Activities for kids

30+ Advent Calendar Non-candy Ideas for Kids of any age

An advent calendar is a really fun way to make waiting for Santa a bit easier. Every year, my kids are now counting the days until we put up the Advent calendar that will then help them count down the days until Christmas!

Each year on the 30th of November, we get the felt reindeer out (as I’ve never bought a chocolate or toy advent calendar).

Each evening of the 24 days of December I cut out a piece of paper, roll it up and place it in a calendar pocket. On some days I might also add a little crafting kit or light up sticks, but usually, it’s just the piece of paper, that’s what holds the magic.

On that piece of paper, it’s something written for the current day and every day is something different from the rest. I have a .doc file on my computer with around 40 ideas and each year I decide what the calendar will contain, from fun activities to kindness gestures.

I want my kids to get used to the idea that Christmas is not only about ourselves and us getting presents. It’s about practising gratitude and showing kindness to others and smiling more and spending time together (though I do believe these are things that should happen all year round, Xmas time is a good reminder).

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What can I put in my child’s Advent calendar that's not chocolate or sweets?

This year I decided to spread the joy of an ‘alternative’ advent calendar and created a printable one for you to use. The file contains more than 30 Advent calendar non-candy ideas for kids that you can write and put in your child’s calendar.

The calendar comes in two versions – one coloured and one black and white.

You can print all the pages and put them on the wall and use the ideas in order. Or you can cut out the ideas, roll the paper and stuff it in a pocket of a reusable calendar (you can make one with your kids, I’ve gathered some brilliant ideas on my Pinterest page or you could buy one on Amazon).

In each section, there’s space for you to write the date and days left until Christmas. You can use the ideas in any order you like. The last page contains a blank section too, where you can write your own idea. All you have to do is enter your email below. Then you’ll receive an email with the two printable versions of the Advent calendar.

Notes about the ideas in the Advent Calendar

  • The writing and sending cards activity has an empty space so you get to decide if it should write ‘friends’ or ‘grandparents’ or ‘family’ or something else there
  • The ‘make a snowman and reindeer out of pompom’ activity – of course, you can buy kits on Amazon but if you already have pompoms and glue and pipe cleaners (you could try and get some from the local shop), there are lots of tutorials on Pinterest
  • The ‘toy decluttering’ activity might sound a bit daunting or scary, but I’ve shared our approach and how my kids got to enjoy this activity (and even do it by themselves on their initiative every 3-4 months) in this article on toy minimalism
  • The dance party idea is included in the calendar even though we often have dance parties during the winter because it’s a brilliant way of connecting with the kids while we all have fun and they burn some energy – we also use a disco ball as we bought it ages ago and it still goes strong (you could get one on eBay or Amazon if the idea appeals to you)
  • ‘Let’s surprise ______ with a video call’ section has an empty space so you get to write the name of the person your kid would love to surprise with a video call
  • For the ‘hot chocolate bar’ ideas remember to get out of the cupboard all the sprinkles and spices and marshmallows so you get to make several hot chocolates and try different tastes and combinations
  • The ‘face painting’ activity is one of my kids’ activities and we always have face paint in the house, we bought our latest set a while ago from Amazon
  • The snowball fight can be done with huge white pompoms or crumpled-up paper, it’s not about something fancy but about having tons of fun
  • For the ‘kindness rocks’, you can look here for inspiration on what to write on them and where to place them
  • The ‘talk to Santa’ idea is there in case your little ones miss visiting Santa’s Grotto this year – there are websites on which a Santa can be talked to via a video call
  • The wreath activity – we did it last year for the first time and we made one out of red and white paper straws, but you can make it out of pieces of paper cut out as leaves or ribbons

I hope you enjoy these ideas and I’d love to hear which of these Advent calendar non-candy ideas for kids you liked the most or which one would you add to the list.

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