Looking for a creative way to tell the story of Jesus’s birth? Find ideas and a free printable advent calendar reading plan for kids. Read more.
My fondest memories as a child are of family Christmas traditions, especially our kids’ advent calendar!
Advent is a bit of a dusty word that has regained popularity in recent years. The tradition has been a part of the Christian church since as early as 480 AD and is focused on the expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ.
In its most traditional form, families share daily Bible readings and light a candle each Sunday. Of course, traditions surrounding this vary widely from family to family.
When I was little, we had a kids’ advent calendar every single year. It was a tall piece of felt with 24 little pockets, one for each day in December leading up to Christmas. My sister and I couldn’t wait to count down the days by peeking in the pocket each day. My mom always filled the day’s pocket with a little piece of candy and fun notes.
Of course, I continued the same tradition with my kids. One of the first gifts I asked for as a pregnant mom was an advent calendar. My mom gave me a cute nativity Advent calender with little boxes for each day. Inside the box each day was a figure to help tell the story of Jesus’ birth. It was beautiful!
When the kids were old enough, I started adding little pieces of candy to the boxes. I loved watching the kids squeal with delight as they opened the boxes each day. (There’s something so incredibly special about continuing a family tradition like this!)
One year as I was dusting off the Christmas boxes stacked high from the attic, I realized one thing that was missing. I’ve always been so intentional in making Christ the center of this season. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that all activities point to the real reason for the season, so we don’t get tangled up in the materialism of it all. But this one little tradition was missing that deeper Christ-centered approach.
Our Advent Calendar: A Deeper Focus
While it’s true that it is a nativity scene we are building, it’s also true that the focus was pretty shallow. So I purposed to combine the parts I cherished with a deeper focus, and over the years we created two different, but equally exciting, kids’ advent calendar Bible studies. One focuses on fitting together all the pieces of Jesus’s life to show God’s redemptive story for our lives, and the other dives into several beloved Christmas hymns, looking at them alongside Scripture to deepen our joy and worship during this season.
Uncovering Mercies at the Manger
I’ve always fought to make sure that my kids understand the true meaning of Christmas, but after several years, I realized my family was ready to go deeper. My kids understood WHAT Christmas is about, but I wanted to help them understand WHY Christmas is more than just December 25th. We went deep into the Christmas story, starting all the way back in Genesis at the beginning of the month and ending with Jesus’s triumphant return to set this world right. It was so helpful for my kids to see why Christmas had to happen and to see how it fit into God’s greater story for our redemption.
With this in mind, I placed a small slip of paper inside the Advent calendar box with the Scripture based on our daily Christmas devotion along with the candy. We would gather around each night, and kids would open each box with excitement. We would read the Scripture while they enjoyed their treat.
The next year, I created a new type of Advent calendar using “Christmas Countdown Cards” designed to correspond with our Christmas Bible study. They were hung and flipped over each day as we read the corresponding Bible study lesson.
Adoration at the Manger
Christmas wouldn’t feel like Christmas without all the wonderful hymns we get to sing during the season. It feels like a month-long worship service full of joy and praise. These Christmas carols are packed full of truth and goodness, and I knew my kids probably didn’t understand all of the words they were singing year after year. By studying Scripture and then looking at some of these songs, Christmastime became even more rich and worshipful in our family!
To add to our joy of singing our Christmas carols, we’ve created a Christmas Hymn study to our Advent Calendar. Again, as we complete each lesson, we hang the corresponding wooden ornament on the tree, and remember why we celebrate this joyous holiday!
Both of these Christmas Bible studies build so much excitement for Christmas while also giving your kids the best present of all – Scripture! But to add to the excitement, I still like to put little gifts and goodies into our “Advent calendar”.
Of course, we also have a cute FREE printable for you! You can get these FREE Advent Calendar Reading Plans for Kids that correlate with our Uncovering Mercies at the Manger and Adoration at the Manger Bible studies. Simply fill out the form below, and the FREE printable will be sent straight to your email!
Favorite Kids Advent Calendar Ideas
In recent years, I’ve taken to using a bag as a supplement. I have four big kids now, so it’s challenging to get candy in those little boxes. Plus, I’ve tried to mix it up and include non-candy items such as small gifts, activities, and even movie nights.
I try to plan the whole thing in advance the best I can, but I number all of the bags on the back and keep a master list of what’s inside. That way if a movie night won’t work on a particular day, I can switch it out with another one.
To create your own kids advent calendar gift bags, you’ll need these items:
- Small brown bags or different colored bags for each child (red stripes or multicolor)
- Numbered or festive clothespins (snowflakes)
- Tulle ribbon, if you want to hang them on a banister or fireplace (multi-color set)
- Goodies to fill the bags
- Christmas Countdown Cards or Adoration at the Manger Ornaments (optional)
You can hang them on a banister, string them up on a fireplace, or anywhere else you can hang things. You could also have a box under the tree, or you could just have one new one show up on the kitchen table each morning.
My kids love this tradition as much as I do. In fact, they count down the days until it begins each year. Oh, and that wooden nativity kids advent calendar we started with all those years ago? We still use it every single year. The older kids say it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it. The first thing they want to do is open the box to see which figure goes up.
I must admit that the gift-giver in me absolutely loves to plan this out, too. Frequently, I visit the dollar sections and dollar stores for special finds. I also use this as an opportunity to spend cherished family time together. I try to have things we ordinarily try to keep at a minimum (like candy and hot chocolate).
Some of our favorite kids advent calendar bag items are:
- Money in various amounts like $1, $5, or even $10 (gold dollar coins are fun, too!)
- Tickets for fun places like the ballet, sporting events, or museum
- Mug with hot chocolate packs
- Small iTunes gift cards
- A movie night together (We love ELF!)
- Christmas socks
- Homeschool free day
- Christmas chapstick
- New family board game (this year the kids are getting Ticket to Ride – Shhh)
- Chick-fil-A gift cards
- Bath salts or bathtub paint
- Craft to create as a family (I search Pinterest or create them, but there are also great kits like these.)
- Nutella (Crazy how much they want this stuff!)
Also, if the items don’t fit in the bag, I put a little clue to where they are hiding. These are usually the ones that generate the most excitement.
Another way to count down until Christmas is to wrap a Christmas book for each night and read them together as a family. We’ve done this together for years and still enjoy the time cuddled up together with our favorite books!
Merry Christmas, my friends. I pray that this free printable and the advent calendar for kids ideas help you get into God’s Word this year, as I know it will bless you!
Download your Advent calendar for kids printables today:
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Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.