24 Advent Calendar Ideas

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:

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.

4. Books

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.

9. Beads

Pop a leather cord into the first day of your calendar and then fill the remaining days with beads or charms.

10. Crackers

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!

14. Erasers

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).

16. Tools

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.

21. Beauty

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.

22. Playset

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.

Do you have an Advent calendar that you reuse each year? How do you count down the days to Christmas?

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her world julieWritten 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”


  1. dawnblyth 01/12/2019 at 11:31 pm

    We have the traditional b chocolate ones but this year we are doing elf on the shelf and then we will do 12 days of Christmas. So 12 activities that we can do as a family in the lead up to Christmas day

  2. MuddledUpMolly 01/12/2019 at 9:22 pm

    I have never seen so many awesome ideas in one place!! There are some really cool and original ideas, definitely better than your average $1 chocolate advent calendar. We have had an advent calendar for years now that we personalise and fill with our own treats, a joke and an activity for the day. The kids love it!

  3. SarahBlair 01/12/2019 at 8:53 pm

    What great ideas!! My mother has just given me a large wall hanging Advent calendar that has pockets for little gifts. She gave me a box of chocolates to put in the pockets but as I am not a big fan of chocolate I was thinking about other ideas that I could put in the pockets!! So once again kidspot, you have solved my problems, now to choose just one!!

  4. Alezandra 01/12/2019 at 1:51 pm

    Wow, what a great bunch of ideas. I’ve been eyeing the Disney books advent calendar from when it came out. I had to stop myself as we have our cloth advent calendar that we recycle and use. We are trying to go for more sustainable ways of doing advent calendars.

  5. Loucyd3 01/12/2019 at 1:38 am

    Oh wow, some great ideas here, my daughter would love a Lego advent calendar, she would love making the calendar and then we can pop some Lego characters and other little treats in the little pockets for her, this would be a perfect idea for all of our children as it breaks away from the normal chocy calendars. Each calendar could be designed just for them.

  6. Micht 30/11/2019 at 11:57 pm

    Dont know when last i saw or made a paper chain…but may just do that… and as for the other advent ideas… that would be interesting.

  7. Shorrty4life1 28/11/2019 at 9:24 am

    Wowee these are awesome ideas. I love the paper chain idea I used to make paper chains all the time as a child and had a blast everytime. So much fun. We have a reusable one each for my children and we put candy in each pocket and then a more bigger surprise on Christmas eve like a chocolate bar or something more special like something to do. If its too big to fit in the pocket then we leave to not in there saying to lock where it is like look under your bed etc. Its pretty fun.

  8. Bevik1971 28/11/2019 at 9:14 am

    All great ideas! We don’t buy our 6 year old advent calendars, because they are filled with yuk chocolate usually. We have never really done the countdown to Christmas thing either, it’s also her birthday on Boxing Day so we make it more about that and less about Christmas (not being grinchy, her birthday is just more important). ūüôā But I love the ideas here and may try something like the mini takeaway boxes!

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