60+ Activity Advent Calendar Ideas

This year we are making a big deal out of Advent. I am totally overcompensating for the fact that there are no cousins, no nieces and nephews, no aunts, no uncles and no grandparents around, and on as tight a budget as possible, I’m trying to make every day of Advent special in one way or another.

In order to do this we are starting each day with a toy advent calendar, a book advent calendar and an activity advent calendar. We try to marry up the book advent with the activity advent, so if the characters in the book make biscuits, we make biscuits. If they decorate their tree, we decorate ours, and so on. Sometimes the link is only a tenuous one, but a link none the less. It’s more about the togetherness than the actual activity really.

To make our activity calendar as fun as possible, I start by making a list of everything that’s happening around us. Friends are having a Christmas party? There’s a community candlelight walk? There’s a community carols by candlelight? The cathedral in town has a Christingle ceremony? Christmas market? Santa cruises? All these things go on my list and in the calendar. That way I can pre-buy tickets to make December a little less costly. I can also look through the Christmas books and see which stories would marry up with what’s happening in the area, then I number those books with the date of the activity – A ‘Jack Frost’ matinee show at the theatre on 10 December would mean I label the Jack Frost book Number 10.

It’s a fair bit of work and planning and it’s a good idea to have backups like craft activities in case weather, sickness or just not feeling like it change the plans.

Advent Calendar

  • Act out the nativity story with a nativity scene
  • Attend “Carols by Candlelight”
  • Attend a Christmas concert
  • Attend a Christmas parade (or watch on TV/YouTube)
  • Attend a Christmas market

Book Advent Calendar

  • Attend Christmas Eve Mass at a beautiful cathedral
  • Build a snowman together
  • Bundle up and go on a sleigh ride
  • Buy bargain events and activities on websites like Wowcher, Groupon, Living Social, and Little Bird
  • Buy easy and ready made craft kits – for example Lidl and various Pound shops have small Christmas craft kits, and Baker Ross too
  • Clean out your toy boxes and donate good quality items to a charity shop
  • Colour a Christmas picture or make a Christmas craft
  • Create Christmas messages and videos using Portable North Pole – one for the day you post a letter to Santa, one for a few days before Christmas, one for Christmas eve… loads to choose from
  • Cut or pick up a Christmas tree
  • Deck the halls with boughs of holly
  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • Decorate a wreath together
  • Decorate the tree
  • Donate tinned food to a food bank
  • Dress up for dinner one night
  • Drive around to look at the Christmas lights
  • Fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child or similar shoe box appeal
  • Go ice skating

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  • Go sledding
  • Go to a Christingle church service
  • Go to a tree-lighting ceremony
  • Hang some mistletoe and give out kisses
  • Have a candle lit bubble bath and pretend it’s snow!
  • Have a Christmas party
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Have hot chocolate with candy canes
  • Invite a few friends over for a cookie decorating party
  • Make (or draw inside) thank you cards that are ready to be filled out after Christmas
  • Make a magic elf door
  • Make a snow scene with fake snow and ice crystals
  • Make a family bed by the Christmas tree
  • Make a handmade Christmas ornament for someone else in the family
  • Make a paper garland to hang on the tree, over a door, or in the kids bedroom
  • Make a photo album of your year and look through it together
  • Make a silly Christmas message to send out on Christmas day
  • Make Christmas cookies
  • Make Christmas trees out of ice cream cones, green frosting, and sprinkles
  • Make eggnog
  • Make gingerbread cookies

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  • Make glitter snow globes out of baby food jars
  • Make hot apple cider
  • Make paper crowns and talk about the wise men and the gifts they brought Jesus
  • Make paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling
  • Make play dough snowmen
  • Make sand angels
  • Make snow angel biscuits
  • Make sugar crystals on a stick
  • Make thumbprint snowmen
  • Make reindeer food
  • Participate in a local toy drive
  • Read the Christmas story in the Bible
  • Roast chestnuts
  • Roast marshmallows inside over a flame
  • Subscribe to Weekend Box (Code for free box: Luschka690) or Toucan Box (Code for free box: A1014) for the winter months. First box is free if you use those links and codes
  • Visit a local farm or donkey sanctuary and talk about Mary and Joseph in the stable
  • Visit Santa for photos
  • Visit NORAD to track Santa
  • Visit a Santa Grotto
  • Watch the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Write (or colour on) Christmas cards
  • Write letters to Santa

 

Make A Winter Mobile

We’re participating in the Bostik Bloggers campaign for a few months, which means every month a box of crafty goodies arrives in the post and my children’s faces light up because they know what’s coming! This month the theme was ‘snow’, and in our box of tricks we received something that among the other Bostik Bloggers we didn’t know what to do with! It turns out that it’s actually a Hama Bead Mobile Ring but since we don’t have Hama Beads, we decided to make a different mobile out of it, featuring all sorts of wintery bits.

Make a winter mobile

For this mobile we used:

To start with, prepare all the parts – paint the stars and snowflake with the glitter paint and thread the ribbon through the holes on the mobile ring. You can determine your own pattern, but ideally stick with the one you start with. (So e.g. through the hole, to the left, across, or through the hole, across and through the hole on the opposite left etc)  This creates a nice woven look, but also gives an area for things to hang from the centre of the mobile from.

Snowflake Mobile

Around the outside of the mobile ring, attach the sticky squares and attach Christmas- themed embellishments to each sticky pad. The pads work well here with a flat surface to attach to on each side. They peel easily too, so though a little tedious going all the way round, it works without hassle.

Select bias binding in different shades and tie to the woven ribbon on the ring, spreading it out so that they appear to hang randomly. I used three lengths, but feel free to add more.

Finally attach a giant snowflake to the centre, quite high up, and do the same for the stars.

Snowflake Mobile

I didn’t find the glue foam pads to work too well on the stars. Either my glitter paint was still a bit wet or there just was’t enough flat surface space, but the Bostik glue dabbed on then left till it was properly dry did the job.

Attach a string or more of the ribbon to the centre and sides of the ring to give the mobile something to hang off  and hang the mobile somewhere that the light can catch the glitter – if it refracts the kids can pretend to catch falling snow! ;)

 

 

Marble Art Christmas Wrapping Paper

Marble art is a lot of fun, and if you use large enough sheets, you can use them for gift wrapping your Christmas presents. If you’re a little concerned about marbles with small children, then you can use non-toxic water beads instead. They do the job the same way, but if they are softer so they are a little more small-child-safe.

You will need:

  • Marbles/water beads
  • paints
  • paper
  • a large box, dish or roasting pan

Dip the marbles or water beads into paint and lay them down on paper. marbles

Lift the sides of the tray or box and tilt it so that the marbles run around the page. Replace the beads as they require new paint, and fill the page with fun, bright colours. marble art

Set aside to dry and soon you’ll have lovely coloured paper that you can use to wrap your Christmas presents.

You can also do this with glitter glue. It takes a while to dry, but it’s really pretty!

glitterglue

Autumn Leaf Crafts #Bostikbloggers

I’ll admit up front that I cheated with this craft and didn’t use real leaves. All the leaves, buttons and embellishments were provided in the craft kit from Bostik as part of the #BostikBloggers challenge, and we did a few Halloween crafts, but we also did two Autumn crafts (you can buy similar leaves here on Amazon*:

Autumn Carry BagAutumn Crafts

For this craft you will need:

  • A cotton bag
  • Leaves
  • Buttons
  • Owl decal or other designs

There’s no real trick to creating a bag like this, except sitting down and doing it. Here are a few tips to help you though.

Depending on the glue you’re going to use, it could be useful to put a page of paper inside so that the glue doesn’t seep through sticking the two sides of the bag together.

Lay all your embellishments out without glue so that you can decide on the pattern, then glue everything in place.

Set aside for a few hours, to allow the glue to dry

Leafy Candle Holder

Capture

For this craft you will need:

  • Leaves
  • Glue Dots
  • Glass Jar
  • Tealight candle

This really couldn’t be simpler. Lay the leaves onto the glue dots, then stick them onto the glass jar. If you’re not using glue dots you’ll need to be sure to use a glue that is adhesive to glass.

Add a candle, then bask in the beauty of backlit autumn leaves.

We were sent a box of goodies for crafting with, including Bostik Micro Dots and Craft Glue.

Getting Crafty With Meadow Kids Mini Stencils

We recently received a Great Gizmos Mini Stencils set from Meadow Kids to review with my 5 and 3 year old girls. While this set is billed as ‘for girls’ which is evident from the over abundance of pink in the packaging, they are suitable for anyone who likes fairies, flowers, butterflies, dresses, crowns, shoes and other frilly and generally ‘girly’ things. stencils

The Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Mini Stencils set comes in a self contained box, which opens up as two drawers. In the drawers are 12 x stencil sheets with over 150 stencil shapes, 20 x sheets of framed paper (A6? If that’s a size), 6 x small sized colouring pencils, 1 x pencil sharpener, and a selection of blank cards and envelopes.

The stencil sheets and paper come in two spiral bound booklets, which is great because the stencil sheets can be left in the book and used that way, or removed and returned as needed – which I did the first few times, then decided they could live quite comfortably in the drawers without my interference!

The stencils are very thin, which initially I thought would see them break really easily, or they’d just be a pain to work with, but I was surprised by how solid they are. They are quite durable.

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils For Girls In Action

I also thought the small size of the sheets would make them hard to hold onto while drawing the outlines, but the stencils all have a matt-style finish, which means they grip plain white paper pretty well and don’t slide around the page much.

I like that the kids can use the framed pages for practice or for adding to the envelopes, and obviously the card and envelopes are ideal for getting kids sending ‘letters’ to family and friends, which my two thought was a great plan.

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils For Girls Sample A

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils For Girls can make an artist out of me yet ;)

If you’re not excited by the pink set, there’s also a ‘for everyone‘ set and a blue set, both of which have over 170 stencil shapes, along with all the other bits. But thefor girls’ set is certainly good for most things girly girls like!

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5 Crafty Gift Ideas To Ship To Faraway Family And Friends

What feels like a life-time ago now, the girls and I decided to send my dad in Australia a gift parcel with presents. Aside from the fact that shipping to Australia is really expensive, we didn’t actually have anything to send, per se, so had to come up with ideas. When you have family far away, they often miss out on little things – crafts on the fridge, little home made trinkets and treasures. We wanted to give my dad some of that.

We had a rainy spell for a few days, so we used that time to do paper crafts, all of which went off to Australia.

Gifts For Faraway Family And Friends

1) Paper Lollipop Flowers

Paper Lollipop Flowers are pretty much what they say on the tin. Cut out flowers, decorated and punch a hole through the middle. Pop a lollipop through it as the Stamen and Stem, and give your recipient a tasty bunch of flowers.

2) Paper Lollipop Butterflies

The same goes for the Lollipop butterflies. Fold  a piece of card in half, and cut one half of a butterfly. Open it up so that your butterfly has perfectly symmetrical wings. Punch a hole in the centre towards the top and again towards the bottom. Decorate the wings, and thread a lollipop through. You can glue or draw eyes on the lollipop for the head of the butterfly too.

Gifts For Faraway Family And Friends

3) Sweet-filled Octopuses

Gifts For Faraway Family And Friends

Did you know that the super-correct plural of octopus is actually octopodes? But the accepted plural is Octopuses. I know this, cause I had to look it up to get it right when telling the girls we were going to make an octopus each. Fun times.

To make the octopuses, paint a toilet roll in whichever colour you feel best represents your sea creature. Decorate it, and then cut half way up the toilet roll seven times to make 8 legs. You can curl them up a little by pressing down on the roll.

Use a little organza bag or plastic bag, and fill it with jelly babies or other sweets. Use a glue gun or other sticky dot to attach the sweets to the octopus firmly, but temporarily.

4) Hug in an envelope

A  hug in an envelope is an old favourite around here.  Lay your child down on a strip of paper, like wrapping paper. Trace their outline and get them to decorate or fill in clothes and so on. I think the age of the child will determine much of the activity. When you’re done, fold up the outline of the child, and pop in an envelope, with the words ‘open for a hug from *child’s name* written on the outside.

5) Puzzle Pieces & Balloons

I had a fabulous photograph of the girls that I superimposed the word Oupa onto – that’s grandad in Afrikaans, and emailed off to Photobox* to have printed as a puzzle (I tried a DIY puzzle first, but it was impossible to cut the puzzle pieces in the right size, so I had it done properly and I was amazed at the quality of it! I also loved that the individual puzzle pieces were quite small, making them perfectly fit for purpose.)

Since I was shipping this parcel off to Australia I had to rope in some local assistance to pull this one off.

I broke up the puzzle, and put a piece of puzzle in each balloon. This was then sent off in the parcel, with instructions for my brother and his fiance to open the parcel, blow up the balloons, and give my dad a box of balloons, with all the other gifts above too.

Gifts For Faraway Family And Friends

Here’s a tip for you: if you want to make a 20-odd piece puzzle last longer, don’t include a picture of the completed puzzle!  That was accidental, but it worked out well for us.

So there you have it – 5 crafty ideas to send to faraway loved ones.

Shipping with Parcel2Go.

Parcel2Go gave us £40 to spend on shipping anywhere in the world, so we used the money to ship this parcel to Australia – it cost £32 to ship our box, and a further £7-something to ship two boxes of reusable nappies in the UK. I was surprised by the cost of international shipping, but found it to be on par, if not cheaper, than going through Royal Mail (certainly was for the local shipping.)

What was brilliant though was that I could print off the delivery details at home and stick them on my box. On the agreed upon date, the very friendly delivery man we’ve got to know quite well came and collected the parcel from home – no getting kids in the car, out the car, herding them into the post office having fished out change for the meter, then waiting in line trying to convince them not to pull out all the pretty greeting cards while I try to hold a cumbersome box and stand in a queue before having to move around to the parcel side having balanced my parcel on a too small scale, all the while trying to explain that no, that low lying row of sweets and chocolates aren’t in fact free and no, we’re not buying any before finally dragging kids out the post office and back into the car. Nope. Just open the door, hand over the box, get your receipt and get on with your day.

For the UK based ones it was marginally cheaper to drop the parcels at a drop location just down the road.

The parcel was received in Australia in a timely fashion, and the whole thing was simple, easy and pleasurable. My dad’s reaction? Well, that was priceless.

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? Disney Frozen Olaf Cake Pops

Disney Frozen Olaf

 

The Frozen fun continues here and today we made Frozen Olaf cake pops. I made my gran’s no flop cake a few days ago, but didn’t have time to do anything with it. I made some icing, and put the whole lot in the Thermomix to make it into cake pops. This morning we covered our cakes in simple icing – icing sugar and water – and left them to dry. We could have used fondant icing or white chocolate to cover them ‘perfectly’ but I thought it was sweet enough as is, really.  Next up I mixed icing sugar and food colouring to make the noses, ears and buttons.Disney Frozen Olaf

Once the icing was dry, I put everything out with an invitation, straight from the movie. Ameli asked ‘Can we eat them now’ and I said, no… you have to ask something else. She looked for a moment and with a big grin said, “Do you want to build a snowman?”

With all the parts done, building the snowman didn’t take terribly long, but it was fun. We put them on a tray of marshmallows  before tucking in to it for desert. Yum fun. So… do you wanna build a snowman?

(It was mentioned to me recently that our pictures and projects aren’t as fabulous as other bloggers, and perhaps I should make a ‘blog’ version of things rather than photographing what my children have done. That kind of defeats the purpose, as far as I am concerned. I’m a real mum, with real children, doing real crafts. We’re happy enough!)

Skills - Creativity Skills - Social SKillsSkills - Imagination Skills - Sensory

 

Disney Frozen Themed Shrinkles, Ice Play And DIY Jewellery

Our ‘Ocean’ Playlearning theme didn’t really go down well this week. The girls just weren’t interested, and I’ve been working long hours on top of it all, so I just let it go (see what I did there?) and decided to follow their lead. That lead took us to Elsa and Anna – the two sisters in the Disney movie “Frozen” that has taken seemingly everyone by storm!

We’ve had some gloriously hot weather, so I decided it was time to turn our new found Frozen frenzy into fun and crafty activities.

1) Make Disney Frozen Shrinkle tokens

2) Create a Frozen ice block for excavation

3) Make jewellery out of the ‘jewels’ from our digging

Frozen1

Shrinklesare a staple craft product in our house. If you use the right kind you can print directly onto it saving yourself loads of time and effort.

I Googled Frozen Edible Toppers and printed off one of the groups of images I found there. The ones with the white backgroundcame out better than those with the blue background.

We cut out the circles and used a hole punch to make a hole in each one.

A couple of minutes in the oven, and our Shrinkles become disks.

The kids had fun playing with them as tiddlywinks/coins/whatever else came to mind for a while, before I took them away for part 2.

Frozen3

In an ice cube tray, pop tokens and beads, and fill with water and freeze.

Once they’re frozen, fill a container with the ice cubes and top with cold but not frozen water to freeze again – this is so that the beads and tokens will appear throughout your whole ice block, not just all lying in a layer at the bottom. I found that if we used a really big block the girls lost interest before it was all chiseled away. A soup bowl size works well for a four and two year old though.

Frozen4

Once solid, removed the ice blocks to the water table outdoors and gave each child a garden shovel to use for ‘excavation’. They had a blast banging and knocking and discovering their treasures.

Frozen5Finally, I took blue and white wool – we were out of string, and the wool was sparkly – and made bracelets, a necklace and a ring.

We took a string of each colour and held a side each. Ameli turned to the right, I turned to the left and we twisted the string together. When you let go, the string snaps together, twisting to make a perfect ‘friendship bracelet’.  For the necklace we did that, and just added two beads on the end threading one through the other to attach it.

For the bracelet we threaded the disks through carefully before letting go of the two ends to snap it all together, then just moved them around so that they were placed properly all the way around.

For the ring we use a much smaller amount of string, and a single bead.

Ameli loved it. I had to get her to take it off for bed time, but with the firm promise that she could ‘be Elsa’ again tomorrow.

Does it tie into any learning goals? Well, no. But the kids had fun.

Skills - Sensory Skills - Imagination Skills - Creativity Skills - Fine Motor

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