Who was I kidding when I thought I could come up with “give back” activities for our Advent house, print them out, put them behind the little doors and then leave them there year after year?! Nice try, mom. My kids are no longer excited about opening the same doors to find the same tasks as all the previous years, and I can’t say I blame them. Check out our new, fun advent calendar ideas that don’t involve candy!
Advent Calendar Ideas That Aren’t Candy
It’s time for a shakeup with some new Advent Calendar ideas. My kids are a little older now (10 and 12), so there is another reason for me to put a little effort into this much-needed update! Before I know it, they’ll be gone and out of the house, and I won’t have them to count down with so I want to make the best of this magical time that we have left (oh, cue the tissues! Sniff, sniff).
There are so many cute advent calendars out there these days (both store-bought and homemade—I got mine from Target years ago), but what I find we need the most help with is what items to put into those calendars (other than candy, of course!). Before I get into our updated list though, here are a few other good ideas for you…
Crafty Ways to Countdown
- Cut another layer off Santa’s beard (love this one!)
- Remove a chain from a paper snowman
- Twas the Night Before Christmas Story Clock (you could also make your own)
Simple Items to Unwrap or Open Each Day
- A different color embroidery floss (for making friendship bracelets)
- A sock (split up the pairs!)
- Holiday-themed lego pieces (complete a mini-set by the end—love these cute reindeer and tree options)
- Small holiday or other books
How to Come Up with Advent Calendar Ideas
First of all, I always find it funny when I see other people’s countdown lists that say things like “go on a sleigh ride.” That sounds amazing, but it’s the last thing I need my kids to count on me to do on a busy weeknight.
But that’s not to say we can’t do some fun activities that require us to get out of the house though (we always do each holiday season, right)? Hopefully many of our ideas will work for you, but here’s how I came up with our ideas in case you want to think of more.
- I started by looking at my family calendar to see what activities we already have planned—the Nutcracker, visiting gingerbread house displays, a local Christmas play, and our town’s tree lighting. I placed those on the list on the correct dates (where they were already scheduled) and didn’t tell my kids about them otherwise.
- Then, I looked at weekend nights where we don’t have too much going on and inserted some of the more time-consuming activity ideas like watching a movie or playing a game.
- And then on all the other days, I stuck in easy stuff that they can mostly do all on their own or notes about little gifts they can unwrap (I purchase a handful of items in advance that I would probably have given them anyway, like Christmas jammies)!
- I think I’ll even mix in some of the socks, bracelet supplies, and coins I mentioned above with these little activity cards.
- I bet they’d love to build up part of a little Lego set each day, so I’ll divide up the pieces (in order of assembly, of course) and place them behind all the doors with the instructions included on the first day.
I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they see what “surprises” are behind each little door this year. Oh, and can someone please stop my girls from growing up so fast?! :)
Our Advent Calendar Ideas List
- Go to our town’s tree lighting ceremony.
- Make a Christmas Carol video and send it to a grandparent.
- See the Nutcracker with mommy!
- Write a letter to Santa.
- Have a candlelit family dinner.
- Look up holiday jokes online with Daddy. Hehehe…
- Cut out snowflakes to hang in your room.
- Go see “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Matthews Playhouse.
- Dance to your favorite Christmas song with your family.
- Help mommy make cookies for her cookie exchange party on Tuesday + see the gingerbread houses!
- Unwrap new Christmas jammies.
- Skype or Facetime an out of town relative.
- Make a homemade Christmas ornament for someone special.
- Take a candlelit bubble bath.
- Unwrap a holiday movie DVD to watch as a family.
- Laugh at funny holiday YouTube videos together.
- Drive around and look at holiday lights together.
- A family game night with hot cocoa.
- Write out your goals for the New Year.
- Make a holiday craft with mom (search Pinterest).
- Make a card for someone special and mail it.
- Unwrap and read a new Christmas book.
- At dinner have each family member say something they like about each other.
- Pick one present to open before Christmas!
- Unwrap a new special ornament for the tree.
I’d love to hear your non-candy Advent Calendar ideas below in the comments!