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Looking for Advent ideas? Here’s an awesome collection of simple family Advent activities. We‘ve rounded up the best wreaths, calendars, crafts and simple rituals to celebrate Advent and the Winter solstice. Easy and simple is perfect for this busy time of year! Build memories that last a lifetime.
The beauty of Advent
Advent is one of my favorite seasons. It provides a quiet oasis of peace in the midst of the Christmas craziness.
Advent invites us to stop and take a breath.
Instead of fretting over endless lists we can slow down the season. Savor it and embrace the ritual of preparations. When my boys were still home I usually had elaborate plans for Advent, but these tended to slip past me in the hustle of busy family life.
Still we always found time to enjoy some simple traditions that didn’t take a lot of time and preparation. And that worked really well for us.
I have gathered together a few simple family Advent activities. None of them require a lot of preparation or expense. The first Sunday of Advent is almost upon us, so easy and simple is good!
How Do Families Celebrate Advent?
Have fun. Celebrate. Enjoy the season, but don’t overwhelm your schedule. The idea is to make memories and encourage family connections, not create extra stress! Look through our Advent ideas for families, pick a couple and then enjoy a simple and meaningful Advent.
1. Lighting Up the Darkness
Light is an important part of our celebrations at this time of year. It probably goes back to ancient winter solstice rituals celebrating the return of the sun.
These practices were adopted by the early church who chose this time of year to mark the coming of Jesus (the Light of the World). During this season we also have the Jewish Hanukkah and Kwanza an African American holiday. Both celebrations involve the lighting of candles.
Candles, lanterns, lights all make great family Advent activities. Here are some great ideas for lighting up the darkness.
Make and Light an Advent Wreath
An Advent wreath is a tradition that comes to us from the church. If you are interested you can learn more here.
- Yellow Bliss Road has published some lovely photographs of very simple Advent wreath. If you prefer to use the more traditional circular shape simply use a round plate or tray.
- Michelle at A Mommy’s Adventure has instructions for making a hand print Advent wreath from hand prints. What a lovely way to make a family wreath that is safe for younger children to play with.
- Sun Hats and Wellie Boots show you how to make a traditional Advent wreath using natural materials.
- The Kids Craft Room has some instructions for making simple Advent candles
Votive jar lights are great for indoors. Hop over to Buggy and Buddy to fin out how to make a lantern from a mason jar. Try making a tin can lantern or baby food candle jars. If you don’t have time to make one, you can still enjoy a candle. Pop it inside one a purchased lantern.
Using Candles in Advent
Make December special by lighting candles a little more often. Candles help create a magical atmosphere of connection. When we light a candle, we send a message that our time is special, and we want to connect. Light a candle at supper, story times, or for family rituals.
Here’s a special family candle lighting ritual for the winter solstice.
Light a candle for peace
Gather around a candle. Light it and explain that all around the world people light candles as a sign of their hopes for peace.
Play or sing Light a Candle For Peace. Preschoolers will love to sing along.
Ask older children to look at the candle and imagine what it would be like to live in a world where there was no more fighting or arguing. Afterwards invite the children to say one way they could show kindness in the world. Affirm them with the word, “(Child’s name) you are a peacemaker.”
Safety tips: Obviously children should be carefully supervised around lit candles and keep lighters out of reach. If you are worried about naked flames, use candles inside a lantern with a little door like this one. Use a simple candle snuffer to extinguish the candles. It prevents hot wax splashing on tender skin. Children love using them!
2. Countdown to Christmas
Advent calendars make for an easy family Advent activities. They are a wonderful way to help children countdown the days until Christmas. You could simply go out and buy one and there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to make something unique choose one of these ideas.
- Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar free printable.
- The Waldorf family published some pictures of a lovely home sewn Advent Spiral.To simplify draw a large spiral on blue or purple card stock. Stick 24 self-adhesive stars along the spiral.
- Head over to Spell Outloud to find instructions for making a simple Advent chain. This link includes a free download for the chain links.
- I love this fun Advent Activity Tree from The Imagination Tree.
3. Practice Kindness
Advent is the perfect time of year to do some acts of kindness as a family. It helps shifts the focus to giving than receiving.
Advent giving Jar
Brush thin white glue (mix with a little water) onto a clean glass jar and cover with tissue paper squares.
Repeat until the entire jar is covered. Brush on another layer of glue and leave to dry. Tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar. Use the jar to collect money. At the end of Advent roll and count the money. Perhaps you could use it to give the gift of a Kiva Loan.
Preparing the manger
Display a small manger somewhere in your home. This doesn’t have to be elaborate. A small cardboard box will suffice and shredded paper makes an easy substitute for hay. Children may enjoy painting the box to make it special for baby Jesus. Place the hay in a large bag.
Once the manger is in place, invite children to help prepare it for the baby Jesus. Have them add a big handful of straw to Baby Jesus’s manger every time they do something kind or helpful. On Christmas Eve, children can place a small figure of Baby Jesus (doll) in the soft bed of hay.
Start a new family tradition this holiday season with the magic of the Kindness Elves. This wonderful alternative to the elf on the shelf will put the emphasis back on giving. Kindness Elves come into your home at the start of Advent and each day they encourage your children to do small acts of kindness. Get more details here.
Related: Looking for other ways to reach out and help others? Take a look at our Christmas Acts of Kindness.
Try Some Different Family Advent Activities
Decorate a Yule Tree
In the times of the druids, evergreen trees were decorated with ornaments and offerings. People decorated the tree with things that represented their hopes of the new year. Love charms, fruits, nuts, and coins were popular – representing love, successful harvest, fertility and wealth.
Revisit this ancient tradition by decorating a tree in your yard. Wilder Child suggests we make it an act of kindness by creating edible ornaments for the animals to enjoy.
Decorate With Oranges
An orange can symbolize the return of the sun. Try making orange pomanders on the winter solstice. They smell divine and make lovely gifts. Here is a simple tutorial. Alternatively dry some orange slices to make to natural decorations.
For More Fun: Make Some Christmas treats. We gathered some fabulous recipes that children can make for themselves.
4. Enjoy Some Fun Daily Activities
Simple things that are done every day make wonderful family Advent activities. The following ideas do not require much preparation, but will make this time special.
Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem
If you have a nativity scene, set up the stable in a central location. Tell the story of the journey Mary and Joseph had to make to Bethlehem. Start Mary and Joseph on their long journey by placing them some distance from the stable. Every day move them closer to the stable, until they arrive on Christmas Eve.
Gather your Christmas books and maybe borrow a few new ones from the library. Place them in a small basket or storage container by your Christmas tree. Each night sit by the tree and read 2-3 books. You don’t need a lot of books, because children love to hear the same stories over and over.
A few more resources
My book Advent A-Z
A few years back I was privileged to co-author an Advent Devotional book for families.
Each day explores an Advent-related word that begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. There is a short reading and suggestions for all kinds of simple activities .
It is available in as an e-book, so you can download it and start using it immediately.
Do you celebrate Advent as a family? What special traditions do you have? Please share your ideas in the comments below.