The tradition for our family’s Giving and Gratitude Christmas countdown started in 2008. I was on a mission with this one – two more children later and our countdowns have been simplified and are now made by our three cherubs.

This was our very first Giving and Gratitude Countdown:

 The materials used:

  • Treasure boxes (from the local craft store) – they needed to be assembled
  • Festive embellishments- stickers, gems, ribbon
  • Foam board to attach the treasure boxes
  • Green paint
  • Ribbon to attach the treasure boxes (I wanted to be able to remove the boxes so I tied them to the board)
  • Gold sticker numbers

A closer look at some of the treasure boxes:

How we have used our Giving and Gratitude Countdown:

During our countdown, at the end of each day, we have a turn at reflecting on the day and saying what we were thankful for (given that we’ve always had a baby while doing this we take note of something that our baby particularly enjoyed that day). The members of the family that are able to write down their thoughts do so, otherwise we have used drawings to illustrate what we are thankful for (or I write down verbatim what the children say). We keep these handwritten thoughts in each box of our countdown. I am also very mindful during this time of year to capture (by way of photos) celebrations, events, foods, our family creating together (arts, crafts and baking) and include these photos in our treasure boxes too. We also place any objects of beauty -shells we find, an unusual shaped leaf, vibrant flower etc  as well as tickets or any mementos from special occasions in the boxes. After Christmas (ok sometimes this happens well into the New year)I collate everything in the boxes into a book and then we have a treasured record of our family for each festive season.

Each box also holds a festive activity to do in the lead up to Christmas (I’ve learnt to put these in the night before and choose something that will be manageable for the following day). The activities have changed over the years but are divided into the following categories: traditions, giving, creating, sensory and reading/writing.

Some of our favourites have been:


  • Make a Christmas Countdown
  • Interview a family member about their thoughts on Christmas
  • Make a creative Christmas tree
  • Write and decorate a poem titled Christmas (because my children are young we have done list poems using sentence starters) The idea is to brainstorm your thoughts about Christmas. What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? Think: Who? (Who do you think of at Christmas time?) What? (What do you do? What do you eat? Etc.) Where? (Which places do you visit at Christmas time) and Why? (Why does Christmas exist? Why is it special?)
  • Create a Christmas tot-tail (which involves inventing a festive looking drink using the fruits of the season)
  • See the Christmas lights (if possible with three generations)

Giving Activities:

  • Make decorations for a nursing home
  • Make a gift and deliver it to the family doctor
  • Buy two Christmas books – one for you and one for a friend
  • Create a Christmas basket/box of love for someone who may be sad or lonely at Christmas. Come up with twelve special items for this person to enjoy during the twelve days leading up to Christmas.
  • Bake Christmas treats for your neighbours – the joy is in the giving!
  • Make gifts for teachers you have had throughout the year.

Creative Activities (some creative activities are included in the other categories too):

  • Ask a Grandparent, Aunty, Uncle or family friend to cook one of their favourite Christmas recipes with you, or teach you a Christmas craft from their childhood.
  • Use materials from the recycled box to create a Christmas ornament
  • Make a Christmas wreath
  • Let your imagination run wild as you think of creative ways to paint your nails for Christmas

Sensory Activities:

  • Go on a nature walk taking in the sights and smells this Christmas season
  • Set up a Christmas themed sensory tub

Reading/Writing (some more examples for this category are included in our traditions):

  • Write a letter to Santa
  • Listen to the story of Saint Nicholas
  • Read a Christmas book every morning
  • Invite a relative or friend to bring one of their own favourite Christmas stories to you to read.

A fun countdown that may (or may not) involve activities becomes a much anticipated tradition and cherished memory for the family.