Creative Family Advent, 25 Days of Ideas for Savoring the Season

nativity paper doll club
Mary and Baby Jesus Paper Dolls by The Paper Doll Club

I love Christmas.  I loved it as a child, and I love it even more as a mother of children.  It is so beautiful to see their little faces come alive at the first sight of Christmas lights or trees.  Hearing them practicing their Christmas carols, thinking of the transformation that is about to come over our whole little world.  It is a beautiful time.

But it passes by so quickly.

This year, I am making

And I would love to invite you to join me.

That is why I have designed the Creative Family Advent.    For my family and for yours.  Below, you will find 25 fun, simple, creative ways to savor the season of Christmas together as a family.  We will be participating as well and will be posting some pics of our projects along the way.  But for now, here is the list and links to our ideas.  Hope this helps you connect in a deeper way with the wonder and beauty of Christmas.

Creative Family Advent

1 Found Object Nativity Scene
Celebrate the first day of December by bundling up, going out, and looking for found objects to create a one-of-a-kind nativity set.  Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus are the main characters on scene, but feel free to add the Star, the shepherds, the animals, the wise men, etc.  Find a place to display your nativity scene for the rest of the Christmas season, or if it is too transient, snap a photo, print it out, and display it where it can be enjoyed throughout December.

2 Share a Story
Record yourself (or your children) reading your favorite Christmas story aloud.  (You can use the voice memos app on your iPhone for a super easy recording experience.)  Message it to family or friends and ask if they will please share a story back with you.  This could be great fun and go on an on for days!!!  This is an especially good idea for reluctant readers.  They will be so excited to send a story to a friend and expect one back in a day or two…

3 The Nutcracker (Draw and Listen)
Listen to The Nutcracker and draw the story.  My favorite version is this version by Ann Rachlin on spotify–(Ann Rachlin, The Nutcracker, The Story of the Ballet.)  It has excerpts from the ballet along with excellent storytelling.  If you don’t have spotify, you can download the spotify web player for free.  Or if, you’d rather just listen to the full audio of the ballet without the story, you can do that on youtube here.  Grab some paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils, pens–whatever you have, and sit down and draw the story.  Or, if drawing isn’t your thing, you can color our Paper Doll Club Nutcracker coloring pages.  Click the images below for full versions for printing out.

Nutcracker paper doll by Mackenzie ChesterNutcracker paper doll clubPaper Doll Club NutcrackerNutcracker paper doll club by Mackenzie Chester

4 Senses of the Season
Have a family brainstorming session, trying to think of as many Things Seen, Things Heard, Things Smelled, Things Tasted, and Things Felt during the Christmas season.  Start with one sense (For example, Things Seen…), set a timer for 3 minutes, and everyone writes as many things as they can (lights, trees, nativity scenes, snowflakes, etc.).  When the timer is up, go around the room and see who has the most original list.  (If you have younger children, take turns going around the table, each person naming one thing until no one can think of anything else.  An adult or older child can transcribe the list.)  Save your lists.  They will come in handy later on for some of the projects this month!

5 Christmas Origami
Decorate your house, tree, and gifts with Christmas Origami!  You can find lots of links online, but a site we use frequently is Origami Fun.  Here is a link to a page of Christmas Designs with trees, stars, bows, small gift boxes, a Christmas dove, and more!

6 Christmas Mad-Libs
Have everyone take turns choosing nouns, adjectives, and other parts of speech to make a hilarous Christmas letter.  Feel free to send it out in place of your traditional Christmas letter for a good laugh all around.  Here are a couple of mad-libs that I made for you.  Mad Libs: Family Christmas Letter and Dear Santa.

7 Christmas Caroling Via Text
Sing or play a favorite Christmas carol, record, and go caroling without ever leaving home.  Send the song via text or messenger to friends and family.  For a truly special video, include a greeting before you sing (Hello Aunt Carol!), so the recipient knows this song was sung just for her.

8 Make a Christmas Tablecloth
Find a solid table cloth from the thrift store or repurpose an extra bedsheet.  Use craft paint or fabric markers to decorate it.  Perfect for Christmas morning breakfasts or Christmas Tea Parties!  If you get stuck on what to draw/write, refer back to your Senses of the Season list.  Put this tablecloth away with your Christmas decorations, and pull it out every year for the Christmas breakfast/dinner tradition.  Or purchase a disposable tablecloth and use sharpies to decorate.  (Make sure you put paper underneath in case the sharpie bleeds through.)

9 I Remember Christmas…
Go around the table, and have each person say one memory they have associated with Christmas.  Keep circling the table as long as new memories are being shared and enjoyed.  This would be a great conversation to record on your cell phone (you can use the voice memos app on you iPhone) so that you will have it to listen to when your kids are older.  Or an adult or older child could make notes about each memory in a family journal.

10 Christmas Carol Charades
Play a fun game of Charades, acting out the names of Christmas carols.  Make a list of Christmas carols and songs (Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Rudolph, Jingle Bells, etc.), cut them out, fold them, throw them in a bowl, and take turns drawing a title and acting it out.

11 Handmade Christmas Cards
Pull out some cardstock, wrapping paper scraps, glue sticks, scissors, crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, etc. and see what your kids come up with.  You will be surprised!  If you get stuck on ideas, go back to Day 4, and look over your Senses of the Season for a good list of creative inspiration.  Make one-of-a kind Christmas cards, and get them in the mail.

12 Bake Something Special
Gingerbread men, Christmas cookies, cranberry bread.  Something your family would love to make and eat.  Take the time to let the kids help.  Let the kitchen be a mess.  Make this memory with your children!

13 Read The Christmas Story Aloud
Gather around and share the Christmas story with your children.  This is especially memorable if it is read by the youngest reader in the family.  Print out our Paper Doll Club Nativity Pages to keep little hands busy while the story is read.

14 Make Paper Snowflakes
Yes!  Paper Snowflakes.  Make a bunch, string them up, throw them on the tablecloth for a festive dinner, tape them onto gifts for a handmade touch.  Here is a great tutorial if you have forgotten how to make them.

15 Create a Book of Carols
Have each person in the family choose one or two favorite Christmas songs and illustrate them.  Have one of the children decorate a cover out of card stock and write “Book of Carols.”  Staple it together with  the cover and a piece of cardstock for the back.  Be sure to write names on the back of each drawing and date the book.  Put it away with Christmas decorations and pull it out every year to display during the holiday season.

16 Christmas Scene Photo
Collaborate as a family on a fun Christmas scene and photograph it.  Think beyond your normal family Christmas photo.  Snowball fights, nativity scene, The Night Before Christmas, a favorite Christmas song, etc.  Send it as a text to friends and family and spread the Christmas cheer!

17 Have a Christmas Tea Party.
Put down a tablecloth (maybe your Christmas tablecloth from Day 8), make a pot of tea (or coffee, or hot chocolate, or hot apple cider,), make or buy something special to munch on (cookies, scones, etc.) and have a Christmas tea.  This is a great time to read a special Christmas story or poem, listening to favorite Christmas music in the background, or just to sit and enjoy being together.  Throwing a tea party is one of the fastest, easiest ways to turn an ordinary day into an extra-special one.

18 Christmas Story Treasure Hunt
Share a story through a Christmas Treasure Hunt.  Print out a Christmas story (The Birth of Christ as recorded in Luke 2:1-16, The Gift of the Magi, Papa Panov’s Special Christmas , The Elves and The Shoemaker, etc.).  Cut the story into sections.  Number them so that you will find them (and read them in order.)  Make a rudimentary map of your house/yard, etc.  (You can use copy paper, a crinkled up brown grocery bag, a piece of poster board, etc.)  This doesn’t have to be a work of art.  Just draw in some symbols that the kids can recognize (bed, couch, closest door, swingset, etc.)  Then hide your story sections, marking the spot on your map with the number (and maybe a little snowflake???) that corresponds to the story.  Have your children look for the clues in order, reading the story as you go along.  At the end of the hunt, the very last clue could lead to some yummy Christmas treats or a cup of hot chocolate.  This is a great way to make a story memorable for your children.

19 Traveling Basket
Choose a friend or family that you want to bless.  Get a basket or reusable cloth bag, and fill it with things that person/family will love.  These can be new or used items (books, magazines, crocheted hats, gloves, etc.), or they can be baked goods.  Drawings made by the children are an excellent addition.  Anything at all.  Get it all together in your basket and deliver with instructions similar to these:  “We hope you like this traveling basket.  It is full of things we hope you will love.  Please fill it up and pass it along to someone else (not us!) and ask them to do the same.”  Think how wonderful the life of that little basket could be!

20 Watch a Performance of Handel’s Messiah
Without ever leaving your home!  Make it a special movie night and enjoy this beautiful telling of the birth of Christ in exquisite music.  You can find a video here of the full performance.  If you have little ones who will not sit still for the entire viewing, that is ok!  They can come and go.  Bring snacks, bring paper and crayons.  Have the older children find something to do with their hands (more paper snowflakes/origami/crochet, present wrapping, etc.), and let this beautiful music just fill up your home as you enjoy your time together.

21 Gift of Words
Have each person in the family write a letter to all of the other family members.  Tell them to write a few things that they love and appreciate about each person.  (What do you love about him?  What do you like to do with her?  What is your favorite memory with him?  Why do you like to play with her?, etc.)  Write down the words of the little ones.   Even a two year old can say nice things about someone and give a gift of words!)  And also offer this help for young writers who may be able to articulate themselves with much more feeling and sincerity through speaking than writing.  Put the letter in an envelope and have the children decorate it.  Tie with ribbons and put them under the tree.  Open them at a special time–maybe after dinner or at a breakfast a few days later.  Let the anticipation build.  This could also be a very special last gift to open on Christmas day!

22 Have a Mini Recital.
Invite each member of the family to share a special Christmas song, poem, story, or other reading to share.  Set up a stage area–turn over an orange crate, or just lay down a small blanket as the “stage.”  Take turns sharing.  Songs can be sung or played on an instrument.  Poems can be read or recited.  Stories can be read or made up on the spot (This is especially fun with little ones).  Have something special to eat and drink (Hot apple cider and cookies, maybe?) for your reception following the recital.  If you want to make it extra special, invite a guest!

23 Creative Movement Christmas Song Game
Make a playlist of some favorite Christmas songs.  (We love spotify for making playlists.)  Pick lots of different types of music and mix them all up. (I’m thinking Nutcracker, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Reggae Christmas, etc.) Play through the list, only playing 30 seconds of each song.  Start with the youngest, and have each person in the family take turns moving/dancing to the song.  When the next song comes on (30 seconds later), the dancer sits down and lets the next child take a turn.  Prepare to laugh a lot.  Especially when it is your turn!

24 Light a Candle
In the busyness of this day, take a moment to light a candle, slow down, and sing a Christmas hymn together.

25 Contemplating Christmas as a Family
In the midst of a busy day full of family, food, and gifts, take a moment to go around the table and talk about your favorite memories of this Christmas season.  Have someone transcribe them in a book (a simple composition book is perfect), just writing enough detail to bring the memory back to mind.  Go around as many times as you can, jotting down moments you want to remember, big and small.  When you have finished your list, close the book, and put it with the Christmas ornaments.  What a treasure it will be to remember those details that are so easily forgotten next year when you pull out the Christmas things again.

I hope you enjoy savoring this Christmas season in a meaningful and creative way.  If you like these ideas, please share them with friends.  And if you would like to see our updates as we post photos and more details through the season, please subscribe to my blog!

Love and Meaning and a Reason to Celebrate,

Mackenzie and family

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