I decided a few years ago we weren't going to be an Elf on the Shelf family each year the holidays rolled around. But with Nerd having turned 2 in October, I wanted to try to start some kind of fun holiday tradition (sans badly-behaved elf), so I gave the advent calendar a try. I looked up all kinds of activity ideas--baking cookies, making crafts, donating old clothes and toys--for each day of the month leading up to Christmas Eve. Then I cut and pasted pretty number print outs to card stock and hung them neatly for Nerd to pull off each day. I was psyched.
The month started out strong. Nerd reminded me it was "time to pick a number" whenever I brought her home from the sitter. She also tried pulling down 3 or 4 at a time or skipped the search for the correct number and would pull one at random. It made for fun teachable moments, including Nerd learning what patience is all about.
But between my hours at work, being a mommy, and then falling ill with a stomach virus (which was almost immediately followed by the flu), most of the advent actictivities were ignored. I didn't have it in me to carry my own child up the stairs, much less set up a painting activity for Day #10 when I'm hugging the toilet and fearing an ER visit.
When I was finally out of at-home quarantine and allowed to touch my kid without having to wear rubber gloves and a surgical mask, I began to wing it with the activities. Candlelit bubble bath in the master bath. Go out to dinner as a family. Call Nana on FaceTime.
There was one activity, though, that we both ended up liking. It was so stinking easy, and it tested Nerd's number recognition, making it a craft that was educational. Here's what I used:
•one sheet of green construction paper
•one black Sharpie marker
•10 or more brightly-colored circle stickers
Then in my very best 6-year-old-level freehand, I drew an outline of a Christmas tree. I numbered 10 of the stickers 1-10, followed by writing the same numbers all over the tree, but out of order.
I could see this educational craft done a number of ways. You could change the numbers to letters, shapes, animals, or sight words, depending on the age of your child. You also wouldn't have to make the background a Christmas tree. It could be just a blank sheet of paper, or all you parents with actual art skills (the ones I lack) could go wild and make a detailed scene at the aquarium or in the woods.
As for next year, I might cop out and get Nerd a store-bought advent calendar with punch-out doors and tiny chocolates. The daily activities can be pared down to the weekends and days Mommy isn't ralphing hot wings.