Activities-Based #AdventCalendar (#Autism)

Last year, I switched to an activities-based Advent Calendar. In 2012, I realized how silly the chocolate-filled, store-bought Advent calendar was for three reasons:

  1. the chocolate is cheap and tastes awful
  2. my kids are at their dad’s every other weekend so that means I just throw out the chocolate from those days (why can’t Lindor make an advent calendar?!!)
  3. (and more importantly) my son doesn’t eat chocolate so he didn’t participate

This meant that every morning, my daughter would eat a yucky piece of chocolate while my son ignored the whole lead up to Christmas.

When the opportunity to make an Advent Calendar came up last year through a local mom’s group, I jumped at the chance. We all know that I’m not a crafty person so, when the mom leading the workshop put the canvas and all the materials down in front of me and told me to “just start”, I looked at her with a blank expression and asked her “how?”. Thankfully, because I’ve known her for years, I wasn’t offended when she looked at me as if I had three heads. 😉

After getting over my initial fear, and her showing me how to do some things, I jumped in. Three hours later, our new Advent Calendar was created and ready for use!

Advent Calendar

My daughter was hesitant last year, because she thought she would miss the chocolate but, a few days into the Advent Calendar, she was hooked. This year, she kept telling me how excited she was about the Advent Calendar this year. She even squealed with glee on the weekend about it starting today…and then she didn’t even notice it when she got up this morning. She asked me about it so I looked above her head, then she jumped up and squealed again. Tonight’s activity is to make a snowflake craft. I’ll post pictures on social media throughout the month of the activities we’ll be doing.

Also, people have asked for it so, here’s an “Autism-approved” list of activities that my family can manage for the Advent Calendar:

2014 Activities-Based Advent Calendar

Like me on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to follow our Advent Calendar activities this month!


And then I vlogged about our Advent Calendar…

#AdventCalendar – Days 17 – 22

Our activities-based Advent Calendar this year seems to be a success. My daughter STILL hasn’t mentioned she misses the daily piece of chocolate – yay!

Dec 17 – we went to see Santa (again). One of the malls in town has TWO Santas set up. Weird, I know BUT one is in a storefront near the main food court. Costs about a billion dollars per child to have them take one picture per child. With my man being a professional photographer, we have issue with this. The other Santa is in a part of the mall that isn’t well used. To be honest, I have no idea how the stores there stay in business, but they all have been there for years! Very few people even know of this Santa so, in the 3 or 4 years we’ve been going, we have NEVER had a line up. Last year’s Santa there was a miserable one but this year’s was fantastic! It was his first time at this location, but had been at another mall for 17 years. His experience showed…he waited for my son to approach him, for him to answer questions and, when my son couldn’t answer, Santa switched to yes/no questions. His beard was fake but “child-proof”. We even took a picture…which I have already shared here but want to share again. A picture of Santa and I…with my son stimming in the background. Love it!


Dec 18 – Lots of baking! The 19th was the last day of school before Christmas break so we had lots of baking to do for teachers and Educational Assistants. My daughter even asked me to bake for our neighbour’s EA too…”because she helps him so much”. Awww…


Dec 19 – We FINALLY turned our fridge into a snowman! My daughter’s hesitation in doing this was because she was concerned about how to turn something that is rectangular into circles. When we started working on it, she declared it was like a snowman in Minecraft. 😉


Dec 20 – Was a PA Day for my daughter but my son still had IBI. My daughter was invited to a cookie decorating party, and brought home this lovely box, filled with yummies!

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My son’s IBI had their Christmas party and this year, there were tons of activities! There was the usual singalong, but it was even better this year because each group at IBI had worked on “singing” a song. My son’s was Frosty the Snowman. He stood up with his therapist of the day and didn’t try running away…trying to jump out of the window without a screen behind him…well, that’s a different story. 😉 There was also a room set up with a “snowball fight” which he loved because he loves throwing things up to the ceiling. There was a cupcake-making room, which he had no interest in. He tried playing Christmas bingo. He liked the sensory room, where he got to sit in front of a decorated tree with his favourite movie (Monsters Inc) and just hang out.

B1513822_678609125512186_2028234477_nThere was also a cake. He doesn’t eat cake. My daughter would have loved it but she was busy at her own party. 🙂


Dec 21 and 22 – the kids were at their dad’s. Of course, the first thing out of my daughter’s mouth was asking what was in the Advent Calendar for the weekend. I told her that it was “boring grownup stuff”. I didn’t tell her that I had two parties to attend Saturday night…but I did tell her that it was just for me to clean the house and prep to decorate, which we will be doing today. 🙂


#AdventCalendar Days 9 – 16

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that I created a new activities-based Advent Calendar this year. No more cheap (and yucky!) chocolate! Here are the activities we did for December 9 through 16:

Dec 9 Make Christmas cookies – We made some Christmas-shaped sugar cookies. My daughter helped me make the cookies, and they both helped decorate them.


Dec 10 Christmas party near the Grandparents – Every year, my dad’s Rotary Club has a Christmas party for the kids and grandkids of the Rotarians, but the real focus is the kids who attend/use services at a local organization who works with kids with special needs. When we lived at the family farm, my son was part of their IBI program. I was so proud of my kids…they had to wait for almost an hour for their turn with Santa, and they did awesome!


Dec 11 Write letters to Santa – My daughter gets very frustrated with written expression so, instead of doing a “traditional” letter to Santa, we got together with my man’s son and the daughter of a friend of his. They cut out items from a toy catalogue, and created their letters for Santa, with one rule, they needed to include something in their lists for someone else. It looked like a disaster zone for a while…


Dec 12 & 13 Turn the fridge into a snowman – I added this to the list twice because we just plain didn’t get around to doing it…two days in a row! Maybe it will make another appearance. Not sure yet.

Dec 14 Playdate – My daughter had a playdate with a girlfriend. Nothing necessarily Christmas-y but she was so excited (and it gave me some time to study for my exam which was on Monday). They got to play outside a lot because we had a huge dump of snow. They had a great time, including using one neighbour’s driveway entrance as a slide. 😉


Dec 15 Autism Ontario Christmas party – Our local chapter of Autism Ontario had their annual Christmas party this afternoon. It was chaotic and wonderful all at once. Kids could eat and see Santa in one room; crafts upstairs in another room. Santa was fantastic! He was so patient, giving every child the time and space each needed, and every child went home with a gift.


Dec 16 Play in the snow – I had my final exam in the evening so honestly, I was too focused on studying to really organize anything, so the activity in the Advent Calendar for today was to play in the snow when they came home from school. Happy kids!


Days 1 – 7 of #AdventCalendar

This year, I decided NOT to give my kids daily doses of cheap chocolate in a store-bought Advent Calendar. At a local mom’s group event, I made an Advent Calendar, and the kids have been loving it! If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen what the activities have been each day. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I haven’t been updating daily on Facebook too…I will rectify that. 😉

Day 1: Decorate tree at my BFF’s. It was the first time I’ve seen a white artificial tree in person. She gave my kids and my man’s son  the choice of which decorations to use: purple and silver, or blue and silver. Two votes for blue and silver. So pretty!

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Day 2: Bake cookies with Easy Bake Oven. My daughter actually squealed with joy for this activity. Honestly, we don’t use her Easy Bake Oven very often and, after seeing her joy and my son’s curiosity, I think we’ll need to do it more often.

Day 3: cut out paper snowflakes. My son wasn’t interested in this activity, but my daughter and I had a great time. We happily cut out our snowflakes while chatting away about everything and nothing. 😉


Day 4: create a snowman craft. My son wasn’t interested in this activity, but my daughter did a great job!


Day 5: Let’s make our lists for Santa. Unfortunately, didn’t get around to it as my daughter wasn’t feeling well so I’ll reschedule it for another day this week.

Day 6: Watch Christmas videos on Youtube together. I showed the kids this video as my fav:

On Days 7 & 8, the kids were at their dad’s. As soon as my daughter came home, she asked me what she missed in the Advent Calendar. She wasn’t worried about missing “boring” activities for me like “clean the house to get ready for decorating”.

Made an Activities-Based #AdventCalendar

I didn’t have an Advent Calendar growing up. I only learned about them a couple of years ago and thought it was brilliant…get a little chocolate every day in December, just because. Last year, I ate one of the chocolates on a weekend the kids were at their dad’s (don’t tell them!) and couldn’t believe how cheap and gross it was. Ugh. I needed something else.

A couple months ago, we had a speaker at a local mom’s group, and she showed us the Advent Calendar she had made for her family…brilliant! Searched on Pinterest, found some great examples. Time went by and I realized it was suddenly November…and between exams and assignments, I didn’t really know when I would find the time to make one. Then one of the moms groups decided to hold an Advent Calendar/Christmas Card making event. Bingo!

A girlfriend of mine and member of the moms group led the event as she’s a Stampin’ Up consultant. She set up tons of stuff and honestly, I got a bit overwhelmed…too many options. So, she took about half of it away and I started stamping all the numbers. Some worked, some didn’t so I had to repeat those, hence the duplicates.


Then I started working on making the envelopes all “purdy”:


As I continued, I got more comfortable, and my girlfriend started introducing me to more tools I could use to make them even more “purdy”. A couple hours later, I had made all of the envelopes:


We discussed that it was missing “something”. My girlfriend offered to pick up some Christmas fabric and we could use that as a background. Unfortunately, glass had broken all over the fabric the morning we were getting together to finish it off and show to all the ladies in the moms group, so we didn’t get to do that. So we got together a couple of days later to paint the background instead. Took a bit of time to figure out but I decided upon green:

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Included a Christmas tree border around the outside:


After it was dried, I glued some snowflakes and all the envelopes on it.


Added the tags for inside each of the envelopes…and voila! Now proudly displayed on our living room wall.


We love it!