Five (not so) traditional Advent calendar tips

Five (not so) traditional Advent calendar tips

It feels like the children only went back to school yesterday, and yet Christmas is already around the corner. Did you also used to get excited about Christmas approaching when you were little, and start counting-down the days? One way of making the waiting game more pleasant for our children is to give them an Advent calendar. But it certainly doesn’t have to be one filled with chocolates! Nowadays there are lots of options available, including making your own version in all sorts of different shapes and styles – little boxes, pouches, and other inventive formats. 

1. Less traditional treats

Perhaps you’d like to stick to an Advent calendar containing edible treats but you’re looking for a change from chocolates? Here is one you can assemble in no time: simply put one of your children’s favourite snacks in the slot for each day. 

Another idea, which is rather more time-consuming but enables you to spend some fun time together in the kitchen, is to make the whole calendar out of gingerbread – with a different-shaped biscuit for each day. Use icing to write numbers on the biscuits, and then either hang them up using ribbons or pin them onto a board – and presto, your tasty, wonderful-smelling calendar is ready!

2. Tiny surprises

Everyone loves a surprise, particularly children, and there are so many things that can bring joy. By thinking-up 24 little objects, you’ll have a present for each day of Advent. A balloon, a hair clip, a wooden wrist watch, a few stickers, marbles,… or even those classic Kinder Egg toys that you had stashed-away in the back of a drawer. 

If you don’t want to have to come up with so many individual items, you can distribute things in several parts. How? The easiest choice is to divide the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into little bags, so that there’s a few pieces for each day. You could do the same with a Lego set. Or perhaps you have set-up a Christmas nativity scene at home this year and you’re thinking about how to get the children to like it better? If you put one figurine into each of the 24 pockets (plus one for Christmas Day), you can arrange it piece by piece throughout Advent until, at last, the baby Jesus arrives and the scene is complete. 

3. Puzzles and challenges

This tip will be as popular with the grown-ups as it is with the kids. Can your children already read? Write out some brain teasers for them. If they can’t read yet, try giving them picture puzzles to solve, or read out a simple riddle. If you like coming up with your own riddles rather than just solving them, you can make the whole of Advent into a treasure hunt or a code-breaking game with 24 puzzles, each of which reveals a clue or brings the children closer to the goal. 

Another option is to devise a fun activity for each day and set it as a competition. You can think up some completely new ones of your own – practise doing somersaults on the bed, baking a cake or biscuits, creating an Advent wreath, making candles, or … 

4. Stories

Advent feels like it’s set in a fairy tale, so it makes perfect sense to include some stories. You could come up with your own and write or print them on slips of paper, one for each day. Or you could make use of a few from your favourite books. Your children might enjoy a single story that continues throughout Advent, reading (or listening to) a chapter each day. If you’re feeling artsy, you could draw the story as a comic strip, with one frame per day. What should the story be about? The choice is yours! It’s likely that your children would find it extra magical if it just happened to be about them. 

5. A reverse calendar

Have you ever heard of a reverse Advent calendar? It’s an idea that resonates well with the spirit of Christmas. And it’s very simple: each day, you do one good deed, and at bedtime you draw it or write it into the calendar. You can keep a list of ideas, and the good deeds can be whatever occurs to you. For instance, do you have too many plush toys or other toys at home? Take them to the charity shop or donate them to someone who would be glad to have them. 

You can do the same with any clothes you no longer wear and books you no longer need – you can also leave books on the shelves at the local ‘book swap’ or give them to the library. Your children could also draw pictures for their friends and neighbours. You could make some sandwiches for a homeless person you have seen in the street. Or build a bird feeder. On the way to and from school, you could pick up litter along the pavement. And you can also ask your children to come up with some good deeds of their own – they are bound to have some surprising ideas! At the end of the day, Advent and Christmas are all about slowing down, noticing the world around us, and appreciating the joy we can bring to one another.

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