Make Advent More Adventurous

David Valentine

6 mins

If you don’t have kids, or your kids are all super tiny babies, or you don’t like your kids, you can stop reading right now. For everyone else, why not make this December fricking awesome? I mean, seriously, as if 2020 hasn’t been hard enough, if we’re going to be hunkered down with the family, we might as well have a little fun. Amiright?! (Anyone else looking at their watch at 7:30pm and feeling like it’s past midnight? Or pouring a second bourbon? Just me? OK.)

Quick, about me (because I know you don’t really care). Dad. Husband. Kids ages 18,16,11. All in my house. All the time. (And usually eating loudly while I try to watch something on TV with the Mrs.)

About ten years ago, I was clearly not thinking straight because I bought this crappy looking felt snowman advent calendar with little pockets in it. Here’s a photo:


What started as the worst impulse buy I’ve ever made has actually turned into one of the most enduring family traditions in my house. Here’s a quick life lesson:

YOU can invent traditions. You can just make them up. Do anything for more than one year in a row, and you’ll create an important pattern that will actually be the stuff your kids will remember forever.

That actually sounded profound. I’m going to pause to let it sink in.


OK, back to the crappy snowman. I brought that guy home and said, “I’m going to make a SIMPLE daily advent calendar that will bring a little surprise and delight into the lives of my kids and wife.” It worked. It’s hard to believe that something so simple can bring so much joy.

Hey, person still reading, I want that for you. I want you to have more joy in your life. It’s really important. I’m going to tell you how to make it happen.

(BTW, what started as a very simple calendar concept has become infinitely more complex over the ten years. If you’re intrigued about the current state of the Advent Calendar complexities, read the postscript below.)


Step One: Get yourself a crappy reusable advent calendar right now. Here’s one that doesn’t offend my design sensibilities. This one would look nice next to my Ohio State Buckeyes flag. You get the idea. And, if you’re cheap, just tape 24 pieces of paper to the wall. This is not about aesthetics. This is about fun and intentionality.

Step Two: Divide the calendar evenly among the people in your family. I go for a 3:1 ratio. Three days of kids’ stuff followed by one day of wife stuff. It works.

Step Three: Write a simple note for each day, which points the family member towards a very small treat hidden somewhere in the house. Here you can get as creative as you want. (Again, read the PS for what I’m currently trying to pull off.) The important thing is that your kid gets a little unexpected adventure each time it’s their day. Finding the hidden treat somewhere in the house is the fun, NOT the treat itself. (I’ve had to remind my kids a time or two of that fact.)

Step Four: Hide the treat for the next day the night before, if you can remember. I’m sure the Tooth Fairy has never been off her game in your house, but sometimes remembering to set up the clue and the treat the night before is the hardest part. Don’t worry. You can do it.

Here’s the thing, Christmas is an incredible season, but it doesn’t always feel that way. As a family with young kids, it was starting to feel like ONE day of the year that was mostly based on consumerism. So instead, I tried to fill our house with a month of anticipation for the God who gives incredible gifts. It worked. I did it, and so can you.

Make your December fun. As a dad looking back over ten years of Advents, I can honestly say it’s one of the best moves I ever made. Stupid felt snowman.


I don’t have time for this. Yeah, you do. We tend to make time for things that are important to us. Trust me. You can find a couple of hours to handwrite some clues for your kids.

I noticed in the photo that your clues look fancy and designed. You did? Thanks. OK, I am a graphic designer, but you don’t need to be. My kids have never ONCE commented on how cool they thought the design of the clue was. Sheesh, spoiled brats.

I’m not creative. Everyone is creative. It’s actually the first attribute we learn about God in the Bible, and I believe it’s the first thing he puts in each and every one of us. (I’m glad I could win that argument.)

I wish I had a couple of examples of things I could use as clues. Really? OK, email me: I’ll share you on some Google Docs of the past few years of my clues. They really only make sense for my house (and family), but at least it can spark some ideas for you. Seriously.

What started as some simple one-line limericks (example “Well, what’s in it for me? Look under the tree!”) has turned into a Dan Brown DaVinci Code level maze of riddles and clues. Now, every single day, the calendar clue is an abstract riddle that points the reader to some mysterious place, either in my house or perhaps online. Ultimately the first clue leads to a second clue taped behind curtains or wall art or under tables. The second clue leads them to a small wrapped treat, also hidden in the house. I’ve used decoder rings, typed in braille, and even used images to spell out words in sign language. It’s getting a bit out of hand. For instance, last year, this clue: “Cyprinidae, Cypriniformes” led them to a small note hidden under the goldfish bowl. Google it.

Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...

Make Advent More Adventurous

  1. What struck you most about this article? Why that?

  2. How is the culture of your home feeling lately? List as many feelings/descriptions as you can. Why those?

  3. Here’s the big question: How capable do you feel about influencing it and making it BETTER? Especially if you’re a parent reading this, you have that power! God has equipped you to lead your home even if you feel totally inadequate. Ask Him for some inspiration and some small ways you can make a big difference at bringing his goodness to your house in bigger ways.

0 people are discussing these questions

(This stuff helps us figure out how many fruitcakes to make come December)

You must include at least one person

Got it! Enjoy your discussion.

David Valentine
Meet the author

David Valentine


Popular Topics

Now Keep
it coming

Subscribe to get our best content delivered straight to your inbox.