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How To Create A Last-Minute, Experience-Rich Advent Calendar

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by

Photographed  by Joey Piziali

No matter your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), there’s no denying the end of the year can be a magical time, especially for children. In order to help our littles pack in the remaining days until 2019 with as much awe and wonder as possible, we love the idea of an advent calendar-like countdown, filled with little surprises each day. Of course, acquiring a bunch of new “things” isn’t really the point here, but there are numerous ways to create your countdown so that it’s filled with memory-making experiences and low-to-no-cost gifts. Soak up some of our favorite ideas, below!

A Library Book Advent Calendar: We love this idea, which we first stumbled upon via Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. The concept is simple: Grab a bunch of great titles from the library (winter-themed, or not) and wrap them up and have your child open one each morning. If you need inspiration for great books to “gift,” check out our guide right here, then search your library’s online catalog for what’s available and request a pick-up at your local branch. So easy.

An Experience Advent Calendar: Enjoying an experience with your kids can often lead to stronger, fonder memories than simply getting them a new toy. Not to mention, plenty of experiences are totally free to enjoy. The sky is the limit when it comes to how creative you get with this one. Some suggestions are below. Once you have whittled down your list, write the activity down, put it in an envelope, and have your child open one each day.
*Pick out a Christmas tree.
*Deck the halls of your home.
*Go for a hot cocoa date.
*Make holiday cookies or a gingerbread house.
*Go see lighting displays around town or one really impressively lit building.
*Peep the grand holiday displays in store windows.
*Watch a holiday movie together (here are our 20+ suggestions to watch with the kiddos).
*Make a holiday craft.
*Have a snowball fight.
*Go to a stage performance.
*Check out what free activities your local community centers or public libraries have lined up.
*Book a museum date.
*Go ice skating.
*And on, and on, and on. (See more creative ideas here and here).

A Kindness Advent Calendar: Sort of like the experience-based calendar, but with an emphasis on kindness and giving to others. Peep some ideas borrowed from our friend below. Or think about buying this box of little wooden “Acts of Kindness” discs that you can use all year round.
*Leave a flower on someone’s windshield.
*Take a minute at school to say “thank you” to your teachers.
*Ask someone much older than you to share a story from their childhood.
*Pick an organization you care about and make a donation.
*Tell your friend what you think is most special about them.
*Bake and decorate cookies for all of your classmates.

Sprinkle In Thoughtful Things: While we like the idea of an advent-calendar that isn’t based on things, there are thoughtful ways to add stuff to the mix. For example, this pop-up advent calendar is fun and creative and gets kids excited about getting out of bed in the morning. This Christmas tree-themed one looks fun for little kids, too. If your child is really into plastic junk (whose isn’t?!), maybe think about swapping some of your junk for someone else’s junk (as one minimalist mama advised!) and adding some hand-me-down toys toward the end of your countdown. Also, if you have holiday travels coming up, we like the idea of gifting something the morning of your travel day that will keep your kid occupied during the trip ahead or purchasing a new app as a surprise (see more travel-friendly activity ideas here). Note: if you do start to add physical things to your countdown, we’d suggest you cluster them toward the end, so that your kid isn’t expecting a shiny new object every single morning.

For more “less is more” holiday tips, get inspired by these 10+ mothers and how they celebrate a more minimalist holiday.

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