How to make an activity advent calendar + more than 25 ideas

Disclosure: Links may include affiliate links.

It’s the beginning of December which means ADVENT CALENDAR TIME! We absolutely LOVE counting down to Christmas. Since we’re always going somewhere or making something, I thought an advent activity calendar would be perfect for our family. We’ve been doing this a couple years now and we all look forward to it. If you scour Pinterest, there are a boatload of ideas. We decided on this calendar with “pockets” and in each pocket has a specific activity for that day.  This is what we do, and it’s easy to do. Because seriously, it’s the holidays and who has the time?

How to make an Activity Advent Calendar

  1. Buy a foam board. (I bought ours from Dollar Tree). In the past, I’ve used a huge bulletin board as well. Then I covered it up with pretty wrapping paper. You can also use scrapbook paper or you can leave it plain. Adding washi tape would also be a great way to decorate it. I love this one.

How to make an activity advent calendar and more than 25 ideas for activities

2. Make the pockets. I used scrapbook paper and cut out squares. Then I used my trusty Silhouette and just cut out the numbers. You can just write the number or print the numbers and glue them. Since I already made these in the past, I just reused my pockets.

How to make an activity advent calendar and more than 25 ideas for activities

3. Attach the pockets. I used glue but you can use foam squares or tape. Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure not to glue or tape the opening on top because we’ll need to insert the slips of paper there.

4. Print out activities. I printed out activities (see below for ideas) and cut them into strips.

How to make an activity advent calendar and more than 25 ideas for activities

5. Insert activity slips into the pocket. My little one had fun helping out. Plus, it worked out because she can’t read yet.

How to make an activity advent calendar and more than 25 ideas for activities

6. Ta-da! Enjoy activity every day! We mounted our foam board onto our easel. We love it!

How to make an activity advent calendar and more than 25 ideas for activities

Activity Advent Ideas

Here are some of the ideas that we’ve done. Grab one or all the ideas.  I’ll be continuously adding ideas and links so check back often! Here’s to a fun and memorable holiday season!

  • Take a photo in front of the Christmas tree. After we decorate and set up our tree, we always look forward to taking a picture with it. This year we upgraded to an 8.5″ and we love it!
  • Help hang the stockings. This is our second year with a fireplace mantle and LOVE hanging our stockings and decorating the mantle.
  • Go on a train ride and visit Santa (and Mrs. Claus).  Ever since my sons could say choo choo, we’ve been going on a Santa train ride. Last year we went on Santa’s Magical Trolley in Naperville. The Santa behind this experience is the one that does the awesome website. You can’t go on a train ride without first reading The Polar Express. A definite must!

  • Set up the train around the Christmas train. Have I mentioned my kids are train fanatics? We have an actual Polar Express train set that they will set up around the tree. I’m also timing this around a free storytime event at our local bookstore where Mrs. Claus will read The Polar Express and have cookies and hot chocolate.
  • Write letters to Santa and mail them. You better believe they’ve already started writing their letters (like a month ago!) We’re on a mission to find places to mail them.There are a few places accept letters. Our favorite was a couple years ago at Santa Claus, Indiana. The post office also accepts letters. Check your local park district to see if they participate. Our local candy store, Around The Corner Candy, also has a Santa Mailbox.

Around The Corner Candy - Santa Mailbox

  • Paint a holiday picture. I’ve stocked up on canvases and can’t wait to paint, paint, paint. We’re in love with Kwik Stix Solid Tempura Paint). Paint in a stick. No mess at all. Easy to clean up. We love them.
  • Read a Christmas story by the Christmas tree. They can each choose one from the pile. I have a big pile of Christmas books that we can each read until Christmas.
  • Help address and mail out Christmas cards. The kids love decorating the envelopes and putting on the stamps. We have cool Christmas cards that they can color this year. Don’t forget about cards for the teachers!
  • See Mrs. Claus. Sure, it’s fun to see Santa, but we also like seeing Mrs. Claus. Check out your local events, park district, or library for events. We’ll be seeing Mrs. Claus at a library event. Looks like tons of fun!
  • Wear new pajamas. We plan on going to a waterpark for mini weekend trip, and I’ll be bringing new pajamas for them to open.
  • Make a Snowman – outside or in! You can either make a real one outside with snow, or make one inside with marshmallows or other crafty ideas. We tried making this paper snowman this year and it was a hit.
  • Catch a flick. We love movies, and it’s always a treat when we can watch one in the movie theater. Hello, buttery popcorn! We plan on seeing Coco this year since we’ve heard so many good things about it. I plan on reading this book beforehand to tie the movie in.
  • Put on your PJs and see Christmas lights. We LOVED the one at Cuneo Mansion but they no longer do that. We’ve been to  lights at the zoos or at Phillips Park Zoo.
  • Help wrap presents. The kids help out by making their own tags.
  • Make a wreath.
  • Make hot chocolate.  To make it extra special top it off with peppermint ice cream or add candy canes.bluebunnyhotchocolatepepperminticecreamWe plan on grabbing some Blue Bunny peppermint ice cream, freezing it in ice cube trays, and using it to cool the hot chocolate. Here’s the recipe. (PS. Join their Ice Scream Team and you can score some coupons!)blue-bunny-recipe-card-peppermint-party-hot-chocolate-2
  • Have a Christmas movie marathon.  I’ll definitely include Elf because it’s my all-time favorite. What are some of your favorite movies?
  • Have a popcorn bar with all the toppings. I saw this idea from fellow blogger Fresh Mommy Blog and I absolutely love it.
  • Make candy cane reindeer. Super easy craft that I’ll run through.
  • Have breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner with Santa. There are tons of places to do so.  In the past, we’ve had an awesome Santa brunch at Pinstripes Barrington. Then we went bowling afterwards! We’ve also had a delicious Santa Brunch at Pheasant Run Resort. This year we had a fantastic brunch at Drury Lane. Read all about it here. 
  • Pinstripes bowling is a great place to have brunch during the holidays and a great way to see Santa.Open one stocking stuffer. I have them pick out one thing in their stocking.
  • Enjoy an outdoor activity. When it snows, we’ll go sledding.
  • Pizza party!
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry and take a picture with your favorite tree. This is our family tradition. It’s already one of our favorite museums but becomes extra special during the holidays with all the other festively decorated holiday trees. Read a review here.

Holiday fun at Museum of Science and Industry Chicago's Christmas Around the World and Holiday of LIghts

  • Game Night. The kids are finally old enough to enjoy board games like chess and Battleship. When we went to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in November we found a few new favorites like Pop the Pig or Catch the Fox. Find out what else we enjoyed from the ChiTAG 2017.
  • Make and decorate gingerbread houses. We’ll try and make our own this year. We’ll see how that goes. Ha! But these cool ninja gingerbread men would also be cool to make. I’m thinking of grabbing this cookie cutter for next year.
  • Donate a toy. There are tons of places to donate – Goodwill, Sparrow’s Nest, Toys for Tots. We will try finding a place where the donation goes directly to a child.
  • Make cinnamon roasted nuts. 
  • Wear PJs the entire day. 
  • Make Christmas cookies or treats for Santa. We plan on reading this cute Santa book to correlate with this activity. Then drink with milk, of course. What is your favorite cookie recipe that is easy to make with the kids?
  • Make snowflakes. Remember making paper snowflakes back in school? It’s so easy and each snowflake is as unique as can be.
  • Wear new Christmas/holiday pajamas. 
  • Make a gift for your teacher.
  • Pick one gift to open on Christmas Eve. 
  • Celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  We plan on baking a cake.
  • See a holiday show. In the past, we’ve seen the Nutcracker made specifically for kids. It was perfect for our three youngins’ and it was only an hour long.
  • Have a holiday tea party or go somewhere for holiday tea. The family and I will be having holiday tea this year at Drury Lane and we are super excited!
  • See real reindeer. 
  • Go ice skating. We went ice skating for the first time this year at Oakbrook Center. It was so much fun!

Family holiday fun at Oakbrook Center - Santa, ice skating, and good food!

  • Make homemade gifts. We plan on making holiday gifts this year. What better way to spend time together and make gifts.
  • Sing Christmas carols.
  • Game night by the fire.
  • Grab donuts. Who doesn’t love donuts? Make a donut run and have everyone pick their favorite donut. Looking for a local place to visit? We absolutely love Craft Donuts and Coffee (West Dundee) as well as Roll ‘N Donuts (Algonquin.)
  • Make a sweet treat. I adore these Santa Belt Chocolate Oreos from Whispered Inspirations.
  • Take pictures with Santa. Show off those cute holiday outfits with the jolly old man.


What do you do to countdown to Christmas? Any other activities you would add?