December 3, 2023  

DIY Activity Advent Calendar

Focus on festive activities and memory making this season with an activity Advent calendar! Learn how to make this DIY advent calendar and how to keep it all organized.

An activity advent calendar is a great way to focus on all of those special traditions and festive activities you want to do this season. This is a fun way to count down to Christmas and be intentional about make holiday memories as a family.

And I love that this is an advent calendar that focuses more on spending time together and creating experiences and memories rather than just a calendar focused on physical things.

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Making An Activity Advent Calendar

How It Works

An activity advent calendar includes one activity for each day in December leading up to Christmas. Each day, you open up one envelope that contains a seasonal activity to do.

A lot of our activities are super simple things, like enjoying a festive treats after dinner or doing a quick dollar store craft. I also build in a few bigger things on the weekends, like going to a light display in town and doing a big baking day.

Typically, these start on December 1st and end on December 24th, but there’s no reason you can’t start it later in the month if you want to!

I look at this as an intentional way to make sure we squeeze in all of the festive traditions, events, and activities we like to do each year. In the past, the month December would often fly by and we wouldn’t end up doing a lot of the fun and festive things we’d hoped to. Incorporating them all into an activity advent makes sure you’re making all of those memories and packing as much fun as you can into the month!

Tips For Planning & staying organized

The key to the whole thing is staying organized and being ready to adjust the daily activities as needed.

  • I use a spreadsheet to plan out all the activities upfront. Once I’ve finalized the list, I fill each envelope with that day’s activity. Having the spreadsheet is super important because you want to be able to quickly look at what you have planned and make adjustments when needed. So if something comes up and you need to swap two activities, you’ll know which envelopes they’re in. And being able to glance at the next day’s activity on your phone will ensure you’re prepared for it and not blindsided by something you don’t have the supplies or time to execute. I use the same spreadsheet each year and make a new tab for the year so it’s easy to reference ideas from past year’s.
  • When planning activities, keep your schedule in mind. With full-time jobs and school, there isn’t a ton of time for extra things on weekdays. So I plan really low-key ideas, like taste testing the seasonal Oreo flavors after dinner or getting new Christmas books to read at bedtime. I save the bigger things, like local events and baking days, for the weekends when we have more time. Activities can be really simple and low-key, and don’t be afraid to repeat things either!
  • Start your activity list with all the things you’d be doing anyway. I include shopping days, gift wrapping days, baking days, movie nights, ordering pizza, etc.
  • When planning your schedule, start with anything that happens on a certain date. Local festivals, brunch with Santa, family get togethers. Put those on your calendar first and then fill in the blanks with other ideas.

Activity Ideas

Your activities can range from big to small. The majority of ours are at-home activities that take very minimal time or prep work.

Here are the activities in our family’s advent calendar this year:

  1. Open new pajamas at bedtime
  2. Present shopping with mom
  3. Make salt dough ornaments
  4. Look at neighborhood Christmas lights
  5. Read new Christmas books
  6. Festive treats for dessert
  7. Festive play-doh kits
  8. Move night with a big candy board
  9. Drive through a light display
  10. Visit Santa
  11. Baking and movie day with family
  12. Do a festive craft (dollar store kit)
  13. Make hot cocoa
  14. Order pizza
  15. Draw pictures to mail to others
  16. Present shopping with dad
  17. Cookie baking day
  18. Present wrapping day
  19. Trace the kids’ outline on wrapping paper and decorate like gingerbread men
  20. Make festive ice cream sundaes
  21. Decorate a gingerbread house
  22. Check out our city’s big light display
  23. Find a festive recipe on Pinterest and make it
  24. Have a fancy candlelight dinner

How To Make A PAper Gingerbread House Advent Calendar

In the past, I’ve numbered small envelopes and tucked a slip of paper inside with the activity written on it. I’ve hung the envelopes on a wall, on the tree, and even just stacked them in a decorative bowl. It really doesn’t have to be fancy!

This year, I had a lot of fun creating a cute paper gingerbread house advent calendar. If you want to make it as well, here’s what you’ll need:

First, I decorated the outside of the bags to look like gingerbread houses. A white paint pen works great for this, or you could use a Sharpie. Cut a pointed roof or fold the top of the bag over to make a flat roof, then start doodling. I looked up house designs on Pinterest and invented my own as well.

Next, write each day’s activity on a paper gift tag and tuck it inside a bag. Add that day’s number to the outside of the bag so you know which day it’s for!

Once you have all 24 complete, you’re ready to display them. I kept it very simple this year and hung them in three rows on the back of a door in our kitchen. I used small command hooks to hang up string, then hung each gingerbread house on the string using mini clothespins and paper clips.

I love how cute this turned out! Let me know if you make it!

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a working mom juggling two young kids, a corporate job, and all that goes into managing a home. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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