When we think of Advent calendars we think of counting down the days to the birth of Jesus, and the daily chocolate treat that typically comes with it. But what are your alternatives if your child can’t eat sugar or chocolate, or you simply want to have a healthier Advent option? Fortunately, there are plenty. You just need a little imagination. Here are some ideas to get you started.
For the Littlest Ones
Help your toddlers avoid the sugar but not the fun.
Your little one will love making and chasing them.
Unleash their inner artist.
3. Finger puppets
Who knew that so much fun could be at the tips of their little fingers?
Blow up some fun for pennies.
5. Bathtub animals
They’ll look forward to bath time more than ever!
Pictured: Noah’s Ark Foam Tub Toys
6. Small stuffed toys
Give them a perfectly sized cuddle buddy.
For Kids of All Ages
Activities and Games
Create a special memory every day of Advent and beyond.
7. Calendar of Fun
Build togetherness this season with an Advent calendar that counts down the days with fun things to do as a family, such as reading the nativity story or watching a favorite Christmas movie.
Of course, it’s hard to predict what each day will bring. That’s why Dawn Hanigan, a Catholic mother of four who is author of the blog By Sun and Candlelight, creates a calendar that gives her flexibility. She makes tentative plans a week ahead of time. Before she retires each evening, she writes the Advent activity for the next day and tucks it into the calendar. This way she can be assured to have the time and energy to follow through.
Pictured: An Advent Calendar of Activities
Give them a lesson in patiently waiting by gradually putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle during Advent, advises Debbie Gaudino, a Catholic writer, speaker and mom. Simply give them a few pieces each day.“I see so many parallels to the discipline, patience and perseverance required to complete a jigsaw puzzle and the spiritual journey to Bethlehem we should all be taking during Advent,” she explains in her blog, Saints 365.
Pictured: Holy Family Jigsaw Puzzle
9. Nativity Banner or Scene
Slowly build the Nativity with a felt banner or scene. Add pieces each day of Advent until the nativity is completed, culminating with placing Jesus in the manger at Christmas.
10. Travel Games
Are your kids on the go? Give them a gift to keep them occupied on the road with magnetic travel games they can play anywhere.
Help them appreciate their spiritual heritage.
11. Trading Cards
Teach your children about Catholicism’s amazing spiritual leaders by giving them a saint trading card each day.
Pictured: Saint Trading Cards
Wrap up 24 Christmas-related books and put them in a basket, then ask your children to choose one that you will read together each night. This is a tradition that Jessica Gordon, a Roman Catholic wife and mother who writes the blog, Shower of Roses, began with her family more than a decade ago. Today, her Advent book basket is one of her family’s favorite Advent activities.
13. Family Worship
Read a Bible verse from the Gospel with an Advent devotional, and sing a carol.
14. Jesse Tree
The Jesse Tree illustrates the people, events and prophecy that led up to Christ’s birth. It can be anything from an actual tree to a banner to twigs in a vase. Each day of Advent give your child a Jesse Tree ornament to place on the tree. For ornament inspiration, check out our post on the weekly themes of Advent.
Give them everything they need to celebrate creativity.
15. Coloring Books
Color a page in an Advent coloring book each day.
Pictured: Advent Coloring Book
16. Art and Craft Supplies
Supply them with everything they need to make their own Christmas ornaments, gifts and cards. From Play Doh to pencils to paint and stencils, there are more than enough crafty Advent filler ideas to give budding artists something new every day all season long.
17. Sewing and knitting supplies
Do you have a knitter or future clothing designer in the family? Use Advent to get them stocked up fun fabrics, yarns, needles, patterns and more.
Keep your little music-lover moving and grooving all season long by gifting them a song a day from iTunes.
Let them decorate their world with stickers. Buy a sticker book and share a few stickers a day as Advent progresses.
Pictured: Advent Calendar Clings
Let them make your whole house festive, including your fridge, by giving a magnet for each day of Advent. You can purchase a collection of Nativity magnets, buy magnets individually, or even make them yourself.
Pictured: Large Nativity Fridge Magnet Set
Fun Things to Wear
Deck them out with holiday style.
Let them keep their feet warm and have fun too by giving them a different set of whimsical socks each day.
22. Hair Accessories
A new hairclip or bow each day is pretty, practical and inexpensive.
Thrift stores, as well as estate and rummage sales, can be a very inexpensive source of for fun jewelry pieces that will make playing dress-up delightful. Or, make some one-of-a-kind pieces yourself.
24. Nail polish
Keep toes and fingers pretty all season long.
Gifts of Service
Help them help others.
25. Service Calendars
Create an Advent calendar focused on service. For each day leading up to Christmas give them a small way they can bless someone. It can be as simple as drawing a picture for a neighbor who lives alone or giving some hot chocolate or coffee to the postman.
26. Advent Box
Every day of Advent have your children select a toiletry or nonperishable food item and place it in a basket. On Christmas Eve day, deliver it to a homeless shelter or food shelf.
27. Advent Prayer Chain
Select a person to pray for together each day and add their name to a paper chain. Drape the chain across the Christmas tree to wrap it in prayer and remind yourself of those you’ve kept in your hearts throughout the season.
Abbey Dupuy, a Catholic homeschooling mom of four, created an Advent paper chain with one of Jesus’s names on each link. Her goal was to better connect her children with the reason for the season.
Pictured: Advent Prayer Chain from Abbey Dupuy
We hope these ideas provide inspiration to a sweeter Advent, without the sweets, and spark some new traditions in your family.