The Family Countdown to Christmas and List of Ideas!

Can you believe December is only 12 days away?! I just finished putting out some Christmas decorations (yes, we are that family that does it before Thanksgiving), and stumbled upon our advent calendar.  Like a lot of advent calendars, I used to fill each day with a little piece of candy.  This year, however, I was totally put off by the idea.  First, I do not need any extra candy in this house (and why are we rewarding ourselves with junk everyday?).  Second, why not countdown to Christmas doing fun things together as a family? I know doing things together as family in December is far from a novel idea, but I thought I could share some ideas of things to do together and how I plan to set up our new advent calendar.

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter is only 8 months – she won’t remember any of this! But if you want to do a Christmas activity countdown, this is how I plan to do it in the future (with an adapted version this year!).

No matter how much you plan and prepare, just remember life happens.  Kids get sick, tantrums are thrown, surprise plans come up, and early bedtimes are sometimes necessary – so have a flexible mindset and be sure your kids understand that too.  The countdown activities are things we hope to do each day, but if something comes up – that’s ok! Also remember this doesn’t have to cost money.  Ideas can be small and simple – the point is they are things to do together!

I used white post-its do jot down ideas.  They’re small, fit into our type of advent calendar, and can be easily moved around our big wall calendar as we lay out the month. (I wrote ideas down under the sticky strip so that once we were done I could fold them up with the idea hidden on the inside.  I also took our wall calendar down and laid it on the table so I could see the idea in each box).

First, look at all of your Christmas/travel plans you already have leading up to Christmas.  Think about city parades, when Santa will be at the mall, when your library will have Christmas activities, Christmas parties you plan to attend, etc. Jot them down on individual post-its. If you have a wall calendar, stick them over the days you plan to do them.

Next, count and see how many days are left before Christmas where you can fill in other activities.  That number will be your goal.

With your kid(s), sit down and brainstorm or look over a list of some things you’d like to do together.  First decide on what kinds of activities are best suited for weekends when you have extra man-power and time.  Fill those days in first, each on a post-it, and put them over the days you plan to do it.  Move on to weekday activities next, and do the same.


Once you have your 24 days filled on the calendar, take a picture of it or write it down.  This will be really important for planning and being prepared for each week.  Before each week begins look over the activities and see if there’s any prep to be done or items to collect. Nothing worse than picking out the “make cookies for neighbors” activity and realizing you need to run to the store for supplies.

Once you’ve got the lay-out of the 24 days recorded, fold up the post-it with the idea hidden inside and transfer to the corresponding day on your advent calendar.  Although your kid(s) may have been part of the planning process, they surely won’t remember when everything is happening and will add a fun element of surprise for each day.


(each activity tucked neatly inside!)

**Another way to do the countdown would be a chain link countdown.  Write down ideas on strips of paper, and staple/link them in the order they will be taken off as you countdown to Christmas.  Rip off a link and read its activity each day!

Below is a giant list of ideas.  Pick ones that best suit your family, and have fun spending this magical month together!

Weekday Ideas:

  • Write letters to Santa
  • Make cookies for neighbors
  • Watch one of your favorite Christmas movies
  • Make Christmas cards for family members
  • Make Christmas cards for soldiers
  • Make a playlist or CD with your favorite Christmas songs (beginning of the month to enjoy later!)
  • Have a sing-off or dance-off to your favorite Christmas songs
  • Read a Christmas book selected by each family member
  • Make homemade apple cider
  • Make your house smell like Christmas
  • Make green and red play dough
  • Make reindeer “food” for Christmas Eve
  • Color Christmas pictures
  • Cut out and hang snowflakes
  • Make ornaments
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Wrap gifts
  • Build a snowman (snow dependent!)
  • Go on a winter walk in a city park
  • Make gingerbread cookies
  • Decorate gingerbread houses
  • Check out Christmas books from library
  • Write letters to sponsored children
  • Write New Year’s Resolutions and put them in your stockings – open them next year and see how you did!
  • Christmas Eve church service (or any other Christmas Eve traditions already in place)

Weekend Ideas: 

  • Snowball toss competition
  • Go sledding
  • Make a living room movie theater with your favorite holiday movie (think lots of pillows, blankets, snuggles, and snacks!) Ok, so maybe do this one a few times! 🙂
  • Visit a tree farm and if getting a real one, pick out a tree!
  • Drive through favorite neighborhoods while in pajamas and rate your favorite Christmas lights
  • Bring toys or food to shelters, food pantries, or donation centers
  • Family Christmas pictures
  • Trip to the Dollar Store to pick out gifts for siblings
  • Family Cookie Decorating Competition
  • Go on Christmas Train Ride (location dependent)
  • Decorate your Christmas Tree!
  • Go to a Christmas Play or Musical
  • Try and learn a Christmas carol in sign language (youtube!)
  • Make your own Christmas Play or Musical!
  • Visit your downtown (if they have lights or events going on)
  • Have a sleepover around the Christmas Tree
  • “Elf” your neighbors
  • Have a runway show of your ugliest Christmas attire
  • Visit Santa at the local mall
  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or place of need
  • Family “minute-to-win-it”  competitions
  • Have friends over for a Christmas party potluck

Just remember anything is special, as long as its done together! Have fun making holiday memories and creating your own traditions! 

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