The OMC alternative to Advent Calendars.
I’m sorry I've been trying to hold off from the Christmas posts, but honestly I just can't wait. It’s too exciting and also sometimes you need a bit of time to prep…that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
Many of us will be heading to buy a chocolate advent calendar in the next few weeks. In our family they were as much part of Christmas as putting up the Christmas tree. I never liked 'posh' advent calendars they lacked the randomness that cheap ones had and without that it just wouldn’t be Christmas. I mean, who ever opened a branded chocolate advent calendar to find a random picture of a lion behind it? Ah yes the lion, that iconic Christmas symbol that always made it into the cheap budget calendar!!
N.B. If the lion is an iconic Christmas symbol in some way please let me know so that I can educate my ignorance!
When we had the Coffee Beans though this chocolate calendar tradition stopped. Not because we were worried about the amount of sugar they were consuming but because they both had milk allergies and so chocolate was off the menu. There are some lovely free from dairy advent calendars but they are twice the price (if not more) and the chocolate pieces in them are huge! This might not seem such a bad thing, but if you've never had free from chocolate before you won't know that lots of it doesn’t melt in the same way as milk chocolate, you sort of have to suck it to get the same effect! We tried one of these calendars once and my eldest Coffee Bean would end up with chocolate dribbled everywhere by the time he’d finished one piece!
I decided, resourceful mother that I am, that I should find an alternative but the sticking point was that I am also incredibly frugal (in other words cheap!). There are lots of alternatives out there but they can really add up in cost. Nowadays theres playmobil, lego, make up, beer and even cereal and cheese advent calendars, not both together though I might add! But what do you do when none of them are suitable? Well, theres always the fillable options, but the cheapest thing to fill them with that first springs to mind is...yes, chocolate and sweets! So I had to be inventive. I thought about jigsaw puzzles pieces, one piece each day but knowing that its going to take 24 days to compete a puzzle I thought might be a little hard on young children who can barely keep focus for 2 minutes! I also wanted something that they could do, that would keep them occupied. I thought about the book idea of one book a day but again we just didn’t have the budget.
Instead I came up with the idea of an activity calendar. I will say now they also sell these in the shops but they aren’t always tailored towards your children’s age and ability level and I wanted something they could do themselves. For those of you who don’t know me my job before having children was a primary school teacher. You learn to be creative (and quick) with various computer programs to create activity sheets so I thought I would play to my strengths and headed straight to the computer!
I knew in my head what I wanted and it wasn’t long before I had created my template. Being frugal I wasn’t about to use 24 sheets of paper, so I made 2 days fit on one sheet and because I also like things to look nice and I wanted the bottom to line up nicely I also made one side upside down. This way the cut edge was always at the top and I could hide it underneath a nice piece of tape or ribbon. I say that, it was always the plan to make them look 'amazing'…it didn’t happen I just left the wobbly cut edge on show!!
Each day has the date on it as a traditional advent calendar would, but it also has a count down of how many sleeps. I’ve spent enough time with children to know that although they understand the system of dates they’re actually only really bothered about how many sleeps it is until the big day! This way it combined the two. Then all I had to do was add in some daily activities. This could be anything that your little one enjoys doing, a colouring, a drawing, a word search or even a different activity like singing a Christmas song together.
Once you've added all of your activities and printed them out you cut them in half along the dotted line and then fix them at the top. We’ve found the easiest way is to hold them with a peg or bulldog clip and then you can take a page out each day. I had actually bought a perforating tool so that I could staple the top and make perforated lines along the top of each page then they could rip a sheet of each day. Let's be honest for a second though, we all know this idea never made it to fruition! When you’ve got all these things going on in life, and we’re not all super-mums, sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself and choose the easiest and quickest route, even if it does feel like cheating!
After making these for a few years I now have an age appropriate activity calendar for each age up to 6 years old. Each year I simply make a new one tailored towards the big Coffee Bean and the little Coffee Bean I just print out the one for his age - there really is very little work to this for such a brilliant end result!
My Coffee Beans love these calendars. Each day they look forward to doing an activity and that’s 10 minutes where I know they are occupied and enjoying themselves. More importantly it’s 10 minutes where they’re not creating complete havoc as tired children in the Christmas season tend to have a habit of doing! It's happy days all round with an activity calendar. It's cheap, simple, entertaining and also sticking the pages up once they've done them kind of decorates the house too!
Since I like to share I have added you a downloadable template of the OMC alternative advent calendar at the bottom of the page. It doesn’t have all the activities on it because they will be specific to you, but they are really easy to put together. All I do to find them is type what I am for into google and search through google images - none of this reading malarkey I only work on pictures! There are lots of websites that offer free kids Christmas activities that you can usually cut and paste from, so when I find something I like I take a copy and paste it onto the page I want. If you want any ideas about activities to use (I've not mentioned them all in here as there are just so many) send me a quick message and tell me the age of your child and I will happily get back to you with some ideas about what you could use.
Incase you’re wondering they don’t miss out on the treat of chocolate either, we have what we call ‘The Christmas Hamper’ but that’s a whole different post!
OMC alternative Advent Calendar template.
If there's anything you would like to see on the blog in the future, send me a message, I’d love to hear your ideas.