How to Make a Family Advent Calendar

How to Make a Family Advent Calendar

Hey friends.  Are you in the same boat as me?  Your kids are older now and all of those “magical” Christmas activities and traditions you once did just aren’t age appropriate any more?  Your teens are no longer wanting to visit Santa or decorate cookies? Well I’ve come up with a new, fun and meaningful Christmas activity for my family.  A family Advent calendar ~ a new and improved version.

Over the last few years as my boys have gotten older I’ve had to say goodbye to some of my favorite holiday traditions.  So long elf visits.  Goodbye cousins sleepover.  Farewell matching pajamas and The Polar Express.  These things just don’t appeal to them anymore.  No amount of bribery or pizza can get them excited about decorating the tree.  To them it’s another chore.  They’d rather be playing video games. 🙁

However, I am not willing to lose that precious family time.  I am not willing to give up and let go of holiday fun with my kids.  I don’t care how old they are.  Still, no amount of coaxing, begging, pleading, or even tears really motivated my boys to join in some holiday fun~ at least not with a good attitude.  If I wanted sarcasm, eye rolling, or bad moods, then they were all in.  That is not exactly what I had in mind.

So, I took an old tradition and reworked it.  I’m sure you’ve heard of or had an advent calendar.  The idea is that each day as you count down to Christmas kids can open a small gift ~ a piece of candy or something.  Well, I used the idea of counting down, but rather than finding something for each day we would find an activity to do together – as a family.

You can download 40 great family activity ideas for FREE by signing up for my email list here.  Or, you can come up with your own list.  However, keep in mind that you’ll want to plan your activities based on how much time you have.  For instance, you may want to keep weeknights simple such a addressing Christmas cards.  The more involved activities are for weekends ~ such as going to see hosting a pizza night.

To assemble my calendar I printed off number cards on cardstock.  On the back of each card I hand wrote that evening’s activity.  Some nights it was a movie night, one night we wrote a letter to a solider, one night we took sidewalk chalk and wrote holiday messages on neighbors’ sidewalks or driveways.  I tried to include fun activities as well as some service activities.  One of my favorite nights I had each person pick their favorite Christmas story to read to the rest of us.  Here are some of our favorites:

Next, I hung each numbered card from a mini clothespin on twine.  I added ribbon for color and draped it across a mirror in our entry.  With it in sight it was not hard to remember to pull a card each evening.

Save your precious family time this season by making a Family Advent Calendar.


Save your precious family time this season by making a Family Advent Calendar.


Of course, you could always use a pre-made calendar as well.  I bought one like this from Target that I might use.  Or, I may have to get this one.

I’m kind of loving this Hearth and Hand one from Target.

Save your precious family time this season by making a family Advent calendar.

I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over with my boys.  And to be honest, I presented it to them at first as something that was not optional.  I insisted everyone participate.  However, I was shocked to find that they began to look forward to each day and to find out what we would be doing that day.  It was a wonderful time for our family.  We made new memories and created a new tradition.

I am already busy at work creating this year’s activities.  Some I will keep from last year and some I will no doubt change so that we are doing new things.  This year, will also be a smaller family group as son #1 has moved into his own apartment at school and son #2 is away at boot camp.  However, with a little creative thinking I am sure I can come up with something. 🙂

So here’s the lesson…don’t give up on the magic of the season just because your kids are older.  Take a beloved tradition and tweak it to fit your new place in life.  I can even see this working for families separated by distance.  After all, we can now Face Time and video chat.  It would be so cool to have the same “assignment” in different places and then come together to share how it went.

I am a big believer in the importance of family time and staying connected with your kids.  This was an experiment that really worked.  I hope my idea will encourage you to try this with your family or maybe create a new tradition for your crew.  And, as always, I would love to hear your ideas down below.  Do you have any special traditions that you celebrate?  How do you keep your older kids involved?  And, if you want more ideas like this, make sure you sign up for my email list here.  That way you never miss a post and you can get my list of over 40 Family Advent Calendar ideas. 🙂


Until next time~


  1. Great idea! I’d love to see your favorite ideas. Since I’m already a subscriber, how can I get the document?

    1. Author

      I’m so glad. You should join my email list so you can get all my ideas to put it together. 😉

  2. All super cute ideas! I love doing an advent calendar. My little ones jumps out of bed to see what the day holds. #thoughtfulThursdays

    1. Author

      That’s so sweet! Enjoy every minute with that little one. They grow up SO fast! Thanks for visiting.

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