My family never made a big deal about advent, so my experience with advent calendars came from my favorite aunt, who sent me a paper advent calendar every year. They were fantastic, fabulous constructions with little windows and tiny prizes and candies. To this day I have no idea where she got them (If you're reading this, this is me asking!).
So I guess I didn't know what to expect when I popped the question into google. It turns out there are tons of creative ideas out there on how to celebrate advent.
We don't have a lot of space, and I wanted something easy that wouldn't cost a lot, so I ended up making a version of Martha Stewart's Matchbox Advent Calendar. I bought 3 packs of matchboxes (it turns out my local grocery store still sells them!) and dug up a bottle of white glue.
This isn't the most lovely rendition possible of this idea, but I needed to get it done quickly- I had about 10 minutes of peace and if I didn't get it done then, it wasn't going to happen. The drawing was done with my daughters washable markers and the draw handles are duct tape. The sides and back are wrapped with wrapping paper.
Then the question was... what to put inside the little drawers?
The obvious suggestions of stickers or candy or little dollar store items didn't really appeal to me. I don't really want to encourage commercialism in celebrating advent-- I wanted the calendar to really be about being together and doing things together to get ready for Christmas.
Once again the internet came to my rescue, another mom who made a similar matchbox suggested simply putting prompts on paper. This resonated with me, so I made my own set of prompts (my list starts at 5 because that's when I got the advent calendar done by!):
5 Decorate with lights
6 Make a Christmas Craft
7 Cut out paper snowflakes
8 Find a special present and open it
9 Special treat: Hot cocoa and marshmallows
10 Build a fort and have dinner in it
11 Make popcorn and watch a movie
12 Make a card for someone and mail it
13 Make a gift for grandma and grandpa
14 Make a pinecone bird feeder
15 Find a special present and open it
16 Make cookies from freezer dough
17 Have breakfast for dinner
18 Watch a movie
19 Make Christmas Cookies
20 Go downtown and look at lights
21 Make salt dough ornaments
22 Make a card for someone
23 Wrap a present for someone else
So far it has been wonderful! Little Bug looks forward to it every day, and is excited to do the suggested activity. In fact, we are having a hard time explaining why she can only open one drawer each day. On my part, things are timed to happen on days that it seems likely we'll be excited about doing what is in the calendar--the days I know I'll be home late have simple treats on them, and the big projects are on weekend days.
While it is extra work for me, it is good to have the prompt to encourage us to do something fun. For example, I doubt I would have come home and just wanted to "built a fort and eat dinner in it," but it was super fun, and we ended up playing games, reading, and going to sleep in it too!
The "special presents" are little things that I have made for her. I'll post about them in another post.