As promised, here are more cloth advent calendar activity ideas. Some ideas have instructions or suggestions to help you get started. If you don't have an advent calendar with pockets yet, there's still time for order and delivery before December 1st. Have fun!
- Make place cards for your family's Christmas dinner.
Cut card stock into 4 x 4-inch squares, fold in half, print the name, then decorate with crayons, markers, or colored pencils. You can also get fancy and decorate with buttons or pom-poms, or natural items like acorn caps or tiny pine cones.
- Make wrapping paper.
Purchase a roll of brown paper from the post office. Trace or free-hand cut various sizes of stars from Styrofoam egg cartons and glue them onto empty spools or wooden blocks. Unroll the brown paper on the floor and weight it down. "Paint" the stamps with gold acrylic paint using a small paint brush or use a gold small pad and stamp it randomly on the paper. Let it dry, then re-roll and use all season!
- Visit Santa Claus.
Yes, this might mean a trip to the mall.
- Pick up Grandma and Grandpa or an older friend who might not get out much, and drive around to look at Christmas lights.
- Make graham cracker "ginger-bread" houses.
Graham cracker gingerbread houses with quick "royal icing" to glue them together:1 lb. powdered sugar [sifted if lumpy]
4 tsp. meringue powder [cake decorating section of AC Moore, Michael's or any large craft store]
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. almond, vanilla or lemon extract
Mix with a hand or stand mixer until icing is smooth and thin enough to smooth onto graham cracker edges without running off. Placing the icing in plastic squeeze bottles with small, pointed tips makes it easy for small hands to pipe icing on graham crackers. M&Ms, gumdrops, chocolate chips, Necco wafers, string licorice and peppermint candies are good decorating candies.
- Take a moon-lit or starry night walk.
- Make jingle-bell bracelets.
Beads, jingle bells, and pipe-cleaners - all at a crafts store - can be transformed into fun holiday "jewelry."
- Everyone wears red and green today. Take a picture, print several, write a note on the back and there are your Christmas cards.
- Take a plate of cookies or small basket of fruit to a neighbor.
- Call some friends and go caroling; end up back at your home for hot chocolate and cookies.
- Have a regular week-night dinner beside the Christmas tree by candlelight.
- Make reindeer food.
Mix together 3 1/2 c. unsalted mixed nuts. (I used 1 1/2 c. walnuts, 1 c. pecans, and 1 cup whole almonds.) Toast nuts lightly in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 7 minutes or so. Cool completely. Set oven at 325 degrees. Place 1 stick (or 1/2 cup) butter on baking sheet with 1" sides, and place in the oven to melt. Whip 2 room-temperature egg whites until stiff, and add 1 cup sugar and pinch of salt gradually over a minute or so, until meringue is stiff and glossy. Fold in cooled nuts until the nuts are completely coated. Spread over the the melted butter in the pan and bake for 30 minutes, stirring (flipping with a spatula seemed to work better than a "stir" motion!) every 10 minutes. About 3 minutes before the nuts are done, melt 10 oz. white chocolate chips or 1 1/2 c. white chocolate wafers in the microwave on high for two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until melted completely. Remove meringue-covered nuts from the oven and drizzle the white chocolate over the nuts, flipping them over with a spatula until they all have some white chocolate on them. Spread on waxed paper to harden, then break up into smaller pieces. (It takes a few hours to "dry" completely.)
- Go to a holiday concert or Messiah sing-a-long.
- Host a Christmas sweater party.
They don't need to be ugly - just Christmasy!
- Dress up fancy for dinner at home.
- Make a gift for your child's teacher(s).
Here's a simple recipe that kids can help with - "Five Bean Soup Mix:"Assemble;
1 lb. each dried pinto beans, split green peas, great northern beans, black beans and kidney beans,
1 Tbsp. each black pepper, paprika and dry mustard,
2 Tbsp. each dehydrated onions (find in the spice aisle), sea salt, garlic powder and dried oregano,
1 tsp. dried rosemary,
8 bay leaves,
4 vegetable (or chicken) bouillon cubes and
four clear glass quart jars with lids.
In each of the four jars, layer 2/3 cup pinto beans, then shake gently to settle the beans. Repeat with 2/3 cup green peas, northern beans, black beans, and ending with kidney beans. Set jars aside. In a small bowl combine all spices except bay leaves and bouillon cubes; stir well. On a 10x10 piece of parchment or snack-sized zip-lock-type baggies, spoon scant 3 Tbsp. of the spice mixture into the middle. Place two bay leaves and a bouillon cube on top and fold parchment around spices to make a small packet. Seal with tape. Repeat with remaining spice mix to make four packets. Press one packet into the top space of each jar. Place lids on jars and make a label with the following:
"Five Bean Soup instructions: Remove spice packet and set aside. Rinse beans and place in a large pot with water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil one minute. Cover, remove from heat and let soak for 1 hour. Drain and rise beans; return to pot. Add spice packet, 1 14oz. can diced tomatoes and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until beans are tender and soup is thick."
- Listen to the music from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite."
- Put a wreath on your door.
- Have breakfast for dinner.
Pancakes? Scrambled eggs and toast?
- Make an easy Christmas tree ornament.
Pipe cleaner trees: you'll need long pipe cleaners and pony beads, or spare buttons with big holes. Form the pipe-cleaner into a zig-zag Christmas tree shape - skinny at the top and wider at the bottom. Place pony beads or buttons at intervals on the pipe cleaner tree to resemble Christmas decorations on a tree. Tie a thin ribbon or yarn loop on the top. Glue a small wooden or plastic star, or a bright button, on the top to hide the ribbon knot, and hang it on the tree.
Finally, when you've chosen all the activities and the days they go on, print all 24 of your choices on squares of colored paper (double-sided scrapbook paper is really nice.) Fold them so that they fit in your advent calendar pockets, and mark them with the appropriate date. Slip them in the calendar when your family isn't looking, and on December 1st, hang it up. Now you and your family are ready to have fun counting down to Christmas!