Every year we do a book advent calendar to get us in the mood for Christmas. While we might have a chocolate calendar too – immediate gratification and all that – and sometimes a Lego, Duplo or anyone of a number of no-chocolate advent calendar options, the book advent is the big thing.Read more: Book Advent Calendar With Activities #Bookmas
Life gets away from me sometimes, so here we are on the first day of Advent and I’m only now posting the books we’ve put up for our advent calendar this year, which doesn’t really give anyone a chance to do the same, but never mind: you can still do a 12 Days of Christmas book calendar, which means next year you only have to get 12 books. Silver linings, eh?
The way I’ve done it this year is to attach a book to each day of our string advent. I’ve made a note on the wrapping so I know which book’s inside too so that I can swap it around if I need or want to.
Ah, the digital age. One of the negative side effects of it is that people no longer make photo albums. I used to spend hours building giant scrapbook-like photo albums on winter evenings but now most of my photos are all digital, the only way to get at them is on-screen. In recent years I’ve returned to making albums, but these days they are smaller, with less scrap booking and more pictures. My most recent album is of our trip to Disneyland Paris, and I’ve made a copy for my sister’s Christmas present too.
Using Snapfish to make up photo books is simple and easy, and as time consuming as you want it to be.
Once you’ve decided what book type you want you can upload all your pictures from your computer, Flickr and Facebook, then import them all into a book. This can be a five minute job where you let Snapfish lay out the book and you submit and publish, or you can spend hours as I tend to do, adding each individual picture with captions or adjusting the layout.
There are some specific things I like – the fact that you can use a high quality picture to spread across two pages as a ‘background’ image, the vast number of page layout options and the thematic colours along with the autofill option to name a few. Pictures are easily dragged from the album to photobook with immediate confirmation that the picture is high enough quality. Even when it says that the pictures are not high enough quality, like if you’ve pulled phone photos off Facebook, however, with an 8×8 book the pictures might not pass an art collectors’ scrutiny, but they work well enough in the book.
Once the Snapfish photo book is ready and you are happy with it, you can either share it digitally on social media, or you can email it. Alternatively, of course, is getting it printed into a book.
I always go for the 8×8 soft cover books as you can add enough pages and pictures to get you through most holidays or big events. The big bonus for me, however, is that whereas the photo albums from my 20’s to my 30’s take up two shelves of an IKEA bookshelf, the photos for the next ten years fit on a coffee table. All the photo albums from my teen years were lost in flooding a couple of years ago, and even if I still had the negatives, the cost in printing and hours or redoing the photo albums can never be regained, whereas at least with the digital albums, there’ll always be a record of it, easily replaced by hitting the reorder button.
I think it’s a great advent calendar activity too – sitting together going through the year’s photos to turn into a book of the year.
This year we are making a big deal out of Advent. I am totally overcompensating for the fact that there are no cousins, no nieces and nephews, no aunts, no uncles and no grandparents around, and on as tight a budget as possible, I’m trying to make every day of Advent special in one way or another.
In order to do this we are starting each day with a toy advent calendar, a book advent calendar and an activity advent calendar. We try to marry up the book advent with the activity advent, so if the characters in the book make biscuits, we make biscuits. If they decorate their tree, we decorate ours, and so on. Sometimes the link is only a tenuous one, but a link none the less. It’s more about the togetherness than the actual activity really.
To make our activity calendar as fun as possible, I start by making a list of everything that’s happening around us. Friends are having a Christmas party? There’s a community candlelight walk? There’s a community carols by candlelight? The cathedral in town has a Christingle ceremony? Christmas market? Santa cruises? All these things go on my list and in the calendar. That way I can pre-buy tickets to make December a little less costly. I can also look through the Christmas books and see which stories would marry up with what’s happening in the area, then I number those books with the date of the activity – A ‘Jack Frost’ matinee show at the theatre on 10 December would mean I label the Jack Frost book Number 10.
It’s a fair bit of work and planning and it’s a good idea to have backups like craft activities in case weather, sickness or just not feeling like it change the plans.
- Act out the nativity story with a nativity scene
- Attend “Carols by Candlelight”
- Attend a Christmas concert
- Attend a Christmas parade (or watch on TV/YouTube)
- Attend a Christmas market
- Attend Christmas Eve Mass at a beautiful cathedral
- Build a snowman together
- Bundle up and go on a sleigh ride
- Buy bargain events and activities on websites like Wowcher, Groupon, Living Social, and Little Bird
- Buy easy and ready made craft kits – for example Lidl and various Pound shops have small Christmas craft kits, and Baker Ross too
- Clean out your toy boxes and donate good quality items to a charity shop
- Colour a Christmas picture or make a Christmas craft
- Create Christmas messages and videos using Portable North Pole – one for the day you post a letter to Santa, one for a few days before Christmas, one for Christmas eve… loads to choose from
- Cut or pick up a Christmas tree
- Deck the halls with boughs of holly
- Decorate a gingerbread house
- Decorate a wreath together
- Decorate the tree
- Donate tinned food to a food bank
- Dress up for dinner one night
- Drive around to look at the Christmas lights
- Fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child or similar shoe box appeal
- Go ice skating
- Go sledding
- Go to a Christingle church service
- Go to a tree-lighting ceremony
- Hang some mistletoe and give out kisses
- Have a candle lit bubble bath and pretend it’s snow!
- Have a Christmas party
- Have a snowball fight
- Have hot chocolate with candy canes
- Invite a few friends over for a cookie decorating party
- Make (or draw inside) thank you cards that are ready to be filled out after Christmas
- Make a magic elf door
- Make a snow scene with fake snow and ice crystals
- Make a family bed by the Christmas tree
- Make a handmade Christmas ornament for someone else in the family
- Make a paper garland to hang on the tree, over a door, or in the kids bedroom
- Make a photo album of your year and look through it together
- Make a silly Christmas message to send out on Christmas day
- Make Christmas cookies
- Make Christmas trees out of ice cream cones, green frosting, and sprinkles
- Make eggnog
- Make gingerbread cookies
- Make glitter snow globes out of baby food jars
- Make hot apple cider
- Make paper crowns and talk about the wise men and the gifts they brought Jesus
- Make paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling
- Make play dough snowmen
- Make sand angels
- Make snow angel biscuits
- Make sugar crystals on a stick
- Make thumbprint snowmen
- Make reindeer food
- Participate in a local toy drive
- Read the Christmas story in the Bible
- Roast chestnuts
- Roast marshmallows inside over a flame
- Subscribe to Weekend Box (Code for free box: Luschka690) or Toucan Box (Code for free box: A1014) for the winter months. First box is free if you use those links and codes
- Visit a local farm or donkey sanctuary and talk about Mary and Joseph in the stable
- Visit Santa for photos
- Visit NORAD to track Santa
- Visit a Santa Grotto
- Watch the Nutcracker Ballet
- Write (or colour on) Christmas cards
- Write letters to Santa
I love chocolate. Really, I do. But I don’t like cheap chocolate much, and unless you’re going to fork out a fortune for a decent quality chocolate advent calender, which is quite frankly wasted on kids, it’s worth going a different route on advent calendars.
Whether your reasons are that you don’t want to start each day with chocolate, or that you need a dairy free alternative, or just that you want something a little different, there are a plethora of ideas for Christmas Advent Calendars that aren’t bad for your teeth, your waistline or your taste buds.
For me and my family, Christmas is a time of togetherness and fun. That might sound strange, since we home educate, which means we’re together pretty much every single day anyway, but there’s a difference between together and together. To me, Christmas is a time of drawing in, staying in, cosying up, and having as much fun together as we can.
*Many, but not all, of the links in this post are affiliate links. Buying through them will not cost you any extra, but will send a few pennies my way. Thanks for your support.
Activity Advent Calendars
There are about as many empty box advent calendar ideas as there are people who celebrate Christmas, I think! Pretty much every store that sells Christmas items has their own versions and designs, so it’s up to you to decide what you love best. Keep in mind what you want to use it for (strips of paper? home made cookies? what needs to fit INTO the box)
We use a peg string that I can attach a slip of paper to, or an organza bag containing a chocolate coin and an activity, or the first clue in a treasure hunt, or whatever it is. It’s a similar idea to this Christmas Tree Advent String (£4.95) and it allows us fantastic flexibility – for example we can put a note on it to find *today’s* advent activity in the airing cupboard, for example.
On a similar trend, and something I’ve seen done as a DIY project, are Advent Buckets. Like the pegs and the boxes they can be filled with sweets, small toys, notes, tickets (to Santa’s Grotto or a pantomime, for example). Unless you happen to have 24 buckets lying around though, I think the £21.99 for this, to be used year after year, is pretty reasonable though.
Another popular idea is the Wooden Advent Calendar, and this pre-lit one from QVC is both beautiful and stylish. (£22.96)
Another version of the same, and more colourful and child like is the Gingerbread House Advent from Born Gifted (£34.99) – I love this one – I think it’s one of the prettier of the ‘house’ style advent calendars.
And on the topic of what children will love, there are other ‘themed’ advent calendars, like the Advent Train (£34.99), which is just beautiful. I’m a grown woman and it makes me feel all Christmassy – I can imagine a child being over the moon with excitement collecting something from one of these boxes every morning.
Finally, Picture Advent Calendars have a place on the market too. Ideal for someone who doesn’t need/want anything, but wants to be part of the daily excitement too, art calendars are really sweet too. Not only do you have a lovely wintery or Christmassy scene to look at every day, but open your daily door and there’s a mini picture inside too. These calendars by Alison Gardiner (£7.25) are sure to put you in the right mood!
Toy Advent Calendars
Another really popular alternative to chocolate is a toy advent calendar, where you normally build a ‘scene’ from the toys in the calendar. In my experience from previous years, while these toys may be Christmas themed, they are played with and loved all year round.
This year we have a Playmobil Advent Calendar for our 3 year old. We’ve gone for the Santa’s Workshop Advent Calendar (£19.99) which contains twenty-four items, one for each day of Advent. The set includes a Santa figure, two elves and one angel, reindeer with sleigh, gifts, assorted toys, wheelbarrow, basket, and additional accessories to build a complete Santa’s Workshop and a ‘scene’ which can be set up to build it through the month.
Aside from Santa’s Workshop, you can also choose from Fire Rescue, Princesses and other Christmas themed Playmobil Advent Calendars too.
There’s also the Lego Advent Calendar, which is always popular and the price pretty much never drops particularly much lower. There are Lego Friends calendars, Lego Star Wars and Lego City calendars – pretty much something for every Lego fan out there.
When my kdis were smaller I really liked the WOW Toys Advent Calendar as the girls were able to get involved – (specially when one had Lego and the other wanted a toy too) but I didn’t have to worry about small parts.
And if you’re a sucker for punishment, there’s always the Play Doh Advent Caldendar (£14.99) too! 24 days of cleaning the carpets. Yay! (But the little people love it. My daughter asks me for Play Doh all the time)
For Her Advent Calendars
This year I’ve done something I’ve never done before. I’ve got an Advent Calendar for myself. Well, no one else was going to, so now I can join the kids every morning! I’m not much of a beauty blogger (at all) but I have the Just My Look Beauty Calendar (£14.99), and I’m really excited about it – not least because I’m actually running out of most of the make up I have. What’s not expired is just about done, so this is both practical and exciting. At £14.99 delivered, and containing 7 nail polishes, 3 eyeshadows, 4 lipglosses, 6 lipsticks, 3 glitters & one mascara, it’s going to be a fun month for me too!
There are a few others on the market, and some really posh ones from super stores, but those are beyond my beauty needs, but I did also quite like the look of the Find Me A Gift beauty calendar (£19.99).
And while I know this is a huge ’cause women love stationary’ generalisation – you’ll know if the person you’re buying for does or not – but Smiggle has a brilliant looking Stationary Advent Calendar (£28) which is perfect for older girls who may not be into toys anymore either.
For the Yankee Candle lovers the Yankee Candle Advent Calendar is popular.
For Him Advent Calendars
Men get the raw end of the deal when it comes to gifts sometimes, with the options pretty much involving something to eat, and something to drink. Gift makers – there’s a gap in the market here! Never the less, here are a few advent calendars for men that play to all the stereotypes.
Not On The High Street have beer, sweets, seeds, and coffee advent calendars to choose from.
The Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Advent Calendar (£99.95)looks pretty cool actually. Behind every window is a 3cl dram of naga chilli vodka, except each day they get hotter so by the end of advent he’ll pretty much be getting his head blown off before breakfast. (Yes, I’m aware of the unintended innuendo there.)
On the same trend, but a little more long drink after work, and a little less quick shot than the vodka, is the Craft Beer Advent Calendar (£60) from Ails By Mail.
Have a very happy and fun fill Advent!
Am I alone in feeling like every time I blink a day has passed? I just never seem to get to the end of the day feeling like I’ve accomplished everything I set my mind to. A fall-out from that is that the things I enjoy doing – like blogging – take back seat to things I have to do, with the result that I rarely even log on to my blog before midnight! And sadly, that means some of my posts are a lot later than they should have been. But, I’m trying folks. At least I’m in time for next year, huh?
Well last year we were in Australia and our advent calendar was a mix of activities and books:
Over the course of this year I’ve been collecting Christmas themed books, replacing some of the very baby books, and adding some longer stories that will engage Ameli more now. I’d certainly recommend doing it this way, because buying 24 books in one go could cost a fair amount!
This year I wanted to build on both the activities and the book aspects of our advent calendar, so I made both – an advent book calendar…
and an activity calendar. This took ages to put together this year, because I was trying to marry up activities with the books, so there was some link between them on days where we don’t have other activities planned, like selecting a Christmas tree.
We love Shrinkles*, this plastic ‘paper’ that you can draw on, cut out and then put in the oven and it shrinks to 7 times smaller and thicker, so you can make jewellery and all sorts from it. We used them to decorate our activity cards in the activities calendar.
I am really happy with our advent calendar this year! It’s perfect for our needs and I look forward to sharing our activities with you – if I ever get into a regular blogging routine again!
What are you doing for advent?