There’s nothing like the last minute is there!! I’ve been thinking about this idea for this year’s Christmas countdown for a few days but of course it is only now, on the evening of 30th November, that I have finally had a chance to sit down at the laptop and bring it all to life. So for anyone else who is also a last minute mama, read on, hopefully I can save you a last minute scramble as well!
Last year I made this DIY shoebox advent calendar and filled each box with little treats and toys. It is double sided so after the first half of the countdown I turn it around and refill for the second half – this also gives me some time to get the treats ready as they don’t all need to be in on day one. In fact it’s almost better if they aren’t so that if (more likely when!) the kids take a sneaky peak before they should, all they find is an empty box and I can keep up the pretence that the elves deposit the goodies each evening.
This year however I was thinking that they don’t really need more little toys and treats for the sake of it. They already have their chocolate advent calendar and we are planning a very big main present for them so they don’t need too many little ones every day till Christmas. Instead I thought it would be nice to create some festive fun and take a little time to do a challenge or activity as a family each day, hopefully creating some memories and smiles along the way.
With that in mind I made a list of 24 family fun things to do, some may only take a few minutes while others can be longer. Many are open to your own creative interpretation and can be tailored to what you have planned already or it can be a complete luck of the draw for everyone and even challenge you! I haven’t given them any particular order as I haven’t yet decided when we will do each one. I plan to keep it flexible for me to decide which one will work well for us for the next day and then put that one in the calendar.
If you want to join in the fun and don’t have an advent calendar with little boxes you can use 24 envelopes and you can even hang them up on a string with little pegs. Alternatively, how about rolling each one up and tying a ribbon around them with a numbered tag or using little gift bags. For a really simple trick just hide one around the house each day for the kids to find!
Let’s Decorate the Tree – We traditionally decorate our Christmas Tree on 1st December so this will be the first family activity card for us and I may even pop some of our tree decorations in the box with this card. If you have already decorated your main tree you can use this as a prompt for some arts and crafts, maybe make some paper plate trees to decorate, start our Crafty Christmas Tree Countdown, set up a Washitape Fridge Magnet Christmas Tree or make new decorations to add to your existing tree. We also have a tradition of shopping for a special new ornament each year to add to the collection so this card would work great for that too.
Make Some Wrapping Paper – I love getting the kids to make wrapping paper using our IKEA rolls of drawing paper and stamping with Christmas cookie cutters but they can also draw, free paint, use stickers, foam shapes, punched shapes or anything else they can think of! This will add an extra level of personalisation to family gifting on Christmas Day.
Peppermint Play Dough Fun Day – read more about the no cook Christmassy peppermint play dough we made last year here, I can’t wait to make another batch this year.
Decorate Christmas Stockings – I’m planning to get cheap Christmas Stockings from Daiso or one of the hypermarkets for the kids to decorate with fabric glue and all sorts of bits and bobs like ribbon scraps, buttons, felt pieces, pom poms etc. But for an easier version you can just decorate paper stocking shapes or even stocking shaped cookies.
Family Christmas Movie Night – I’ve heard the Trolls Holiday Special will be available on Netflix soon so I will probably save this one for when that is out. For a Christmas classic, the Disney Santa Clause movies will be coming to Netflix in December too. Who doesn’t love a family movie night, especially a festive one?!
Go for a drive to look at Christmas Lights – Does everyone do this or just us? It is a tradition we have for both Diwali and Christmas and the kids love it. That, reminds me, I’d better start looking into getting lights up outside our house too!
Make Paper Snowflakes – This has always been one of my favourite winter crafts and I am adding coffee filters to my shopping list right now. So simple to make but they create a little bit of magic when you open them up and look so great decorating the windows.
Bake and Decorate Christmas Cookies – If you don’t have the time or inclination to make cookies from scratch, there are quite a few Christmas cookie kits out in the shops at the moment. I’ve seen kits for ninja gingerbread men, Frozen and The Snowman cookies in Spinneys to name a few.
Have a Snowball Fight – This one is going to go one of two ways for us, either I will use it when I get out our SnoBall Battle pack from Kidore or when we take the kids to Ski Dubai which Missy has been begging for for weeks – the combination of Olaf’s Winter Adventure and Santa in real snow is going to be a must for us this year! Other ways to have a snowball fight in Dubai could include using white water balloons, plastic balls or even scrunched up newspaper balls, just have fun with it! You can also keep an eye out for the various winter markets and festivals that will be popping up around town as they often have a little fake snow play areas like The Dubai Winter Festival or the Madinat Jumeirah Souk Festive Market.
Choose a toy to give to charity – Christmas is supposed to be the season for giving not receiving and it is important that the kids learn that. I want them to appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate as they are and that we have a responsibility to those less well off too. As an added bonus, hopefully this will also clear some space in our play area before the inevitable new additions from Christmas!
Holiday cards for the neighbours – Card making is one of my favourite crafts to do with kids, the possibilities are endless! With this card I might add a few craft supplies into the box as an invitation to create, maybe some festive washitapes, felt pens, glitter, metallic shapes etc. When making cards for neighbours (particularly in this region) try to be sensitive to their beliefs, so if you are not sure whether they celebrate Christmas it would be best to stick to a Happy Holidays or Happy New Year card.
Build and Decorate a Gingerbread House – I love doing this activity with the kids every year. I’m not one to bake the gingerbread myself so we usually buy a ready made kit that comes with everything we need. This year I have bought a Micky Mouse themed kit as a change to our usual traditional kit by Wilton, but I have also seen other Disney versions with a Frozen castle or a Princess Castle in Spinneys Dubai. There are also bound to be a number of gingerbread house decorating workshops and activities around town so do keep an eye out for those or why not grab a few kits and arrange a fun play date with friends.
Write a letter to Santa – This is a must do! Monkey is getting good at writing now so this will be his first proper written letter to Santa that may make sense. For Missy I will probably give her a toy catalogue and let her cut and stick what she would like Santa to bring her. This card could also be used for the day you visit Santa and deliver the letter you have written. There are a number of Letter to Santa competitions around town which your kids may want to enter too so keep an eye out for those, including the ones run by Mumzworld and The Dubai Winter Festival.
Festive Face Painting Fun – The kids have been loving having their face painted at all the recent events we have attended so I bought our own little set of paints from the Early Learning Centre and they just love being painted up whenever the mood takes them! Who says face paint is only for parties anyway?
Let’s have Hot Chocolate – Whether you set up a little hot chocolate bar at home with a selection of fun toppings to customise your own festive drink, or whether you take your little ones out on a hot chocolate date to a cosy little cafe, this is sure to be a super sweet treat for everyone!
Write/draw/tell a Christmas story – I love seeing and hearing my kids’ imaginations in action and there is no better time than when they tell stories that draw together all that they have learnt, seen and experienced in recent times. I will definitely keep the camera ready for this one!
Get your instruments out – We have a box of musical instrument toys which I think is an essential item for any play area but even if you don’t have any instruments it can be fun to get creative and improvise – pots, pans, wooden spoons, buckets and all sorts of stuff around the house would make great instruments to put together a festive band!
Get ready for Santa, he’s almost here – This one has to be for Christmas Eve, the final night of build up and anticipation. The kids get so excited getting everything ready for our special night time visitors and I just love our cosy story right at the end as I tuck them in to sleep!
To join in the fun you can download a pdf of the printable family fun activity cards below then just print them off and cut them out ready to use. Make sure you follow along on our instagram account (@astheygrow.me) to see how we use these cards and for additional tips and ideas, please also tag us if you do use and share them!
What advent or Christmas traditions do you have in your family? Do you think your kids would like these activities? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!