Using your imagination and design skills this Advent

Posted by Lou Fearn on 19 November 2012 | Comments

Advent should be a time of building excitement and anticipation, and reminding children what Christmas is all about.

There are so many beautiful advent calendars to buy that will last for years and even be passed down to your grandchildren one day. Our children get so much at Christmas so we asked the grandparents to buy an advent gnome by Maileg one year for the following year when they were very small. There are also lots of felt hangings and wooden box arrangements around to choose from.

Choosing or crafting a calendar

In our house the advent gnomes are hidden all year and appear magically on the morning of Dec 1st. A gift then appears each morning of Advent. This requires me remembering or setting a phone alarm each night. If you wrapped the gifts in fabric or socks you could possibly fill all of them in one go. The Advent Gnomes report good and bad behaviour back to Father Christmas!

If you are on a budget, however, you can still get creative at little or no cost. Hang a ribbon or rustic string from a shelf and peg up colourful socks, or decorated envelopes. The children could even decorate and number them themselves for an afternoon’s activity. You can also use circles of fabric or net remnants in festive colours tied with a string and displayed or hung to put gifts in. Pretty festive card pegs can be bought for very little from pound stores.

I buy a lot of my gifts just after Christmas ready for the following year when it is all reduced and I look for small things that will fit in the pockets/pouches/envelopes. Garden centres and card shops sell mini tree decorations, candles etc. Pound stores, supermarkets and stationery shops sell festive stickers, tubes of glitter, party blowers, stampers and cookie cutters. Toyshops and craft shops sell good small pocket money toys and other bits such as card decorations, ribbon, buttons, cake decorations etc. Think about what your child might like to do in the build up to Christmas. Baking, card making, tree decorating, room decorating (window stickers, paper chains), cracker making, and present wrapping are all great activities to get everyone in the festive mood.

You can create this Advent display by collecting twigs and arranging in a vase. Make cornets out of decorated or patterned paper and hang with string or ribbon from branches. You could even use battery-operated fairy lights in the branches.

Other ideas that can be made for little or nothing are as follows:

Gather holly leaves and pinecones for free when you see them lying about if you want to celebrate winter as well as Christmas.

Make pictures of your family by printing images off the computer and putting in mini frames.

Print Christmas poems off the internet. The most famous is ‘The Night Before Christmas’

Make your own mini cracker by wrapping up a sweet or poem in a cracker shape.

Think of traditions that might be fun to explain. Print off a Christmas cookie recipe if you buy the cutters. Explain that chocolate money, oranges and nuts are left at the bottom of the stocking to your little ones. Modern Christmas is based a lot on Charles Dickson’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. He made up a lot of the customs we still use. As your children get older you can pop a trivia question in with each item or on special days or if you buy a gift that is too large you can leave a treasure hunt note/clue and then hide the gift in the room.

50 things to put in an Advent calendar

  • Party blower
  • Tree decorations
  • Paper Chain kit
  • Angel
  • Star
  • Christmas spices
  • Christmas poem
  • Homemade hat and scarf for child’s ted – make from old felted blanket or knit.
  • Mini Mince pie
  • Chocolate coin
  • Christmas magnet
  • Small card making set
  • Letter to Santa pack from supermarket
  • Small sew a Christmas dec set – you can make this up yourself
  • Christmas buttons – in shape of reindeer, penguin, snowman?
  • Instructions for a Christmas game or print your own Christmas Bingo set.
  • Quiz
  • Cheap Christmas theme socks
  • Pencils/pen with snowmen or reindeers on
  • Christmas Recipe
  • Mini cracker or make own mini cracker - print off internet
  • Edible Glitter tube for Christmas baking
  • Mini candy canes
  • Chocolate Christmas shapes

Some of these gifts such as the nativity statues I save and re-use each year. The children look forward to old favourites. I also buy nets of foil wrapped chocolates for odd sweets treats and I try and make a plan of which item I am going to give on each day so that they coincide with time to do craft (weekends) trips to see Father Christmas or tree decs the day we put up the tree. It makes it all more relevant and is much easier when you are fumbling around at 4am having realised that you still have to pop something in the calendar before the little darlings wake up!