I loved the advent calendar as a kid.  We used the old school paper one with doors or windows to open each day.  We didn’t get treats or gifts from it, just the joy and anticipation of knowing that Christmas was one day closer.  These days most advent calendars have little pockets or cubbies for parents to hide treats for their kids to find each day.  And while I think that’s a clever idea, I worry about making every day about getting something as opposed to enjoying an already magical season.

Love the idea of an advent calendar, but not the idea of daily candy? Try these alternative ideas for a fun, candy-free tradition.

So with that in mind I set about to come up with clever things to put in my advent calendar that weren’t candy or useless junk that would just end up getting tossed (before or after I nearly kill myself stepping on it).  I decided that I wanted to focus on things we could do as a family – because spending time together is really all I want for Christmas.

Homemade Advent Calendars

ornament stickers

Stickers.  My daughter loves stickers – I hate them.  Sticky things creep me out, plus they end up everywhere.  But I found these adorable ornament stickers on Amazon that I might be able to deal with.  The idea is to either find or make a big paper tree – painted or whatever – then put the ornament stickers on the tree each day.  By Christmas day we’d have 75 ornaments on a beautiful paper tree!


Coupons.  If the goal is family fun, make up a bunch of coupons like these from Edventures with Kids with things to do and put them in the calendar.  They can have a Christmas theme, like going on a light tour, or not, like extra tv time.  You can even plan out which activities will fit into your already jam-packed holiday schedule.  A slow Sunday can be “Stay in your PJs day” while a busy weeknight can be “Extra bedtime book night”.


Gingerbread House.  Okay, so this is technically candy, but it’s not for eating.  You can turn your annual gingerbread house into an advent activity by putting the house trimmings in your calendar.  (If the candy doesn’t fit, put a coupon and stash it someplace else.)  One day is Necco Wafer roofing, the next is shredding coconut snow, then a candy cane fence, etc.  You can get pre-packaged gingerbread house candy or just head down to the corner store and pick out things that look like fun.

Ready-Made Advent Calendars


Tsum Tsum.  Create a Disney playscape with an adorable advent calendar.  The set includes 18 characters, plus accessories!


Lego.  Let your little builders create their own Lego Christmas city!  Each day reveals a new item to add to the scene.


Crayola.  Each day open a door to reveal a new activity, including a letter to Santa and gift tags!

Love the idea of an advent calendar, but not the idea of daily candy? Try these alternative ideas for a fun, candy-free tradition.