It is hard to believe it has almost been a whole year since this pandemic hit Ontario. While some days seemed impossible to get through, the year flew by. In January 2020, I was just returning to work after more than a year off for maternity leave. My office had moved while I was off, meaning my commute was twice as long as it had been previously, and it was a tough transition. I was just starting to get used to it (less than 2 months in) when we went in to lockdown.
Working from home was difficult at first. I was still relearning parts of my role and the kids were home too. Trying to keep an almost 4 year old and 1 year old happy and busy and fed throughout the day while also concentrating on work was hard, but we made it through those first few months and they were able to start back at daycare safely in July. I know that I have been incredibly lucky that I am able to work from home and minimize risk to myself and my family. While it hasn’t always been easy, I am so grateful for that, and that I am able to continue to do so during this second lockdown.
The kids have grown so much this year. Henry turned 4 in June with a quiet little dinosaur themed birthday celebration of only us. He started school in September and is so good about wearing his mask. Kids are so adaptable and he has been a champ. He is learning so much and I am so impressed with him. Nora turned 2 in October, with another quiet celebration. She has started talking like crazy and she is so funny. I love seeing their personalities really develop and shine.
Spending so much time at home this year, I tried to make holidays as fun as possible with activities, or little baskets of goodies. Last year, I had started a new tradition of creating an activity advent calendar for the kids for the Christmas countdown. Nora was little too young then to enjoy it, but Henry had lots of fun, so I wanted to continue it this year. I included some crafts and some little treats and goodies. Some days they were not as in to it as I had hoped, but it did help get us in to the festive spirit.
I kept the calendar itself pretty simple again this year, using some kraft envelopes, simple tags, wooden beads and fresh greenery. I got all of the supplies (aside from the greenery) from Michael’s. I had a bunch of the kraft envelopes left over from last year, and the tags came in a 24 pack, which was so perfect. I got a pack of assorted wooden beads and strung them on a piece of twine. I hung everything from a small birch branch and added the greenery with some floral wire. Below are the things we did each day.
Day 1 – Open a new pair of Christmas jammies – I got these ones from Old Navy
Day 2 – Write and send a letter to Santa – since we didn’t get to do a visit or picture with Santa this year, I tried to get them as excited as possible about writing letters and putting them in the mail box. I love that we get responses back when we send them to Santa’s address (Santa Claus, North Pole HOH OHO)
Day 3 – Bake some Christmas cookies – just some Pillsbury gingerbread cookies with some homemade icing to start things off easy
Day 4 – Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows – I picked up some new reindeer mugs from Walmart as soon as Christmas stuff came out, and we tried out the new hot chocolate bomb trend. It was a huge hit! You can use a kinder egg, split it in half and fill one side with hot chocolate powder and some mini marshmallows. Then heat the other side with a warm plate so that you can reseal the egg. Put it in your mug and pour your hot milk over it and watch it explode
Day 5 – Make a Christmas ‘tree-t’ – we drizzled some melted chocolate over pretzels in the shape of a tree, added some crushed candy cane and let them cool in the fridge for a few minutes for a fun little treat
Day 6 – Make a Christmas garland to hang in their rooms – I thought this one was a lot of fun. They got a little bored after making a few of the trees, but helped me put them all together at the end, and they were excited to have something Christmas-y to hang in their rooms
Day 7 – Do a Christmas craft – this one was paint your own nutcraker. They love to paint, so they had fun with it. I got the nutcrakers from the dollar store, they came with paint and the hair and beard to glue on at the end
Day 8 – Santa pancakes for breakfast – We made these for Christmas breakfast last year, and they loved them, so I decided to incorporate them in the advent calendar this year. Super simple, just some small pancakes stacked, with whipped cream, a strawberry and a mini marshmallow to look like Santa’s hat
Day 9 – A new pair of Christmas socks – I thought this one would be a little boring for them, but I had ordered the socks with their Christmas jammies and once I got everything together for the calendar I didn’t want to make an unnecessary trips out for more things, so the socks got their own day. The kids actually loved them. Nora still talks about her Santa socks
Day 10 – Make a gift for our teachers – We made some little ornaments to include in our Christmas gifts to our teachers. On this day, the kids were both tired, there were lots of meltdowns, they kept stealing each other supplies and fighting, but that is reality with kids. We got the ornaments made in the end
Day 11 – Watch a Christmas movie – The kids picked Polar express this year. We got in our jammies, made some popcorn and they cuddled up on the couch to watch
Day 12 – Make clay ornaments for the tree – we used air dry clay and Christmas cookie cutters to create some ornaments. They added little faces to them, and painted a few after they dried. The air dry clay takes 2 – 3 days to fully dry, but if it gets wet again they can get mushy and you have to wait for them to dry again. I will probably attempt salt dough next year since it dries a little harder
Day 13 – Decorate a gingerbread house – this year I assembled the house ahead of time, because it is harder to do with little hands. The kids each got a bowl of the candy to add and we helped them with the icing. Probably only half the candy made it on to the house, but they had fun
Day 14 – A Christmas music dance party – we turned up the Christmas music, turned on the disco light, turned to the tree to the multi-coloured lights (which the kids love and I hate, but I love that our tree gives us the option of both), and they ran around and danced and laughed. They both love dancing
Day 15 – Make reindeer food – Mixed together some oats and festive sprinkles (you can also use glitter), put the mix in little baggies, added some googly eyes and a red pom pom nose, and used a cork snowflake from the dollar store to make the antlers
Day 16 – A new Christmas book to open and read – this one was ‘Finding Christmas’ by Robert Munch
Day 17 – Do a Christmas craft – I had found some little wooden gingerbread men, a tree and a snowflake at Michael’s for really cheap, then the kids painted them with water colours. It was a super quick activity, so great for a weeknight
Day 18 – Have a bath with a Christmas bath bomb – The kids recently discovered bath bombs, and love them. Nora isn’t a huge fan of baths normally, so it helps make them a little more fun for her, but this one was a bit of a flop. I didn’t want to go near the mall or any big stores, so I bought some from a little local shop offering porch pickup. It smelled delicious, but didn’t have any fun colours and didn’t last very long, so it was pretty anti-climactic
Day 19 – A picnic under the tree – this was Henry’s most favourite day on the advent calendar last year and he loved it this year too! We made a little charcuterie lunch, put down a blanket and some little twinkle lights and we ate under the Christmas tree
Day 20 – Go for a winter walk to look at Christmas lights. This year we went to Spencer Smith park to check to their light displays. It was a little muddy since we got rain instead of snow, but the kids had fun checking everything out. One positive side about having to wear masks is that they keep our faces warm on winter walks
Day 21 – Open and read a new Christmas book – this one was ‘Bear Stays Up for Christmas’. It was really cute
Day 22 – Do a Christmas craft – this one was yarn trees. I cut tree shapes out of some cardboard, and then we wrapped them in green yarn and the kids added some pom poms and little bells to decorate them. An easy craft that they loved (when they weren’t fighting over the glue)
Day 23 – Do you want to build a snowman? – I was hoping that we would have snow by this point in the calendar, but we didn’t so I had to improvise. I grabbed an old pair of socks, we added some dried lentils (for weight) and some stuffing I got from an old stuffed animal with a hole in it, then rolled the top down to create the hat. They added a pom pom, some eyes, some buttons down the front, a ‘carrot’ nose which I had cut out of foam board and a scarf, which I had cut out of leftover felt from our garlands on day 6. We used a few twigs we found outside for the arms
Day 24 – Bake cookies for Santa – we spent the morning making the dough and baking our sugar cookies, and the afternoon decorating them with icing. Then the kids picked a few to set out for Santa, and one for each of us to eat
Overall, the advent calendar was a lot of fun for me to plan, and aside from some of the sibling fights, a lot fun for the kids to open and do each day. The holiday season always seems to fly by, and this at least adds a little extra magic to it.
Did you follow along in my instagram stories during December? Did you have a favourite day? Any suggestions for next year? I already have a list started of things to incorporate. I think next year I will add some giving back days – donating some toys, etc.