Now I choose a set of Advent calendar activities to do together as we count down to Christmas. Every year, our Advent activities change based on interest and age. So, I have lots of festive Advent calendar ideas that your family is sure to love.
Each idea is family focused – because the holidays are about spending time together.
Photo by Dari lli
How Do I Plan the Advent Calendar Activities
This list of Advent calendar activities includes an assortment of ideas both big and small. I tried to organize them in categories so you can choose the kind of activity you want to do.
Although planning an entire Advent calendar full of activities might seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to. The first thing I plan are the pre-arranged activities. Those things that can’t be moved.
So before the Advent season starts, I make a list of all of the events that we want to participate in. Then, I place cards featuring these events on those dates of the Advent calendar.
For example, if we want to go to the Christmas parade in town and it’s on December 7th, then the Advent activity for December 7th would be seeing a parade.
After all of the organized events are placed, I choose Advent activities for the other days. On nights that I know we are busy, I pick simpler things such as reading a Christmas story together or coloring a picture. For days that are less busy or weekends when I know we will be up for a bigger activity, I schedule outings, movie nights and game afternoons.
Advent Calendars for Activities
Although our family sets up a traditional Advent wreath on our dining room table to light each evening, we also have an Advent calendar that features activities.
I usually hang this in the kitchen since this is where our family eats breakfast. After breakfast, one person takes the activity from the calendar and reads it out loud. Usually the activity is something that we will complete during that day or evening.
To make an advent calendar that features activities, you will need a calendar that you can add a slip of paper or card to. Some of my favorites are handmade Advent calendars. We have a wall hanging Advent calendar that we have used for many years (affiliate). It’s nice because you can also slip in a candy cane or piece of chocolate with the day’s activity card.
Or you can stuff the ideas into the little boxes of a wooden Advent calendar. This one made by Love and Luxe Handmade is one of my favorites. (affiliate)
Another idea is to simply make your own Advent calendar. You can print numbers and Advent activity cards. Then, attach them to baker’s twine with mini clothespins. It makes a beautiful decoration and countdown calendar.
How Do I Make the Advent Calendar Activities into Cards
I have included a list of my favorite Advent activities below. But, I also designed a set of Advent Activity Cards that you can print for your Advent Calendar. Each of these cards features a special one of a kind design. I have included 54 different cards, so you can mix up the activities each season.
There is also a blank template of the cards. In case you have other Advent activity ideas, you can create your own Advent activity cards.
Be sure to stop by our shop for a set of our Advent Activity Cards.
Easy to Do Ideas for Advent Calendar Activities
In the Kitchen
Have pizza for dinner.
Host a cookie exchange party for friends and neighbors.
Package cookie gifts for the neighbors. (These are my favorite bakery boxes to fill with Christmas goodies.) (affiliate)
Cook dinner together.
Enjoy breakfast for dinner.
Host a kids choice dinner. (Let them pick a recipe from our favorite kid friendly cookbook.) (affiliate)
Decorate gingerbread houses. (We always start with a gingerbread house kit to get to the decorating faster.) (affiliate)
Make Christmas potpourri. (Guaranteed to make your house smell amazing.)
Bake a traditional Christmas fruit cake or a yule log.
Cook Rudolph pancakes.
Eat dinner by candlelight. (One of these holiday scented candles might be a good pick.) (affiliate)
Make a traditional Christmas meal from another country.
Choose a new recipe in a Christmas cookbook and make it together. (This fun Christmas Movie themed cookbook can help you recreate a meal from a favorite Christmas movie. Then, show the movie and make it a family movie night.) (affiliate)
Make special hot cocoa and drink by the fireplace.
Look for animal tracks. (An animal track guide can help identify the different tracks that you find.) (affiliate)
Make a bird feeder.
Have a snowball fight.
Take a winter hike.
Identify winter trees. (This is our favorite winter tree guide.) (affiliate)
Build a snowman.
Make a snow fort.
Go ice skating.
Hit the ski slopes.
Watch for birds out the window.
Make snow angels.
Create ice lanterns.
Roast marshmallows and make s’mores. (We do this outdoors if the weather isn’t terribly cold. Or try making s’mores indoors during the winter with this s’mores maker.) (affiliate)
Collect pine cones.
Go star gazing and identify constellations.
Watch “The Nutcracker Ballet”. (In person or on television.)
Visit Santa Claus.
Look at Christmas lights. (See if you can find all the different ones on this Free Printable Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt.)
Ride the train with Santa.
Go out to a local café for hot cocoa together.
Attend a Christmas concert.
Pick out a new ornament for the Christmas tree.
Cut a fresh cut Christmas tree.
Get poinsettias to decorate the house.
Visit a Christmas model train exhibit.
Take photos of freshly fallen snow or in a pine forest.
Grab peppermint or eggnog ice cream at your local ice cream parlor.
Attend a Christmas parade.
Go to your town’s Christmas tree lighting.
Activities to Do as a Family
Play holiday or winter charades. (Check out this set of Free Printable Christmas charades. Or, in case you need a set that’s just winter themed, you can find winter charades here.)
Write a letter to Santa.
Trim the tree.
Hang up the wreath.
Have a family game night. (Some of our favorite Christmas themed games is this Printable Gnome Christmas Games Set, these 12 Games of Christmas or The Santa Claus Game (for the younger ones).) (affiliate)
Sing Christmas carols.
Have a Christmas dance party.
Wear Christmas socks together. (Surprise everyone with a new pair.) (affiliate)
Have a pajama day.
Making paper chains.
Watch a favorite Christmas movie.
Read a classic Christmas book. (This is one of our favorite Christmas story collections.)
Look at photos from Christmas’ past.
Color Christmas pictures for Santa. (Check out these Free Printable Christmas coloring pages here.)
Do a puzzle together.
Build with blocks. (Here are some of our favorite Christmas Lego building sets we’ve enjoyed building as a family. Or challenge everyone to make a Christmas scene out of Legos.) (affiliate)
Wrap presents together.
Make handmade Christmas cards.
Put up the Nativity together.
Make magic reindeer food.
Have a pillow fight.
Listen to Christmas music.
Write a letter to friends you don’t get to see very often.
Make Candy Cane Reindeer.
Write your Christmas wish list.
Paint a winter scene.
String a popcorn garland.
Have a Christmas trivia night. (Check out these Christmas Facts True or False Quiz. I can’t wait to see how much our family knows about the holiday this year!)
Play a Christmas themed card game. (This Santa Claus Go Fish looks like lots of fun!) (affiliate)
Set up a post office at your kitchen table to make your holiday cards extra special. Let everyone add stickers, drawings and stamps to the holiday cards.
Write a Christmas play together and then act it out.
Go on a candy cane scavenger hunt.
Make erupting Christmas ornaments and watch them fizz.
String a paper peppermint candy garland and hang on the fireplace.
Make gingerbread play dough and set up a make believe bakery.
Learn a Christmas song on an instrument. Plan a day for everyone to share their new songs.
Host a gift exchange with friends or family. Play a gift exchange game to make gift giving extra fun.
Start a new family Christmas tradition.
Hang your Christmas stockings.
Acts of Kindness
Complete an act of kindness (or two) from our Free Printable Kindness Calendar.
Buy a new book and donate it to your library’s book collection.
Make cards for veterans or people at your local nursing home.
Adopt a local family or child and buy Christmas gifts for them.
Purchase new toys for Toys for Tots and drop them off.
Add mittens, a scarf or hat to a winter clothing tree.
Collect old towels and blankets to donate to a local animal shelter or sanctuary.
Deliver cookies to your community helpers. (We usually drop off special packages to our post office, fire department and police department.)
Call a family member who lives far away.
Assemble gingerbread decorating kits and give away to friends and neighbors.
Add positive messages to candy canes and give out at school.
Leave snacks and water on your porch for the delivery people.
Donate food to a local charity.
Save this Activity for Christmas Eve
No matter what advent calendar activities I choose each season, we always have the same one for Christmas Eve.
So, #103 is… Set out cookies for Santa. And carrots for the reindeer.
Or any combination of treats for Santa and his reindeer that you like. We place ours on our handmade Santa cookie plate. You could also try something more modern and use a Cookies for Santa tray. It’s one of our favorite Christmas Eve traditions and a great way to end our Advent season countdown. (affiliates)
Other Christmas Ideas
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love spending time with family and friends doing things that we all love together. Be sure to check some of my other favorite Christmas ideas on the blog.
Favorite Elf Names (just in case you’re struggling with naming your Christmas elf this year)
Love these Advent Calendar Activities? Be sure to pin these ideas for later.