This time last year, I was worried that my kids were outgrowing one of my favorite holiday traditions – our Read-Aloud Advent Calendar. I was right. This year, the books are too “babyish”, though I will keep them in a basket in the living room just in case anyone decides to revisit an old friend (and I’m betting that’s going to happen a few times).
I’ve struggled to think of another way to sustain that reading magic at our house, but it’s tricky. One can’t exactly unwrap and read a new chapter book every day. Christmas-y poems were a possibility, and maybe that would work for your family, but at this point my kids aren’t too crazy about poems that weren’t written by Shel Silverstein.
In the end, I’ve decided that it’s best to let our read-aloud calendar be a very happy memory, to create some new countdown calendar magic, and to choose a really great Christmas-y read aloud chapter book that will make bedtimes extra cozy.
What’s the new thing?
Holiday Makerspace Challenges. Our basement makerspace is my kids’ favorite place in our home. They LOVE making. What could be more fun for them than a new Christmas creation challenge every day in December? One thing here – a makerspace challenge should never be about creating a replica of an adult creation (think of those cutesy crafts for kids where everything has to be done just so to make the turkey, the rainbow, or whatever). Since I’m planning to use their creations as real decorations in our home, I’m being a little more specific in my directions than I would normally be, but I’m still leaving room for their creativity and experimentation.
I’m using bags to hold my daily challenges. For organizational purposes and keeping me on track with this, I want to keep as many of the materials as the day’s challenge requires in the bags as possible. This won’t be possible for every day, though, like on day one. I’m afraid that a big roll of paper just won’t fit in that little bag.
Here are the activities I’ll be stuffing in our bags this year. As we complete our calendar this year, I’ll try to come back and update with some photos of completed projects.
24 Ideas to Stuff Your Countdown Calendar Bags with:
1. Design some wrapping paper with these stamps.
Materials: Roll of easel paper or roll of kraft paper, holiday stamps, and stamp pads
2. Sew buttons on a felt tree to make an ornament.
Materials: Green felt, buttons, embroidery thread, ornament hook, needle, polyfill stuffing (optional, if you’d like a more plush tree)
3. Create a Holiday LEGO mosaic
Materials: LEGO plate, LEGO bricks
4. Make a Christmas light string suncatcher.
Materials: Clear contact paper, light template for cutting out shape, various colors of tissue paper, paper to create the light string
5. Build a Christmas tree that can stand up on its own with these pipe cleaners.
Materials: Green pipe cleaners
6. Design an ornament. (clear ornament and acrylic paint)
Materials: Clear plastic ornament with hook, acrylic paint in a few colors, paint brushes
7. Make snowflakes to decorate the windows with these coffee filters and scissors.
Materials: Coffee filters, scissors, watercolor paint (optional), paint brushes or pipettes for the paint (optional), clear contact paper (optional to help reinforce)
8. Build a sled with these popsicle sticks.
Materials: Popsicle (craft) sticks (long and short), glue, acrylic paint (optional)
9. Make yourself a cup of hot cocoa with this hot cocoa kit.
Materials: A few marshmallows in a Ziploc bag; cocoa mix of 2 tsp. cocoa, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and a pinch on salt in a Ziploc bag [not in the bag: 1 cup milk, vanilla extract, your child’s favorite mug] – OR- I found these great hot cocoa kits at Trader Joe’s. So easy!
Get the recipe for hot cocoa for one at Hershey’s here.
10. Make gift tags
Materials: card stock, lots of fun embellishments like stickers and rhinestones, metallic pen
11. Design an ornament with this felt.
Materials: felt, scissors, glue, needle and embroidery thread (optional), polyfill stuffing (optional for a more plush ornament)
12. Make an elf out of this wooden bead and these pipe cleaners.
Materials: Large wooden bead, fine point permanent markers (for drawing an elf face), pipe cleaners in red, white, and/or green
If your kids are having trouble figuring this one out, you can find some specific directions for making an elf here at the Line upon Line Learning site.
13. Build a marshmallow toothpick snowflake sculpture.
Materials: Ziploc bag of marshmallows, toothpicks
14. Make gifts for our family.
This year we’re going to make painted cork coasters. If coasters sound like a good idea to you, too, you might consider clicking through here for lots of DIY coaster inspiration.
Materials: Cork coasters, acrylic paint, paint brushes
15. Make an ornament out of popsicle sticks.
Materials: Popsicle sticks, glue, acrylic paint, rhinestones or sequins, pipe cleaner (to use in design or as an ornament hook)
16. Build a gingerbread house.
Materials: Gingerbread house kit, patience
17. Make an ornament that looks like a mug of hot cocoa with felt, ribbon, and pom poms.
Materials: Brown felt for hot cocoa color, another color of felt for mug, white pom poms, ribbon, needle and embroidery thread (or glue)
18. Let’s bake and decorate cookies. Here are some fun decorations to use.
Ingredients for your favorite cookie recipe, sprinkles or edible googly eyes, frosting
19. Make a holiday character (like Santa, an elf, a reindeer, or a snowman) out of this toilet paper tube.
Cardboard toilet paper tube, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, various colors of felt, glue (And I’ll allow access to anything from our makerspace they’d like to use)
20. Make thank you cards.
Card stock, markers, pencil, stickers, paint and paintbrushes
21. – 24. Store-bought craft kits.
For these last few days of our countdown calendar, I decided to purchase a few of the kits my kids always ooh and aah over at the craft store. And I’m sure that in those last days leading up to the holiday I’ll have a long to do list and will appreciate having something simple that the kids can figure out without much guidance.
Do you have a favorite makey holiday tradition? Tell me about it in the comments! Maybe it could find its way onto next years countdown.