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. I found this cute nativity kids advent calendar I fell in love with. 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 in 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 to make 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.
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 created a kids advent calendar reading plan.
The idea is simple. Each day there is a small slip of paper with a Bible reading. The first year, I placed the slips inside the box along with the candy and the figures.
The second year, I glued wrapping paper on the back and then cut out the strips. I created a paper chain and hung it from the tree to serve as our countdown. (The box was getting a bit crowded. Plus this was a fun visual.)
Of course, I wouldn’t dare show you such cute printables without sharing them with you! You can find these kids advent calendar reading plan printables in our Christian Holidays Printable Pack at the bottom of this post.
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 banister kids advent calendar, you’ll need these items:
- Small favor bags (red stripes or multicolor)
- Festive clothespins (snowflakes)
- Tulle ribbon (multi-color set)
- Goodies to fill the bags
If you don’t have a banister, you can string this 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. I frequent the dollar section and dollar stores for special finds. I also use this as an opportunity to spend cherished family time together and 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
- Tickets for fun places like the ballet, sporting event, or museum
- 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 usually search Pinterest or make these up, 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!
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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.