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This post has 30 simple & fun advent activities for families to do with their kids this year. We’ve celebrated Advent with our 4 children ever since the oldest was a toddler, and many of our most meaningful traditions have been the simplest ones as well.
From celebrating with toddlers & preschoolers to now having “big kids,” we all love using the Advent season to prepare our hearts to celebrate Jesus on Christmas day.
Some of these activities are more spiritual, Christ-centered and meaningful, and some of them are just fun & silly! We don’t do all of these, by any means. I highly recommend ushering in a season of restful celebration this Advent. Do less by just picking a few Advent ideas that suit your family best.
1. Advent Calendar (Printable) – Optional
Creating an advent calendar is a fun December 1 activity.
Here is a blank calendar template that you can print on an 8.5’’ x 11’’ sheet of paper. I usually grab a larger size paper from our art paper supply (11×14 or 12×19 or something) and just use a ruler to draw the lines to make a calendar.
We fill in the numbers for December, along with any plans we have in place.
When my kids were little, I would grab a holiday sticker bucket from Michael’s & set out a few markers.
If you glue the calendar to a bigger piece of cardstock, it’s sturdier and gives them more space to decorate.
2. Advent Calendar Activities
For several years, we’ve put an advent activity on each day of the calendar. Many of the activities are already part of our plans anyway.
For example: the December 1st activity can be “decorate the advent calendar.”
If we had plans to drive to Grandma’s on Dec 22, then the activity that day was, “road trip to Grandma’s.”
Other plans that might be included on the calendar were: decorate the tree, Christmas movie night (Elf), Christmas movie night (The Star), wrap presents for cousins, bake at Grammy’s, etc.
Then, we filled in the rest of the empty days on the calendar with 1 really simple no-prep activity for each day.
Even if you don’t plan to make a calendar, you might still want some advent ideas for simple activities you can do with your kids this year!
The rest of this post has a wide variety of ideas, whether or not you choose to put them on a calendar 😊
Toddler & Preschool Favorite Activities
For a few bonus ideas & thoughts on how to create a simple Advent tradition with your toddlers, read this post.
3. Hide the Nativity/ Hot & Cold
Play hide & seek or hot and cold with the Nativity Scene. We have this cute kid-friendly Nativity play set.
If you play this game like hide and seek, have one person choose which piece to hide. Keep it in relatively plain sight, or the game can go on forever. Everyone else closes their eyes and then goes hunting for the piece.
You can also play it like hot & cold. Take turns being the seeker. Have the seeker go out of the room while someone else hides a piece. Then the whole group says “hotter” or “colder” while the seeker is looking.
The hot/ cold version is SO fun with 3-6 year olds. Toddlers seem to prefer a simple hide & seek with one piece of their choice.
4. Christmas Bubble Bath
I love to turn off the lights & put a bunch of candles on the bathroom counter. I also grab red & green bath paints to add to the bubble bath if they’re easy to find.
When all our kids were under 5 and napped, I would set this up for them to do right after naptime one day. We usually didn’t do baths at that time, so they thought it was super special. Haha! Little kids are very easily amused.
5. Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Dance Party
Lights off; flashlights and glowsticks recommended.
6. Hot Chocolate Game Night
It’s hard to find fun games for kids this young, but our family faves for littles are:
Honestly, playing games with preschoolers is not one of my favorite things in life, but it’s a simple, no prep activity. And, there’s something about playing games with hot chocolate when it’s dark outside & there are Christmas lights on the tree that makes it feel special to kids.
7. Make Paper Snowflakes
If you have kids who are too young to cut paper snowflakes, you can have the child point to where you make the cuts. Then open it up and let them decorate the snowflakes. (Bigger paper makes decorating easier for little kids.)
Tip – printer paper is easier to cut than construction paper.
8. Go Out for Donuts as Dessert… in Pajamas
I’m not sure how this tradition started in our family, but it’s definitely a favorite. There’s a local donut shop that is like an old-school 24 hour dive donut shop. I give the kids new jammies (or comfy clothes of some sort) Then, we all put them on and go get donuts before driving around to look at Christmas lights.
9. Christmas Carols Sing Along Night
We have an illustrated book (like this!) with a bunch of Christmas carols in it. We just sing them without instruments or music, but you could totally turn on some music & sing along. If you have readers, print the lyrics.
If you have little kids who can’t read yet, pull out some puzzles or blocks or coloring – something for them to do with their hands while the songs play. In a few years, they’ll probably know a lot of the lyrics & be able to participate more.
Or you can let the kids pick a Christmas carol each night before bed and sing that to them as a bedtime song.
Acts of Kindness & Serving Others
10. Christmas Shop for Another Family or Child
We partner with a local crisis pregnancy center to do this. I try to get organized with the shopping ahead of time and then figure out which elements of the shopping I can include the kids in. They also help wrap gifts & help me bring them to the pregnancy center.
Most local shelters have some sort of needs list this time of year too. Don’t forget the boring stuff like toilet paper and canned goods. Including your kids in shopping for stuff like that provides an opportunity to help your kids see what they have to be grateful for.
11. Host Something with Friends
Several of the activities in the next section would be fun & simple to do with others. Inviting others into your home is such a great way to show love.
Don’t stress about it! You don’t need to deep clean your home to invite others in. Have your kids help you with a 10 minute tidy up before people come.
I have found the easiest thing to host is the “Christmas Crafts with Friends” day below, but if crafts aren’t your thing, pick a different thing to host.
You don’t even have to have people inside to host. We live in the midwest, where it’s pretty cold in December. But a friend of mine hosted a driveway toy drive for her neighborhood. She had coffee & hot cocoa outside and giant labeled toy boxes.
Her kids helped create & pass out flyers with details about what they were collecting & when… they had a HUGE turnout!! Her neighbors loved it too. What a great way to connect with neighbors & help some families in need.
12. Make Christmas Cards for Teachers and/or Grandparents
For this activity, I usually cover the table in white butcher paper & put out paper plates with a few basic supplies on them…
- Glitter glue
- Christmas cookie cutters to use as stencils
- Pencils & markers
- Stickers if we have them
- Sequence & glue
Then I just let the kids go to town.
13. Take Kids Shopping for Siblings
This past year, we tried sibling shopping for the first time & it was so fun!!
Our kids earn money for doing chores and various tasks around the house. I offered extra opportunities to earn money in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Then, we took them shopping for each other at Five Below & help them wrap gifts for each other. They gave these gifts to each other first thing on Christmas morning, and it was so sweet to watch them experience the joy of GIVING in a meaningful way.
If you have a big family, you could have each child draw a name of a family member instead.
14. Giving Manger
The Giving Manger kit came out in 2020 and it’s a great way to focus on giving during the holiday season.
The kit comes with a storybook, a wooden manger, straw, and a baby Jesus figure. You place the empty manger out in a visible place in the home. You put one piece of straw in it for each act of kindness throughout Advent (the story inspires various ideas). Then on Christmas day, you place the baby Jesus figure in the manger full of straw.
The Giving Manger helps your family focus on the joy of giving & the real reason for the Christmas season.
15. Clean Each Other’s Rooms
This may sound silly, but we try to set up a surprise time for each kid to clean another kid’s room once during December. A parent helps if the child is too young to do it independently, but we talk about it as a simple way to serve the sibling and we try to get excited about how the other person will feel when they realize their chore has been done for them!
Using the language of “let’s serve ______ by doing XYZ for them,” is a simple way to cultivate a heart of service in your home.
Of course, you can always do this another time during the year too.
Fun Family Activities
16. Set up the Christmas Tree
Whether you have a chop-down-your-Christmas-tree outing or just pull it out of the storage closet like we do, decorating the tree as a family is so fun. We turn on a quiet Christmas album and some mood lighting. Each of our kids has their own ornament collection they get to put on, then they help with our family ornaments too.
If your ornaments are breakable, or this stresses you out, you could grab a cheap 3-foot kid tree just for them to decorate! Or keep the kid friendly Christmas decorations in their own box so the kids can participate without breaking the heirloom nativity.
17. Christmas Crafts with Friends
I always keep this super low-key. I buy a bunch of prefab kits from Michael’s and let kids go to town. We invite one or two other of our homeschool friend families over during the day and everyone brings a snack to share. I just cover the table in white butcher paper and lay everything out in the center.
18. Christmas Books Collection
Over the years, I’ve built up our collection of Christmas books. I always check out a few from the library too. Anything we love, I write down & add to my list of books to buy in the future. I usually buy a couple each year from Thriftbooks.com
I store them all with our Christmas decorations, so they only come out once a year.
Some favorites for littles are:
- Bear Stays Up
- Mortimer’s Christmas Manger
- The Wild Christmas Reindeer
- Snowmen at Christmas
- Who is Coming to Our House?
- Pick a Pine Tree
Our older children (6+) like:
- The Carpenter’s Gift
- The Gift of the Magi
- The Legend of the Poinsettia
- A Christmas Carol
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey
And all ages love:
- Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
- I Spy Christmas
- The Polar Express
- The Grinch
- 12 Days of Christmas
- The Night Before Christmas
- Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury (Last time I checked, Amazon had a GREAT price on this collection! It’s 7 of her books in one, including The Mitten, The 12 Days of Christmas, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, and the Night Before Christmas)
19. Christmas Music Recital
3 of our kids take piano lessons, as do several of their friends. This year, we’re going to have a mini Christmas recital in one family’s living room & all the kids take turns playing a couple Christmas songs for each other. It’ll be a fun way to practice playing in front of people in a low-pressure way. Plus we’ll each bring a Christmas cookie to share.
20. Christmas Coloring
You can grab holiday themed coloring books at a Michael’s-type craft store. I also always grab a roll of Christmas coloring wrapping paper, or a disposable “Christmas coloring” tablecloth. Target usually has both, or you can do a quick internet search to find a store near you that has these.
21. Hot Cocoa Walk
Bundle up if you live somewhere with a cold winter season like we do, and take thermoses of hot cocoa with you on a walk! I like to walk at dusk around our neighborhood as people’s lights come on. Or you could find a park or downtown area near you that decorates for the season too.
22. 12 days of Christmas Paper Chain – Christmas Countdown
I put out red and green construction paper and tape and let the kids go to town! When they were all under 5 years old, it took forever to cut 12 strips of paper and tape them into a chain. So we just did one family paper chain for the kitchen. As they’ve gotten older, they each like to make their own for their room.
We have this picture book that goes with the 12 days of Christmas song, so we read that and sing the song when we do this activity too.
[images of books]
23. Make a Popcorn & Cranberry Garland
This activity requires a tiny bit of prep because you have to get supplies, but I ordered them all in a Walmart grocery pickup, so it was super easy. Our 5 year old had a little trouble and got bored after 10 minutes, but we still let him try! If you have younger children, you could let them string the popcorn while you string the cranberries. Or just let them make a popcorn string. OR let them make a string with Cherrios 😊
The supplies to have on hand for a popcorn-cranberry garland are:
- Fresh, raw cranberries
- A big bag of store bought popcorn
- 26 Gauge floral wire – way easier than thread or fishing wire
- *optional – shellac spray to preserve the strand
You can use a needle & thread or fishing line instead of floral wire, but wire is easier because you don’t have to keep threading the needle for your kiddos.
24. Gingerbread Houses
Every year of my childhood (until I was like 16 years old!!), we went to a family friend’s house and made gingerbread houses out of graham crackers. They got increasingly epic as we got older… I’m pretty sure there were sky scrapers. This was one of my favorite Christmas traditions as a kid.
You can totally buy the kits too, but I actually LOVE the graham cracker hack.
Some tricks to using graham crackers are:
- Cover a sturdy piece of cardboard with heavy duty aluminum foil as your foundation – wrap it all the way around the whole piece of cardboard. 2 layers doesn’t hurt.
- Buy a LOT of cans of store bought frosting. We mostly used white, but had food coloring on hand for making colored frosting.
- Keep scissors and index cards on hand – you can cut index cards down to whatever size you want. Then, fold them in half and put frosting on them, so they act like glue for the corners where 2 graham crackers meet!! This is THE BEST gingerbread house hack ever. #You’reWelcome
If you have young children, you might want to make a few houses ahead of time so they can just decorate them. It can be frustrating trying to assemble the house and having it keep fall apart.
25. Bake Cookies
Baking with small children isn’t for the faint of heart – HA! You can attempt to start this tradition to whatever degree you’re able to handle while keeping your sanity in tact.
Here are some various ways to try Christmas Cookies that might make it easier:
- Buy pre-made dough & just roll it out
- Make the dough ahead of time – roll out a small flat dough ball for each child; put it on wax paper; let them do the cutouts
- Make the cookies (including the shapes) ahead of time – put the baked cookies out for kids to decorate (this is what we do!)
- Buy cookie decorating kits from Trader Joe’s!
26. Saran Wrap Ball Game
My mother in law sets this up at our family Christmas party. It’s hilarious & fun for all ages… but I’d NEVER want to make it myself. Haha
Basically, you get a lot of small items (dollar store, candy, dollar bills, small gift cards, etc.) and wrap them all in layers in tons of saran wrap. Each person gets 15-30 seconds to unwrap as much as they can without ripping the saran wrap. Whatever falls out during your time is yours to keep.
More detailed instructions here.
Spiritually Meaningful Activities
27. Jesse Tree
A Jesse tree is a simple way trace the prophecies about Jesus & stories of people in His ancestry in anticipation of Christmas & celebrating the birth of Jesus.
To follow along with a Jesse tree, you read some Bible verses each day, then hang some sort of ornament to go along with what you read.
Honestly, this is my #1 favorite advent thing we do in our family. I have a whole post that explains it in detail and gives ideas about how to start a Simple & Meaningful Jesse Tree tradition in your family.
28. Names of Jesus Devotional
This is a short & sweet devotional that would be perfect the week leading up to Christmas. We love our Jesse Tree readings, but this Names of Jesus book is so short, it’d be easy to add into other advent reading traditions too.
You can read it any time of year, of course, but December is a great time to focus on the names of Jesus!
29. Jesus Storybook Bible
This sweet children’s Bible traces the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. It has 24 Bible stories leading up to the Birth of Jesus, so the first day of December is a great day to start it.
You can just read it, or grab an ornament kit that goes along with the Jesus Storybook Bible. (I have more detailed ideas about how to choose an Advent reading plan & ornaments in this Advent Readings post.)
30. Advent Wreath
A traditional advent wreath has 4 candles – one each for hope, love, joy & peace.
Typically, people light one candle per week in the 3 or 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. The last candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in celebration of Jesus, the One in whom perfect hope, love, joy & peace are found.
Here are some simple advent wreaths under $25 if you want to add that to your family’s Christmas traditions.
31. Read the Christmas Story
You can read it straight from the Bible in Luke 1-2, or you can grab a picture book that focuses on the real meaning of Christmas.
Some of my favorite Christmas Books that focus on the true meaning of Christmas are:
- Who is Coming to Our House?
- Christmas in the Manger
- Humphrey’s First Christmas
- The Christmas Promise
- The Christmas Promise (board book version for littles)
- Jesus Came for Me: The True Story of Christmas
- Song of the Stars!
- A Very Noisy Christmas – so cute for the littlest ones!
- Nativity – verbatim from Luke 2; beautifully illustrated
- The Nativity – also verbatim from Luke 2; also beautifully illustrated! Haha I’m not sure I can pick between these last 2 which one is my favorite because I love them both; if I had to choose, I’d choose this one.
Remember – this list is just meant to help you get thinking about some new things for your own advent celebration!
Whether you celebrate each day of advent or just pick one thing to do on Christmas Eve, this season of Advent is all about slowing down & celebrating the greatest gift the world has ever known.
Pick one or two things. Point a little heart in your home towards Jesus. That’s all that matters, dear mama.
I hope this list of advent activities for families helps you and your kids celebrate Advent in a meaningful way this year.