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!

If you are making your own advent calendar, a great way to build the excitement of Christmas is to pop a note or ‘coupon’ with a fun activity into each pocket/drawer. If you don’t want to do that you could pop an Xmas bauble or other decoration in each. Below are some ideas for the activities you can include.

1. Block puzzle

Get the kids even more excited about counting down the days to Christmas – a puzzle advent calendar! Kids will love opening the box presents each night and guessing what the complete picture will be.

2. 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.

3. Paper chain riddle

Make this Christmas even more fun for the kids with a riddle a day until Santa arrives. Have the kids hunting and guessing until the big day!

4. Build your own LEGO

Scour your LEGO blocks and put the pieces needed for a nativity scene into the pockets of your Advent calendar and the kids can build the scene as they go.

5. Beads

Get a leather cord or similar to make a necklace or bracelet plus a selection of beads or charms. Pop one on each day of Advent.

6. Hanging crackers

advent crackers

Hang 24 crackers on strings and pull one each day.

7. 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.

8. Noodle boxes

Grab some noodles boxes (available at craft stores and big box retailers) and create an advent tower and pop the promise of a fun family activity in each.

9. Elf on the Shelf

The cheeky elf (or any other toy you would like to use) is a great way to count down to Christmas.

10. 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.

11. Cookies

Advent Cookies

Have a tasty advent – bake and decorate a cookie for each day. You could number them or just decorate them with a Christmassy theme.

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). 🙂 But I love the ideas here and may try something like the mini takeaway boxes!

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