Five ideas for alternative advent calendars
Updated for 2023
One of the most magical things about Christmas is the time leading up to it. It can provide a whole month of excitement and fun and offers an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family as you get into the festive spirit.
There is nothing more fun for all of the family than seeing the magic in children’s eyes as they write their letter to Santa, visit Father Christmas at his grotto or open a new door of their advent calendar, waiting for the big day.
Advent calendars have evolved throughout the years, moving from what was once a simple picture behind a door, to a daily chocolate treat. In more recent times, retailers have explored alternative options to the traditional advent calendar, with puzzle pieces, mini perfumes, and cheese selections all now commanding a piece of the advent market.
Although this variety can be overwhelming, it has delivered a creative opportunity to make this year’s advent calendar whatever you want it to be. Whether you make it yourselves or you simply want to try something different, our guide to alternative advent calendars for children will give you suggestions that will spark the imagination to suit a variety of budgets and personalities.
As well as providing opportunities for you to play together and spend some quality time during the festive season, getting your child involved in alternative advent activities can help to develop their creative and social skills too. Most of all, they will bring lots of joy and excitement to your little one in the run-up to Christmas.
Alternative advent calendars and activities
Looking beyond sweet treats, the magic of opening the door of the calendar each day can be captured with just about anything. As mentioned previously, there are lots of ready-made, alternative advent calendars available to buy.
For example, for a child that loves dolls, there are advent calendars that give a new doll or action figure each day or new clothing items for them. For those children who are more inclined to enjoy the arts and crafts, advent calendars that delivery a daily dose of modelling clay are also available for purchasing. Trains, cars and other automobile figures have also found their way into the advent market and for the bedtime reader, a daily book to be unwrapped each day has become increasing popular amongst children and parents alike.
Often, these alternative pre-made advent calendars come with a hefty price tag that might be out of reach for some families in light of the cost of living crisis.
However, this does not mean that an alternative calendar is not possible. Quite the contrary. Sometimes the most exciting and unique advent calendars are home made. Making your own can be a budget friendly alternative that provides the opportunity for a truly one of a kind calendar to be created. The only limit is your imagination.
Make your own advent calendar
By buying or sewing a reusable calendar that features pockets or boxes, you can fill each day with something of your choice. Uniquely personal, this approach allow you to create an advent calendar for your child that you know they will love.
Variety is a key benefit to a DIY advent calendar. Mix and match between a sugary treats, toys and books so that your child genuinely does not know what they will get! Put in a daily joke for them to read as an added touch, will mean that you can all benefit for the daily surprise.
The DIY advent calendar can be considered to be a sustainable choice, as they can be reused year after year and filled with different, age-appropriate treats as your child grows. Great on the pocket and on the environment. It’s a win win!
Start an advent creative project
Just because it is advent, doesn’t mean every day has to contain an individual treat to open. The festive season can equally be celebrated through fun and discovery – there are lots of creative ideas out there to get the children involved in.
You could start an advent art project together, such as a simple model for younger children or a simple sewing project for those who are a bit older. Each day, put aside a bit of time and challenge them to add something new to their model or sewing creation. This inspires creativity and teaches them about logical thinking and planning.
Finally, how about an advent jigsaw puzzle! This is a great idea that the whole family can get involved in. It can be created for children young and old through the varying of the jigsaw size, this is an advent calendar idea that can grow with your child. Educationally stimulating and cost effective, simply divide the jigsaw into 24 groups, with the child getting access to a handful of pieces each day. The end result will be a completed puzzle for you all to enjoy and provides a sense of accomplishment and family togetherness, just in time for the big day!
Elf on the shelf
Lots of families enjoy the fun and hijinks of the ‘Elf on The Shelf’. This is where each night of advent while the children are asleep, the elf is moved to a new weird and wacky location.
There will be lots of laughter as you come up with what mischief the elf could have been getting up to next, eating some biscuits in the cupboard, watering the plants, or even having a tea party with other toys!
Children will love the challenge of trying to find the elf each day and describing what the Elves have been doing, teaches them important literacy skills including storytelling and comprehension. They can also provide a behavioural incentive too, as they watch over the children all day and ‘leave’ before christmas, reporting good (and bad) behaviour to Santa!
There are many different themes you can come up with for an advent calendar that don’t have to revolve around the traditional sweet treat or gift. In fact, you can make an ‘activity’ themed calendar where you do something different together each day.
A lovely idea is a ‘Kindness Calendar’, containing 24 acts of kindness to do each day – from donating a jumper to a homeless charity, to paying three people a compliment, to sharing something with a friend. This is a great way to encourage citizenship and the value of helping others, especially at Christmas-time.
Create a treasure hunt
You can turn the advent experience into a fun new tradition by creating a treasure hunt! As well as engaging children in the magic of Christmas, it helps to develop their concentration, memory and logical thinking skills.
Wrap a small gift, hide it somewhere in the house at nighttime, and then give your child a new clue each morning to find it. The gifts don’t have to be big, they could be Christmas themed temporary tattoos, a sweet treat, or even an activity idea or voucher for something fun to do together. This is a great alternative to the traditional calendar which sparks the imagination and gets your child moving!
Lots of children (and adults!) enjoy celebrating advent, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to the traditional calendar containing sweet treats. With a little creativity, you can make some new traditions that involve the whole family.
As well as being a great form of family bonding, it also provides the opportunity to help your children to develop skills in communication, creativity and citizenship. Try some of our ideas for alternative calendars to think outside the box this advent and let us know what festive fun your family gets up to!
By Sarah Welland and Gemma Ballard