DIY · Parenting

Ditch the candy – fill their Advent Calendars with experiences and memories

This time of year it’s easy for me to get lost in a to-do list. Too often I get stuck on the things I have to — no, need to — do, and I lose sight of the more important things.

That’s why for the last two years, our Advent Calendar has looked a little different. For the first two years with my daughter, we filled our calendar with a chocolate or sticker or dried apricot (her favorite back then). And each day, good or bad, she knew she’d get a treat.

When Baby 2 came along, I heard from a few friends about a different kind of calendar and we jumped on it. We’ve replaced cheap candy and treats in favor of an experience Advent Calendar.

Each day my girls open a drawer to find a scrap of folded paper. On it they’ll find activities like “Sleepover at Grandma/Grammy’s house!” or “Bake Christmas cookies!”

Not only does approaching an advent calendar like this get us out of buying cheap candy and toys that we don’t want in the house, but it also keeps us focused on what matters – family time … and more cookies!

Stuck on what to add for your calendar?

Advent calendar of experiences
Ditch the candy in your Advent Calendar and swap in experiences this year.

I scour the papers for Christmas activities and events and put those in — Christmas open houses, meeting Santa, etc. It’s a way of framing those events I’d want to take my family to anyway, as treats that my oldest can tell my husband and I put time into planning (or so I tell myself.) It also helps to reign in my case of Clark Griswold-itis where I drag the family to every tree lighting, mistletoe-hanging and reindeer-prancing festival. Instead, I pick a few events I know I want in our calendar, so I’m not booking up every weekend.

For other days, I take those things “I need to do” and turn them into fun projects for my kids. Instead of me writing out Christmas cards…. it becomes a project to “send Christmas cards!” My oldest helps to add the stamps or stickers to the envelopes. Same goes for picking out a Christmas tree or wrapping presents for teachers. A lot of the prep work for Christmas is so much fun, but I think kids miss out on it because we approach it as things that have to get done. Recasting it as a special treat helps them to get in the spirit (and help out!)

Some items cost a marginal amount — the cost of cookie dough and sprinkles — but most are free, like spending the whole night in pjs or setting up a playdate with the cousins. Or taking a ride through the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.

Other days are about teaching my kids to be kind, thoughtful and generous. There’s a folded paper coming up in a few weeks that says “Spread some good in the world.” That’s the day we’ll donate toys we’re not playing with and clothes that are a little too snug. We’ll also drop off brand new toys for those who need them. We’ll also spend another night or two caroling.

Advent calendar
Each box has a folded paper with an event or activity for us to do that day.

You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Well great. This would’ve been swell to have read like a week ago.” And I’m with you. But, this girl is way behind on her Christmas shopping and has been kinda busy.

But there’s still time to start this tradition with your family. Add in some holiday activities to your advent calendar to surprise your kids. You’d be surprised that the simplest ones are often the best. My girls’ favorite is the day we put on pajamas right after school/work and watch Christmas movies.

Looking to start this tradition? Target has really cute Advent calendars. Or go the DIY route and try this unfinished advent calendar from Michael’s. (You could even make painting and decorating it one of your experiences!)

And instead of candy that will be gone in a second, or stickers that go through the wash, you’ll have started a new Christmas tradition that keeps you mindful of the important things this Christmas season.

Have a very Happy Holiday!




2 thoughts on “Ditch the candy – fill their Advent Calendars with experiences and memories

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