Years ago I made a DIY advent calendar out of toilet rolls, and since then I have been stuffing these little boxes with small gifts and sweets for the girls to open daily in the 24 days leading up to Christmas. Why did I start this? Well, mostly because I wanted to get as much out of Christmas as possible. I used to not like the festive season and then I had kids. Now, Christmas is as magical and wonderous to me as it is to them. Just short of believing that a fat man in a red suit will actually slide down the chimney, I relish in the festive cheer and the anything-can-happen spirit that kind of prevails during this season.
I started the advent calendar tradition because I wanted the girls to share in the excitement that December inevitably brings. And they loved every moment of it, waking me up early every day so that we can open that day’s box, being surprised at the content even if it is only a little sweet.
Then this year, our lives changed. We went from a two-parent family to a single-mom family. Their dad moved overseas and then moved back 9 months later. Because we have gone through our share of battles (thank you Covid-19 for adding your own challenges) I decided that I am changing the advent calendar from one filled with things, to one filled with ideas and prompts for activities.
There are a few reasons for this, the most important ones being that I am now responsible for their spiritual welfare and I would like to emphasise that Christmas is about Christ, not presents. Also, being present and giving people your time is one of the most valuable gifts you can give. And lastly, making memories that will last a lifetime is, well, priceless. Another factor that I needed to consider was that I now had to share Christmasses – the kids would most probably be going to their dad’s every other Christmas. By changing the calendar to only include activities, I could schedule the nice and important ones to take place in the time that they were still with me. And then when they leave, they are not missing out on any of the “gifts”.
Something that I realised only later, was that this also gives me the opportunity to change the activities to always remain age-appropriate, as well as affordable. And for any single mama, that word “affordable” means more than you can imagine!
So for this year, my advent calendar for the kids will contain the following, in no particular order:
- Make edible gifts such as fudge, caramel popcorn, etc.
- Visit a Christmas market
- Go stargazing
- Bake cookies to give out to the less fortunate
- Visit Santa
- Make something new for the tree
- Make a bird feeder so the birdies can also have Christmas lunch
- Make salt tags and paint gift wrapping
- DIY Christmas cards
- Fill a shoebox for a local children’s charity
- Drive around to look at Christmas lights
- Watch a Christmas movie, complete with popcorn and hot chocolate
- Donate toys to a local children’s charity
- Tune in to carols by candlelight
- Have a picnic under the tree
- Bake gingerbread houses
- Go to a Christmas church service
- Go to a Christmas concert
- Write Santa a letter
- Make paper crowns and tell the story of the wise men
- Have a fancy dress dinner
- Read a Christmas story
- Make paper snowflakes and hang them in the house
- Make a silly Christmas video to send out on Christmas day
In addition, read the Christmas story from the Bible, every day. If you have little kids, who might not understand the difficult words or follow along with the longer scriptures, I have made short memory verse cards to help you along. Download them below.
Our first Christmas as a single-parent family. I am carefully optimistic that it will be a good one. I hope yours will be too!