Best for older children who will be gentle with the tiny doors, card calendars are a nostalgic, old-fashioned reminder that not all calendars have to contain chocolate! These also mean your calendar will have a different appearance each year. Further, they take up very little space and can easily be attached to the wall, fridge etc.
The Caspari Zoo Advent Calendar - £7.50 from Selfridges
Daddy's choice! This super cute zoo scene will enchant children and adults alike and is suitably secular for those who do not practice any religion, or who belong to a faith which does not celebrate Christmas but whose children want to join in the fun of the count-down.
The Nativity Book Pop-Up Calendar - £12.50 from John Lewis
For families who want to install the true meaning of Chrismas and the religious origins of the story.
The Caspari Carousel - £19.95 from Selfridges
Although rather pricey, this calendar is a beautiful piece which really embodies the old-fashioned aesthetic of Christmas which is a lot easier on the eye than cheap chocolates behind pictures of children's TV stars.
Wooden and Fabric Calendars
Calendars which you can use year after year will become part of the family Christmas tradition, and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. For the environmentally conscious, there is no plastic and no waste involved, and you can even go one step further and make your own (see next category!)
Choose Your own contents
Because the same cheap-quality chocolate every day isn't actually that great, and because it isn't necessary to have sugary treats every day, here are some of our suggestions:
- Dried fruits
- Small toys
- Little mottos or poems, a riddle or a challenge
- Parts of a story to read together every day (would need to be quite short!)
- beads to make into a necklace by the last day
- lego bricks or similar to create a model or scene
Gisela Graham Tree - £69.95 from Selfridges
This lovely free-standing calendar also serves as a christmas tree - great for those with limited space. We love the fact you can choose the contents of the drawers so that there is a different surprise every day, and each year you use it.
Wooden Advent House - £14.99 from Lakeland
This calendar comes with a chocolate in each drawer, however you can always change the contents! Made of sturdy wood, it will last for years to come.
Mummy's final choices
As a mummy from a Catholic background, whose partner didn't start celebrating Christmas until he was 12 and asked his parents for Christmas lunch, my memories of advent calendars are the ones my Grandma gave to me: religious scenes where there is a different nativity scene picture behind each door. Whilst I take faith much more as a social and communal activity, I definitely prefer the nativity story to the commercial view of Christmas with pictures of presents and suchlike. When choosing for a 1-year-old, I decided to avoid sweets all together and go for a calendar where you build the nativity scene day-by-day (but with room for treats in the pockets/drawers in the future!)
|Nativity Scene Fabric Calendar - £28.00 on Ebay|
Nativity Scene box calendar - £59.99 from Lakeland
Make your own
It is really easy to make your own advent calendar, using up-cycled household materials such as old clothing or socks, cartons or packets...Get creative and find a way of presenting the 24 surprises you will give to your little ones. For lighter contents, why not make paper bunting where each triangle 'flag' is a litre packet. Children will love colouring in paper bunting, or helping make fabric flags.
For super-busy parents or a gift with a difference, you can buy peg doll nativity kits from Not on the Highstreet (£14.99), and Lakeland offer their own make-your-own advent calendar for £14.99
A calendar for solstice
Unfortunately I can't remember the blog I read this on, but one family had a beautifully simple idea for counting down to Solstice as they do not celebrate Christmas. They bought a long piece of navy blue ribbon and made 21 angels out of sheep's wool. The then strung this up and move a star attached to a peg one angel along each day.
Some of the department stores are selling a peg calendar set, which you could easily use as inspiration for a craft activity at home. Simply buy a set of at least 24 plain wooden pegs then decorate them with poster paints, glitter, sequins etc and write a number on each or stick on a piece of card with the number to make it more visible. Then string these along a piece of ribbon and attach a treat, picture, poem, envelope with a small gift for each day -- you can really let you (and your children's) imaginations run wild!