My five kids, like all the other kids that celebrate Christmas out there, cannot wait for the big day in December. While I do like the holiday, too, I cringe at the the influx of new stuff and the potential greediness. So to help combat that, two years ago I started making an Advent Calendar for my family but instead of toys or chocolates, each day has a good deed to be done.
I learned a few important things that first year, like pay attention to what deeds go with which day as some required more time and would be better on a weekend. I also realized which good deeds were really doable and that giving myself some cop out days ("help set up for family party" that they would have to do anyway) was imperative to getting it done without feeling pressured or guilty.
Not every kid participated every day. Forcing them to do a good deed would make it less of an altruistic endeavor and more of task that needs to be completed, just like required volunteer hours for high school students (how can it be a measure of character if the ‘volunteer’ work is obligatory?) So instead I encouraged them but (mostly) gave them flexibility over how much they did.
The truth is they did actually look forward to finding out what the suggested deed was each day. We called elderly relatives, cleaned up litter at the park, drew pictures for nursing home residents, found ways to help teachers, made gifts for loved ones, put something away for a friend at school and more.
Some days only one kid participated. Some days we just forgot. My kids still got a lot of junk for Christmas. But I see little ways, year-round, that they try to think of ways to help others and I like to think our Advent Calendar of Good Deeds is one of the reasons why.
Last year's calendar creation: http://www.sisterserendip.com/2014/11/advent-calen...