When it comes to holiday traditions, I really wanted to try and set some in place for Toby as he grows older. I don't want to dictate what will or will not become a tradition, because that's a little weird (right? Just me?), but I'm hoping this one will stick. Who knows if it'll even be successful! Despite the fact that we're not a religious family, I wanted to do an advent calendar of sorts for Toby so he could experience the magic that is the holiday season. I wasn't sure how to balance the little treats and learning actual lessons, so we opted to do an activities-based calendar. Each day in December Toby will unwrap one of the little "treats" and there will also be a piece of paper with an activity on it. The treats are just meant to be little rewards for awesome behavior (and if we're being totally honest, something to tide him over until Christmas is actually here. Have you ever tried explaining time/dates to a 4 year old?!). The activities are meant to promote kindness, selflessness, and family memories. We have everything from "donate toys" to "ride around to look at christmas lights in our pjs". It's something he'll get to look forward to each day and I'm excited to play a part.
For our calendar we opted to use both wrapping paper and canvas tied up in twine to wrap his treats. I was super inspired by this pin and wanted to do something similar. I nabbed this perfect wrapping paper from Target because I loved that it wasn't holiday-specific. We grabbed a bunch of little trinkets, candy and art projects from the Target "Dollar Spot" bins, as well as a few toys from the Dollar Tree. We don't go crazy at Christmas in our house because 1) 4 year olds have a non-existent attention span and 2) we don't want Toby to grow up spoiled or unaware of his privilege. Toby, like a lot of children, tends to get more play out of smaller items than he does a big ol' roarin', chuggin', loud gadget. (Seriously... this is the kid who carried around the bottom half of Mike's phone case for weeks pretending it was some sort of Samurizer or something.) We thought this was the perfect way to ease into Christmas and treat him for all of December, all the while going easy under the tree. Everything we included in his advent would be suitable for a child's stocking. We spent less than $30 on the whole advent calendar! Of course some of the activities will require extra purchases (movie tickets, etc), but you're able to pick and choose as you please if you decide to set one up for your kiddos!
It's hard to believe Sunday will already be the 1st of December... and since this is so last minute, I'm sharing our Advent Activities with you in case you want to whip up your own version before the end of the weekend! Here are the activities we laid out for Toby:
- Make popcorn garland for the Christmas tree
- Go through our toys and donate to a local food bank
- Make DIY ornaments (Dollar Tree has a great faux stained glass set for kids! $1)
- Make gifts for Toby's pre-K teachers
- Attend the local Christmas parade
- Send Santa a letter
- Make hot cocoa
- Visit Santa
- Invite family over for dinner/cake (Toby's birthday!)
- Make a gift for dad (with help from Mom)
- Make our own holiday cards (Target has a DIY card kit for kids for $1)
- Make little favors for Toby's class party
- Watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Toby's favorite movie)
- Make a 2013 ornament (I'll share that on the blog!)
- Go see a holiday movie in theaters (Frozen!)
- Make/Paint/Create gifts for others (grandparents, especially)
- Make homemade dog treats for Pip + Georgia (+ the cats, too)
- Bake cookies to give to family and friends
- Make a gift for mom (with help from Dad)
- Wrap presents to put under the tree (gifts for grandparents/aunts/etc)
- Do at least one random act of kindness (but shoot for 5!)
- Make a gingerbread house (we put this on a card with a clue for Toby to find the hidden kit)
- Hop in the car in our PJs and go look at Christmas lights together
- Bake Santa a fresh batch of cookies (and put out carrots for the reindeer!)
- Give/receive gifts with a grateful heart
Overall I am so excited for December! I know it'll be a lot of work to get all of these done, and there may be some days where we have to move things around or adjust to life's plans, but I can't wait. Toby told us in a very matter-of-fact tone the other night that he knew Santa wasn't real... his 7 year old cousin told him that guys just put on costumes and pretended. He wasn't upset, but my heart broke into a million pieces. I want so badly for him to believe. I want the magic of Christmas to stay alive for a few more years... so we've got some plans in the works. We'll make a believer out of him! Even if he chooses to remain skeptical, I know he'll truly love the advent calendar and all of the fun activities we have planned together.
Do you do anything like this with your kids? I'd love to hear how it's worked for you in the past! If you have any great activities or charitable suggestions to add to next year's list, that'd be great! I can't wait until he's old enough to volunteer somewhere (and actually be of service).