Last minute advent activity calendar

adventTomorrow is the start of advent — only 25 days to go ’til Christmas! We do have an advent tradition in our family — my mum always had an advent wreath on the table with 4 candles in a circle, and one candle was lit on every Sunday in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and then a fifth candle in the centre was lit on Christmas day. But we’re not accustomed to the advent calendar, the countdown calendar with 24 pockets filled with little presents or candy, counting down to Christmas day. I think this might have to do with Sinterklaas, who’s in the country till the 5th, overlapping the first days of advent and overdoing, possibly, the idea of giving.

Where I love the idea of getting ready for Christmas, slowing down and focussing on togetherness and goodness, I don’t really want to overflow our children with goodies after the feasts of St. Maarten (candy) and St. Nicolas (candy and presents). But I want them to experience extra warmth, fun, and also to comprehend the fact that they have a lucky position in the world.


Yesterday I spent some time working on a super last-minute advent calendar without gifts, but with ideas for fun, sweet, and genuine activities to make the weeks before Christmas extra special. I printed everything on grey card stock paper, folded and closed them with round sticky dots on which I rubbed transfer numbers beforehand. It’s nothing super fancy or special at all, but the simplicity reflects what I would like our advent to be!


Maybe you would like to play along? I’ve made the file I used into an advent activity calendar PDF. There are 29 activities, so you can choose the ones you like best. Just download, print, cut and fold, put a number on them and hang on the wall.

Enjoy, and happy first day of advent for tomorrow!

xxx Esther



Comments (21)

November 30, 2014

I love the simple fun of these activities! We do a combination of old-fashioned advent calendars with pictures behind the doors and advent story books. I have collected 24 winter, solstice, and xmas story books, and I wrap them up each year with numbered tags, one to open each night until Christmas.

November 30, 2014

Thank you, Esther, for this lovely and simple idea.

November 30, 2014

Excellent! Thanks for the pdf! I did something like this last year. I’m sharing your post on twitter. Merry Christmas!

November 30, 2014

[…] Last minute advent activity calendar […]

December 1, 2014

Love this idea! Which font did you use – in case I want to add some activities of my own (or in another language)?

Esther in Amsterdam
December 1, 2014

Hi Toni, thanks! I used a font called Zapfino. Enjoy your advent! x

December 1, 2014

We had some fun, when kids, with my sister, when my mother told us that that year, instead of getting an advent calendar for us two, we’d have to find 24 sweet Xmas cards to send to our grandmother, who was living far away. We’d then post the card the day before (and also send two for the saturday since she wouldn’t get the mail on Sunday) and get a ring from her every day when she had received the card.
I have such a great memory of this! And it works great for (not too) little and big kids!

December 1, 2014

What a great idea. I’ve not yet wrapped the books for our Advent Calendar so maybe I’ll slip some activities into them for days when we have plenty of time.

December 1, 2014

Beautiful – thanks Esther. And that’s a fabulous idea, Ivana!

December 1, 2014

This is such a great idea !! Wonderful, thank you !
This year, I also did a last minute : “bon pour” (can’t translate : voucher ?) – their favourite meal, a great foaming bath, a manicure… Hope they’ll like it, but I’ll définitely will inspire myself form yours for 2015 !

December 1, 2014

Wat ontzettend leuk! Geweldig idee 🙂

December 1, 2014

You’re wonderful. Thank you and enjoy your holiday season! xox

December 3, 2014

I love your written ideas so much that I am going to add them to some of my already existing advent calender bags 🙂
I think it’s the beginning if a lovely new advent tradition!
Thank you!

December 5, 2014

What a wonderful idea! We bought a lovely pop up calendar but love the idea of doing simple, fun and meaningful activities over the Christmas period. Will definitely make a fun ‘to-do’ list from these!
Thank you for sharing!

Emma,Bath UK

December 17, 2014

[…] Family activity Advent calendar.  I have seen a couple of ideas for this, and they look fun.  I actually think it would be great to do something one of these January or February, which are particularly dark, cold months here.  It would be nice to break up the monotony. […]

December 17, 2014

[…] favorite holiday traditions? Esther van de Paal: This year for the first time I have made an advent calendar, but not an advent calendar with gifts or candy, but one with activities that focus on […]

November 24, 2015

[…] loved Esther’s post last year about an Advent Activity Calendar! We have done a similar idea for a few years now (unfortunately not so beautifully designed!). I […]

November 24, 2015

hanks so much for this beautiful idea! I also like the idea to send Xmas cards once a day! We will start with their great grand mother down to the youngest cousin.

December 1, 2015

[…] year I blogged about our last minute advent calendar — not a calendar filled with gifts and sweets, but one filled with little notes suggesting a […]

November 25, 2016

[…] years ago I started our first activity advent calendar and it has quickly become a firm family tradition. The children are so excited each morning of […]

November 30, 2016

this post was the best! it gave me some mom’s DIY superpower and made me feel so good about myself in an cheap + easy way AND is going to make the children so happy…THANK YOU ESTHER!! xx

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