It’s almost here…

…the most wonderful time of the year, that is!  I cannot adequately describe how much I love the holidays, and having kiddos to share them with has made them even more amazing these past several years.  We do a lot of special things during the month of December to celebrate the season and to get into the spirit, and last year we started what I hope will become a tradition for many years to come.  We embarked on a “25 Days of Christmas” project.  There are always so many fun and memorable things I want to do with our kids around Christmastime, and I thought it would be fun to do those things in a special way and turn it into almost a month-long experience for them.  Of course I had this epiphany at the eleventh hour, though, so on the night of November 30th, I compiled a list of 25 activities I wanted to do with our kids between December 1st and Christmas day.  It took some time thinking of age-appropriate activities that they could both do, and then when I was done, I had to go through my calendar and figure out when we could do each one, as we didn’t want to have “bake Christmas cookies” fall on a school night when we also had gymnastics and homework and reading and dinner and baths and…all those fun things.  Once I nailed down the timing for everything, I wrote each activity on a small slip of paper and put each paper in its own envelope.  The envelopes were numbered from one through 25, so I was able to go through my list pretty easily (after having gone through my calendar already and marking down what days we would do everything) and match the slips of paper to their corresponding envelope numbers.  With the envelopes all ready to go, I was exhausted (from doing this at the last minute) and ready for bed…but I was so excited for the kids to discover our “25 Days” project in the morning.

Starting with envelope 1, my little Roo and Bubba took turns each day finding the right envelope to open among the stack of them and opening them.  Big sister got to read all of the activities since Bubba only thought he could read at that time, which still holds true this year.  We had so much fun doing all of the activities those 25 days, and I was able to turn it into a personal photography project of sorts, too, as I documented each day in some way with one photo.  Capturing only one photo allowed me to really focus on the true meaning of the project…to spend time as a family, to create special holiday memories with our kids, to start a new family tradition, and to focus on what’s most important about the Christmas season.  I wasn’t caught up in documenting every aspect of every activity, and I loved it.  I loved being truly present with our kids during this experience, and I can’t wait to bring this tradition back this holiday season.

I mentioned on my Facebook page today that we’re going to be doing things a little differently this year in that we’ll be putting the slips of paper in the advent calendar pockets instead of in envelopes.  As much as I loved the envelopes, I want to adopt a ‘less is more’ philosophy about the holidays this year as often as we can, and I figured that cutting out advent calendar candy and junky toys that we usually put in there would be a great way to implement that philosophy.  I think it’ll be a lot of fun, too, for little Roo and Bubba to check out the advent calendar each day to discover what activity we get to do.

When I posted about this this morning on my Facebook page, I asked who would like to join me, and I’ve been blown away by the response all day!  I’m even more excited to get things started now this year knowing that so many of us will be doing this together, and I’m really excited to be making plans so far in advance this time around!  Several of you asked on my Facebook page about my list from last year, so here we go…

  • make handprint Christmas trees on canvas
  • make pinecone/peanut butter bird feeders
  • make a foam Santa Claus decoration (inexpensive craft project from Michaels)
  • have a family holiday movie night with popcorn
  • visit the lights and holiday decorations at Crown Center (local Kansas City attraction)
  • make holiday cards for teachers
  • take a ‘lightseeing’ drive in the car with blankets and hot cocoa (this probably topped my kids’ lists of their favorite activity)
  • bake brownies and bring them to Daddy’s office
  • make jingle bell wreaths
  • write letters to Santa
  • decorate a gingerbread house
  • buy canned goods for a local food pantry, and deliver them
  • go on a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt around the house
  • make snowmen names for bedroom doors (we had one white construction paper snowball for each letter of my kids’ names that we glued vertically on colored construction paper that had been stapled together, and then they got to decorate the snowmen with sticks for arms and ribbons for scarves)
  • paint Christmas suncatchers (another inexpensive craft project from Michaels)
  • make our own snow globes (thank you, Pinterest!)
  • cut Christmas trees out of large foam sheets and “trim” the trees with foam stickers
  • make Christmas scene pictures from fingerprints
  • decorate our own Christmas tree
  • go on our annual ornament and hot cocoa outing
  • build indoor snowmen (we brought snow in on trays and made mini snowmen in the house…they didn’t last long!)
  • decorate Christmas cookies
  • make stuffed gingerbread men (we cut out two construction paper gingerbread people per child, decorated them, and then stapled all around them, leaving an opening at the top; we filled them with cotton balls and then stapled the top closed)
  • read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ on Christmas Eve
  • open presents, and enjoy the day as a family!

And I couldn’t complete this post without sharing several pics from our activities last year.  This isn’t all of the pics, of course, but hopefully they’ll get your wheels turning about the fun activities you can do with your own family during a “25 Days of Christmas” project this year!

  • Dani - I love this so much!!! I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year! <3 You are such an amazing mama.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - Ashley, this is seriously so awesome! My hubby and I going to be out of town until the 14th, so I will have to think up things we can do with the kids through Skype or whatever until we get back, but I am determined to find a way to do it. Thank you so much for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Jill Cassara - ADORE! My kids might be just a bit too young for me to pull this off and actually enjoy it but count me in for next year!ReplyCancel

  • Katy - I love this Ashley! We only started last year too, but it really made our Christmas. We couldn’t believe how much we had done, once we looked back at the pictures and I just documented them with iPhone snaps at the time … hoping to use my big camera this year!
    I made an elf from this pattern: http://www.etsy.com/listing/112979303/elf-doll-pdf-patterntutorial?ref=shop_home_active … and he carried a little bag that we placed the slips of paper into each evening, before we hid him in the house. (We kind of tied the elf and advent calendar together that way … and he isn’t a visiting-from-the-North-Pole kind of elf … the kids know that it is us just having some fun, and I’m pleased because, when the game is up with Santa, we’ll still have some elf fun). We were able to choose a simple, or more involved activity, from the list, depending on how busy the next day was going to be. My husband and I put the list together one evening over a glass of wine. We came up with some similar ones to you … and had a lot of help from Pinterest. 🙂
    We had things like:
    Make paper snowflakes (which I then sewed together to make garlands).
    Unwrap and read a new Christmas story.
    Donate a gift to someone in need.
    Memorize all of the names of Santa’s reindeer.
    Choose a new decoration together.
    Make elf donuts (Cheerios dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles).
    Go out and see the Christmas lights.
    Draw a Christmas scene.
    Listen to Christmas music.
    Make snow globes (this was their favorite!).
    Hand out class treats to your friends (we did the reindeer noses you see on Pinterest).
    Make Christmas cards for your teachers.
    Make reindeer food.
    Make a gingerbread house and decorate it.
    Watch Polar Express.
    Can’t remember the rest off the top of my head but I will be needing some new ideas for this year too, so I’m very happy that you are doing this – yay! Thanks, Ashley. xReplyCancel

  • beckie - What a fabulous idea! thanks for sharing Ashley! <3ReplyCancel

  • susu - I am SO proud of the amazing Mama YOU are — it was SO fun to see the pics of last year again !! —– this project is just VERY, VERY special — I’m so happy you are sharing the FUN with others this year !!ReplyCancel

  • Heather Lathrop Chang - Ashley! Thanks for the inspiration! I can’t wait to do this with my boys! And it will really finish off my 365 with some festive pictures!ReplyCancel

  • Charity - What a wonderful idea! I’m really looking forward to participating. I just started a Project 365 on November 1st and this will be a wonderful way for me to stay on top of in the during the busy holiday season as well as build some great memories with my kids.ReplyCancel

  • Our Home at Christmas » Natural Family Child Photographer Kansas City Ashley Spaulding Photography - […] Our advent calendar from Garnet Hill. It’s felt, too. I love it. We count down to Christmas with our calendar instead of counting up; that way, the kids can look at the calendar each day and see exactly how many days are left until Christmas Day. I write our ’25 Days of Christmas’ activities on little slips of paper and put them in each day of the calendar. Our kids love opening the calendar every morning to see what we’re doing that day. I share more about our ’25 Days of Christmas’ project from past years in this blog post and in this one. […]ReplyCancel

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