Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Advent Challenger

The Advent Challenge

I am REALLY sorry but this blog is about Advent and contains the ‘C’ word, but the idea may need some planning so I need to get in early. 

I have been thinking about the many ways we can encourage positive mental health in the classroom (and at home) through small acts.  For the past two years I have made my Godchildren Advent Challengers (an idea I lay no claim to, having found it somewhere on the internet) in the run up to Christmas.  This year however I want to encourage more people to have a go because I think that it could be a really good way to encourage positive mental health at a time of year when we all go a little crazy!

What is an advent Challenger?

Basically an advent challenger is like an advent calendar, but rather than open a door to discover a picture/chocolate, you open an envelope to discover a challenge.

There are a variety of challenges and I have written more than 24 as I know some may not be possible or appropriate for everyone, it will depend on the user. I have thought quite hard about the challenges this year and tied them in with the 5 ways to wellbeing, resilience training and #3GoodThings (Pooky Knightsmith).  Each one encourages connection with others, giving, noticing the world around you, exercise, learning or reflecting positively on yourself and others. Each challenge tries to encourage a small act to improve wellbeing a little everyday of advent.


How could you use it in school?

It is really simple, like an advent calendar you open an envelope everyday and have to complete the challenge before you go to bed.  Just like a normal advent calendar these can be in a classroom, perhaps the whole class has a challenge each day or an individual child/small group have a challenge each day. The previous day’s challenge can be discussed before a new one is opened.

The challenges can be adapted for all age groups, so older children might write a letter to someone where younger children might draw a picture.  Older children might read to a friend, parent or sibling, where a parent would read to a younger child.  Many of the challenges however require interaction with people so everyone will have to be involved (and hopefully spreading the word).  If you want to get parents on board there are lots of ways to do it, and it could serve as homework tasks.  Some tasks may be really good for a particular child so you may want to plan who opens which envelope each day.

The challenges often ask questions some may choose to share their ideas where others may not, but it could prompt class discussion as to why the challenges are important, and why they might make us feel better.  In school it will only take a few minutes of tutor time each day and can be made into something much more meaningful if appropriate.

If you really wanted to go all out you could have a daily advent challenge for the whole school, everyone has to have a go at the challenge, again you would need to adapt the challenges to be appropriate for everyone.  But this would include the teachers rising to the challenge as well, so they may have to model learning (e.g. tell the class one interesting thing they learned during the day!).

Other Variations

I have worked in a variety of faith schools as a teacher but the challenger doesn’t reflect the Christmas story or faith.  If you work in a faith school you could easily add in some prayer challenges, or bible study challenges (please get in touch as I have a few if you would like them). 

There are lots of challenges that need a little bit more organisation (and this is why I am doing this blog now).  The five ways to wellbeing talks about learning something new: if you want to do this you may need to establish what you, your child or class are going to learn and find the appropriate materials and tuition - that may be as simple as knitting needles, wool and youtube!  If you want to start exercising you might want to look into classes or apps that can do that and similarly meditation and mindfulness practices.

If you can’t quite do the envelopes you could always just get children to randomly pick a challenge out of the hat each day.

Doing the challenger at home

There is no reason why parents can’t do this at home, so if you want to share this with parents please feel free.  There are 32 challenges to be picked from so parents can choose which ones they’d like to do. I also try to put the ones that require more time and parental input onto the weekends - so playing a board game would certainly be a Sunday challenge for example.

Making your challenger

All you need is some pegs, envelopes (24 of each - assuming you are doing one everyday of advent), string/ribbon and the challenges.  If you want you can spend time decorating (or getting the children to decorate the envelopes), write the numbers 1-24 on each envelope (one for each day of advent) choose your challenge for each envelope and place it in, seal the envelope and peg to the ribbon like a washing line.

Good luck and please spread the word.
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Please use #adventchallenger

Here are the challenges, feel free to contact me if you'd like a PDF version.  Please do share other challenges you think of and how you get on...


  1. We always have home made advent calendars but this idea is genius. So many people are not able to see the positives in life or need a gentle reminder and this is perfect. Please could you send me the PDF? eclectichomeandlife(@)blogspot(.)com I've used brackets to avoid an automatic spamming as I have been inundated in the past! Many thanks Lucinda, Selma x

    1. Have emailed you over a copy, let me know if you don't get it. Enjoy!


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