Sneak peek: Are you trying to focus your kids more on kindness this holiday season? This collection of advent calendar ideas will set you on the right track.
I’ve always loved advent calendars. Something about the idea of tiny boxes, bags or drawers that open up a surprise each morning just takes me back to those childhood memories of anticipating the holiday season. Although I don’t think we even owned an advent calendar in my house growing up, the idea of them just evokes a feeling of holiday coziness.
Fast forward to the present and what was once a religious season, advent has now taken on a not-so-religious connotation in many circles with the onslaught of consumerism-focused advent calendars. From Legos to trinkets to jewelry, the advent tradition has been taken over by “stuff.” Whether you’re religious or not, I think many parents today are beginning to look for advent calendar ideas that take a more meaningful approach to the season.
The holiday season has become an icon of consumerism and overindulgence; why does the advent tradition have to follow this pattern? From a research perspective, we know that raising kids who exhibit kindness and empathy is something we have to intentionally model and discuss. As the saying goes, kindness is “taught, not caught.”
Many parents I know are choosing to use the advent tradition as a time to focus on kindness and acts of service instead. With that in mind and social-emotional development at the forefront, I’ve put together a collection of advent calendar ideas for kids. While some are store-bought and some are homemade, they all focus on fostering kindness and emotional intelligence in kids this season.
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Pre-Made Advent Calendars of Kindness
My Kindness Calendar. The holiday season can be more hectic than most of us would like. Many years I’ve had a goal of making our own acts of kindness advent but school activities, work and other demands on our time take over and I haven’t done it. That’s why I was thrilled to see this high-quality kindness calendar that is now available. The best part–it’s reusable! It’s made from durable materials that will last for years to come. Use code FORMYFRIENDS for 10% off your order.
Wooden Calendar of Kindness. If you and your kids still love opening all those little drawers in an advent calendar, then this is the one for you. It includes 24 Days of Kindness cards to slip into those drawers for each day. You can also purchase just the cards separately to include in your own advent calendar or little holiday bags.
Kindness Countdown Advent Calendar. If your kids love getting mail or opening envelopes then this advent calendar idea will be a hit with them. It includes envelopes, kindness cards and stickers. These could be hung on a string, hidden in a mailbox or all around the house.
The Kindness Elves. Okay, this isn’t exactly an advent calendar but I love the Kindness Elves so much I had to include them. We’ve had these little guys (but they have gals too) in our house for several years and my boys love them. We use them much like an advent calendar of kindness because each day leading up to Christmas, they leave a little note with an idea for an act of kindness the boys can do. They love finding where the elves are hiding each morning. Each of my sons has given theirs a name all their own–Elfie and ElfSong. A lovely tradition to start with your kids (even my 10-year-old still loves his).
Related reading: Fun, Meaningful Kids’ Gifts that Promote Kindness
How Winston Delivered Christmas. This one isn’t really a calendar per se, but a book that can be used as an advent calendar. It is the story of a little mouse named Winston and how his good deeds help save Christmas. It’s broken down into exactly 24.5 chapters so you can read one chapter each day with your kids and complete the fun, seasonal activities included.
The Mouse in the Hammock: This one is more of an activity than a calendar but it is so meaningful. You know in the Night Before Christmas story there was “not a creature stirring, not even a mouse?” Well, this little mouse does stir and brings good deeds with her. Some nights she bends the stockings on the mantel or hangs mistletoe. Another night she fills up the cookie jar. During the day, she sleeps in her little hammock on the Christmas tree. What a fun, new tradition of advent kindness!
A Flurry of Kindness: This is both a book and an activity all in one. Each day of Advent there is a suggested kindness activity (like providing food for winter birds or donating socks to a homeless shelter). Plus each page includes a different snowflake design to cut and fold. The book itself becomes a flurry of snowflakes. Fun idea!
Homemade Advent Calendar Ideas
If you are the more crafty type and want to limit consumerism even more, then a homemade calendar might be the choice for your family. There is a myriad of wonderful, handmade options out there for advent calendar ideas. Here are a few of my favorites:
Acts of Kindness Calendar. This one from Whistle and Ivy is not only attractive to hang on a tree or wall but the kids will love that it still includes a favorite advent tradition–candy! The author, Bethany, includes all you need like printable cards, labels and even a list of kindness ideas. What a great idea!
Reverse Advent Calendar. This one from Passionate Penny Pincher is more of an activity than a calendar. One way we can foster social-emotional development in our kids is through hands-on activities that model the mindset we want to develop in them. This is a perfect example of that. Instead of getting new items each day of the advent season, this activity encourages us to give an item each day. The author chose to give to a food bank but you could change up this activity for any cause that is near to your family’s heart–animal shelter, children’s charity, military families, etc.
Random Acts of Kindness Calendar. For the minimalist families among us, there’s this great, simple printable kindness calendar from Come Back Momma. You can just print out the pre-made calendar or use the blank version and list your own activities. Easy but still effective in instilling a mindset of kindness and service during the holiday season.
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