As the first of December approaches, families across the world will be setting up an Advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas with their children.
Originally Advent was marked by burning a candle, making a chalk mark or by hanging a small picture on the wall each day . By the early twentieth century the first printed calendars appeared and the small doors revealing an image or short bible verse were added several years later. The inclusion of chocolate began in the 1950s and has made Advent calendars popular across the world.
But Advent calendars don’t have to be just filled with chocolate. Homemade or bought Advent calendars can be filled with coins, stickers, stick-on-tattoos, craft supplies, stationery, hairbands, finger puppets, mini figures, jokes, or pretty much anything that you can fit into a little pocket or box!
Here’s 24 ideas for awesome Advent calendars – we’ve given you a mixture of calendars to make at home, ideas to fill them, plus some cool calendars to buy.
1. Activity coupons
Pop a note or ‘coupon’ with a fun activity into each pocket/drawer of your Advent calendar. The activities can be quick and easy for busy days, or involve the whole family on weekends, etc. It’s a great way to build the excitement of Christmas. Below are some ideas for activities:
- Decorate the Christmas tree
- Make a Christmas card for a loved one
- Watch a Christmas DVD
- Write a letter to Santa
- Colour-in a festive picture
- Bake and decorate a gingerbread house or family
- Create snowflakes to decorate
- Visit Santa at the shopping centre
- Make a video of you singing your favourite Christmas song
- Invite a friend over for a playdate
- Make a homemade Christmas ornament
- Go shopping for a present for a sibling/friend
- Donate a box of toys/clothes to a local charity
- Have a family game night
- Create a homemade Christmas gift
- Read a Christmas story
- Make DIY Christmas crackers
- Go see a movie at the cinema or drive thru
- Have a BBQ dinner and camp out in the backyard
- Take a family photo
- Make Santa’s magic key
- Bake cookies for Santa
- Go see the neighbourhood Christmas lights
- Put ‘reindeer’ food out for Rudolph and friends on Christmas Eve
2. Block puzzle
3. Pop! Vinyl
Funko Pop! Vinyl collectibles come in every theme imaginable. Whilst the budget might struggle to stretch to a full-size Pop! Vinyl each day of Advent, there are Pocket Pop! Vinyl Advent Calendars that would thrill any fan.
Inspire or nurture a love of reading with a new story each day of Advent. Try a book fair to pick up a bunch of books, wrap them and then open a new one each night, or simply put a little note in each day of the calendar with a title of a favourite book from your own collection.
5. Paper chain
6. Christmas ornaments
Fill your Advent calendar with Christmas ornaments and each day there will be a new decoration for the tree.
Each year LEGO bring out a few awesome Advent calendars. Open the doors for a new piece of LEGO each day to build the scene.
8. Build your own LEGO
For another LEGO idea, put the pieces needed for a scene or vehicle into the pockets of your Advent calendar. This nativity scene can be made from everyday LEGO bricks.
Pop a leather cord into the first day of your calendar and then fill the remaining days with beads or charms.
Hang Christmas crackers on a string or tinsel and pull one each day!
11. Create your own hanging Advent calendar
12. Wall Advent calendar
Little boxes of all shapes and sizes can be transformed into a unique Advent calendar in this festive craft. Arrange them on the wall in the shape of a Christmas tree or star.
13. Build your own LEGO Advent calendar
Spectacular idea for the LEGO fans!
Kids from the 80s will remember that collecting erasers was all the rage. Fill your own Advent calendar with a selection.
15. Advent town
24 easy to build paper buildings to build a beautiful Christmas village (and hide a few treats inside).
Explore all the handy tools in this awesome calendar or choose small gadgets to fill your own.
17. Noodle boxes
You can pick up noodle boxes from Kmart and Spotlight.
18. Kiwi as
Countdown to the ultimate Kiwi Christmas with this craft-it-yourself tree.
19. Colour in
Combine the kids’ calendar with a colouring in activity! Put a picture to colour into each pocket or opt for a ready-made version.
20. Pop up
For the wow appeal, you can’t beat a pop-up Advent calendar. This Harry Potter one has ornaments to decorate the pop-up tree.
There’s a whole array of beauty Advent calendars around – most of which are rather pricey but you can find some bargains. Alternatively, pick up some mini skincare goodies to fill your own.
If the kids have a playset on their Christmas wishlist then splitting it up for the Advent calendar can add to the excitement! Try a Playmobil set, train set, pretend food, action figures, toy dinosaurs, doll accessories, etc.
23. The Hubble Space Telescope
For an out of this world advent calendar, each year TheAtlantic.com choose their favourite images from the Hubble Space Telescope and release them daily in the lead up to Christmas.
24. Treasure hunt
Create a month-long treasure hunt by putting a clue into each pocket of the calendar that leads to a small treat or toy.
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”