Corey and I have always done an activity advent calendar of some sort. We’ve done a lot of different of versions over the years, but when we first moved into this house we started doing an advent Christmas tree. It’s the perfect easy DIY activity advent calendar and today I’m showing you all the details of our calendar, along with some advent calendar activities, and printable advent calendar cards for you to use for your own calendar.
I know. It’s basically like Christmas has arrived early. You’re welcome.
Our Activity Advent Calendar
If you’ve been reading here for a while, then you’ll know that advent calendars are kind of my thing. I love creating bucket lists for just about every season, but I take my Christmas advent calendar very, very seriously. We’ve done a lot of different versions of the advent calendar over the years – from stringing tiny envelopes up over a window, having a list on the fridge, and even an empty frame with envelopes strung across. We’ve landed on using a mini tabletop tree in our entry to hold our advent calendar activities, but honestly, you can do anything.
The basic idea behind the activity advent calendar is that every day leading up to Christmas, we grab an envelope from the tree, open it up, and do the activity inside! It can be anything from baking cookies to going to see Christmas lights. The only rules are it has to be festive and Christmas-y!
It brings our family so much joy every year, and I always get so excited to put it together. It’s a tradition I hope we keep forever and ever.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the best strategy with an advent calendar is to keep it as simple as possible. I’ve tried to use more elaborate methods and go really big with the activities, but we always end up feeling burned out and overwhelmed. I knew it was time to take a step back when we found ourselves feeling obligated to complete the advent activities and not excited to do them. So now, I stick to mostly simple things that are easy to accomplish with just a few bigger activities thrown in.
I don’t know why, but for some reason when a little card tells you to stay in your pajamas all day it feels way more exciting than when you just do it on accident.
I’ve also learned that repeating activities can be a great thing. I’m a huge fan of baking Christmas cookies, so we usually set aside at least 2 or 3 different days to make a couple of batches.
Normally I’d never bake that many cookies all at once, but when it’s Christmas you have to.
How I Organize Our Advent Calendar Activities
I’ve been doing this for a loooong time, and I’ve learned a few things the hard way. Here are my tips for making this the most successful it can possibly be:
- Keep a calendar on your computer or in your planner where you write out the entire month’s activities. Each Sunday evening, sit down and review the upcoming week and make changes as necessary. Every year I have to swap around a card or two because we’ll get invited to a last-minute party or have a change of schedule. It’s much easier to keep things organized if you double-check everything weekly!
- Monday through Thursday when the kids are in school, keep the activities really simple. I try to avoid too many things that require us to leave the house during the week. Those are the activities most likely to end up getting skipped!
- Consider the things you’re going to be doing anyways and make them advent activities! I always have a card for things like writing a letter to Santa, taking a photo with Santa, and baking Christmas cookies. We’d be doing these things no matter what, but they feel more special when they’re on an advent card!
- Start planning now! The key to success here is to plan early! Even if you only plan one week at a time, you’ll feel much more on top of things if you start planning it as soon as you can. I book things like movies and Trail of Lights tickets as early as I possibly can so it’s done and I don’t have to think about it again until the night of the activity.
Our Advent Calendar Activities
Now let’s get to what you’re really here for – what the heck do we actually do?!
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a big ol’ list of 50+ advent calendar activity ideas to get you inspired!
Advent Calendar Activity Ideas
- Christmas scavenger hunt
- Write a letter to Santa
- Bake cookies
- Watch a Christmas movie
- Visit a Christmas festival
- Go to a drive-in theater
- Go see Christmas lights
- Breakfast for dinner by the tree
- Visit Santa and take a photo
- Go shopping for Christmas gifts
- Attend a cookie decorating class
- Have a family date night
- Decorate gingerbread houses
- Have a family board game night
- Have a pajama day
- Make a Christmas ornament
- Read the Christmas story in the Bible
- Snuggle up and read Christmas books
- Dance and sing Christmas carols
- Cut out paper snowflakes (or make a snowflake garland!)
- Make homemade hot chocolate
- Make reindeer food
- Do a Christmas craft together
- Make a popcorn garland
- Drop off treats for neighbors
- Have a snowball fight (use balled up paper if you don’t have snow!)
- Make a blanket fort and watch a movie
- Go see a Christmas concert
- Cookie day
- Go ice skating
- Random act of kindness
- Donate some toys
- Do a Christmas puzzle
- Play video games together
- Wear matching Christmas pajamas
- Make Christmas cards
- Let kids cook dinner
- Light Christmas advent candles
- Put up Christmas decorations
- Color Christmas coloring pages
- Have a gift wrapping party
- Take a family photo
- Eat candy canes
- Hang mistletoe
- Make cinnamon rolls
- Have a sleepover under the Christmas tree
- Visit a nursing home
- Visit an animal shelter
- Make a treat for local firefighters
- Create care packages for a homeless shelter
- Do a favor for a friend
- Make s’mores
- Snuggle by the fire
- Host a Christmas party
- Donate food to a local food pantry
- Donate toys to Blue Santa
- Make a homemade gift
- Dring eggnog
- Buy gifts for your teachers
- Make homemade fudge
- Decorate sugar cookies
- Family walk
- Marshmallow fight!
- Have a themed movie night (Polar Express, Elf, and The Grinch are all great for this!)
Printable Activity Advent Calendar Cards
Whew. Are you feeling inspired and Christmas-y yet? I know I am.
But wait! There’s more!
I’ve got a free printable set of activity advent cards for you to make things even easier. Just click the link below, print them out, and you’re good to go.
There are 24 cards with activities (we usually just put “Merry Christmas” on the last one), and a whole page of blanket cards for you. They’ll download as a PDF file so you can just print what you want.