Activity Advent: Family Friendly Christmas Activities

One of our family traditions during the Christmas season is what I call an activity advent- I plan out each day of December with various family friends Christmas activities leading up to the big day. I know that this can sound crazy, daunting, etc. and just “one more thing” in an already overwhelming tine of year. I assure you, it doesn’t have to be! Everyone has a mental Christmas bucket list and I would venture to say that unless you start with a game plan, the season can rush by and be over before you know it. This is our 7th year doing this and it has been such a great way to make sure that we actually do the things that we want to! The kids know the deal now, and they look forward to December starting so that we can kick off our activity advent calendar.

Currently, I have a 7 and 4 year old boy and girl, so the activities I am sharing are geared for their ages and interests. I shared in this post a few years ago what we were doing with one toddler.

Let’s get into it!

What is an Activity Advent?

In our family, and activity advent is a planned activity, typically Christmas related, for each day leading up to Christmas. Most of the activities are free or very inexpensive- keep reading to check out a list of activities!

How do you set up an Activity Advent?

I plan out each day before December starts. I take into consideration work and school schedules, extracurricular activities, and the dates and times of public planned events and pull together a schedule.

As far as presentation, I have done a few different things. The first couple of years, I had a package wrapped for each day that my son could open. Inside would be something to represent what we doing. For example, I’d wrap a Christmas book that he’d open and we would read, or wrap up the DVD of the Christmas movie we would watch, or wrap a mixing bowl for the cookies we would make.

As he got older, gifts under the tree we not lasting, so I just kept a list for a few years.

Last year I wrapped up candy and a piece of paper with the activity inside of a TP tube with tissue paper and numbered each one for the day.

This year, I am filling little envelopes that they can open each day with the activity on them.

No matter how you present it, keeping a master list is ESSENTIAL. Life still happens and there are time that activities need to be swapped with other things, and having a list lets parents keep it fun and disappointment to a minimum.

I have a ton of presentation ideas saved on my Pinterest board if you want some more inspo!


Christmas Activities

  • Christmas parades
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Drive around to look at Christmas lights
  • Christmas light shows– We live in Maryland We are big fans of Lights on the Bay, OC Winterfest of lights, DC Zoo lights, and the new Schatzschneider Christmas in Delaware
  • Local Christmas festivals- There are normally so many things happening locally this time of year! Some ideas in our area are Whoville, Christmas in Ridgely, and Shellville in Delaware.
  • Train rides- if you live close enough to an active passenger train, check to see if they offer Christmas specials, lie the Polar Express or train ride with Santa. We have done the train ride with Santa at the Strasburg Railroad.
  • Visit a train garden- Check to see if any local clubs offer a train garden this time of year. We have been going to the Eagle Line railroad for years and years. It is one of our favorite traditions. If you are local enough to it, it is worth it!
  • Bake (and deliver!) Cookies- We love to take cookies to grandparents and great grandparents. We visit grandparents at work and get to have a special visit with great grandparents. Highly recommend!
  • Visit Santa
  • Carriage rides- there are several places around us that offer carriage rides through town this time of year, and I think that is so special. We haven’t done this one yet, but I’d love to one year!
  • Christmas shopping- This could be done in so many ways. I love the idea of shopping for an angel tree or adopting a resident at a local nursing home. You could also create special “dates” with each child to shop for the opposite parent or their siblings.
  • Christmas parties- whether you are hosting or attending, the party itself is generally my activity for that day. Depending on the circumstance, we may be baking a treat to bring along that day as well.
  • Shop for an ornament- this is new to our list this year. Growing up, my brother and I picked out a Hallmark ornament every year to add to the tree. While it probably won’t be Hallmark, I think this is a great year to start this tradition in our family!
  • Decorate the car- This is new this year; I got some window clings from Dollar Tree for the kiddos to decorate their window in the van and magnetic Christmas lights for the outside.
  • Make a Christmas wreath cinnamon roll wreath
  • Read Christmas books

Year Round Activities

There are some days on our list that are a special activity that isn’t necessarily Christmas-y, but something we look forward to doing this time of year. Here are some ideas:

  • Going to see a movie in the theatre. Whether its a new movie or a reshowing (our local theaters will show old movies during the mornings for discounted prices), the kids love getting the movie theatre experience.
  • Get Ice cream- This year, this is happening post school Christmas concert with the grandparents!
  • Go to a paint your own pottery studio
  • Visit a Children’s or play museum
  • Visit an aquarium- this was go to for the first several years. Highly recommend, especially if your little ones are still babies. It’s so fun to see them memorized at the tanks.
  • Go ice skating
  • Game night
  • Magic Snow– This is something we tried for the first time last year, and the kids had SO much fun with it!

Crafty Things

  • Dollar Tree crafts- I always grab a few things from Dollar Tree like the paintable wooden cutout kits, ornament kits, etc. My kids are young enough where they are thrilled with these options. As they get older, I may try “nicer” craft ideas like those you can find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby
  • Making cinnamon ornaments
  • Making salt dough ornaments
  • Make paper chains to decorate their rooms or playroom
  • Make birdfeeders- you know, the peanut butter on the TP roll covered in bird seed
  • String popcorn
  • Make Christmas-y themed friendship bracelets- this will probably be happening with my daughter in the next couple of years as she gets a little older!
  • Build Lego Ornaments- I have recently started a Pinterest board to save Lego ideas to. My son will love having an afternoon to build together
  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Make window clings- We made these at Easter but I think the same idea with ornaments will be so cool!

Movie Nights

Honestly, there is so much you can do to make these nights special! Build a fort, watch in mom & dad’s bed, make snacks to match the movie…you can keep it as simple or add to it as much as you’d like!

Here is a list of what we are doing this year:

  • We are watching Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and making frozen hot chocolate. I found these cool kits at Walmart! This movie is great for a school night because it is only 22 minutes.
  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas with mickey pretzel bites
  • Elf with “spaghetti” pancakes for dinner
  • Grinch with Grinch punch (and popcorn of course!)
  • Rudolph with reindeer rice krispies

I hope that this gave you some ideas. Even if you don’t do a month long activity advent, I encourage you to take advantage of the season and make some memories!