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Fun kids' advent calendar ideas

Elena Mozhvilo Christmas calendar Unsplash image
Remember when calendars were purely chocolate-based? A simpler time! There’s an advent calendar for everything now; building cars, crafting, reading, family games and puzzles. A little excessive? Perhaps. But our editor, Kate Morgan, decided to let her son swap a present for a whacky advent calendar and she shares her favourite finds with us.
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This will be the second consecutive year that my son has opted for a non-chocolate advent calendar. At first, I was horrified by the new price tag, but we came up with an agreement: if he could part with one or two presents under the tree then he could have an unusual advent calendar instead. Last year, he went with the rubber duck calendar. I was worried we’d have 24 rubber ducks lying around the house – a complete waste of money. Surprisingly, we ended up making a weird Dungeons-and-Dragons style game out of the 24 duck pieces and picture board that came with the calendar. Roll a die and you can swim across the lake and ambush the duck in a tuxedo on the other side – that kind of thing. It was hours of fun and we still play with it now.

Basically, it was well worth it, and he didn’t even care about having fewer presents under the tree.

This year, we went on a Christmas advent calendar hunt and found some pretty cool options. Which one would be your child’s favourite? Are they an avid reader, a budding engineer, a talented magician or a puzzle-mad genius?

Books and crafts advent calendar

toucanBox £35

Get ready to swap some gift ideas on your child's list for this epic calendar. You'll get 24 days of books, recipes, crafts and an adorable little elf plushie! Every day will have an exciting surprise that will keep your child captivated, learning and being creative. 

Build-it-yourself advent calendar

Revell £34.91

This isn't quite a calendar in the sense that there are no doors to open, but it comes in 24 pieces. You may want to create your own advent calendar pockets or boxes for the pieces. The instructions are needed, so the next step isn't a surprise but your child will still be super excited to see what's coming next and build a little bit each day. They'll learn construction and engineering skills and be able to play with the finished product as well. 

Magic tricks advent calendar

Trends UK £19.99

Great for anyone excited by magic (who isn't?). Each day your child will get a little magic trick to wow your family with. Note that the items are quite small and might sometimes slip from their compartment. This calendar is best suited for children ages 8+. 

 

Science experiments advent calendar

Amazon £24.99

This calendar comes with a quirky science experiment for each day leading up to Christmas. You'll find detailed, scientific explanations for each and will spend a good amount of time completing them and learning along the way. Adult supervision will probably be required, depending on the age of your child, and if you can, try to avoid looking further ahead in the instruction manual as this will give away the surprise for the next experiment. 

Solar system advent calendar

M&S £5.99

For those kids who still want a sweet treat in their calendar, this one combines chocolate and science perfectly. Each day includes a chocolate shape and a fun fact about planets and the solar system. You could even make a game out of testing each other when you reach the end of the calendar and see who remembers the most facts! 

Geology advent calendar

National Geographic £34.99

This calendar comes with 24 polished gemstones: agate, green aventurine, hematite, sodalite, turquenite, tiger's eye, blue calcite. On the final day, your child can dig out a crystal from a mini dig brick and there are options to make jewellery with the gemstones. This is a great introduction to geology or could add to your child's already bulging rock collection.

Crafts advent calendar

The Purple Cow £24.99

If you and your child love crafting then this one is highly recommended. You'll get to help your child create 24 Christmas ornaments, some easier to make than others so adult supervision is advised. You might also need equipment like scissors, glue gun and a pinecone! But it comes with a lot of quality materials and instructions. 

Family activities advent calendar

The Purple Cow £29.95

This is a real contender for us this year as we're a board-game kind of family. We're also guilty of spending far too much time on screens, so an advent calendar that encourages real-life interaction is definitely appealing! This one comes with a little game for each day (dice games, dominoes, card games and more). 

Sensory fidget advent calendar

Amazon £21.99

Fidget toys had to make it on to this list! Am I the only grown-up who enjoys playing with these just as much as my kid? They're not the highest quality but they do what they say on the tin. Enjoy fidgeting or playing with sensory toys? This could be the calendar for you (I mean your child, of course...). These can be really good pastimes for children with ADHD and/or autism, too. 

Felt advent calendar (create your own surprise)

Amazon £12.99

These felt calendars are a good (and fairly cheap) way to make your child's advent calendar really personal and memorable. Hang it up in your house and pop whatever surprises you want in the pockets for each day. Get imaginative! This could simply be a sweet treat one day, then a riddle on another, a homemade ornament, a friendship bracelet, a little lego figure – the list goes on. 

Art advent calendar

Little Brian Store £14.99

Paint sticks are fantastic: you can colour as much as you like without all the mess of using normal paint pots. Each day, you get a new paint stick and there are lots of lovely pictures to colour. Perfect for budding artists and those who can't have, or don't want, a chocolate calendar this year. 

Escape advent calendar

Amazon £19.99

Love escape rooms? We do too, so this advent calendar is very exciting. Each door has a clue that needs to be solved and QR codes to use if you need help. There are no numbers on the box, just images. This is best for older children (age 10 and up). Get your code-cracking hat on and solve your way to Christmas day. (It also comes with chocolate!)