Fill Your Advent Calendar With Books and Family Time

One of our favorite parts of celebrating the holidays with our kiddos is building on the seasonal traditions we grew up with. Inspired by so many of our friends who are creating new traditions for their little ones, we teamed up with Jamie Dorobek of Creating Really Awesome Free Things (C.R.A.F.T.), an awesome crafter and mom to toddler, Maxwell, with a daughter on the way, as she creates all new holiday traditions and memories for her family. Jamie came up with a fun take on Advent calendars that replaces tiny chocolates with books and quality family time. Take it away, Jamie! 


One of my fondest childhood Christmas memories is doing the Advent calendar with my five siblings. The anticipation of what was hiding in the next pocket and the countdown to Christmas was so much fun! I’ve been extra excited about starting an Advent calendar tradition with my son, Maxwell, this holiday season.


I decided I wanted to make our calendar a little more interactive and include family activities, books, and treats to hide in the pockets each day. I fell in love with the giant, hand-painted, winking Santa advent from Pottery Barn Kids. It’s an Advent calendar and a beautiful holiday decoration. I also love that the pockets are camouflaged and that the child has to “hunt” for the correct day. It adds another element of fun to the Advent tradition!


To make the paper inserts for each pocket, I used card stock and cut 25- 2” x 3” strips of paper and then curved one end with scissors. I wanted the card to stick out of each pocket just a little bit. On each of the cards, I wrote things I’d like to do as a family this holiday season, kind of like a Christmas bucket list. I made some cards very simple like: “Dance to Christmas songs” and “Mail Grandma a card.” As well as some more involved activities like: “Bake Christmas Cookies” and “Visit Santa Claus.” For a few of the cards, I even just wrote: “Enjoy a candy cane” and placed a candy cane in the pocket. It’s also fair to note that you should plan your advent accordingly, for instance, the “Watch a Christmas Movie” card should probably land on a weekend night, and not a school night.


For 12 of the pockets, I wrapped up 12 Christmas-themed books. On these cards I wrote: “Unwrap gift with this design…” and drew the design that was on the wrapping paper onto the bottom of the card. Like this:


So, Maxwell had to match the star design on the card to the star design on the gift to find the correct one to open. Each of the books was wrapped in brown kraft paper, doodled on with a Sharpie marker, and tied with red yarn. I love the idea of reading a Christmas book together before bed! Best of all, you can collect Christmas books every year and maybe, one day, have enough to do an entire Advent calendar with books.


Maxwell is really enjoying the Advent calendar. He points and squeals at the “choo-choo” in the bottom right corner and loves to reach into the pockets to find treasures. I had no idea he loved candy canes so much! I also really love that our Advent tradition encourages reading and family time!


For a giant list of possible holiday-themed family activates to include on your advent calendar, visit C.R.A.F.T.!

Photography by:

Sarah Schiffman Photography

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