Tuesday, 2 December 2014

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Cozy Danish Christmas Advent Calendar


The Christmas season is here again. The Advent calendar is a Danish tradition, albeit a little on the extravagance side, but all Danish kids look forward to it, and I can understand why :-) It is very exciting to open a small Christmas present each day and find out what's inside for the full 24 days in the month of December!! It is the Danish fairy-tale coming alive during Christmas :-)

The Advent calendar creates very memorable family memories esp. fairy-tale like memories (after all Denmark is the land of Fairytale made well-known by the famous author Hans Christian Andersen :-)), when kids are grown up and look back at their childhood. So we decided to keep this cozy and fun Danish tradition in our family tradition.

The challenge however is that it could transmit the wrong values - teaching the child to be extravagant, self-centered and indulgent (Oops... hope I am not offending any Danes). How can we adopt this cozy tradition and yet avoid the negative aspects? My Significant Other has some good ideas and here are some tips from our experience:

1. Determine your guiding principles

Our guiding principles are as follows:

1. It should contain a challenge that is fun and educational (based on the interest of your child)

2. It should teach J to give and share, and not simply receiving

3. It should include the Biblical meaning of Christmas

2. Determine your budget

Each family will have to determine the budget that is comfortable for them. It should be fun, but not cost too much money. But although it should not cost too much money, it should not be a waste of money on junks either.

3. Decide on the type of Advent Calendar 

We bought our Advent calendar as pockets from HW Hjørnet for only 20 DKK (an 80% discount from 100 DKK). You can also choose make or sew one yourself.


4. Determine an item for each day

Following the 3 principles, we came up with the following ideas for each day:

1. Fill each of the 24 Advent calendar pockets with a Nativity character

This idea will fill all 24 pockets. We set up the stage for the Nativity scene each year in December. The 24 characters go into each pocket of our Advent calendar for J pick and place on the nativity scene each day. The baby Jesus is placed last on Christmas eve 24th December :-) We got this idea from a friend :-) If you are on a shoe-string budget, this is suitable, as the objects here will be recycled every Christmas :-)

Among all the different nativity sets out there in the market, I prefer the one from Playmobil best. It is cute and durable. Here is our Nativity scene from Playmobil:


Here are our Biblical playmobil items for each day's pocket:

 
Here is how it looks when it is all set up:
 

2. Fill the Advent calendar pockets with messages

In addition, for some of the Advent calendar's pockets, we write a message and put it in an envelope to go into one of the Advent calendar's pockets. The envelope can contain such as:

- A message such as "Give a hug to someone you love." - Teaches your child to give
- A riddle for your child to solve for the day
- A Bible verse for the day
- A thanksgiving that the family can read together - Christmas is a time to teach your child to be thankful

3. Fill the Advent calendar pockets with LEGO challenge

My SO suggested the idea of providing a challenge for some of the days for J to do. So here, for example, we put in some of the pockets a small packet containing LEGO bricks with a message for J to:

- Make a letter of his name
- Form a heart shape
- Build a car
LEGO for making a heart shape
A message for your child to make a heart out of LEGO bricks. If your child is too young, you can do it with them

Updates after the day of opening: Christmas heart designed by J, which is different from mine. If you looked carefully, there is a cross on the heart, signifying Christ. It is all J's idea

4. Fill a pocket with ironing beads activity

As a challenging activity, you can fill some of the pockets with a packet containing ironing bead set with a message for your child to form a letter for his name each day or an initial of his friend's name each day and give it to that friend as a present.

5 Fill a pocket with DIY jigsaw puzzle

Make your own jigsaw puzzle with a message such as "You are special to mommy and daddy, etc." and mess it up. Wrap it up as a present and let your child piece it together to get the sweet message.

6. Fill a pocket with blank jigsaw puzzle

As a challenging activity, you can fill some pockets with a blank jigsaw puzzle for your child to draw and design as a gift to the younger kids from his kindergarten i.e. Alferne and Troldene classes. In this way, you teach your child not just to receive, but to give.

6. Fill a pocket with rubber bands for making bracelet

Your child can make a bracelet out of rubber bands as a gift for a friend.

8. Fill a pocket with letter beads for making necklace

You can fill a pocket with a container with letter beads for making a necklace spelling the name of a friend or teacher.

9. Fill a pocket with alphabet stamp set

You can include in a pocket an alphabet stamp set in one of the Advent calendars' pockets with a message to stamp his name or other words.

10. Fill a pocket with 2 small chocolates 

You can fill a pocket with 2 small chocolates/sweets with a message for your child to share one with a friend. We limited it to 1 pocket.

11. Fill a pocket with inexpensive items such as stickers, cards, badges, etc. that your child may love or collect.

12. Fill a pocket with practical items such as gloves, socks, stockings, warm home shoes, etc. and these items will cover a number of days.

We included a pair of winter gloves that J needs now.

13. Fill a pocket with a coupon for exchange

Fill a pocket with an evelope containing a self-made "coupon" such as bake Christmas cookies with mommy, daddy reads a story on Christmas to you, trip to Tivoli Christmas market, you get to drag your mattress down to sleep downstairs together with mommy and daddy, etc.

14. Fill a pocket with a service to others

Such as making a hamper for the children's home or the old folk's home together with mommy and daddy, bring a less fortunate kid along to the Christmas market, give up a meal and pray for the poor and hungry, etc.

5. Reserve the more expensive or time-consuming items for the pockets that fall on weekends

Each item is quite strategically placed. For example, we reserve the more expensive items or time-consuming items for the pockets that fall on weekends when J would have more time to play with them such as LEGO set, build a plane, small jigsaw puzzles, etc.

6. Take an overview picture

Gather the items and take a picture for overview before wrapping them up. In this way, you will not lose track of which item you would like to place for which day. Here is an overview of our items arranged according to the weekly sequence from Sunday to Saturday:


Here are close-up pictures of our items for the 24 days:

Day 1: 100 DKK

Day 2: 100 DKK

Day 3 & 12: 5 + 5 DKK

Day 4: 20 DKK


Day 5: 10 DKK

Day 6: 10 DKK

Day 8: 10 DKK

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11: 20 DKK

Day 12

Day 13: 20 DKK


Day 14: 40 DKK

Day 15: 115 DKK

Day 18: 20 DKK

Day 19: 3 DKK


Day 20: 20 DKK

Day 21: 40 DKK
Day 22: 20 DKK - Making Christmas tree with crystal

Day 23: 20 DKK


Day 24: 20 DKK

7. Wrap up the items and remember to take a picture for memories :-)

When the Advent calendar is all wrapped up and start looking pretty, remember to take a picture of your kid standing next to it the first morning. You will enjoy the picture in years to come :-)

Additional Information:
The Advent calendar consists of 24 socks/pockets/strings for putting or tying 24 small items as a surprise for the kid to open and discover each day of December until the 24th Christmas eve.

Most Danish parents put a small sweet or chocolate for each day, which can be a little too unhealthy for our taste. Others give the Advent calendar that unveils the TV Christmas series for each day, which can be a little too excessive for a child to watch TV consecutively for 24 days for us. Many Danish parents put a small junk for each day such as a small eraser, pencil, etc. which is a little junky and a waste of money. Some Danish parents put rather expensive present each day, which is a little too extravagance we feel. Oh no, I don't meant to criticise, but it all come out a little negative.

Last year 2013, J was 4 years old and we gave him the LEGO City Advent Calendar, which he loved. You can read more here:

http://momlearnings.blogspot.dk/2013/12/advent-calendars.html

However, this year we didn't find anything suitable from the LEGO City set, as it looked very similar to last year's set, while J doesn't fancy Star Wars to get him the Star Wars set.

Daddy and I discussed and decided to make our own Advent calendar. However, such an Advent calendar does take time and still it is relatively extravagance, and we explained to J that he should not expect the same type of Advent calendar every year.

Here is how our Advent calendar looks like with all items wrapped up:




J standing next to his Advent calendar. We forgot to take a picture, and only took a picture, after the first pocket has been opened.
Some memories from J opening his Advent Calendar and doing some activities from his Advent calendar:






Setting up the Nativity scene day-by-day



Practical items: winter gloves
7 Dec 2014 (5Y9M2D) - J setting up the Nativity Scene day-by-day through the Advent calendar


7 Dec 2014 (5Y9M2D) - Opening Advent Calendar
3 Dec 2014 - J making a jigsaw puzzle for the younger kids at his kindie. I helped him outline the gingerbreadman, parts of the Christmas tree, the flower and writing the name Theo.


8 Dec 2014 (5Y6M3D) - Making elastic braclet


Day 13: 13 Dec 2014 (5Y9M8D) - Making letters with LEGO


J wanted to make all letters in his name. I helped him with letter A, and he went on to complete it on his own :-)

Day 14: 13 Dec 2014 - Car motive Ironing beads - a great hit. J loved this small surprise the most :-)

He did everything on his own. There wasn't enough blue beads, so I had to help him adjust a little.
 


15 Dec 2014 (5Y9M10D) - J placed his digger a little differently


21 Dec 2014: J sewed a card and wrote a note to farfar & farmor

22 Dec 2014: Growing our crystal Christmas tree in 24 hours.

Our Little FECS is very excited to see the results

Here is at the beginning stage after the solution is poured onto the frame



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