With the timing of this post on the last day of November, I have prepared a December Advent Activity Calendar for families (parents and children) to use in the lead-up to Christmas. There is one suggestion for each day until Christmas. In this article, I provide a brief outline of each activity. For those who want more, I have prepared a PDF with additional details for each activity which you can download free by following this link.
1. Put up the Christmas Tree
It is traditional for Christmas trees to be put up and decorated at the beginning of December. In my family, we try to do it on, or as close to, the 1st of December. If you haven’t put your tree up yet, perhaps it’s time to think about it.
I have provided the outline of a Christmas tree which can be cut, coloured and hung on the real Christmas tree. Write the year on it. On the back, write something you wish for yourself, something you wish for others, and something you wish for the world. Hang it on the Christmas tree. If you do the same thing each year, you can reflect on changes in yourself and in the world.
2. Make Paper Chain Decorations
Paper chains are easy to make and add colour to the tree or can be hung around the room.
3. Make a Gift Day
The 3rd of December is Make a Gift Day — perfect timing to remind us that personal handmade gifts are special and to be treasured. Children can make gifts for their parents, siblings, grandparents or friends.
4. Wildlife Conservation Day
The 4th of December is Wildlife Conservation Day. While you may not be able to visit a zoo or wildlife park in person, many are open for virtual visits.
At Explore.org livecamsyou can visit animals in their natural habitat, on farms, and in zoos. You can see dogs, cats, bears, goats, manatees — there are so many different animals and environments to explore. In the PDF, I link to ten more of the many other places also live streaming animals.
5. Play a Board Game
Playing games together as a family helps to bond family relationships. Many different board games are available and adjustments can often be made to suit most numbers and ages of players, and rules can be adapted to suit your purposes. While the main thing is to have fun together, there is a lot of learning going on too.
In the PDF, I have provided a board for playing Ladders and Chimneys, an innovation on Snakes and Ladders. To play, all you need to add is a dice and a button or token for each player.
6. Hour of Coding
The Hour of Coding is a great way to become more computer literate as a family. Many activities are available on the website, available for all different ages and levels of experience. They take you through a coding activity step by step. Children can do it independently or have fun doing it together as a family.
Jacqui Murray at Ask a Tech Teacher also has some great suggestions for the Hour of Code.
7. Read a Christmas Story
Reading together is another great bonding activity for families and has many benefits for children. In the hectic lead up to Christmas, it is important to ensure there is still time for a story or ten, every single day.
Of course, not all stories you read need to be Christmas themed, and it is important to allow children to choose which books they would like you to read for them too.
8. Explore the Local Environment
Spend time outdoors, experiencing what your local environment has to offer. Be in the present moment, be mindful, experience, wonder and enjoy.
Discuss what can be observed with each of the senses, for example what you can hear, smell and touch as well as see.
Whether in an urban, rural or natural space, there is always much to observe.
In the PDF, I include a template for writing a poem about the sounds you hear.
9. Take a Deck of Cards
There are many fun games you can play with a deck of cards. I’m sure you have a few favourites of your own.
Here are a few suggestions, to remind you of games you may not have thought of in a while:
- Strip Jack Naked
- Happy Families
- Old Maid
- Go Fish
In the PDF, I provide a set of cards you can cut to play Memory.
10. Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day provides a good opportunity to take some time out from Christmas preparations to think of others who may not have the same advantages as you.
Children may like to consider actions they can take to ensure they don’t hinder the rights of others, for example to be treated fairly, to be safe, or to play and have fun.
Who needs an excuse to indulge in a little gingerbread from time to time? Christmas is a perfect time to make and decorate some gingerbread cookies for Christmas.
At the very least you could read or tell the story of The Gingerbread Man.
12. Prepare Christmas Treats
Children love to be in the kitchen cooking with a parent or grandparent, especially when they may get to be the taste-testers.
It doesn’t really matter what recipe you follow, there is always something for the children to learn, for example:
- Social skills
- Literacy skills
- Social Studies
13. Invite Friends Over
It is always fun to have friends visit at Christmas time.
Any of the activities suggested for families are great when friends are included too, especially playing games.
It is also good to have some special Christmas treats to share to make the day more festive.
In the PDF, I have provided a recipe for one of my favourite treats to make when friends are dropping over — pinwheel sandwiches. They can be made a few days in advance and kept refrigerated until needed.
14. Christmas Lights
In many neighbourhoods, people create amazing displays of lights and other decorations for Christmas.
Going for a walk or a drive to view the beautiful displays always helps build the anticipation and excitement for Christmas.
15. Tidy Room — Sort Toys/Books
With Christmas just 10 days away, now would be a good time for children to tidy their rooms in preparation for the big event and the new toys which may be added to their collection.
16. Sing Christmas Carols
Christmas carols are fun to sing. You don’t have to go door-to-door and sing for the neighbours. You can sing together as a family right in your own home.
Even if none of you are musical and no one plays an instrument, you can find plenty of carols to sing along with on the internet or radio.
There are some carols that I just can’t help but join in with. What are your favourites?
17. Quiet Christmas Activities
Sometimes, the lead up to Christmas can be rather hectic. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time out to relax or do quiet things to refresh and rejuvenate.
18. Prepare and/or Check Lists
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to prepare and check your lists of last-minute things that need to be done or prepared before the big day.
19. Play ‘I Spy on the Christmas Tree’.
I Spy is always a fun game to play with children. It can be played anywhere, indoors or outdoors, at any time. But Christmas is the only time it can be played using the Christmas tree.
Charades is a fun game to play with family and friends. It requires no equipment and can be played with any number of people (well, perhaps more than four).
21. Have a Treasure Hunt
Treasure hunts are always a lot of fun. They don’t always need to lead to a prize but may involve looking for a toy or a book that is already owned.
22. Let’s Get Physical
Getting physical should not be something children need a reminder to do, but sometimes a little nudge can be required. There are many different ways of putting activity into the day. What are some of your family’s favourite ways of getting physical?
23. Track Santa’s Journey
Make sure you can access the NORAD Tracks Santa website so you can watch where Santa is travelling around the world On Christmas Eve.
Actually, you don’t need to wait until Christmas Eve. The website has lots of activities that can be accessed from 1 December.
Jolabokaflod is a great Christmas tradition from Iceland. The word translates to ‘Christmas Book Flood’ in English.
In Iceland, books are popular Christmas gifts and, when they are opened on Christmas Eve, everyone immediately reads the books they have received. That’s a tradition I could certainly go for. (Thanks to Anne Goodwin of annethology for the reminder of this wonderful tradition.)
25. Enjoy Christmas Day!
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, however you choose to celebrate it. Stay safe and well.
If you are still short of ideas, check out these other suggestions, all available free on readilearn (my website of teaching resources for the first three years of school). Some of them were written as part of this series of Learning at Home articles and presented as PDFs on readilearn for ease of access.
In addition to these, there are many other suggestions for parents in the Classroom Management — For Parents collection on readilearn.
There is also a new 30-page Christmas Activity Book which is available for just A$3.50 (that’s about $2.50 in the US.)
That’s it for now. Have fun!
Till next time, Norah