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.
What is a Book Advent?
A book advent consists (for us) of 24 books (you can do a “12 days of Christmas” alternative too) wrapped in Christmas paper and labeled with a number 1 – 24.
Tip: I write the name of the book somewhere on the paper in case the label falls off and put it aside so that it can be reused again next year.
What are the Activities?
I try to make Christmas more about memories than things. For us, this means using the advent calendar to plan activities that can otherwise easily be forgotten in the rush of getting ready for the big day – which with just a small family, isn’t normally that big anyway, so we try to make it about the journey rather than the destination.
I normally plan the activities around what’s going on locally and the books we’ve chosen for the year, to include events, crafts, foods and so on:
- Write a list of everything going on locally: Christmas markets, pantomime, parties, carol services etc
- Write a list of everything you’d like to do: Make a paper star, bake cookies for the neighbours, collect foliage from the forest
- Look through all your books and write down activities that could relate to each one. Or use our list of books and activities here.
On a new sheet of paper, write down dates 1 – 24. Next to each date:
- Start with the things going on locally, then put the books that will go with them down next to it. Consider things like how much reading will be required – if you’re out all day, you don’t want a long book.
- Fill in the rest of the dates with activities and books, and if needed, make a note of when you have to buy tickets by, or what needs to be bought beforehand, so that you have everything you need ready for each day. Nothing stops an activity in it’s tracks as quickly has having to go out and buy the bits for it first!
On the day, grab the book, take down the matching activity card, snuggle on the sofa and read the story, then see what the day holds.
Tip: Make some spare cards, in case your plans change. For example, you have an outdoor market planned, but it’s pouring with rain. Having a few backup books with more generic ideas, i.e. ready made craft kits is also useful. Keep an open mind and be flexible. In the three days since I finished our calendar, 14 new events in our area have popped up on Facebook!
You can get really inventive with these.
One year the activity card was a clue for where to find the day’s activity – for instance the card might read ‘To bake a gingerbread man, you have to run as fast as you can’ – so there were gingberbread man cookie cutters hidden in the shoe rack. Some days might be a whole treasure hunt, so each clue was attached to parts of an activity, like embellishments for making cards.
Another year each card was also a puzzle piece, so we built a 25-piece puzzle over the course of the month too.
There’s lots of scope for making it a lot of fun and making Christmas about the memories.
Here’s a craft we did a few years ago for The Night Before Christmas, The Snowman, Chilly the Snowman
The Works currently has 10 Christmas books for £10 – this should go a long way to getting you started!
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