Note: I wrote this blog post last year, but the same is true this year so I wanted to republish it. Doing this annual Advent Kindness Calendar has always helped both me and my kids stay focused on what is important during the holiday season. Scroll down for the free 9 page printable. And let me know if you decide to do it with your family!
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There isn’t a day leading up to Christmas that we don’t get some sort of catalog or advertisement in our mailbox. My daughter has already circled at least 50 things in the Target catalog, (including all of the candy cane graphics)! Commercials bombard kids with the message that Christmas is all about THEM getting STUFF. It’s hard to raise kind, grateful, children who aren’t entitled, when the culture around us is sending a different message.
We are fortunate enough that my children want for NOTHING. There is nothing they NEED. Sure, there are lots of things they WANT. But, I would rather have them thinking about what they could do for others this season, instead of what to add to their own wish list.
One of the ways we attempt to shift our children’s focus is by doing an Advent Kindness Countdown. This has become a family tradition and it’s been wonderful for the whole family (and waaaaaaayyyy better than remembering to hide an elf every night!!).
The concept is very simple. Each day leading up to Christmas you do one random act of kindness, an activity that involves giving to others, or a fun holiday family activity.
One of my favorite activities we do each year is having the kids buy each other gifts. We all draw names and we give them each $5 and take them to the store Five Below. Each child picks out a gift for their sibling and they keep it a secret until Christmas. It's wonderful seeing them thinking about their sibling's interests, and what kind of gift would make them happy.
Another favorite is taking hot coffee and baked goods to the amazing teachers who stand outside braving the cold, rain and snow during their school's morning carpool. We fill a thermos of coffee, put it in a box with notes from the kids, and hand it off during the morning rush. My kids start asking when we are going to do this before it even hits December 1.
The Lighthouse Homeless Shelter here in Annapolis has a daily need for lunches that they distribute to the homeless. You can sign up to make 5 or 50 lunches. This is an easy activity to do with kids. They can assemble sandwiches and lunches and decorate the brown bags with notes and pictures.
Your kids will seriously love doing these activities, and it will put you all in the right frame of mind by the time December 25 rolls around.
A few words of warning…
1. Plan Ahead
Get out your calendar and plan which activities you will do on certain days. Only do it if you have the time to complete it from start to finish on that day. For example, if you are donating blankets to an animal shelter, make sure you have time that day to take your kids and actually go to the shelter. Call ahead of time to find out their hours and what kind of donations they accept. If you don’t have much time, then stick to the simpler activities that don’t require any work, like, “Give someone a compliment today.”
2. Be Realistic
I only select 1-2 bigger volunteer activities because I know it’s hard to fit in time to do more. Don't do more than you think you can handle this month. Some years are better than others. Do what you can. A little bit is better than nada.
3. Group Things Together
For example, schedule “Make Christmas Cookies” as a family activity on a Sunday, and then follow up the next few days with “Bring cookies to a fire station,” “Bring your teacher coffee and cookies,” and “Ding dong ditch your neighbors and leave a plate of cookies.” If you know you are going to be out running errands on a Saturday, select the "Buy a gift for your sibling" activity for that day.
4. Imperfect is Perfect
Don’t ask, WWMSD (What Would Martha Stewart Do?). It’s really the thought that counts! If you don’t have time to make cookies, buy them. Or meet in the middle and buy the refrigerated dough that you can just pop in the oven. If your kids don’t like to draw, use pictures or art projects they’ve done at school and use them when you write the notes to military and family members.
5. Involve Your Kids
Let your kids do as much as possible. Have them write the notes if they have the skills, have them collect the items to donate from around the house, have them select the holiday movie to watch, etc. You can even encourage them to think of new acts of kindness to add to the calendar. The more involvement, the better.
Kindness Advent Activities Free Printable
To make life easier for you busy moms, I’ve made a free printable that has 9 pages of activities I’ve used in the past, broken into categories (Acts of Giving, Random Acts of Kindness, & Fun Family Activities) and included some blank strips for original ideas. There are many pages, but just use the ones that you like.
You can turn these into a paper chain following the directions below, or add them to another advent calendar you have. In years past we have used a string of hanging bags shown here.
This advent countdown from the Hearth & Hand collection at Target would be perfect as well.
Or, if you aren't doing any activities that require prior planning, just cut out the ideas and put them in a mason jar and have your kids draw them at random!
Click on the image below to download and print all 8 pages
Directions for a Paper Chain Advent Kindness Countdown:
Pick out 24 that you can realistically do and then number them after coordinating with your calendar.
Have your kids cut out the ones you selected into strips.
Make a paper chain
Tear off one act of kindness a day
Feel good that you’re creating a new tradition for your family!
If you live in the Annapolis, Maryland area, here are some local volunteer resources:
Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center
Annapolis Lighthouse Shelter
Annapolis Animal Shelter
Christmas Wish List Printable:
If you are looking for other ways to be intentional this holiday season, download my FREE Christmas Wish List printable HERE.
Keep in Touch!
Let me know how it goes and send me any new ideas you come up with. I'll add them to the list for next year! And if you do decide to implement these ideas with your own family, post on social media using the hashtag #kindnessadventcalendar You can follow me on Instagram HERE.
Need a Gift Idea?
Since we are speaking of giving, if you are needing a special gift for a mom in your life (sister-in-law, friend, or yourself!), check out my School Memory Boxes on my Shop page. They are personalized keepsake boxes to organize and preserve kids' most special artwork and school keepsakes. You can check them out HERE.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with joy and fun family traditions!