With so many added events and celebrations, a family’s Advent routine can be anything but. Renew your Advent focus with 15 creative family traditions designed to keep your eyes fixed on Bethlehem, not a screen.
Screen time is a blessing and a curse. Through games and programs like Minecraft and Scratch, my girls have built elaborate cities and coded fantastic animations. My four-year-old learned to read thanks to Starfall. And honestly, it’s a welcome distraction for the kids when I need to get something done (like right now. Ahem.).
But screen time only remains a blessing when it fits into the structured framework of our day. When Advent rolls around, that framework starts to fray at the seams.
We have extra events.
More difficult school days.
To cope, we end up with our noses in a device, sitting idly by as the God of the universe knits the infant Jesus in his mother’s womb.
If our Lord and Savior is busy creating, shouldn’t we be doing the same?
Advent is the perfect time to honor the Christ child through the work of our hands. Our creations model those of God’s, and while they are but a fraction of the magnificence he has created, they are a worthwhile, tradition-building venture.
Fifteen Creative Advent Traditions
This is a perennial favorite in our house. We’ve done shapes, handprints, stamping – you name it, we’ve created it. This is especially good for children with sensory aversions, as working the dough helps normalize certain sensations.
A huge favorite of mine from childhood, from making God’s eyes to sewing on cardstock.
Styrofoam, sequins and push pins
Growing up, one of my favorite ornaments on the tree was a sparkly bauble my grandmother made. To create it, she attached sequins to a styrofoam ball with pushpins. My mother still hangs this ornament on her tree, and I look forward to introducing the concept to my children this Advent. It’s a time-consuming process with a product well worth the effort (try praying the St. Andrew Novena while you pin!).
Before there were peg dolls, there were clothespin dolls. My mother has an entire regiment of toy soldiers, all handmade by a friend of hers. Inspiration abounds on the web, from reindeer and snowmen to the Holy Family. They are the perfect craft to make and give.
Pipe cleaners and beads
Have a toddler or preschooler? This activity is just right for that age range. The large beads are easy to grasp, and the pipe cleaner provides a sturdy mechanism for threading. Older children can make more delicate designs with craft wire and seed beads. The product is only limited by your imagination.
Hands down, my Christmas favorite. My mother and I used to make these together in the kitchen; now the girls and I live out white Christmas dreams in powdered sugar. They are melt-in-your-mouth, buttery goodness.
My great aunt Avery Mae passed down a recipe for fudge that is as fantastically complicated as it is wonderful. The recipe linked here is not that one. But! I love that this concoction takes only three ingredients (okay, four – if you add salt), and can be done in one bowl. It’s yummy, quick, and easy. What’s not to love?
Dorie Greenspan is the authority on cookies. She’s been a food blogger/writer for decades, and everything I’ve ever made from her collection has turned out beautifully. These cookies are no exception: deep, dark, chocolate morsels fully capable of ending global and political strife. Try them. You won’t be disappointed.
White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
I make these every single year. The kids love bashing the peppermints with a rolling pin; I love eating the finished product. It’s a win-win.
These are the only cut-out cookies I have ever made that don’t lose their shape. I suggest a heavy-duty stand mixer and lots of time for chilling.
This bread has been a Christmas morning staple for years. Why? My sister is allergic to the protein in dairy products, and this bread has absolutely no milk, butter or cream. You’d never miss it, though. It’s fantastic.
Miniature winter wonderlands abound this time of year, but I think they are infinitely more special when handmade by your children. We’ve done several, both traditional (trees, barns, etc.) and nontraditional (dinosaurs).
Sure, you can buy a cardboard calendar from the grocery store and eat substandard chocolate every day. But why? A homemade Advent calendar preserves the meaning of the Advent season and showcases your family’s talent.
I make photo cards through Costco every year. This time around, though, I want to make a few homemade versions with the kids to send to grandparents and godparents.
Texas introduced me to luminarias. Their history and simple beauty were inspiring, and ever since I left Houston I’ve wanted to make some with my children. When the kids are older, we’ll do something elaborate. For now, a simple creation of weighted paper bags and tea lights will suffice.
Building Advent family traditions is much easier when children can take part in hands-on activities.
They keep screen time desires to a minimum and create opportunities for family bonding through conversation and prayer.
May your Advent season be blessed with joyful family time and fruitful spiritual renewal.
Want more flexible, low-stress Advent ideas perfect for exceptional families? Read on:
How to Advent Like a Boss, Even When You’re Impatient
How to Prepare Your Home for Advent, Even in the Chaos
This Advent, You Need to Savor these 25 Magical Books
Why Advent Service Matters, Plus 13 Ways to Love Your Neighbor
I’m definitely going to be using some of these ornament ideas! This is our first year having a full size tree and that is going to look sad and bare if the kids and I don’t do some DIY cuteness.