Simple Advent Ideas for Families

family advent celebrations

Many of us wish for a way to celebrate and commemorate the Advent season.

Maybe, though, you have been overwhelmed by all the options, and worried that it will be just one-more-thing to do during an already full holiday season.

My goal here is to share a few simple ideas for enjoying and celebrating during advent.  Don’t try to do all of them!  Start small, and keep it simple.  In different seasons, different activities will fit more reasonably into your family’s culture.

In advent activities as in all things, something done simply and imperfectly with love will be much more delightful than some fancy activity done with a grumpy mom and stressed out kids!

The Old Testament believers longed for the Promise to be fulfilled, waiting in faith and hope.  It is all too easy for us to be distracted by the busy-ness of the holiday season from the wonder that we know the One for whom they waited.

This Advent season, consider incorporating these simple family activities into the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Want even more Christmas resources? Check out my advent round-up here.

family advent ideas

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Simple Advent Activities For Families

Advent Chain

Cut 25 strips of paper.  On each strip, write one Scripture reference.  Staple the ends of the paper together, linking them together to form a chain.  Each day remove one strip and read that verse.  It will become exciting to visually see how much closer Christmas is coming as you count down the days and the chain grows shorter!

Here is a printable list of suggested verses for each day: 25 Advent Bible Readings

Jesse Tree

This has always been one of our favorite family projects for the advent season.  Isaiah 11 prophecies, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”  A Jesse Tree provides an opportunity to hang simple ornaments or symbols during the Advent season that tell the story of the promise of the coming Christ.

The story of the birth of Jesus is rooted in the entire story of the Old Testament.  From the time of God’s promise to send a Snake Crusher in Genesis 3, every story and every hero pointed forward to the fulfillment of the coming Messiah.  We are not given a list of people to imitate.  Let’s face it: you wouldn’t want to imitate most of these characters!  Instead we look to see how “every story whispers” the name of Jesus.

While most literally a Jesse tree focuses on the family line of Christ, our family expands this tradition to look at the whole story of redemption, that “scarlet thread” which binds all of Scripture together.  Since Advent gives us an opportunity to imitate those Old Testament saints who were waiting and hoping for things unseen, a Jesse Tree allows us to reflect on their stories.

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You know by now that we keep things pretty simple around here.  A Jesse Tree project doesn’t have to involve elaborate preparation or fancy ornaments.  I usually start with a literal branch that we find in the woods or on the sidewalk near our home, and create extremely simple ornaments that will never win any arts-and-crafts competition.  You could also use a mini-Christmas-tree, or even hang the ornaments from a line of twine strung up on your wall.

We normally place 15-20 ornaments on the tree throughout the Advent season.  This can easily be tweaked to fit your family’s need.  You could place ornaments during Morning Time, during family devotions, or all at once for a lengthier project.  This could also be a fun activity to do with friends, a Sunday school class, or your co-op.

Here are some Jesse Tree ideas to get you started:

  1. Branch– set up your branch or tree. Read Isaiah 11. Discuss how the whole Bible is about one big story of redemption.  Keep it simple ornament hack: pick out 1-3 branches from your backyard and stick them in jar.   
  2. CreationGlobe. Read Genesis 1-2. Keep it simple ornament hack: cut out a circle of paper, hole punch it, and hang.  Use blue or green paper, or, if you’re feeling really fancy, you can draw continent outlines on a circle of white paper.
  3. Adam and Eve and the FallSnake. Read Genesis 3. Keep it simple ornament hack: cut out a sinuous snake shape from brown felt or brown paper, or use your child’s rubber snake toy.
  4. NoahRainbow. Read Genesis 9. Keep it simple ornament hack: draw a rainbow on a small piece of paper with crayons, then cut it out. You can also use any random rainbow toy you happen to have.
  5. AbrahamTent. Read Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15. Keep it simple ornament hack: cut out a rectangular piece of fabric and drape it over one of the twigs on your branch.
  6. IsaacRam. Read Genesis 22. Keep it simple ornament hack: print the image below.
  7. JacobLadder. Read Genesis 28:10-22. Keep it simple ornament hack: we usually make a simple ladder out of pipe cleaners.  You could also use a lego or playmobile ladder.
  8. JosephColorful Coat. Read Genesis 45. Keep it simple ornament hack: Draw a colorful coat with crayons or cut a coat-shape out of your brightest scrap fabric.
  9. Moses and the ExodusStaff. Read Exodus 12, 14. Keep it simple ornament hack: find a short, thick twig outside.
  10. Rahab- Red thread/ribbon. Read Joshua 2. Keep it simple ornament hack: red thread or red ribbon seems self explanatory.
  11. Judges- Googly eyes. Read Judges 2: 1-23, 21:25. Keep it simple ornament hack: googly eyes are easy to find at your local craft store.  Cut out a small paper shape and glue 2+ googly eyes on the paper to represent everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.
  12. Ruth- grain stalk. Read Ruth (it’s only a few chapters…go ahead, read it all!). Keep it simple ornament hack: I typically find a few “grain-like” weeds in my yard and tie them together with a twisty tie. If you have leftover fall decorations, you may have something even more grain-like.
  13. David- Sling, Sheep, or Crown. Read I Samuel 16:1-13, I Samuel 7. Keep it simple ornament hack: your kids may enjoy fashioning a sling-like object out of a rubber band. Other options are to cut a simple crown shape out of tin foil or yellow construction paper, or to make a simple sheep with a cotton ball.  Do you have leftover googly eyes you could glue on the sheep?  If not, just draw them on with marker.
  14. Exile- Manacles. Read Psalm 137. Keep it simple ornament hack: make handcuffs out of tin foil.
  15. Daniel- Lion. Read Daniel 6. Keep it simple ornament hack: print the image below.
  16. John the Baptist– Faux fur (“camel’s hair”) or Locust. Read Luke 1:57-80, Matthew 3. Keep it simple ornament hack: do you have any scraps of fur-like fabric? If not, print the image below.
  17. MaryMagnificat on a scroll. Read Luke 1:26-56. Keep it simple ornament hack: write or type out Luke 1:46-47 (or 1:46-55) on a piece of paper, then roll it up.
  18. Joseph- Nail. Read Matthew 1:18-25. Keep it simple ornament hack: don’t we all have a collection of odds-and-ends nails?
  19. Shepherds- Sheep or Angel. Read Luke 2:1-21. Keep it simple ornament hack: see the description above with “David” for ideas on a cotton ball sheep, use an angel ornament from your Christmas tree, or print the image below.
  20. Wise Men- Star. Read Matthew 2. Keep it simple ornament hack: Cut out a star from construction paper or tin foil, or use a star ornament from your Christmas tree.
Advent memory work
I’ve curated beautiful, delightful Advent Memory Work so you don’t have to. Get your copy here.

Advent Countdown Candle

A friend made me an Advent Countdown Candle several years ago.  I had never heard of this tradition previously, but it was so fun that my children begged me to do it again the following year. It’s now one of our favorite traditions.

Start with a simple taper candle (any color or height that you have available).  Using paint or a paint pen, draw 25 lines down 1 side of the candle, numbering them if desired. (I found it worked well to write odd numbers on one side of the lines and the even numbers on the other.)

Light the candle once a day (we lit it at the dinner table, but you could also light it during Morning Time).  Only let it burn down until it reaches the next number!  All the children’s eyes will be glued to the flame, ensuring it doesn’t burn down too far.  At first you don’t notice much difference, but the closer you get to the 25th line, the shorter the candle becomes!

On Christmas Day we allowed the candle to keep burning, a joyful picture of the Light of the World shining forth in the darkness!

Simple Advent Books and Study Guides for Families


This was a huge hit with my family when it was published last year!  Using Handel’s Messiah as the unifying theme, each week also has additional hymn study and poetry memory.  There is a bit of commentary on Handel’s oratorio, and you are given directions for listening to a small portion of the music each day.

I found this “slow listening” to be tremendously moving and beneficial. Normally I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of Handel’s Messiah.  By focusing on smaller portions at a time, we grew in appreciation and love for the music and all it contained.

Jesus Storybook Bible

The Jesus Storybook Bible does a wonderful job of showing even young children how every story in the Bible is ultimately about Jesus.  There are 25 chapters, which makes it lovely for a daily advent Bible reading.  If your family avoids pictorial representations of Christ, the audiobook is a favorite with my family.  This is going to especially appeal to younger children, though all of us benefit from approaching the Bible in this humble way!

Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration

I have many lovely memories from my own childhood with this book.  There is a reading for each day of the week, as well as a lengthier lesson 1/week.  There are also instructions for utilizing an advent wreath/advent candles.  This is a perfect open-and-go option for busy families, and is appropriate for mixed ages.

Other Books You May Enjoy

Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional

Come, Let Us Adore Him

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Family Devotional

How does your family observe the advent season?  I’d love to hear in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be delighted if you’d consider sharing it with your friends.  Thank you!

Check out this round-up of other special ways to celebrate Christmas!
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4 thoughts on “Simple Advent Ideas for Families”

  1. Love your ideas! We are doing Jesse Tree for the first time this year. We’ve done Advent boxes in the past but trying to switch it up this year! Another tradition we have is reading through the book Jotham’s Journey.

    1. I’m so glad you’re going to do a Jesse Tree this year! It is always such fun. 🙂 Will you make your own ornaments/symbols? I have several friends who have recommended Jotham’s Journey to me, but we still haven’t read it. Glad to hear from another person who likes it!

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