There are so many different ways to do an advent calendar. We have a wooden advent calendar with drawers that I bought years ago from DeSerres and painted. I’m not good at being a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ mom but attempting to be a Pinterest mom is way too stressful for me too.
Instead, for advent calendars, I like to buy the ‘stuff’ for the calendar before December 1st so it’s ready, jot down any events we’re planning on going to ahead of time, and then fill in the rest of the days as we go through the month. Last year I ended up going to a few stores beforehand to buy a bunch of small toys, crafts, Christmas ornaments, and baking supplies. This year December snuck up on me. Earlier this month I bought two larger gifts (one for each kid) that I divided up to cover ten of the days for the advent calendar.
If you’re looking for ideas here are some of my sensory play posts that may work great to fill in your advent calendar. If you want to print out an advent calendar to sketch out what you’re thinking I made a free printable on last year’s Christmas Advent Calendar post.
Our Advent Calendar
Last year’s advent calendar was the month of small gifts. Any extra items that missed the advent calendar were used after Christmas or given as a Christmas present the day of.
I still have the candy kit from last year and the games weren’t played a lot… So this year I wanted to buy less stuff. Side note: Loved coming across the Jacob’s ladder as I had wanted one for the kids for awhile although I have to laugh as the first time I told Matt I wanted a Jacob’s ladder he thought I meant the physics version of it.
Our advent calendar is limited by the small size of the drawers so the night before I would grab what was planned on my calendar (or make a last minute pick) and if the item was too big for the drawer (or an experience) I sketched out a quick picture to show where (or what) the item was. For instance I might draw a snowflake which meant check under our snowflake blanket or draw a couch if it’s hidden underneath. Putting up the Christmas tree or going to a Christmas tree lighting can both be a Christmas tree… which also works if the toy is under the tree. Anything quick works since you’ll have to translate anyway and my kids aren’t reading yet. The most important thing is that you remember if you hid it the night before.
I normally hide the gift right before breakfast or while they were eating and they’d get to open the drawer after eating so I didn’t have to worry about them finding the gifts prematurely. I haven’t filled more than a single drawer at a time as playing with the advent calendar’s drawers are great fun.
You can also use events in your area to fill out days on your advent calendar and then work around the events to fill in the rest. I find following someone in your area on Instagram or Facebook and checking out the Facebook events for your location are great ways to figure out what’s going on. Events that you can plan ahead of time without the kids knowing and then surprising them with the advent calendar that day are always fun.
Other Activities You Can Include In Your Calendar
If you’re looking for sensory activities to include in your advent calendar you can look at a list of all my sensory play here or browse the website though I listed a summary below of some of the main ones.
If you want something quick you can buy a sheet of magnets or window cling stickers and turn them into a puzzle. I found the magnets last longer with my kids (we still have last year’s snowmen though the outer puzzle part is gone) whereas the window cling stickers were quickly crumbled up and tossed. If you live in a sunny area, even if it’s only through the window, you could grab a solar-powered toy and see if it can get your kids moving. Last year we found a felt snowman kit so the kids could decorate their own snowman on the wall.
Playdough is a fun surprise for your kids or to make with them. If you don’t have food dye and still want colored playdough you can substitute with your kids’ paint instead. You can create Christmas trees with green playdough , beads, pipe cleaners, and other items. If you don’t want to color the playdough you can roll out a snowman and add brown pipe cleaners for arms, black beads for the eyes and buttons, and a short orange pipe cleaner for the nose. If you have Christmas cookie cutters for baking you can pull those out to have your kids make pretend cookies. Washable markers are a great way to color your playdough too.
If you’re in the diapering stage and are using disposables you can make fake sensory snow at home; though I recommend adding the water before cutting it open so you don’t breath the super absorbent polymer (SAP) from the inside of the diaper. I haven’t tried making slime with this ‘snow’ but if you use Instant Snow for your advent calendar one day you could then re-use it by turning it into snow slime either after they go to bed for the next day’s advent calendar or make it with them as part of the activity. If you don’t have Instant Snow you could always make plain slime or make it more Christmas-like by adding glitter or food dye.
If you have some extra cardboard boxes laying around from your Christmas deliveries you could make them work for you by making a simple kitchen set with the small one, create a vehicle with any larger boxes, and then cut open the other ones and paint with water. You could also grab some masking tape to create a simple road system on the floor for your kids’ vehicles.
If you want something more Christmas-related you can check out my posts from last year. I used plastic ornaments, pop poms, and pipe cleaners to make our own Christmas tree ornaments that my one and three year old loved making. I could see using torn up tissue paper or anything that won’t go bad (non-edible) in them too.
We also made a Christmas sign that preserved my kids’ prints. Depending which characters you use on your sign you can include their hand print, footprint, and/or fingerprints. You could take the same idea and use a stamp pad and ink on a piece of paper to create a simpler picture that’s more kid-led instead of parent created. I can see including this with our advent calendar this year. If you have a baby at home and you’re worried you could always buy a baby safe non-toxic ink pad if you’re doing the prints on paper.
If you want to create your own advent calendar you can download my printable from my 2017 post here:
I hope this helps if you’re trying to come up with something to do either for your advent calendar or in general. I’d love to hear what you did so feel free to share in the comment below, post on my Facebook page, or connect with me on Instagram. Hope you have a great holiday and fun sensory play.