Why not do a different kind of Advent calendar this year? We tried this last year and it was a big hit with my kids so we've made it a family tradition.
You can do it alongside a traditional Advent calendar that highlights special activities or treats each day. This character Advent calendar highlights personality traits (honesty, peacemaking, kindness) that are what the holiday season is all about.
My kids loved learning these new traits--and loved even more when they realized the traits existed within themselves and enjoyed thinking of friends, family, and favorite book characters who exhibited these qualities.
First, we generated a list of positive personality qualities that we feel are important. The kids came up with some great ones: honesty, helpfulness, being a good friend, courage. I added more that I wanted to highlight: determination, respect for the Environment, creativity, flexibility.
Next, I typed them into my computer and printed them out. This year we will write them for a little extra handwriting/spelling practice.
We placed them in a second Advent calendar that we already owned. (If you don't have one, you can simply put all of the character traits in a box and have your child choose one each day, or put each one in an envelope and write the day of the month on the outside. You will need 25 traits for December 1st through 25th.)
Here's our complete list (which totals more than 25), although you may want to come up with your own: Perseverance, Kindness, Determination, Helpfulness, Self-Respect, Trustworthiness, Respect for Others, Respect for the Environment, Honor, Sportsmanship, Gratitude, Courtesy, Creativity and Flexibility, Forgiveness, Cooperation, Acceptance, Honesty, Loyalty to Family, Courage, Patience, Caring, Peacemaking, Sense of Adventure, Sense of Humor, Being a Good Friend, Responsibility, Giving, and Hospitality (Being a Good Host).
Each day, the kids took turns pulling out the character trait. I asked them what it meant, then added to their definition or provided one if they didn't know. Then I asked them if they saw this trait in anyone in our family. It was such a joy to watch them point it out in each other: "You showed forgiveness when I broke your toy." "You were helpful when I couldn't spell a word."
We also explored each character trait with extended friends and family. We wrote down all of our observations in a notebook as we discussed them. Lastly, we thought about the characters in books we had been reading lately. They loved this part as well.
At the end of the month, we reviewed all of the traits and all of the examples we had come up with. It wasn't uncommon to hear them point these things out for months to come: "You are showing perseverance with learning how to ride your bike without training wheels, even though you fell."
Did you hear that? It was the sound of me sighing with joy as my heart melted.