Counting down and learning lessons

We’re more than halfway through our 25 Days of Christmas advent activities. In fact, Christmas is just a week away. (Oh my that just gave me butterflies in my belly!) I had hoped to update more regularly with the great joy of how successful this new tradition has been and to wow everyone with tales of our family fun. Not so. We’ve certainly had fun with it, and I’m not abandoning the idea for future years, but we’ve learned some lessons to help improve future years.

What I’ve learned so far:

  • When your kids are young (mine are 10 months and 3.5 years) plan to do your activities in the morning whenever possible. Children are eager, happy and easy to please at this time. Many of ours have been post-dinner hour. These have been our least successful activities.
  • Have a back-up plan. The lists are created before December and look so nice on paper, but when reality hits and life takes over you soon realize that what you hoped would work on a given day might not necessarily be the case. This is fine for us because my boys can’t read yet. We can swap out an activity quickly simply by making up an alternative. In future years it won’t be so easy.
  • Keep it simple for little ones. We tried one about the joy of giving. We picked up an angel on our local angel tree to buy gifts for a child in our community who is less fortunate than us. I thought it would be fun to do one for a boy the same age as my oldest. While it was a valuable exercise and something I do every year anyway, trust me when I say my 3-year-old didn’t quite understand. His response when I explained was “and can we buy something for me too.” Plus how do you tell a 3 year old that some children’s parents can’t afford to buy them gifts. This is heavy for anyone, let alone a small child.
  • The most important lesson so far has been the awareness that this is really about doing something fun as a family and for my children. That was my original goal, but in the early days I lost sight of it. I stressed when an activity didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. I tried early on to control things so that they would go as I expected them to. It wasn’t long before the light bulb came on and I realized that the fun comes from the adventure not the result and that the children should take the lead whenever they want. That is what makes it about family and fun.

Despite the kinks it has been an extraordinarily festive way to lead up to Christmas. I’m hooked! My son is too. Every day he anxiously asks “Is it time to open my envelope yet?” I guess it’s working.


7 thoughts on “Counting down and learning lessons

  1. Shan says:

    Last year I planned a lot of "big" activities. This year I've had a hard time getting into the Christmas frame of mind, so the 25 days have been way more low key. I took advantage of some great deals in the Scholastic catalogue via my daughter's school so a lot of nights have had us curling up together to read a new Christmas themed story book.We have an elf, Elwood who visits us and leaves behind a note outlining what the activity is for that day. I love this approach because it's so flexible. The note just appears without rhyme or reason, so I can easily tailor it for the needs of our family. We're all having so much fun with it!

  2. Christine says:

    We have an Elf too, Jingles ( I love your idea of a note each day from him. That would allow the flexibility I need with two small boys and make up for those days when I just don't feel like what we already planned! Great tip.

  3. Sarah says:

    Hey Christine, we didn't do this this year because Q is just too little to appreciate it. However, I wonder if it would work better if you had a list of 25 things but didn't assign specific dates to them – then your kids could check them off as you did them, and they could even choose when they wanted to do the next day (you could always give suggestions, depending on ingredient availability or time needed…)Not sure that would relieve the stress…

  4. Natalie @YMCbuzz says:

    I couldn't agree more – traditions are often the result of an evolution, and what you end up with after all is said and done may not even vaguely resemble what you intended it to be when you started out! But a tradition it will be, and this one sounds like a beauty.Natalie

  5. Amber says:

    I'm glad this is working for you. I would love to do something like this, but I just wasn't able to pull it together.As for helping the less fortunate, my oldest is 4.5 and still doesn't really get it. When we saw the bell-ringer outside our local grocery store, she asked who it was. When I explained that they were collecting money to help people who didn't have much money she said, "Oh! Like me – I don't have much money." Ummm, not quite getting the point. Though she's closer, she's still not quite there.

  6. WannabeMom says:

    Christine, thanks for sharing your insights.As you know, Jason and I are trying for our first. I'm hoping that I am humble enough to learn from other people's experiences.I tend to be a bit of a control freak, and want things to go as planned… obviously that doesn't always lead to fun times even when dealing with adults.

  7. Mommie Daze (Colleen) says:

    We've been trying to do the same thing at our house. A different activity everyday for 25 days. I learned a lot of these same lessons.

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