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Advent Calendar Ideas: What to Give Instead of Candy

Sadie Holloway likes giving practical yet thoughtful gifts to loved ones. She enjoys hunting around for the best presents she can find.

Who Doesn't Love Advent Calendars?

Surely you're familiar with cosmetic and perfume advent calendars available at large department stores and make-up counters. Although they're pretty, the prices are always quite high and there's no way of being sure the cremes and colors will match your friend's tastes. So whether you are looking for something for your mom or your best friend, your dad, or your roommate, there are plenty of ideas to inspire the generous little elf inside of you!

Whether you want to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas or countdown the days until Santa Claus comes to town, these advent calendar theme ideas will surprise and delight the lucky recipients. The presents featured range from small and affordable to large and luxurious. Take your pick and have fun making a one-of-a-kind advent calendar with little things that your gift recipients have been coveting all year long.

Think outside the box. No matter what size gift you want to put in each day on your custom advent calendar, there are plenty of creative ways to individually wrap and display your gifts.

Think outside the box. No matter what size gift you want to put in each day on your custom advent calendar, there are plenty of creative ways to individually wrap and display your gifts.

Great Advent Calendar Gift Ideas

  • Brain teasers, puzzles, and problem-solving toys. Keep curious young minds busy over the holidays with daily surprises of challenging games, puzzle, or magic trick.
  • Cool wearable items and accessories. How about backpack charms, cell phone cases, or anything that can be worn and shown off on the day it was picked off the advent calendar?
  • Comic books.
  • Novelty items with the child’s name on them. Kids love to hear and see their names. Pick out an assortment of different items with the child's name printed on them. You may have to visit a few different gift shops to find a variety of items, from pens to fridge magnets to snow globes, but it will be a fun treasure hunt for you!
  • Figurines and action figures.
  • Miniature books, magazines, digests, or novellas. Anything that can be read in a day or so would be perfect for a daily Christmas present.
  • Trinket boxes.
  • Hair accessories. Ribbons, elastics, hair bands, bobbles, and barrettes --the possibilities are endless and always useful!
  • Cute school supplies and stationery. Give the kids something to look forward to when school is back in session after the holidays. Animal-shaped pencil sharpeners, goofy erasers, and brightly decorated pencils are just a few of the many fun items you can put in this category.
  • Beanbag miniature stuffed toys.
  • An assortment of small gifts in the shape of a favorite animal or character. Is your child crazy about cats? Put a different cat-shaped Christmas ornament in each gift slot.
  • Stickers. When I was a kid, collecting stickers and showing them off in an album or trading them with friends was a popular hobby. I would have gone nuts about an advent calendar full of stickers!
  • Nail polish. How many different colors can you find to create a rainbow of beautiful nail polishes?
Nail polish is great for advent calendars!

Nail polish is great for advent calendars!

What Can I Put in an Advent Calendar Instead of Candy?

  • Candles. From sweet-smelling to miniature sculptures and novelty shapes, can you have too many candles at Christmas?
  • Pet treats. Do you know someone who spoils her cherished cat and pampered pooch at Christmas every year? This calendar theme is for her!
  • Grooming tools and beauty supplies. Manicure tools, vanity supplies, tweezers---fill the calendar up with handy tools and accessories that keep the recipient's best features in tip-top shape!
  • Car accessories. Shammies, detailing supplies, storage pockets, and roadside emergency gear 'auto' make the car enthusiast on your list happy this Christmas.
  • Socks. Colorful socks have been fashionable on Wall Street for a while now. Goodbye, boring gray trouser socks! Hello, energetic emoticons and stylish stripes!
  • Tea towels. Anyone who loves to bake, cook and entertain will tell you that you can never have too many tea towels, especially the fancy ones that you can use when company comes over.
  • Wine. This is one of the more extravagant and expensive gift themes but it's perfect for first-time homeowners and newlyweds who want to build up their wine cellar collection.
  • Tea. Introduce the gift recipient to a new tea blend each day by selecting an assortment of fine teas in bags or tiny sachets.
  • Spices and specialty baking supplies. Nuts, real vanilla pods, saffron, and imported chocolate chips will surprise and delight those folks who love to get creative in the kitchen.

Romantic Advent Calendar Ideas for Your Spouse

  • Words of love. Give her a handwritten romantic poem or quote for each day on the calendar
  • Va-va-voom vouchers. Coupons with fun activities, challenges, and favors to put each of you in the mood
  • Mini love letters. A sweet love letter telling your spouse something you love about her, a special memory that you to share or a funny inside joke that only she would understand
  • Pretty things. Lingerie, candles, satin linens, or anything that will make your bedroom feel like a private lovers' retreat.

Once you've chosen your advent calendar theme and started to collect various gift items to include in it, you need to start thinking about the shape and design of your calendar. If your gifts come in odd shapes and sizes, you could simply wrap each item in festive paper and affix a number from 1 to 24 (or 1 to 12) on each wrapped gift and arrange them in a tempting display on a tabletop, mantle, or under the tree.

For items that are smaller and more uniform in shape and size, you can buy plain or decorated pre-made advent calendars at your local craft store. A quick internet image search of 'beautiful advent calendar designs' should lead you on the right path to finding something just right. Check out the video montage below for more gorgeous ideas.

© 2017 Sadie Holloway


ba mitchell on December 10, 2017:

In these days of iPhones and tablets, even the hardcopy agendas

, replacing those in the old-fashioned agenda with a inspirational beautiful or funny calendar is a wonderful way to hold with traditions. Very best personal regards BA Mitchell