General ramblings

My take on advent calendars…

November 28, 2012

Is it just me or are advent calendars becoming more and more elaborate with each passing year? I remember the ‘good old days’, when all you had was the excitement of seeing what picture was behind the door (and that was if your parents had managed to wedge the doors back again from the previous year..), then came the chocolate advent calendars, and now you can get very expensive lego ones, or buy any kind of elaborate calendar with very large pockets in for you to stuff with toys and bits. So before you know it, they’ve had a mini-Christmas before it’s even Christmas.

Sorry if I sound all “bah humbug” and Scrooge like (especially after My Buy Nothing Day post, and the post about Christmas!). That isn’t my intention at all.

Last year was the first year when BigSmall really started to ‘get’ Christmas, and to get excited about it, and to start to understand the concept of the Advent calendar. For his first Christmas, my Nana bought BigSmall a lorry advent calendar-it is a wooden lorry, with 24 draws in it, which is very sweet, but we discovered fairly quickly that about the only thing you can fit in there other than a chocolate was a small box of raisins. We got away with this for the first year or two, but then I felt we needed something a little more…

So last year, I decided that instead of filling it with things ie. plastic tat (even if you only spend £1 on each item, before you know it, you’ve spent £24. On tat. That will probably be broken or lost by Christmas) I would fill it with things to do. So each day, there was a slip of paper detailing what special Christmas thing we were going to be doing, and we wrapped up a shoebox in Christmas paper, which we would then bring out, and would contain any supplies we needed to make the things. This worked really well last year, and I really enjoyed it (even if BigSmall was FAR more excited about the chocolate in my advent calendar that my mum bought me. Yes, she still buys me advent calendars. I love my mum!)

This year, we are repeating the format, but obviously can’t buy any new crafting supplies. This isn’t really that much of an issue, as a lot of the crafts use things like loo rolls, and staples like paper and paint, and we have some stuff left over from last year. I will also be raiding my newfound love, the Scrapstore for some bits too.

Just in case anyone likes the sound of it, and wants some ideas, here is my 24 day plan!

1) Write a letter to Father Christmas-I am going to make a letter template on the computer with some suitably festive images on it, and then get BigSmall to dictate his (fairly extensive) Christmas wish list to me. We then put it in the fireplace before bed, and I hopefully will remember to take it out (and either keep it for posterity or dispose of it in a bin where it won’t be seen!) and leave some magic glitter in the fireplace to signify the magic!

2) Sort out some of their toys, with the Smalls, and bag them up to go the charity shop (possibly a bit mean..?)

3) Make a snowman milk jug like these ones from Free N Fun Christmas

4)Make some Christmas biscuits. I will do a post nearer to Christmas with our favourite recipe. I make a large batch, and then freeze some un-iced to decorate nearer the time.

5) Make some Christmas cards-there are loads of ideas for various festive pictures to make with finger/hand/footprints:

-try these reindeer ones from Meet the Dubiens

-or these footprint robins from Sweet and Simple Things 

-or a candy cane like these ones from Leapfrog & Ladybugs

6) Make a loo roll reindeer! (couldn’t find who to credit this pic to, sorry)

7) Make saltdough (ie homemade play dough) decorations, or cornstarch (not sure what cornstarch is-is it American for cornflour?!)

These ones from The Woodside Kitchen are quite sophisticated. I can live in hope that ours will be as lovely, but I may be disappointed…We will probably do some with Christmas shaped cookie cutters

8) Visit Longleat to look at the tree etc. We live very close and have a seasonal pass, so this in effect will be a free activity! Obviously, you don’t have to pick Longleat for your outing…

9) Go and pick a Christmas tree. Or in our case, make it! We are aiming for this (although probably a much smaller version!) if we can get enough egg boxes in time….

10) Decorate the tree and or house

11) Go to the library and pick some Christmas books, or get out any Christmas books you have, and sit and have a snuggle and read them

12) Make borax snowflakes

There are some instructions here on the blog Mom in Madison. We got some genuine borax a while ago online to make slime (see here). It is quite hard to track real borax down (something to do with health and safety I’m sure..) but I don’t know if this will work with the borax substitute that is more readily available. Perhaps if anyone has a go, they can let me know?

13) Make paper chains-I’m planning to make some strips from old Beano annuals, or some old sheet music I have kicking around. I think with the Smalls, the key is to have the strips all cut ready. They do not have the patience to wait while I do it!

14) Pre-School Christmas nativity play-this will be our first real life experience of such a thing-can’t wait!

15) Snuggle up with the fire on and watch a Christmas DVD. I think BigSmall will just about sit through a whole film now. We have no chance with SmallSmall but I’m sure he will happily bimble around playing while we watch

16) Going on a walk/bike/car ride to see all the Christmas lights on the houses round town

17) Meet Father Christmas on a steam train! We did this last year, and it was great! It is quite pricey, but is usually the grandparent’s treat..! We go to the Watercress Line, but do a google search for one near you!

18) Make mince pies-BigSmall loves stamping out the pastry, and should be able to help with spooning out the mincemeat as well

19) Christmas party at playgroup-I’m not inviting you all 🙂

20) Christmas trees from lollipop sticks/tongue depressors (I happen to have a stash of these, don’t ask!) like these ones from Happy Hooligans

-or these very cute Snowmen from A Day of Wonders

22) Christmas Fayre at our Pre-School-you’re welcome to come!

23)Make crackers for the table-these ones here are from Start Imagining

24) Hang up the stockings, put out a plate with a mince pie for Father Christmas and some reindeer food for Rudolph

Other ideas include decorating the cake, making Christmas cupcakes, decorating Christmas cookies, getting a plain plate and decorating it with ceramic plates to make a plate for Father Christmas, making baubles/bunting/gift tags from last year’s Christmas cards, or if you get really desperate, you can download some Christmas colouring printables for a bit of quiet scribbling colouring-Activity Village has some good free pages to download.

There are loads more ideas on my Advent Calendar Crafts Pinterest board. I love this idea of putting all the bits in paper bags in a big tub, out lorry is nowhere near as classy as this!

So, what do you think? Surely Christmas should be about spending time together and doing things together, not about things. That’s what I am (probably fruitlessly) trying to teach the Smalls anyway!

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19 Comments

  • Reply Advent Activities | My Make Do and Mend Year November 30, 2014 at 7:10 am

    […] Christmas of My Make Do and Mend Year approached a couple of years ago, I had a rant about advent calendars, and blogged about my idea for doing an activity each day with the Smalls. I totally LOVE this […]

  • Reply Advent Activities | My Make Do and Mend Year November 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    […] year, in a vain attempt to be more exciting than a Lego Advent Calendar, I made up a calendar of “Things We Can Do Together”. I resent feeling obliged to spend money on pointless bits of crap to put in an Advent Calendar, […]

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  • Reply Lola Lemon February 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I got some nice red rope, red felt, white felt and made little stockings to hang on the ropes; they have enough room for a lolly or really small bar of chocolate, i check what we are doing throughout December – my birthday, school show, christmas parties etc and they go in and on the days taht we dont have anything to do (cookies for the neighbours, write letter to santa, post letter to santa etc) then he gets a sweet of some sort – wrapped biscuit, box of raisons, freddo bar

    • Reply Jen February 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      That sounds great!

  • Reply Our Make Do and Mend Christmas « My Make Do and Mend Year December 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

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  • Reply Ali December 1, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Love your 24 day countdown….. we did our letters to FC today too!! Was going to make toilet roll snowmen aswell – bit like the reindeer- but we ended up decorating ‘their’ trees!! (Small one each in bedrooms!! Ensures my red and gold one remains classy! ) and began some home-made decs too!! Just waiting for the glue to dry before glittering tomorrow! Can’t believe it’s December! Catch up soon, Ali x

    • Reply Jen December 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      Time is flying by way too quickly!

  • Reply Jo aka Kiwijo November 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Great post. Try JTF (if you have one near you) or a DIY store for Borax (they sometimes sell it as a drain cleaner), its quite nasty stuff, so you need to be very carefull with it (use eye protection as well as gloves when you handle it)- which could be the reason why its hard to find these days. :o)

    • Reply Jen November 29, 2012 at 9:40 am

      Thanks Jo. I managed to get some online a while ago when we were making homemade slime!!

  • Reply Nadine November 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I have great memories of our angel cardboard advent calendar. The doors had been opened and closed so many times they were practically hanging off.

    I made a fabric one with pockets for my son and have filled them with stickers, choc coins, candy canes, etc but have found the expectations have risen and now he would like Lego minifigures or DVDs in every pocket.

    This year I’m going back to basics and now I’m definitely putting things like buying the Christmas tree and making cinnamon decorations in the pockets! Thanks for a great blog post!

    • Reply Jen November 28, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      Thankyou-glad you liked it! How old is your son? We have friends who have ended up with the lego mini-figures, even every other day, this works out at over £20. On an Advent Calendar! Hubby has had one of the lego ones before, and we are going to re-use it this year! My mother in law still has hubby’s old picture one, and she is hanging it up again this year for the Smalls!
      Will be interesting to see how your son reacts to his new Advent calendar-there could be mutiny in the ranks!

  • Reply 5 Element Health November 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Yes, yes and yes! Thank you so much for the inspiration! I insist that DD has a picture (not choc) advent calendar. But I covet the lovely ones with pockets and draws. This is such a good idea and is much more in the spirit of Christmas. I was thinking of adding challenges like: make a Christmassy surprise for daddy. Or: find a charitable Christmassy way to help someone out.
    Oooh, I’m excited now!
    Xxxx

    • Reply Jen November 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Yay! Glad to be of help!! My other thought was 24 days of random acts of kindness-might be lost on the Smalls though-one for the grown-ups maybe..!

  • Reply Mum on the run November 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I tried the borax substitute last year, and it didn’t work. Lovely ideas here, though. I feel inspired!

    • Reply Jen November 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks for letting me know! I will try it with the real thing and let you know. Glad you like it!

  • Reply Realfoodfans November 28, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Totally love this idea for grandson next year. Yes cornstarch is cornflour.

    • Reply Jen November 28, 2012 at 9:02 am

      Glad you like it! Thanks for letting me know about the cornflour 🙂

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