This year I’ve given in and decided to buy my daughter an expensive advent calendar where you get a little toy behind each window. They aren’t cheap – usually £20-£25 – but for several years pre-parenthood, I got my husband the Lego Star Wars advent calendar and he got me some sort of beauty advent calendar like Benefit. We stopped for a couple of years while our daughter was very young, as we didn’t want such small parts being easily accessible, and it seemed slightly pointless to have the advent calendars if we needed to hide them away. Instead, I made these mini advent stockings using felt and bought finger puppets to go in them.
Last year my daughter also had a chocolate advent calendar and I think we got as far as a week into December by the time she had opened all the windows! This year, we decided to let her have a more expensive advent calendar, partly because she loves Paw Patrol, has loads of the toys and this is the easiest way of getting a Chickaletta toy to add to the collection! That isn’t the only reason but definitely forms part of it… (and my husband can have his Lego Star Wars calendar again). Other advent calendars we considered were Playmobile, Schleich, and some of the Disney calendars where you get a mini book every day.
I still wanted to use the stocking calendar I had made, and had seen a few other people do ‘advent activity’ calendars in the past, where you have an activity, task or event in the calendar for each day. It’s not as easy to find things for younger children, especially if they need to be things we can do in the evening after work/nursery, but next year my daughter will be at school and on Christmas holidays for several weeks – which will be a whole other problem, but at least it will mean we have more time for Christmas activities!
I thought I would share the activities I am going to put into our calendar, and a few other ideas as well. Feel free to mix and match and add in your own ideas – and do let me know in the comments if you have any family traditions!
What activities can you do with toddlers over Christmas and what can you put in an activity advent calendar for toddlers?
- If you are also gifting them another advent calendar e.g. containing small gifts or chocolate, your activity on December 1st can be: Start your advent calendar!
- Make salt dough ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree
- Make some Christmas cards
- Post your Christmas cards – this can easily be a separate activity if you can combine it with a nice wintery walk to a post box
- Put up the Christmas decorations/ decorate the house. You could split this across more than one day, e.g. decorate the Christmas tree (or even go out and buy one, if you are choosing a real tree), and decorate your bedroom etc
- Write a letter to Santa
- Post your letter to Santa
- Make some paper chains – you can buy kits quite cheaply or cut up your own coloured strips of paper
- Make hot chocolate. Remember that marshmallows aren’t suitable for young children, but there are plenty of ways you can make the hot chocolate fun, with whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate or sprinkles on top, using a hot chocolate stirrer, and making your own hot chocolate in a pan or slow cooker rather than just powder and the kettle. Then snuggle up under blankets to drink it!
- Listen to Christmas music
- Do some Christmas colouring. My daughter has a few Christmas colouring books from last year, but you can easily find free printables online.
- Look at the Christmas lights around the neighbourhood. For the past couple of years we have taken a walk around the neighbourhood to enjoy the festive displays. Many places have a particular street that is known for extravagant displays so it’s often worth asking around or asking in your local Facebook group to see if anyone can suggest another area to go to.
- Watch a Christmas movie
- Do a Christmas craft – the possibilities are endless. You could make decorations, gifts, or just general artwork – anything that takes your fancy.
- Read a Christmas story. The Night Before Christmas is a classic, and I’ve heard good things about How Winston Delivered Christmas, but have never read it. You could either start a tradition and read the same book every year, or a new one each time.
- Make suet balls for the birds. Depending on what other wildlife you have around where you live, you could look up different things you could do to help care for them at this time of year, like putting out certain foods or making sure you break the ice in bird baths so the birds can get water.
- Go to the pantomime – we are looking forward to taking Sophie to her first pantomime this year, though actually when she goes with us after Christmas it will be her second, as she is also going to a different pantomime with nursery
- Make Christmas cookies and decorate with sprinkles – then hand them out to the neighbours or take to a local voluntary group or your local fire station
- Visit Santa
- Make reindeer food – a mixture of raw oats and cake sprinkles and/or glitter. But remember if you are sprinkling it outside – often people put reindeer food in the garden – then don’t include anything that would be poisonous or harmful to wildlife. Instead why not put the reindeer food out in a little bowl in your house (if you have pets, somewhere they won’t get it!)
- Decorate a plate for Santa – this could either be a ceramic plate with special paint pens that you can do at home, going to a pottery painting café if you have one nearby, or even decorating a paper plate.
- Take Christmas cards and gifts for teachers into nursery or school
- Decorate a chocolate yule log – buy a plain Swiss roll and some mini chocolate rolls and use chocolate fudge icing and any decorations you like
- Make gingerbread men
- Go to a Christmas markets or Christmas fete or fayre – there are often school fetes and Christmas markets on various weekends in December
- Donate food to a food bank
- Donate a toy to charity or buy a gift for a child through a donation scheme such as Refuge; one of our local toy shops also runs a scheme where you can donate a toy
- Go to your local tree lighting ceremony
- Decorate some pine cones – if you have collected these on an autumn or winter walk, so much the better, but you can also buy them in packs in craft shops. You can spray them gold and silver or turn them into little hedgehogs.
- Disguise a turkey – US children often do this around Thanksgiving but it also works at Christmas. Print out a picture of a turkey and get your child to ‘hide’ it – to save it from being dinner, basically – by decorating it to look like something else. There are loads of ideas online!
- Make some handmade Christmas gifts
32. Make or decorate a gingerbread house
33. If you have a Christmas Eve box, you can make this the activity for the 24th!
Do you have any other ideas? Let me know in the comments!