I love the anticipation and excitement of the lead up to Christmas, and this year, more so than ever, I want to make it especially magical. My hope is that we will be finished with our North America project by the end of November so that we can spend the whole of December indulging ourselves with Christmas merriment!
Today I would like to share with you how I go about planning for advent.
Laf & Lof: Our Kindness Elves
When Bean was 2 years old, I customised some old and tatty looking dolls house people to make a set of Kindness Elves. I crafted them robes, cloaks and pointed hats out of felt, then embroidered them with festive details. They're not perfect, and often need minor repairs, but they are 100% unique and very much loved. Bean named them Laf and Lof.
On the 1st December each year a small door appears on the skirting board in our living room. Our sweet little elves join us for the 24 days of Advent, bringing with them little notes, gifts and activity suggestions each morning, with the overall aim of helping us to spread festive cheer. They have become an important part of our family advent tradition, and I feel confident that these elves will be passed down to my grandchildren one day.
I'm pretty sure that, at 9 years old, Bean is aware that Laf and Lof are not real, in the same way that she is beginning to question the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Father Christmas. She is either choosing to indulge me and is happy to go along with the magic, or she is still slightly on the fence. This year she has asked for Laf and Lof's door to appear in a different place each morning, so that she can go hunting for them. I'm feeling especially excited for this challenge!
Read on to find out how I go about planning activities for Laf and Lof.
Our Advent Spiral
Another way that we mark the passing of time is by using our handmade Advent Spiral. You will find full instructions on how to make one like this in my 24 Days of Advent Magic PDF Guide. Each day, we add a marble to our spiral, providing a physical and visual way of marking the countdown to Christmas. The marbles can be substituted for a Father Christmas figurine, crystal or other small object which you move along the spiral each day. A simpler version of the spiral could also be made out of paper.
Winter Inspired Loose Parts Advent Calendar
When Bean was around 3 years old, and ready to understand the concept of an advent calendar, I was keen to find an alternative to the chocolate filled ones available on the high street. I simply wasn't comfortable with her having chocolate for breakfast every day in the lead up to Christmas, at that age.
I picked out a beautifully illustrated traditional calendar for her (similar to the ones that you can find at Myriad Natural Toys here) which seemed to satisfy her for that year at least. However, the following year I felt that she was ready for a little bit more.
So, to cut a long story short, I made her a Winter Inspired Loose Parts Advent Calendar, and for the past few years we have recycled the elements in various ways for advent. This year we will have the loose parts available for decorating our mantlepiece and for play. I have a handful of these left in my online shop, and will be discontinuing these once my current stock has sold out, so this may well be your very last chance to purchase one.
We have a lovely selection of Christmas books (some of which I have shared in this blog post) which we will read together over the course of Advent. I wanted to share a few with you that are Advent specific, including a new addition for this year.
Snow in the Garden: A First Book of Christmas - this one is not specifically about advent, but is such a beautiful book by my favourite children's author and illustrator, Shirley Hughes. 'A classic collection of festive stories, poems and activities'. Perfect for sharing with young children and for providing a little bit of gentle inspiration for meaningful advent activity.
Who's Getting Ready For Christmas? - this book was published in 1993, so no longer available to buy new. It opens up like a concertina, telling the story of a host of woodland creatures preparing for Christmas, with 25 cardboard doors to open. The illustrations are lovely, and this one has been a firm favourite of Bean's since she was really little.
Walk This World at Christmas Time - this one was new to us the year before last. It also features 25 doors to open in the lead up to Christmas, but with illustrations from around the world, and lots of extra flaps with information about how Christmas is celebrated in different cultures and countries. Recommended for age 5+
Christmas is Coming! An Advent Book - this book is new to us this year, and is going to form the basis for this year's advent activities. The front cover features a traditional cardboard advent calendar, with 24 doors to open. Each door reveals a clue to a festive activity that can be found inside the book. Recipes, crafts, games, carols and stories are included. A lovely keepsake, to be reused year after year.
24 Days of Advent Magic
Last year, I made a PDF guide with suggestions for 24 advent activities, which formed the basis of our plans for Laf and Lof. 24 Days of Advent Magic is available as a daily email, or on request as an instant digital download. We won't be following this rigidly this year, but will likely dip into and repeat some of the activities included. As a thank you for reading my blog, you can type in the code NEWSLETTER20 at checkout for a 20% discount.
Making Homemade Gifts
Last year was the first year that we got really into making homemade gifts for family and friends. We made scented bath bombs and salt dough candle holders, along with our own handmade gift tags. You'll find full instructions for the salt dough candle holders and gift tags in my 24 Days of Advent Magic PDF guide. I'll try to share the bath bomb recipe with you in next week's blog post as we're planning to make them again this year.
This year, we are keen to spend our quiet days of Advent making more homemade gifts. Our plans for this year so far are...
More bath bombs - I'll share the recipe in next week's blog post.
Sparkly Magnets - again, I'll share details in next week's blog post.
Macramé Feather Keyrings - I'm not sure if these might be a bit too ambitious, but we have all the supplies and are going to give them a go (using this tutorial).
If you've enjoyed reading this blog post, you may also enjoy this one which I wrote about Advent in 2018...
What are your advent plans? Do you have kindness elves? What type of advent calendar do your children enjoy? Do you have any advent books to recommend? I'd love to hear what your plans are. Pop on over and share your ideas in my IG stories.
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.