Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Activities

Well, as promised, I am sharing our activities for Advent. I hope maybe some or all of them will inspire or encourage you and your family to put a little bit of focus on togetherness, and maybe start your own tradition of an Activity Advent. Along with our activities, we also will be doing a Nativity Advent, which is 7 days long and will be interspersed with our activities throughout the month.

Here are the activities, in no particular order:

*Light the Lake- there is a lake just walking distance to my house that is surrounded by trees. In December the city lights up some of the trees with lights, and has vendors and activities set up in tents alongside the lake. It's a fun, low-cost activity (free admission, the only cost would be to buy things like hot chocolate or goodies).

*Make Paper Snowflakes- something so simple is so much fun. A great family activity and the bonus is you get to decorate your house afterward with your new creations.

*Light Up the Square- another 'light up' activity, but this one is a bit different. In our city there are a number of 'squares' or city centers (very small cities) that the city lights up. This one will have music, treats, arts and crafts, a lantern celebration, storytelling, cookie decorating, and my favorite; a tour of a historic house that is now a museum. Here we will have the opportunity to learn about old traditions, homesteading and how Christmas was celebrated and how a house was run in the early 1900's. It is rich with history, a perfect homeschooling opportunity, and something I really love to do.

*Bake Cookies Together- I think that one speaks for itself? Vaeh and Gabe both love to help out in the kitchen, especially when it involves baking.

*Donate Items to Shelter and/or Food Bank- remembering Christmas isn't just about us, incorporating a spirit of giving in with our celebrating is very important.

*Candlelit Dinner- another simple activity that could surprise you with the amount of joy it can bring, especially to little ones

*Craft Night- we all love crafts in this house, but more often than not we just don't get time to sit down and focus on a family craft

*Trip To the Library- we do this fairly often and the kids love it, but to make it an "event", we make it just a bit more fun. We'll bundle up and walk there instead of drive (about a 15 minute walk), and after we spend a significant amount of time there, we will pop over to the coffee shop on the corner right beside the library and sit and enjoy hot drinks

*Family Portrait- our first family portraits ever taken were in the summer of 2009, so there aren't many. A Christmas themed family portrait is definitely necessary

*Christmas Light Drive- something we all look forward to in the months before December. We compile a newspaper provided list of local Christmas light displays, and go on a driving tour of them all in one night, drinking hot chocolate or hot apple cider as we go. Last year we found some AMAZING walk-through displays complete with popcorn machines, cotton candy and hundreds of thousands of lights. Brilliant!

*Make Christmas Cards for Vaeh's Friends

*Paint Homeschool Room- we have been hard at work putting together our new homeschool room where the kids can have a dedicated space for learning together, or a quiet space for learning. This may not seem like a fun, Christmas-related activity, but Vaeh has been itching to have it painted, and to help me paint it, so this will definitely be a fun one for her.

*Wrap Presents for the Family -this is something else that can be overlooked as a fun time to spend with your kids. Of course you don't want to wrap their presents in front of them, but wrapping other family members gifts is a fun way to spend an evening.

*Make Gingerbread Pieces for Gingerbread Houses- a tradition in our house is to make gingerbread houses. This year I committed to making all of the pieces so we can actually EAT the houses (store bought kits are a bit on the stale side)

*Assemble Gingerbread Houses and Read Christmas Stories- fire included

*Christmas Eve Service at Church

*Bake Goodies For Family- another tradition. We always bake fun and delicious goodies for family members as part of their gifts. Last year we did Candied Orange Peels and they were a hit. This year we haven't decided yet, but I will most definitely post about it here.

*Winter Walk- this will be a walk where we go out and collect beautiful pieces of nature that remind us of the winter season and of Christmas. We'll then use these items in our craft night.

*Paint Window Scene- every year I paint the window at the front of our house with a Christmas related scene. This year Vaeh has told me how much she would love to help me paint, so we are making an activity out of it

*Mystery Events- these are sort of my saving-grace, so to speak. I have a few of these ones, and any time where I need to postpone an event or change the event schedule do to unforeseen instances, I pop one of these into a calendar pocket and when it comes time to pull it out, we brainstorm as to what we should do for an activity that day. It is very helpful too if a community event comes up that I wasn't aware of, I can replace one event with the Mystery Event label and we attend the new event that day.

*Christmas Movie Night With A Cozy Fire and Hot Chocolate- our favorite Christmas movie (or movies) will be watched. Some of them include A Christmas Story, The Polar Express and Home Alone.

*Toy Workshop in the Kid's Room- in an effort to keep clutter to a minimum, and to make sure the kids don't have more than they need, each year before Christmas we go into the kids room and go through their toys, bagging up things they no longer play with or want/need and we donate them. As awful as this may sound for a child-related activity, the kids really enjoy doing this and don't complain at all. They know that in order to have new gifts come in, we have to get rid of stuff we just don't need anymore.

*Vaeh and Gabe's Christmas Shopping- this will be an evening for the kids to do their shopping for family members.

*Game Night- the kids get to choose whatever game(s) they want to play and we all sit down together and play

It can be difficult to plan a full month of activities in advance. Doing this involves having a regular calendar on hand so you can see any classes or activities you may already have going on, so you don't double-book yourself in a sense, and so you ensure you don't cancel an activity because you forgot about dance class or Bible study or what have you. For us, Vaeh has a girls club she attends at our church every Thursday evening, so those evenings will have to have the activity completed during the day, or it will have to be something that can be accomplished before she heads off to her group. Also, activities that involve traveling and admission fees may want to be set up for a weekend, and/or around a payday if things are a bit on the tighter side of things in your house (which they are for most of us, especially around Christmas!). I make sure the kids don't know what the activities are ahead of time, so if I need to change around activities they aren't disappointed. It also feeds into the element of surprise and excitement, so that is a big bonus! We always pull out the day's activity on the morning of that day. This is very helpful and I highly recommend it.

I think the most important thing about the Activity Advent, is to focus on what your children really really love to do, and run with that. Also, if there were certain traditions you have been wanting to incorporate into your family, but weren't sure how to incorporate it or you weren't sure if it would be well received, having it as one of the advent activities can be a great way to do this and try it out. By incorporating this tradition into our family it has helped immensely to take the focus off of presents and receiving, and has put the focus on spending time together as a family, about growing closer, and about how we can do things for others. That right there is the best gift I could possibly receive for Christmas. 

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