I'm all about keeping things fun but simple at the holidays. I want them to be special and memorable and fun for my kids, but also for me to. If I'm working so hard at over the top decorating and crafts the whole time, then I'm not actually getting to pause and enjoy it. So there needs to be balance.. For Christmas, I decorate a little, we do a few projects, we do a tree, and a wreath. Sometimes we get the lights up on the house, but not every year. There is holiday baking, and cards, Santa visits, and gifts of course.
I'm not going all out decorating my house with garlands and centerpieces and changing out all my table decor and putting up 5 trees and wreaths on every door and car. It's just not me. I'm somewhat of a minimalist, and I enjoy the holidays more when I'm not working my butt off the whole time. But when you have little kids who get excited about such things, it's impossible to avoid adding on a little extra holiday festivity and activity. And really the best thing about Christmas is enjoying it through the eyes of a child.
So what could I do that's easy for me, and exciting for them? A few years ago I think I came up with the perfect thing. I took the basics of several different ideas I saw, and made it my own. And I kinda loved it. We've been doing this for a few years now and it never gets old. It fits all my requirements - it's exciting and fun for the kids, but it's easy for me.
Our 25 Days of Christmas Activity Calendar!
Basically - it's like an advent calendar and a whole plan of fun holiday activities, all rolled into one. It's homemade and personal, and the activities can be whatever you want.
This was so easy to put together - some things I already had around the house, one quick trip to the craft store, and some printables. Really not much money spent at all. Basically - a ribbon, with little envelopes clothespinned to it, with a paper in each envelope containing a holiday themed activity for each day.
What you'll need:
- a length of ribbon - the size will depend on where you're going to put it.
- little envelopes - I used glassine envelopes, but you could use any kind, even those small coin envelopes.
- colorful paper - I used leftover wrapping paper
- round labels or stickers - that you can either print or write on. I got my labels at a craft store, but I think these are the same size. This is the template I used to print my numbers.
- clothespins - I used red ones and some extra festive holiday ones.
- your printed activity cards
- hooks - or something to hang it from (or you can see in the picture above that I just tied it to a curtain rod)
- a blank December calendar page (optional, just for planning your activities)
How I made it:
Figure out your list of all the things you'd like to do with your kids this holiday season. I suggest you come up with a list of at least 30, so that if something isn't going to work out you have a few backups that you can easily switch out when nobody is looking. Try to have a good mix of very small things and bigger 'events'.
Arrange your activities by day. I printed a December calendar page to use, just to have something for a worksheet as I was planning out my days, so I could pencil in what I was thinking for each day. Here's a page with a nice printable calendar. I spent a little time with our family calendar and my activity calendar and penciled in what I thought would work for each day. We have very small activities (like reading a Christmas story, have hot cocoa, pop popcorn, etc.) on school days, and we have bigger things on weekends and once the kids were out of school for holiday break. I included things that we would already be doing anyway - like getting our Christmas tree, putting up lights, and visiting Santa - so a lot of it isn't even new stuff. And I tried to include some extra fun activities like make a gingerbread house, drive around to look at Christmas lights, etc.
You can just write each activity on a little piece of paper that will fit in your envelope, or you can get as fancy as you like with it and decorate cards, or print them out. I got super lazy and just used a free printable for my activity cards. I've posted links to several different advent activity printables on my Christmas Pinterest board. Even if you do make your own, it's fun to look at some of the links to just get ideas.
After you have your list of activities and your supplies, figure out where you're going to put it, and measure your ribbon to fit that space, leaving a little extra for a bit of swag. I originally had planned to put mine across the fireplace (you can see in the corner of one picture above that I had even already put some hooks up), but then I realized that our cats would be too interested in the ribbons, so I put it across a window instead.
Cut out your activity cards and your colored paper to the same size, so they'll fit in your envelopes. Since I was using clear envelopes I needed to cover the activity cards so my kids wouldn't peek. And since it would show through the envelopes, I wanted something pretty. I used some old Christmas wrapping paper that I didn't really have enough of to wrap with anyway.
Label each envelope with a number 1 - 25. I did this with red stickers, I got a sheet of stickers at my craft store and printed the numbers on them. But you could totally just use a red sharpie and your best writing (but I'm a lefty and my handwriting is terrible!).
Now you've got everything together - just assemble. Put a colored paper and an activity card in each envelope, fold them over slightly to hang in the ribbon, clip on with a clothes pin. I used a different color paper for every 5 days, so we had a little way to mark time with littler kids. And I alternated a few Santa clothespins in with my less expensive pins.
And that's it! My super simple 25 days of Christmas. My kids loved it, and it was the perfect amount of festivity for me! I hope you enjoy!
I even made an extra set to give to a friend as a gift - I packed it all up with some extra ribbon and a festive bag and it make a great little early holiday gift for the family.
I couldn't find online sources for all the things I used, but here are most of them.