Celebrating Advent :: Part 2

So, without further ado, here's the list. I am adding links for some of these items, but please understand that while I would not link to a company with which I explicitly object to doing business, these are not endorsements of one company over another. In many cases, I have found or purchased these items locally rather than through online sources. So please take the links as what they are: references for you to use if they're helpful, but not a buying guide from me.

baker girl

And I think it goes without saying, though I'll say it anyway, if you think of something great that hasn't made my list, will you please share it in the comments? Many of these would make nice stocking stuffers or small Hanukkah gifts, too, if you find yourself lacking inspiration in that arena. :) (Photos in this post are all from last year -- not necessarily pertaining to our actual advent calendar, but I felt that they expressed the spirit I'm hoping to capture here.)

girl (and tree!) through the window

Family Outings/Activities (make a simple coupon/ticket for these as a visual cue)

*Carriage ride (our downtown offers free carriage rides on specific days throughout December)
*Ice skating
*If your community has a "giving tree," you could incorporate one or more elements of this process into one or more (!) days of the calendar: the day your family chooses someone from the tree to give to, or shopping for or making a gift for that person (or you could incorporate some other form of charitable giving into the calendar if you don't do a "giving tree")
*Many public libraries have speical children's events during December
*Many places of worship or community centers also have special holiday events for families
*Sledding (in our area, December is pretty touch-and-go with regard to snow, so we kind of just wait and see if there'll be a snowy enough day for that)
*Special visit to relatives (or a coupon on your traveling day if you travel at the holidays)
*Tea party (either at home or at a local tea house)
*Tickets to see a performance of The Nutcracker or other holiday performance
*Visit Christmas lighting displays
*Visit to Santa
*Any other traditional holiday outing of your family's

napkin crown

Family Traditions

*A special meal -- maybe your child can choose what to have

*Candies for decorating on the day you make a gingerbread house
*Cookie cutter or sprinkles on the day you make cookies
*Coupon for extra bedtime story, late bedtime, etc.
*Moonlit walk (in the spirit of
Owl Moon)
*Ornament on the day you put up your tree (think simple, even handmade -- it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive)
*Popcorn (we found red and green kernels last year) for a special movie night (i.e. Charlie Brown Christmas special)

*Special one-on-one time or "date" with parent

Hello, Ilse!

Made by Parent for Child


*A mix CD of some of your child's favorite music, or your family's favorite holiday music (I'll share some of ours in an upcoming post), or favorite music from your own childhood

*Crown -- crocheted, made from felt, or other fabrics

*Doll clothes

*Finger Puppets

*Knitted hat

*Knitted stuffed animal
*Holiday napkins

*Origami animals

*Other small handmade toys


Natural World

*"Found" objects from nature (pinecones, acorns, nests, etc.)
*Crystals or beautiful stones
*Evergreen sprigs
*Flowers that are blooming now (Christmas cactus, carnations)
*Paperwhite bulbs (if you give them early enough, they could be blooming by Christmas)
*Seaglass (OK, I know it's not technically "natural", but it's still lovely)
*Seeds (for planting)

Multi-Day Items

*One bead (or more) a day, leading up to stringing a necklace or bracelet
*One puzzle piece (or more) a day, leading up to a completed puzzle
*Something that comes as a set, divided over several days, such as: a tea set, a set of nesting bowls, a matreshka, nativity set, checkers game, etc.

Snow lantern

Free or Very Inexpensive

*A dollar or even just a few coins to put into the Salvation Army bucket, accompanied by an illustration of the bucket (be sure you do this on a day you plan to go to the store anyway)
*A story you have made up especially for your child
*Letter or note
*Scavenger hunt or treasure map -- either to an object too large to fit, or just for fun

Christmas barrettes


*Beeswax sheets and wicking to roll candles
*Candle and candle decorating wax or paints (can be found at craft stores or online through places like Hearthsong)
*Coloring book or sketch pad and fresh set of crayons or colored pencils
*Crafts made with natural objects (ornaments, people, or animals from pinecones, acorns, nuts, etc., a candleholder made from a crosspiece of a branch and decorated with crystals, bits of evergreen, nuts, etc., ornaments made with woven wheat or long pine needles, fire starters made by dipping long, thin pinecones into melted beeswax, bird feeders made using pinecones, peanut butter, seeds, etc. A lot of these ideas can be found in the books
Earthways and Crafts through the Year, and there are kits out there, too.)
*Do you have any idea how many things can be done with pipe cleaners? Think about it. ;) Our house would probably stop functioning if we ran out of those babies.
*Embroidery supplies or kit
*Felting supplies or kit
*Knitting mushroom/tower and some yarn
*Modeling wax or clay
Lanterns made using recycled food cans with holes poked in them with a hammer and nail (or other light-oriented project) -- really good for the winter solstice, Hanukkah, St. Lucia Day, or any of the light-themed festivals & days during this time of year
*Origami paper and instructions for older children
*Pieces of wool felt for your child to cut up and make things with -- perhaps with some dolly pegs (old fashioned clothespins) and some other little bits of yarn and trims to make little people
*Rubber stamps
*Small sewing project or kit
*Supplies for a holiday craft such as stringing garlands, making ornaments, or simple gifts
*Supplies for making holiday cards, gift tags, or wrapping paper (such as construction paper, glitter paint/glitter pens, a large roll of kraft paper, rubber stamps, etc.)
*Window crayons or markers


Solstice night (2006)

Purchased/"Gifty" items

*An item to add to something your child or family collects: a piece of a collectible nativity set, Playmobil pieces, an Ostheimer figure, another toy that your child has a collection of, etc.
*Balls: rubber balls, knitted balls, felt balls, fabric balls, etc.
*Bath toy
*Bird call whistle
*Card games
*Collectible coins
*Costume jewelry
*Dress-up item
*Family game
*Fancy soap
*Hair ties
*Jacks game
*Jump rope
*Lacing cards
*Lip balm
*Music box
*One year I found a beautiful and inexpensive little etched glass votive candle holder with an evergreen-scented candle for Elisabeth, and she loves getting it out of our Christmas things each year
*Pajamas (could be homemade if you sew)
*Pencils made out of twigs (one source)
*Play silks -- mini or regular
*Slippers (I'm thinking of this in terms of maybe this is something my child really needs, and perhaps before Christmas -- could also be
*Small snow globe
*Special drinking cup -- a holiday mug, or a little cup for your child to have as his "own". Two possible sources here and here
*Spinning tops
*Tiny toys


Christmas cookies


*Chocolate coins or small candies
*Mini candy canes
*"Stained glass" cookies
(We have never given food items in our advent stockings, so I'm afraid I'm a little lacking in ideas there. Sorry.)

Reader Sarah made a comment that her family uses an advent calendar with beautiful pictures behind each window rather than gifts in order to avoid the feeling of materialism that expecting "something" -- whether an actual gift or just the promise of an activity -- engenders. I think she makes a really good point, and I'd certainly like to emphasize that while we have definitely given real gifts in the calendar, we are very heavy on the coupons for activities here. In our family, it offers a way for Elisabeth to understand that even the season has a rhythm to it -- today we'll trim our tree, today we'll make cards, today we'll make cookies, etc. So, I want to encourage all of you to think of it in that light as much as possible in order to keep yourself out of the overwhelming trap of feeling obligated to buy or find a lot more tangible gifts, in addition to everything else on a busy parent's plate at this time of year! This list, I know, is very long. But don't feel like you need to somehow do everything on it! (We haven't!) Choose what works for your family first and foremost!