Counting down to a special event can not only add some fun to the event but can make passing time until the event a bit easier on everyone. Children often don’t have a great sense of time and telling them it’s 5 more days until Christmas or 15 more days until Christmas may basically mean the same thing to them. So, finding a way of counting down (with us it was always “how many sleeps until…”) to that event can help put it into perspective for them.
Flickr, Meepness – Daniel C
Here are some ideas on counting down to a special event:
~ Advent calendars are the old standby – the ones with little doors revealing pictures or opening up to candies – but what about making some Advent calendars of your own? Personalize them! Make one for your Mom with pictures of the grandkids behind each of the doors or make one for your child with one of their favourite themes. You can make them out of matchboxes to hold tiny little treats (think beyond candy – little soaps, toys, lip gloss and more will often fit into these boxes. You can make a fabric one with pockets in it to hold items that are a little bit bigger.
~ One of our family traditions from when my daughter was just a tiny girl is our Advent books. I would take all of the Christmas themed books and wrap them up individually – or in two’s if they were really short books(usually in something inexpensive like newspaper, adding some red curly ribbon to make it festive) and pile them in a basket. Each night at bedtime, she would get to pick a package out of the basket, unwrap the books, and that would be our bedtime stories for the night. Not only did this give her a tangible way to countdown to Christmas but she had the fun of unwrapping something every day, getting a little surprise inside (sometimes old favourites, sometimes a new book or two), and then we had the joy of sharing story time together.
~ Advent calendars don’t have to be just for the Christmas season. You can use them for other special events like Halloween, Easter, and birthdays too. They can take different forms as well like one that is a paper chain – each day tearing off a link until the chain is all gone. You can even write something inside each of the links naming a special activity for that day (remember activities don’t need to be elaborate every single day and they can incorporate some of the things you would normally be doing anyway…they just seem more special when revealed as a “surprise” on the chain links.). Countdowns can be very effective when a family member is away or one is coming to visit. When I had to be away when my daughter was little, I’d leave behind a calendar on which she could count down the days until I’d be home again with my mom who was caring for her. My mom and I agreed on some special activities like baking cookies or reading a story or playing a game together that she would be willing to do with my daughter while I was gone and we wrote these on each calendar square leading up to my return home. She could see what fun things they’d be doing together and be able to anticipate those with excitement, all the while knowing exactly when I’d be back. My nephew’s wife did a similar calendar with their son to countdown to my nephew’s return from Afghanistan.
~ Countdowns can be tied into doing something good for other people as well. At Christmas, we always have a Nativity scene. Baby Jesus was not added to the scene until Christmas Eve and leading up to that day we would countdown by trying to make Him a comfortable bed. I’d put out a little basket of slips of paper – just enough papers to countdown the days until Christmas Eve. Every day we challenged ourselves to do something nice for another person (within the family or not) as a gift to Jesus and each night as part of our Advent wreath lighting, we would take one of the slips and write down the good deeds we had done that day on it. That slip would be placed in the spot where Baby Jesus’ bed would be in the Nativity scene and by Christmas Eve, there would be a pile of them there, forming a sort of bed of straw for Him.
~ You can countdown by adding to something as well. Make a little tree and have a little basket of ornaments to add to it for a holiday (Christmas tree, Easter tree, Halloween tree, etc). At Thanksgiving, you could set up a thankful tree (I did it by finding a branch lying on the ground and inserting that into a pot filled with plaster to hold it in place). Put a dish of blank leaves or just cardboard circles – one for each day of the countdown – and then every night after dinner, you and your child can make an ornament for the tree depicting something you’re thankful for.
There are many many ways to help pass the time while waiting for a special event with some sort of countdown. Think about what will best suit your family and your schedule!
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