There seems to be an advent calendar for every type of interest under the sun: do you love tea, baking, beauty products, or puzzles? There’s an advent calendar for that! Do you have a disney-loving child or a kid obsessed with Harry Potter? There’s an advent calendar for that too!
But my favorite kind of Advent calendar is one that brings the family together.
One thing I especially love about Advent is that it’s a season that celebrates waiting. My children will readily let me know how much they hate waiting and as much as I remind them the importance of patience, I totally get it— waiting is hard in a world of same day shipping, on-demand TV, and ordering food with just a few taps on a phone.
Nevertheless, waiting is very much an essential part of life and the Advent season is an extraordinary reminder that waiting can in fact be a wonderful thing. Advent is a beautiful opportunity for children to see that the anticipation and preparation for something really special can be just as meaningful as the thing itself.
In my family, we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus; while the significance and focus of Advent have remained the same for us, the way we’ve used Advent calendars and celebrated this season has varied. Some years we had time for daily holiday crafts and baking, while other seasons of life we kept it simple with a five-minute Bible reading and hanging up a premade ornament each night.
If you are celebrating Advent this year, I want to encourage you that Advent traditions with kids doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming to be fun and meaningful. Here are 13 Advent calendar ideas that you can enjoy with your kids this Christmas season:
Something To Make
My five-year-old loves building things so I’ve been eyeing KiwiCo’s Christmas Village Advent Calendar for her. KiwiCo is known for their line of fun subscription STEAM crates, which are designed to engage kids with a variety of creative and enriching hands-on projects. This year, KiwiCo has two Advent calendars to chose from: one for building a Christmas village and another for constructing Santa’s railroad. Each set is pre-packaged into 24 colorful envelopes that include all of the materials and instructions your child will need to start building!
I’ve always loved the idea of making a little hand-crafted ornament with my kids each day leading up to Christmas, but getting ideas for creating different ornaments and gathering all the materials is A LOT of work. This awesome felt ornament craft kit from Kids Crafts makes that all so easy and stress-free! All of the materials and instructions needed to make 25 beautiful felt ornaments are included, no glue or sewing required! The pieces are self-adhesive so as long as your child can manage stickers, this is a craft they can actually do mostly on their own and let’s face it— that’s a rare gem when it comes to crafting.
For older grade-school children, the Purple Cow Crazy Scientist Advent Calendar is an exciting, hands-on way to countdown to Christmas. This highly-rated science themed Advent calendar features a different science experiment each day for your curious kid to discover.
While the convenience of this kit just can’t be beat, if you enjoy DIY kids activities the way I do and you are interested in putting together something similar for younger children check out the 25 Days of STEM Christmas Activities from Little Bins for Little Hands or the 12 Days of Science Advent calendar from Science Sparks.
Something To Read
Among the various children’s Bibles I’ve read with my kids over the years, The Jesus Storybook Bible is definitely my favorite. During Advent, we follow the Advent reading plan (with free printable ornaments!) that goes through stories in the Bible leading up to the birth of Jesus. The Jesus Storybook Bible is so thoughtfully written, the language is easy-to-understand yet insightful, and the illustrations are whimsical and engaging— it’s definitely one of our family’s most meaningful Advent traditions.
Follow along the adventures of Winston the mouse when he finds a letter addressed to Santa and sets off on a journey to make a very special delivery! How Winston Delivered Christmas is beautifully illustrated tale with a chapter to read followed by a festive activity to complete each day in December leading up to Christmas. This would be a really cozy, heartwarming read for the whole family to enjoy together during the holiday season.
This lovely compilation of Beatrix Potter’s beloved Christmas-themed classics is sure to bring back lots of childhood nostalgia. Each day features a story and activity ranging from arts and crafts to recipes and songs. The charming illustrations and classic stories of this book make it a great way to create sweet memories with your children during the Advent season.
Something To Play
Looking for a fun, interactive way to countdown to Christmas with a toddler or preschooler? How about reading a little story and playing a simple game together every day in December? This adorable My First Games Advent Calendar follows the story of a bear family preparing to host their animal friends at the cave for Christmas. Each day there is a short story to read, cute wooden figurine to reveal, and simple task to complete or game to play to help the bears get ready for Christmas. This cute story-based Advent calendar would be perfect for little ones ages 2 and up!
I love a festive wooden train display and this beautiful wooden train station from Hape would be perfect for any locomotive-loving child! I love the quality of Hape toys and the versatility of a train set. This is definitely a toy that will have longevity way beyond the holidays— you can add to it, set it up in new ways, and it’ll last for years to come.
For school-age kids, the limited edition LEGO Advent calendars are always a popular choice and sell-out early. This year’s themes for the Advent sets include Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, Friends and City. Each set includes 24 fun mini builds and when the holiday season is over, the pieces can simply be incorporated into to your child’s LEGO collection.
Something To Display
I am SO EXCITED about this adorable fabric nativity Advent calendar from Target’s Wondershop collection! It’s officially the first piece of Christmas decor I bought this year (and yes, I got it the beginning of October). I love that it’s an oversized (nearly 3 feet), child-friendly nativity display that still has a simple, neutral design and looks great as decor. I’m looking forward to watching my kids slowly add to the nativity scene each day with the felt pieces, so fun!
BusyPuzzle is a small shop based in Ukraine that specializes in the most beautifully crafted wooden puzzles and toys for kids. Shipping time may take a little longer, but their lovely wooden Advent calendars are definitely worth the wait and it’s a great way to support a Ukrainian family-owned business.
I love the timeless design of their wooden star Advent calendar that also offers the option to add on a full set of nativity figurines or hooks for hanging your own Advent activities or treats.
So technically this isn’t a calendar, but I had to include this hanging wall display from Ikea’s Christmas collection because I’m really excited about the versatility of this piece.
This modern Christmas tree-shaped wall decor is designed as a photo or Christmas card display (there are slots in the wood pieces to hold photos or cards), but it’s also the perfect base for an easy, affordable DIY Advent calendar— just add your own Advent activity cards, ornaments, or treat-filled envelopes.
The simple, minimalistic design of this piece also makes it easy to customize with paint, greenery, or Christmas lights. There’s so many fun possibilities!
Lastly, this is an advent calendar that hasn’t been released yet but you’ll definitely want to be on the lookout for: the Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar. Thus far, Trader Joe’s has always come out with seasonal chocolate Advent calendars in a variety of festively designed boxes and last year they were only $1 each. That’s right, just $1.
There’s an abundance of choices when it comes to treat-filled Advent calendars, but many are not shareable for the whole family or simply not practical for kids. Problem solved with Trader Joe’s affordable price point! Now every one in the family can have their own little sweet treat each day of Advent.
Bonus Tip: Pair this with your family’s daily Advent book or evening read-aloud time to keep those little mouths occupied (and quiet more or less) while you read. It’s a win-win!