Make your own ... Story Advent Calendar!
Kids love the magic of opening an advent calendar, with a new small gift every day. But instead of a chocolate or sweet, why not create your own Christmas tradition of gifting them a story? It's easy and fun, and will be something your children will really treasure this holiday season - and probably for years to come. Best of all, you can make your own! You'll really enjoy it. Try one of my three Story Advent Calendar ideas.
1. Write Your Own Story
It's not so scary! You don't have to be a pro, honestly your child will be delighted with any and every word that YOU write for THEM. Beginners might find it easier by treating each day as an individual story. Writing ideas to get you started:
invent a short poem or limerick
recount a legendary family tale
draw a family tree and then write a short life story about each member of the family (spread over several days)
invent a creative story, broken into 3 days with 'cliff-hanging' endings for parts 1 & 2. (Stuck for creative ideas? Buy some story dice/cubes)
an interesting fact about someone your child knows (a relative or someone famous) or a subject they're interested in
a riddle (reveal the answer on the next day)
a joke, or
a recipe that you can bake together!
And - though not a story - a funny picture you draw, or a word search or crossword that you make up (on a subject they adore) is also fun.
If you're feeling more confident or creative, you can write a single story that's broken up into 24 parts. You can be as plotting and 'serious' as you like - or pick crazy names and characters and make them do ridiculous things. If you can work a cliff-hanger into the end of each part, all the better, there's nothing like a good serial (that's how Charles Dickens became famous).
2. Write Your Own Story Together
If you've ever folded a piece of paper into three or four parts, then taken turns to draw the head, shoulders, hips and legs of a character without knowing what the previous person has drawn ... well, this is kind of the same idea. It's great for kids (and parents) who might be daunted by the idea of writing a long story - because you do it together.
This idea lends itself to stories with lots of action and plenty of silly - though you're welcome to write a bestselling thriller, if you like - and it's great for families with more than one child. Simply rotate the days on which child writes with you, and the final story will be a real surprise to them all! Your job is to give direction, rein in bad story behaviour, maintain enthusiasm and to write the words down. Keep it fun; writing sessions shouldn't be more than 5 or 10 minutes per day. Afterwards you can read the family the latest chapter. As the leader you can have ideas but please don't take over - your kids will have fun if they're driving the creative process.
At the end of the advent calendar, collate the pages together and your child/ren will have their very own first book! Now that's a Christmas gift!
3. Use someone else's story or poem
If you really don't feel able to write anything, or you're away from your children for December, you could create an advent calendar using a published story (or perhaps poem, for little kids).
Buy a book, and get your scissors out. Tear off the cover and snip it into 24 (or 25, if you like to open the last one on Christmas Day) sections. Children's classics originally written as serials with plenty of cliff-hangers are particularly good - pick what you think will interest your child most. Suggested titles include Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, The Little Prince, The Railway Children, Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, Pollyanna, The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh, or Lassie Come Home. Or you could try modern children's adventure novels, that your children haven't read yet.
You'll probably need to make your own larger advent calendar so you can fit the wad of pages in (it's okay to fold them) and seal them inside. Or you can roll the pages up into Christmas crackers/bon-bons, number them and hang them along a line. Watch the excitement as your child has to wait a whole day to crack open the next exciting chapter! If they can read independently, that's fine - otherwise both of you can enjoy your reading the story to them (remember, read to them for fun - it isn't reading practice)!
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