Okay, jumping into new territory…


If you happen to be new here and are considering subscribing for my fantastic and helpful DIY tutorials… feel free to subscribe, but this is totally not my shtick, so, you know… lower your expectations. I can’t even spell DIY some days, much less do it, photograph it, write about it.

Here’s the story:

A few Christmastimes ago, when I only had two babies and they were one and a half and almost three, I decided I wanted to do something festive for Christmas to set apart this season as both fun and sacred.

But it had to be SIMPLE, because I didn’t have the brain space with my pair-o-toddlers to do anything crazy.

It had to be LOW PREP because, well, it’s me.

It had to be LIMITED MESS, because, as we’ve established, I try to skip stuff that makes me crazy.

In a fit of crafty madness, I built this Advent calendar.


(There are 24 places for 24 bags, but I had a heckuvatime getting a picture. This is the idea.)

You can do something like that if you really want to, but I’m telling you it’s totally overkill. It can be as simple as a little basket with 24 envelopes.


(Kidding. Those are totally birth announcements. For the baby born this last JULY. But this would work, too.)

Or a string hung across a wall with bags. Or a paper chain with an activity written on the back of each link. (But this requires you think ahead, so I wouldn’t.) Or a daily post-it note stuck on the table. Seriously. Whatever works for you. The delivery method is not the point here. Go find something on Pinterest if you want it cute.

Here’s how it works:

I came up with a list of holiday activities. (This is the hard part and the part that I DID FOR YOU, you’re welcome.)

Then I either am SUPER organized pick an activity for every day and put the appropriate slips of paper in each bag (this was how year one went) OR I look at the ones that involve some kind of scheduling, pick convenient days for those, and then tackle the rest week by week. Or day by day. Whatever. (This has been my angle for years two and three. And again this year.) I just make sure the paper is in the envelope before the appointed time. (We typically do it at dinner, unless I’m doing a daytime activity for the day.) (There was that one time I left my parents with them for a work Christmas party and I got a call: “We opened the advent bag. It’s empty. What do I do?” Feed them marshmallows, that’s what.)

I love this system because it meets all my criteria, and most of all, because, framed appropriately, it all either celebrates or points to the coming of Jesus.

Also? It alleviates a lot of holiday angst. There are so many good things to do, but only a few that I have capacity to handle. This ensures I’m doing something (sorta) special with them every day, which helps me feel okay about letting the rest go.

So here’s the list I’m working from this year. It’s longer than 24 items long, because I like to have options. And perhaps so do you. It’s geared toward my family (with four kids 0-5) and life (in Alaska where it’s very cold, but the snow is too dry to make a snowman. Because you’d better believe that would be on there if it could be.) Adapt as you like. And feel free to improvise as you go… if something fun comes up that will work for the day’s activity? Just swap slips. Did something go awesome and you want to do it again? Be my guest.

Aside: basically any time you read the word “story” in this list, I’m referring to my favorite children’s Bible. There are exactly 24 stories from creation through the birth of Jesus, and every story points to Christ. We read it often, but in December, we start at the beginning and read one per night. Sometimes this is part of the advent activity (“read story by the Christmas tree”) and sometimes it isn’t.

  • Check out Christmas books from the library
  • Read stories by the kerosene lamp
  • Make s’mores (Did you know you can roast marshmallows on a fork over a toaster? You totally can. You’re welcome.)
  • Make a popcorn garland
  • Have cake-in-a-bowl*
  • Eat a candy cane
  • Enjoy egg nog
  • Bake cookies with Daddy
  • Read stories by the light of the Christmas tree
  • Read stories in a blanket fort
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Mail Christmas packages (Yes, you can pass off errands as activities! “We’re GIVING! YAY!!!”)
  • Bring cookies to Daddy at work
  • Go to the children’s museum in Christmas dresses. Or jammies.
  • Pick toys and books to donate
  • Go Christmas caroling (We go to my folks’ house or his mom’s.)
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • Make Christmas cards for grandparents
  • Have a dance party to Christmas music
  • Act out Nativity story
  • Wear Christmas dresses (or jammies) while running errands
  • Pick out Christmas socks
  • Color wrapping paper (I stumbled upon a roll of color-in wrapping paper a couple years ago. Otherwise, a roll of butcher paper or newsprint could suffice.)
  • Family movie night
  • Read stories by candlelight
  • Read Luke 2 by the tree
  • Go to a candlelight service
  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Shop for sibling gifts
  • Make popcorn
  • Make snow angels
  • Make Resurrection Rolls (Because the baby in the manger means nothing without the empty tomb.)

*cake in a bowl: 
Mix one box of cake mix with one box of instant pudding (I use chocolate and chocolate.) Store in a ziplock bag.

To make, combine in a bowl:
1/2c mix
1T oil
1T water
1 egg

Microwave for 60 seconds on high. (Test it to make sure it’s done- different microwaves cook differently.) Top with ice cream. 


There you have it. Advent fun, the easy way.

What other activities would you add? What works for you?

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. This is just SO adorable! My kiddies are a little old for the cuteness involved here, but I would have loved it back in the day! All ideas encouraging us to slow down and prepare our hearts for Christmas are precious! Thanks for sharing 🙂 A fellow Hope*Writer attempting to focus on Advent…


  2. I am SO going to use this… once my child has the ability to notice it’s Christmas! For the color-in Christmas paper (great idea!) I will use the roll of brown packaging paper I have laying around! I miss you and love reading your work-your low-key, easy-oriented style is perfect for me!


    1. That’s perfect! And I’m glad this connects. (That’s kind of a big deal to me- that this resonates with somebody.) I miss you, too. I hope you guys are doing well there… and I wish there and here were closer.


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