For our advent calendar in previous years, the main event was a small piece of candy each day. It was a fun treat to eat our candy while we read from our little Advent devotional.
This year, however, with some new dietary restrictions, and a general desire to eat healthier, I wanted to take the focus off candy. So, I decided to brainstorm some non-candy alternatives.
Some of these are products and some are free ideas. I hope this list will give you some ideas for your own Christmas advent season.
1. Shepherd on the Search
Shepherd on the Search is a Christ-centered alternative to elf-on-the-shelf. This set includes an adorable little shepherd plush doll, along with a storybook that explains the process. Similar to elf-on-the-shelf, the little shepherd moves around each day, but rather than creating mischief, the little shepherd is on a quest to find the baby Jesus.
You can also buy a coordinating devotional, advent calendar, and more.
You can see my full review here: http://www.servingjoyfully.com/2016/10/30/a-christ-focused-alternative-to-elf-on-the-shelf/
2. Advent Devotionals
I really like the table top advent devotions from Dayspring. They are perfect to read through together as a family. There is also a Shepherd-on-the-search devotional book for advent that is perfect for children and families.
More advent devotionals for yourself and your family:
- Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp
- Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper
- Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu
- Celebrating Christmas with Jesus by Max Lucado
- When Will it be Christmas? 25 Stories & Family Activities for Advent by Carol Garborg
- Joy upon Joy by Charles Spurgeon
- Advent Devotions for Busy Families
3. Lift the Flap Advent Calendars
These are so fun! Each day brings a little surprise photo, scripture, or fun idea for activities.
My friend Laura from Meadow House Studios has hand-painted this beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch advent calendar. Each little window hides a surprise painted image.
More window advent calendars:
- The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent by Ann Voskamp–Includes a heavy-duty pop up tree. Behind each day is an ornament to add to the tree. Includes a booklet of family advent devotionals.
- No Room at the Inn Advent Calendar–Includes scripture and a beautiful image behind each window. Unveil a little piece of the Christmas story each day.
- Peanuts Advent Calendar–each day contains scripture or quotes from the beloved Charlie Brown Christmas. The back includes activities.
- Nativity Advent Calendar–each day contains quotes and scripture to act as conversation starters. The back includes activities.
- Ice Skating Advent Calendar— each day contains scripture or suggestions for activities to enjoy.
4. Interactive Advent Calendars
This gorgeous advent calendar/book comes from Ann Voskamp. The book opens up to reveal a sturdy pop-up tree with 25 lift-the-flap windows. Beneath each little door is a beautifully crafted paper ornament for the tree. It also includes a devotional booklet to read together as a family as you’re discovering and hanging the ornaments.
Other Interactive Advent Calendars:
- Plush Christmas Nativity set with movable pieces.
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Tree with ornaments set. Very cute. Includes a countdown (1-25) with magnetic wooden ornaments to decorate the tree as you count down. (You can also get it here.)
- The Story of Christmas book set. Includes mini-books for each day that each tell a little piece of the Christmas story.
- Old-Time Christmas Village sticker set. Create an old-time Christmas village one sticker at a time. Reusable.
- Christmas Tree Calendar Countdown With Pockets. Fill with a small toy/items each day, or simply insert a small figurine and let your children move it each day and watch how it progresses closer and closer to Christmas day.
5. Random Acts of Kindness
What better way to celebrate the season of Christ’s birth than with giving and serving as He did? Being intentional with acts of kindness, generosity, and service is a great way to teach your children, and a fun way to spend time together in this season.
Some Ideas and Printables to get you started:
- RAK Advent calendar with an activity per day from Coffee Cups & Crayons
- Random Acts of Christmas Kindness (with free printables) from Not Consumed
- DIY advent calendar with service project ideas, printables, and more from Nourishing Joy
- Another printable calendar with ideas
- More ideas and printables
Bonus Tip: Create your own with a jar and craft sticks. Simply write a number and activity on each stick. Allow your children to decorate them if desired, and pull out the appropriate number each day. Easy Peasy.
An alternative of this would be to include RAK activities, but also other types of fun activities for your family as well.
6. Lego Advent Calendar
This is really just another version of an interactive calendar, but deserved it’s own category. More of a just-for-fun thing to look forward to every day for my Lego-loving boys.
There are several versions of the Lego Advent Calendar. Each one contains small pieces to build. I’m including a couple of different links so you can compare prices and specials to get the best deal. When I was shopping, Educents had the best price, but the are always subject to change. Be sure to look around you locally as well. (I just happen to live in a very rural area with limited shopping options)
Lego Advent Calendars:
- Star Wars Advent Calendar (get it at educents or Amazon)
- Lego City Advent Calendar (get it at educents or Amazon)
- Lego Friends Advent Calendar (get it at educents or Amazon)
7. A-Book-A-Day Advent Countdown
This is such a cute idea that I found from many other bloggers on pinterest. The idea is to wrap up 25 books to unwrap and read one each day during December leading up to Christmas. We love books, and the options are truly limitless! I’m hoping to be able to share my booklist after I get them all together and ready. [You can see here how I get free and cheap books for some ideas]
We could not afford to purchase 25 brand new books for this. Our books will probably come from the following places:
- Our own bookshelves. This will be a great opportunity to read a few books that have been lost, forgotten and/or never read from our own bookshelves.
- Goodwill, Salvation Army, Used Bookstores. Many of the books for this project will be used and bargain books from places like that.
- New books. I will likely buy a couple of new books (likely still on sale!) for this project, but most of them will be used.