Five years ago I made our first Christmas countdown (featured in the photos below). We have modified this over the years as our family has grown.
At the time I made this countdown I had one child who was 2 and very much into collecting treasure. The idea of collecting “treasure” then became the inspiration for our giving and gratitude countdown.
A closer view of some of the boxes:
You can read more about the materials used to make this here.
Initially this countdown was created for our family to focus on what we were thankful for. Each night, in the lead up to Christmas, we spend time reflecting on what we were thankful for that day. Those family members that are old enough to write, record what they are thankful for (we also use photos and drawings for a visual record and younger family members draw pictures of what made them happy each day). For the youngest family members who are unable to write and draw, we document the people, places, events, times, foods, celebrations that make them happy. Sometimes we include objects of beauty in our boxes – heart shaped stone, pretty shells etc) Each night we pop our record for that day into the corresponding numbered box (so if it was 10 days before Christmas, we would place our thoughts, ideas and momentoes into the box labelled “10”)
After Christmas we gather our “treasure” – all that we we were thankful for (in the form of handwritten thoughts, drawings, artwork, photos and momentos) and organised the paper and photos into a scrapbook (the other pieces are kept in a tray in the kitchen). The scrapbooks then becomes a beautiful record of each Christmas.
Now our countdown also includes activities as part of our countdown. (I pop them in the night before, when I am better able to determine what will be doable the following day. My children love to wake up and find out what Christmas themed activity we will be doing that day).
Each year, as our children get older, I slightly modify the activities. This year our activities include:
Our Christmas countdown activities have been divided into the following categories: annual traditions, giving, creating as well as reading and writing.
Annual traditions (some more of our annual traditions are also included in the other categories)
- Record a Christmas interview with a family member (you will find our interview questions here). We have been very fortunate to be able to interview great grandparents about their thoughts and memories on Christmas and have photos with them. Some of these special people in our lives have since passed away and it is so precious to have their thoughts recorded.
- See the Christmas lights
- Create and name a Christmas inspired drink – we have been doing this for several years now. You can see last years (Rudolph’s Delight and Rudolph’s Surprise) here.
- Take our yearly Christmas photo for Christmas card
- Go shopping for Operation Christmas Child – this is where we fill a shoe box with gifts for children in South East Asia and the South Pacific. Gift ideas are listed on their website and include: something to love, something for school, something to to wear, something to play with, something for personal hygiene and something special. My understanding is that they are still accepting donations until next week (after talking to our local drop off centre). Also, they are always seeking volunteers to help process the boxes.
- On Christmas Eve bring baked treats to people who have to work on Christmas day (for example, emergency services personnel – just check if it is ok to do this before hand and if there are any restrictions you need to know about.
- Make festive decorations to decorate the aged care residence where Great Grandpa Ernie resides
- Throughout the year there may be an organisation, or charity, that has supported a family member or friend. At Christmas time take time to remember these and make another cash donation.
- Organise a gift and Christmas card for the postie. Surprise your postie with this gift.
- Ramp up your Random Acts of Kindness. One a day from now until Christmas day.
Creating (some of our “creating activities” also fall into the other categories)
- Make a creative Christmas tree. In the past we have made paper doily Christmas trees which you can see here, sun catcher Christmas trees (see this blog post for details about sun catcher trees) and felt Christmas trees (click here to see our felt Christmas trees)
- Christmas inspired drawings (my children are keen to have another go at our candy cane inspired drawings. You can see last years candy cane drawings here. We will also be doing another version of Santa’s house – you can see last year’s drawings of inside Santa’s house here.
- Bake Christmas inspired and themed goodies. Last year we made some Santa Hat Cupcakes and candy cane bikkies which can be see here.
- Create playdough Christmas themed creations such as a Christmas wonderland
- Make a Christmas garland.
- Get out the paint and get creative. Why not try some finger print Christmas inspired art (our finger print creations from last year can be found here). Make or buy some Christmas themed stamps and create your own Christmas gift wrap (check out our wrapping paper from last year here). Marble paper to create gift wrap (instructions for marbling can be found in this blog post)
- Make a Christmas wreath
- Recycle Christmas cards and make something creative with them.
Reading and Writing
- Read a Christmas book every day from now until Christmas.
- Invite an older family member, or friend, to come over and tell a story about Christmas day when they were a child, or, your chosen relative might like to read one of their favourite Christmas stories.
- Write to Santa.
- Write a family Christmas poem or song to perform with musical instruments.
- Organise to exchange Christmas cards with people in other parts of the world. It’s fun to see the pictures on the Christmas cards from other parts of the world.
- Write and illustrate a Christmas story, alphabet book or counting book (younger children could use Christmas themed stickers to create a counting book)
Not long now until our countdown goes up. My children are already talking about some of the Christmas activities they are most looking forward to.