Homemade advent calendars can be loads of fun for counting down to Christmas (check out our gallery of creative ideas if you’re looking for inspiration). But filling them can be a challenge if you don’t want to add yet more chocolate to the treat-filled festive season. Here are 20 chocolate-free fixes for your advent calendar, guaranteed to be more enjoyable, more useful and longer lasting than a momentary sugar hit!
There are official LEGO advent calendars out there, but its cheaper and more fun to make your own. Collect 25 individual pieces or minifigures (you might want to scour a few op shops!), or buy a set and break it up into 25 different components.
2. Activity ‘coupons’
Instead of filling your calendar with things, fill it with experiences. Create 25 ‘coupons’ for fun Christmas activities you can do each day (like making decorations, baking cookies or visiting Santa). Throw in a few treats as well, such as ice cream after dinner or an extra story at bedtime (image via how does she).
3. Craft supplies
Fill up the craft box (you have one of those, right?) by packing your calendar with crafty bits and bobs like pom poms, icy pole sticks, googly eyes, stickers and glitter pens… the perfect loot for kids to embark on a creative frenzy before Christmas. Check out some easy craft ideas for kids here.
4. Fridge magnets
Buy a collection of fun magnets or an alphabet set. Or if you want to go the DIY route, glue magnet sheets to the back of cut-out pictures or toy cars. We like this idea from Ben Franklin.
5. Silly bands
They’re silly and useless, but kids seem to love them! This is an inexpensive idea if you have a large family, and at the end they’ll have loads of arm candy to accessorise their Christmas outfits. Raid your nearest Toys’R’Us and see how many silly bands you can carry! (Image via Guerrilla Goodness)
For some it might not be quite in the spirit of Christmas, but for others, giving kids a coin a day so they can save up for something special teaches them the value of money and creates a sense of anticipation. If you prefer something they can hold on to, give commemorative coins or stamps to make a collection. (Image via Pictures of Money)
7. Mini cars
You can buy little toy cars in bulk packs from discount stores – perfect for slotting in to advent calendar pockets. It’s a great idea if they’ll also be unwrapping a car-themed gift on Christmas morning, like a race track play mat.
Let your kids unwrap and hang an ornament on the tree each day. They can be new, homemade or something with sentimental value. (image via Myer)
9. A treasure map
Draw a treasure map that shows where you’ve hidden one or two gifts somewhere in your home, then cut it up in to 25 pieces and place one piece in each pocket of the calendar. Let them slowly piece together the map… finally leading them to treasure on Christmas morning!
10. Homemade cookies
Have a Christmas cookie baking day with the kids, but rather than gorging yourselves once the treats come out of the oven, put them in numbered ziploc bags and let them open up one a day until Christmas. We could gobble up these shining star cookies right now! If your cookies don’t last the distance … well, it’s a great excuse to make more!
One for the sentimental folks among us. Write down 25 of your favourite memories from the past year: things you love about your kids, the ways they’ve grown and changed, memorable days, holidays or funny things they’ve said. Open up one a day and read them out to your family. Aww! (Image via Lindsay/flickr.com)
12. Finger puppets
What about one finger puppet per day, culminating in a Christmas spectacular puppet show? These little felt animal puppets are just too cute! The kids can have fun inventing the storyline and adding a new character daily. Although unless you’ve got lots of kids you might need mum and dad to help out with extra fingers…
13. Hair clips and bows
This is a great idea for little girls, especially if you have a little lady starting school next year. Load up the advent calendar with hair bands, clips and ribbons and watch the fun they have creating new stylish do’s! Take a peek at these beautiful bow clips from Fallen Star Couture.
14. Puzzle pieces
Buy a jigsaw puzzle and place a few pieces into each day your advent calendar. It’s likely to be the most drawn-out puzzle they’ll ever assemble… but it will be worth it! We LOVE the range of Melissa & Doug 24 piece jigsaw puzzles from Village Toys.
15. Vintage beads and buttons
Head to an op shop or craft supplies store and buy the prettiest beads and jewels you can find along with some metallic thread. Put a few beads in each pocket of your calendar, then let your little one slowly string a glittering Christmas necklace using the treasures she uncovers each day. Lincraft have a great selection of beads just for kiddies!
I never feel guilty about over-indulging in books, so I would have no qualms about buying 25 books to create this cool ‘calendar’ idea from 2 Little Hooligans. Wrap them up prettily, number them and put them in a basket. Then let your kids unwrap a new one each night to read. Visit the second hand bookstore if you’re on a budget – the kids will love them just as much whether they’re ‘new’ or not.
After a year of the washing machine eating socks and a year of outgrowing their undies, your kids’ smalls drawers might be looking a tad bare. Socks and jocks usually end up on the stocking filler list but why not transfer them to your advent calendar instead? Go for bright and silly options to avoid them being ‘boring’. Check out these fun odd socks from Vs Kids Socks
18. Jokes and riddles
Grab a joke book and write out 25 side-splitters to read out each morning for a festive giggle. Here, we’ll start you off: “What do elves learn in school? The Elf-abet!” Boom-tish. (Image via Kate’s Creative Space)
Restock their stationery supplies for the year by filling your advent calendar with pens, pencils, stamps, glue sticks, rubbers and scissors. Smiggle have stationery down pat. You can buy online and get it delivered to your door! School supplies: tick!
20. A play set
This idea can act as a great ‘teaser’ countdown to the big day. Buy a play set and take out all the little pieces, letting your kids unwrap one each day until at last the ‘big’ present is revealed on Christmas morning. This 50 piece trainset from John Crane will keep those little hands busy!