Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

November 5, 2010

Weekend Creative | Advent Action Cards

I’m a big fan of Advent calendars.

Many of you have seen the Advent boxes I made back in 2007 (inspired by Martha). I’m currently looking for new place to hang them in our house. Last year we also had a LEGO® City Advent Calendarbecause they are just super fun for each morning. This year we’re going to have both again + a little something else.

The little something else for 2010 are hand-drawn Advent cards with specific actions to be taken each day.

Here’s a video that shows you what I did and talks a bit more about the project.

Ali Edwards | Advent Action Cards from Ali Edwards on Vimeo.

Here’s the how-to for this project:


For each of the daily sentiments I wanted to head in the direction of answering this question: what things that can help our kids look beyond themselves and celebrate the season. That was my initial focus.

I want words that require action. I want activities that are developmentally appropriate. I want things that are fun. I want activities that invoke the spirit of the season. I also want to include a few fun traditions like looking at lights while drinking hot cocoa, getting our tree and visiting Santa.

I like the idea that these cards can act as a road map for the season. I like that each day Simon (with a little help from Anna) can pick out a card and it can steer us in a specific direction for the afternoon or evening.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (I’d love to read your suggestions and ideas in the comments section):

  1. Tell a friend at school you think they’re really cool.
  2. Take a special treat to a neighbor.
  3. Pick a name from the giving tree. Find a gift for that person.
  4. Make a small stocking. Drop it off on someone’s door as a surprise.
  5. Make a card for a loved one and send it in the mail.
  6. Recycle some toys to share with others.
  7. Read a Christmas book to your sister.
  8. Light a candle and say a prayer for a loved one far away.
  9. Take food to a local food pantry.
  10. Take a trip to get the Christmas Tree.
  11. Go see Santa.
  12. Go look at Christmas lights & drink hot cocoa.
  13. Make thank you notes before they are needed.
  14. Write a list of 10 things you are thankful for this year. Share with your Grandma


Doris, one of the super creative members of the Designer Digitals team, used the PNG files on top of photos to create this set of Advent cards that she’ll be hanging on some branches in her home. She originally emailed asking me to make some more hand-drawn Christmas boxes where the words were farther down on the box – leaving room for a cute face. Thanks for the inspiration Doris!

I hope you all have a great weekend!


  • 51.
    Carolyn said…

    I ordered a little advent calendar kit yesterday from sweetwaterscrapbook on etsy. They are little fabric pouches with iron-on numbers. All hang on a rope. I thought they were super cute and look fairly easy to sew. Then I saw your idea and knew what I would put inside the pouches! Along with a little treat on some days.

  • 52.
    leah a said…

    This is great Ali. You could go to a retirement home with cookies and sing carols to he elderly (this would probably be easier with a large group of people)…

  • 53.
    Brooke said…

    I’m really looking forward to an advent calendar this year. Previously I’ve tucked little notes and/or treats into tiny socks pegged to some ribbon. I’m also determined to get my son that Lego advent one year. I’ve finally found it for sale in Australia. He’s a little too young at the moment, but my hubby sure would love it!!

    A couple of ideas (suitable for a 2 year old):
    - turn up the Christmas music & dance (I got this from a comment on your December Daily post)
    - wrap gifts (sometimes it can be a quick process, might be fun to enjoy it more)
    - watch snow fall (our Christmas is in summer so as dorky as this is I’m hoping we can do this on YouTube!!)
    - ice Christmas cookies
    - make a Christmas card for Daddy’s lunchbox

  • 54.
    Brooke said…

    Just watched the video and have an idea more specific to Simon. Maybe one day he could think of his own act of kindness. Complete it himself and then tell you in the evening what the act was and how he went about completing it. Maybe you could call it “My Secret Act of Kindness”.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      That’s a really great idea Brooke – thank you.

  • 55.
    Linda Trace said…

    what a beautiful idea!!

    Something I think is lovely and really in the spirit of Christmas is for kids to offer toys that they haven’t used all year (or much of the year) to homeless or donate to charity. I think given that we receive SO much at Christmas, it’s lovely to have our children offer something up too to someone with nothing.

    What about helping to bake cookies or some kind of Christmas cake/food and take it to a homeless shelter/soup kitchen ON christmas morning/christmas eve? (With mum and dad of course!)

    Another idea is to ask your child, if you couldn’t get any presents on Christmas, what would make it just as wonderful? (To help move them away from the physical aspect of receiving and think of more emotional/family-oriented terms)

    can’t wait to bring this into my home this Christmas!!

    thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • 56.
    Jen D said…

    Ali I love these videos you are doing! I really like this idea- I’m looking forward to doing these with my daughter. We are always trying to teach her about giving to others, especially during the Holidays
    Some of the ideas I think I might include:
    -Go to the library to pick out a new Christmas story to read
    -Go on our annual shopping trip to buy presents for Adopt a Family
    -Make a Christmas present/craft for your sister
    -Go sledding

  • 57.
    Kim Brown said…

    Go to your local library and pick out some new holiday books to read.
    Create cards/jokes for kids. You could take a next year calendar and write days to send, so they don’t just get them through the holiday season.
    create a gift for your teacher together

  • 58.
    Leslie P said…

    This is so cool. I just made a flip advent calendar with activities. Some activities are decorate the house day 1 and day 2 decorate the tree. Sing Christmas carols by candle light around the fireplace, have hot cocoa for breakfast, wrap presents for the outreach program, and sort food for the outreach program (a program for county residents that may be having a hard time), bake for neighbors (homebound), make ornaments for patients in the hospital, and go to lighted Christmas parade. These are just a few. Reading the comments there are some things I forgot that we normally do. Loved this post.

  • 59.
    Denise Laborde said…

    Very nice Ali!

  • 60.
    Susi said…

    Thank you so much for making and sharing this video. I am very visual and learn best by watching someone do the task and then doing it myself. I love the idea of a service oriented activity. We tried to teach our sons to think of others by doing similar activities and I do believe it is a seed that grows because I have two very compassionate adult sons. I am going to make this project for us this year and some day share it with my future grandchildren.

  • 61.
    Scrappyjen said…

    call a grandparent and tell them how much you love them.

    make a Christmas card, put $5 dollars inside, and post in a random letter box

    read a Christmas story to and elderly person

    do something nice for a sibling (make a treat, help with their chores, write a letter) just because you can.

  • 62.
    Lisa W. said…

    Ali, wonderful idea. After reading your project idea, and watching the video. Several things came to mind. How about visiting a nursing home with your children, maybee some of Simons friends/classmates, a few of them could go along. I used to work in a nursing home, they LOVE children. Maybee check with a local nursing home or assited living place in your area, they do all kinds of things in this nature. Maybee the kids could read a short story or near Christmas time they could sing a few Christmas Carols, they would LOVE this!!! A few others things that came to mind was visit a hospitol, check and see near Christmas of children that will have to stay in the hospitol during Christmas, that stocking full of goodies would be a wonderful idea for a child that can’t be home for Christmas. Also we do allot with a local family that does not have funds to have anything for Christmas, a small toy or clothing item for their children would be a beautiful gesture. I belong to a bunco group, we each give money check with our school system each year as they know a family in need, we then shop for them. We buy things they really need, or a new winter coat, hat, gloves, things that are really neccessary. And lastly I used to have my kids go through all their toys, have them get rid of some things they no longer need or want, then donate them to a shelter or a needy family.

    Thank you as always for all your inspiration.

    Lisa W.

  • 63.
    Jessica D. said…

    When I was younger, my mom and I would make a homemade Christmas ornament every year. I still try to carry on this tradition by myself. I have heard of families doing this so that when a child moves out to start their own family, they already have a set of Christmas ornaments filled with love and memories. You could even have an action card be to make an ornament to give to Gabrielle or something like that if you wanted to keep it “giving” oriented!

  • 64.
    Sara said…

    Maybe some things that need to be done around the house for the holidays, like ‘wrap a present for a family member’ or ‘make your own wrapping paper out of brown paper and holiday stamps’.

  • 65.
    sara said…

    i love the idea — just need a little help. once i download (and pay for them), which i have. i am wondering how i get them on one sheet to print out. i am hoping i have the correct tools to do so, as i love the idea. help! thanks so much.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Hi! After downloading open the folder. Inside the folder you will find a bunch of different files – choose one that ends in .pdf (there’s a red, green, brown, and black version). Double click on one of those files and it will open in Adobe Acrobat Reader (most likely you have this on your computer already). Let me know if you need more help!

  • 66.
    Jennifer S. said…

    We love advent calendars also. The last couple of years I have done this with little strips of paper. The ideas on our strips include…choose a relative to call and say I love you…write a special note to a friend or relative, have dinner under the Christmas tree (a favorite at our house), extra book at reading time, etc….so much more fun than just a piece of candy, and I hope more meaningful to my family. I love your boxes, and might need to enhance our strips this year!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • 67.
    Amy Brock said…

    I love the twist on a traditional advent calendar. We are big fans of the lego one also. :) Quick question. Have you found any 8 x 8 page protectors with pockets or do you just make your own?

  • 68.
    Michelle said…

    Love this, Ali! Also, Doris’ idea with the faces would make a perfect gift for grandma. Can’t you just see a mini-tree decorated with these picture tags…on the back could be little reasons why we love grandma! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • ….
      sarah said…

      love this idea with photos of the kids from the year on one side and all the kids reasons on the other.. i think we will be doing that this year.

  • 69.
    Stacey said…

    Hey there, Ali!
    I can’t wait to make these Advent Cards. When I saw the “falala” card, I had an idea-make a music cd with family member’s favorite Christmas songs-Brilliant, right?! “I really can’t stay-Baby it’s cold outside..I got to go away-Baby it’s cold outside.”

  • 70.

    A Christmas tradition my grandma always did when we were little that we continue with our kids today is baking a birthday cake for Jesus.
    Something new that we have been doing with our kids is packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. They are sent all around the world. If you include a letter and/or photo, you may even receive correspondence. We give our kids a designated amount of money and let them chose the items they would like to fill the box (we fill a plastic storage shoebox, that way it can be repurposed to carry water, etc., whatever the need may be once it arrives at said destination). We homeschool our girls and today’s geography lesson included information about the Pygmies in Africa. The girls could hardly phathom that there could be people that would still live in huts and barely have any belongings. Suddenly, one of them excitedly shouted, “Maybe they’ll get one of our Operation Christmas Child boxes!”

  • 71.
    Heather said…

    I’m thinking about an advent calendar for us moms. We spend so much time taking care of everyone but ourselves, and the holiday season is the busiest of all! It wouldn’t necessarily have to have something for every day, maybe just once a week,but it would be actions that are in the holiday spirit and give us permission to focus on ourselves for a little while. What I have so far: read a Christmas book (a novel, that is!); go have a holiday drink at Starbucks with a girl friend or two (and no kids!!); and make a layout about a Christmas from your childhood. Hopefully I can think of a couple more before December rolls around. :)

  • 72.
    Lisa-Jane Johnson said…

    This is something like we do in our house and I got the idea from a friend in London. We hang decorated envelopes on a string and inside each one is either a prompt or a little chocolate. We have to carefully plan what is in each envelope as we include things like carol concerts, visiting relatives, and now school performances and parties etc. I have a few Christmassy crafts books for the children and this year with the eldest being a bit more able, at least one of the activities will be that he can choose something from one of these books. Other things will be specifically chosen to coincide with our parties etc like baking or making decorations etc. I love that it will change each year as the children grow and develop and I love all the ideas from everyone here too. Much better than a calendar with chocolate in and some character on the front that has nothing to do with Christmas!

  • 73.
    Judy said…

    Don’t know if you’re still looking for an idea of how to display your advent boxes, but came across this idea and thought of you:


  • 74.
    Sara said…

    Hey Ali,
    Is this pdf still 30% off or did I miss it? Would love to do it. Thanks! Sara

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Hi Sara – it was 30% off last weekend during the sale.

  • 75.
    Sara said…

    Hi Ali,
    Just wondering if these are still on sale this week? Would love to buy! Thanks, Sara

  • 76.
    Sara said…

    Whoops….sorry. I see you answered. Couldn’t find my original comment. Thanks!

  • 77.
    Kathleen said…

    Ali—I’m way behind on my blog surfing. Another tangible idea to make Christmas memories AND special for someone else—So grateful for your inspiration and reminder to be intentional about things—I’m thinking “intentional” may have to be my word for 2011!! Thanks again, Ali!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      That’s a great word Kathleen.

  • 78.
    Judy said…

    Don’t know if you’ve decided on a place to hang your advent boxes in the new house, but came across this and thought of you:

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Cool – thanks Judy.

  • 79.
    {leah} said…

    LOVE this idea, Ali!

  • 80.
    Nicole LeBlanc said…

    LOVE this! I just made my advent cards (photos on my blog). We will begin the weekend before Thanksgiving and go through the 13th of December as we are traveling from the 15th through the New Year. It will be 24 days of great activities and it will give us some great things to do on our week off of Thanksgiving.

    Here are our 24 activities:
    1. Make pumpkin bread and deliver to neighbors (pre-Thanksgiving)
    2. put together children birthday boxes for the local women’s shelter (include wrapping paper and party supplies)
    3. take food to local food pantry
    4. recycle some toys to share
    5.pick a name from the angel tree and find a gift for that person
    6. write a letter to Santa. Tell him at least five good choices you try to make daily.
    7. make thank you notes
    8. help decorate the house for christmas
    9. collect some of our books to donate to the Head Start program.
    10. collect items for the local SPCA (newspaper, towels, paper bags, boxes, etc.)
    11. make reindeer food for Santa’s reindeer.
    12. write a letter to a friend telling them 10 reasons why they are a good friend to you. mail the letter.
    13. go and visit Santa Clause.
    14. make a Christmas card for Mema (great-grandma)
    15. put together a holiday care package for a soldier and mail it.
    16. decorate a gingerbread house
    17. Watch the movie Elf with the family
    18. make a book for your brother. read it to him.
    19. Listen to mommy read the story of Jesus’ birth
    20. Make a Christmas card for your teacher. Include 5 reasons why you are thankful for her.
    21. bake treats for the neighbors and deliver it to them.
    22. bake Christmas cookies for our family and Santa
    23. bake goodies for your teachers and school staff. put together
    goody bags.
    24. deliver the goody bags to your teachers and school staff.

  • 81.
    Peg Graham said…

    I just adore yours and Doris’ ideas!

    Here’s just a few other service minded things to consider:

    1. Bring Christmas treats to the children in the Cancer Ward at your local Children’s Hospital.
    2. Make tray favors for the meals on wheels program.
    3. Go Christmas Caroling at a Nursing Home.
    4. Make nutritional treats for the local animal shelter.
    5. Record yourself reading a book on tape;donate the book and tape to a shelter or day care.
    6. Write letters to service men/women.
    7. Make some pretty bookmarks; leave them in a basket on the library counter for other students to take one when they check out books.
    and more………

  • 82.
    Jess said…

    Ali, I know this is a beginner question, but I can’t seem to find the answer out there. I bought the advent boxes download. I dragged them all into a 8.5×11 PSE blank doc. Now how do I get them to print full resolution. I know that there is a trick to it somehow. :) If you can tell me quickly or direct me to a link where this is explained I’d be grateful. Adobe’s website “help” is no help at all.

  • 83.
    Mallory said…

    Ali, I love this idea!! I can’t wait until my son is older so we can do something like this.

  • 84.
    Kelly Libby said…


    Another idea: Bake goodies for a senior center or group home? Who doesn’t love home-made treats at the holidays!

    Christmas traditions of friends/other cultures/foreign countries? That might be neat?

  • 85.
    Gina Bowers said…

    I LOVE this whole idea and my kids are teenagers – I think it still works because it encourages stewardship. How about writing a letter to a soldier or to an elderly family member? I will most likely have one that says “Make dinner for the family” since my kids are older.

    It also occurred to me that these will fit very nicely in the December Daily album, another reminder of what occurred that day.

    Thanks Ali for sharing your great ideas :)

  • 86.
    Jessica said…

    We have a nursing home nearby and I stopped in a few weeks ago to ask if they would be interested in any kid craft creations for the rooms of some of their inhabitants who might not have much in the way of family. They literally JUMPED at the suggestion and we took over some fall themed stuff last week. We’re going to make some crafts and take them over for the holiday season, too – i’m thinking button snowmen and christmas tree pinecones! It will be on our advent list.
    Another great activity – esp if you live in an urban area – is to make up some “comfort packs” for the homeless (mini shampoo, deoderant, razor, soap, kleenex, tea or coffee packs, maybe a warm hat or gloves – Target has plain black winter hats for two bucks!) and then put them in your car to hand out if you see someone in need. Kids have fun putting the items in the bags and I can testify that the recipients are SO appreciative. And once you see someone break into a huge grin at the propsective of their own little bottle of shampoo, you’ll be so, so glad you helped these people in a productive way.

  • 87.
    Megan said…

    I know this post was a few days ago, however, I loved reading all the ideas and cannot resist sharing what we have done. A beautiful advent calendar was given to my family last year. The problem is we have two kids under two and most items that fit in the little pockets are choking hazards. Although I grew up with a chocolate treat in my advent calendars I feel that my kids are too young for that and we eat enough extras at the holidays. I wanted to avoid the commercialism aspect of Christmas and adding more “stuff” to our already full lives. So I came up with our reading Advent calendar. I made a list of all our Christmas books, put them in a basket and typed the titles on cute paper. We randomly fill te pockets of our calendar with these book titles plus a few favorite like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and on weekends I’ll add a holiday movie. We all look forward to the story we enjoy together and it will be entertainment year after year without adding more cost and stuff to our holidays.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      I love that idea Megan.

  • 88.
    Beckie said…

    Love all these ideas. So much better than gift giving everyday. Acts of service are great for our kids to learn early!

  • 89.
    Cecilia said…

    Just came across this in Pinterest. What a great idea! My children are 3 and 5 and for the past few years I had been doing a toy countdown calendar. Fun, but it made me feel that I was adding to the sense of self-entitlement of my kids, rather than make them aware of the real reason for the season. Last year I added an activity calendar to the toy one, and it was so successful that my kids don’t even remember the toy one anymore… just to say that they would rather do something fun together than get a cheap inky-dinky toy, ah! This year I plan on adding a daily act of selflessness to the regular activity calendar and nix the toy one. I love your suggestions. I think also sending a drawing to a far away relative or call them on the phone is something I will add to mine…

  • 90.
    Carrie said…

    Instead of making gingerbread houses, make Christmas trees out of ice cream cones and candy. (the waffle cones)

  • 91.
    Krista said…

    Love the ideas here. I came across this post last year & thought about incorporating some into our daily activities this year.

  • 92.
    Vanessa Babin said…

    My sisters, nieces and I make pralines (a recipe from my grandmother) every year the weekend before Christmas while the great grandchildren decorate a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We have been doing a Charlie Brown tree for over 30 years.
    I also decorate a gingerbread house with my grandchildren and they also help us decorate the outside of the house including putting up our nativity scene in the yard.

  • 93.
    Karen Watson said…

    LOVE LOVE LOVE…….that is all!!

  • 94.


    Love the way you’re making your Advent Calendar.

    I just finished on for a special little girl and will be making another one tomorrow for two sisters. I’ll have pictures posted, with a quick tutorial, on the blog this week.

    I was a military brat and my parents didn’t have much money, but they definitely instilled the spirit of giving in me (year-round).

    Here are some of the things we did as a family:
    -Buy and donate toys to Toys For Tots
    -Hand down my nice dresses (made by my mom) to those who were less fortunate so they had nice clothes for the holiday and beyond.
    -Read the Christmas Story
    -Attend Midnight Mass

    My mom and I also:
    -Made bread dough ornaments
    -Baked German Christmas goodies (and gave many away)
    -Attended the Christkindtmarkt (Christmas Market)

    As adults, my husband and I have:
    -Donated toys to Toys for Tots
    -Donated toys to our local (police dept.) toy drive
    -Adopted a family and bought (and wrapped) gifts for them
    -Made or bought goodies for the local firehouse
    -”Secretly” bought drinks for other Starbuck’s customers
    -Bought (10) $5 gift cards and handed them out to homeless people we saw while out running errands, Christmas shopping, etc.
    -Hosted an ornament exchange (OK, this was me, not my husband!)
    -Made specialty candy for family and friends and sent it out in tins (this is a popular thing among our friends!)
    -Donated money to the Salvation Army (money in the red kettles!)
    -Watched our favorite holiday movies
    -Attended a Christmas concert
    -Gone to see a new blockbuster movie (this year: The Hobbit!)
    -Brought cookies and candy to the post office workers on Christmas Eve day
    -Left treats for our mailman
    -Tipped our landscaper, hair stylists, etc.

    This year we will do a few of the above in addition to:
    -Make goodies and drop them off at our local Senior Citizens home
    -Buy blankets to hand out to the homeless
    -Donate shoes to the local shoe drive
    -Bring a hot drink to a local Salvation Army bell ringer
    -Take a donation to our local children’s hospital – for the staff who are working over the holidays
    -”Ornament Bomb” a neighbor’s trees! (I’ve never done this, but I so want to!!!)

    Hopefully some of these ideas will be options or spark your imagination with others.

    Happy Holidays to you, Katie, Simon and Anna.


Post a comment